Mela Dávila Freire: Cruising by the Book - Vaginal Cream Davis’s queer publishing

16 June 2024, 16:00

Fertile La Toya Jackson Magazine. (Fragment)

Publications, in particular – but not only – fanzines and other forms of underground publishing, have occupied an important place in the overflowing creative activity of Vaginal Cream Davis since her beginnings, in the 1970s. Between 1972 and 1975, almost before she was involved in music and performance, Davis was already publishing her first fanzine, Dowager. Davis’s fanzines are situated at the point where punk hooliganism, the vindication of queer marginality and contempt for conventional forms of intellectual authority intersect, all sprinkled with a significant command of written and visual language, and a great talent for humour.

This talk will review Davis’s publishing practice through its different stages, highlighting its links with other sides of her creative work as well as the different underground contexts in which they circulated, and analysing Davis’ different strategies for giving shape to an underground community through her fanzines, on the one hand, and subverting the standards of mainstream publishing production, on the other.

Mela Dávila Freire is a researcher, curator, writer and translator. Her research focuses on art archives and on the genre of artists’ publications. Her specific interests include the revision of the history of artist’s publications from a feminist standpoint, but also the theoretical and practical intersections between archives and art collections, and the ideological biases hidden in archival structures.

Dávila has been Head of Publications and later Head of the Study Center at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), and Director of Public Activities at Museo Reina Sofía. She has also collaborated, as a consultant and independent researcher, with the documenta Archive (Kassel, Germany), the German Historical Museum (Berlin, Germany), the Lafuente Archive (Santander, Spain), the Reina Sofia Museum (Madrid, Spain), the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern – IVAM (Valencia, Spain), the Biblioteca de las Artes (Guayaquil, Ecuador) and other public and private institutions and collections.
She has published widely about her topics of interest and is the author of the books Mission and Commission. Documenta and the Art Market, 1955 – 1968 (Barcelona: Polígrafa, 2022) and Off-Register: Publishing Experiments by Women Artists in Latin America, 1960 – 1990 (New York: Center for Book Arts, 2023).
Mela Dávila holds a degree in Anglo-Germanic Philology (UAB), a postgraduate diploma in Publishing (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg (HfbK).

This program and the exhibition Vaginal Davis: Hofpfisterei has been developed in collaboration with Moderna Museet in Stockholm, as part of the exhibition Vaginal Davis: Magnificent Product. The museum presents a major retrospective of Vaginal Davis’s work while, in parallel, Index is the locus for research on her text production. Vaginal Davis’s solo exhibition Magnificent Product is initiated by Moderna Museet and extends across several locations in Stockholm: Moderna Museet, Nationalmuseum, Accelerator, Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Tensta konsthall and MDT (Moderna Dansteatern). Each institution highlights a different aspect of Vaginal Davis’s expansive practice.

More information about the exhibition here and about the program here.

We thank Moderna Museet, the Spanish Embassy in Stockholm, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Terra Foundation for American Art for their support.