The Feminist Press has just brought out The Reality Shows, a collection of her performance texts from the first decade of the millennium – commencing with “Make Love,” her response to 9/11 through a channeling of Liza Minelli which is, in Finley’s own estimation, “a complex amalgam of pee-in-the-pants humor, pain, and compassionate outpourings of sorrow” – and closing with “The Jackie Look,” which brings Jackie Kennedy Onassis back to ponder trauma, history, fashion and femininity as well as “the demands of being the first lady.” In between, Finley dwells with Terri Schiavo, Laura Bush, George W. Bush, Martha Stewart, Condoleezza Rice, and Eliot Spitzer. The texts are accompanied not only by photographs of Finley’s performances, but also by some of her own uncanny, disturbing and often very beautiful drawings.
I attended almost all of these shows, and each one stayed with me long after I left the performance space. In fact, the narrator of my novel went to see “The Passion of Terri Schiavo” and “The Dreams of Laura Bush” in 2007. She tries to explain Finley in an e-mail to her foreign lover. She recounts the NEA controversy, and the charges of obscenity. She says, “She is obscene. She is also fantastic and beautiful and sexual, and hysterical in the fullest sense of the term, and frightening and funny and deeply sad. I was very moved.” (p. 93) So was I.
The Reality Shows has a preface by Kathleen Hanna of the bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and an introduction by my friend the brilliant psychoanalytic theorist Ann Pellegrini. I. Love. Karen. Finley.