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Outrageous oasis: envelope-pushing performance-art installations at a sleazy motel? It must be Los Angeles's Platinum Oasis, hosted by Dr. Vaginal Davis and Ron Athey. (performance).

"I like to bring together lowlifes and highlifes," says drag artist Dr. Vaginal "Cream" Davis about his current artistic obsession, Platinum Oasis. He's crafting the second year of the marathon evening that swirls chaos, sex, queer politics, and cake into one completely unique confection. The 2001 debut was avant-garde art with white-trash trimmings and quickly became Los Angeles's art darling. After a year's worth of "Can you believe it?" buzz, Platinum Oasis is back, just in time for summer. Would you expect anything less from a towering black drag queen who's sung in a myriad of punk bands, put on performance pieces in Berlin, and most recently toured the comedy circuit with Margaret Cho?

Davis and noted performance artist Ron Athey cocreated the special 18-hour event last year as a multimedia arm of the Los Angeles gay and lesbian film festival, Outfest. Held at the notoriously sleazy Coral Sands motel in Hollywood, Platinum Oasis fills hotel rooms with a variety of queer and straight artists, both male and female, with the only rule being to involve the audience wherever possible. "I think it's so boring to go to a museum. Once in a while you see something profound that blows your mind, but usually it's just incredibly boring," says Athey.

Boring was the last thing anyone could accuse Platinum Oasis of being. One walk down a hallway might provide a glimpse of people getting powdered and fitted into adult-size diapers, a flash of queer filmmaker Bruce La Bruce making patrons a custom "snuff" film, or perhaps just a group of socialites enjoying a little sweetness in Jennifer Doyle's "Cakes and Kisses" room.

Head down to the pool, and you could catch performer and actor Ann Magnuson giving an impromptu fashion show as Eminem's mom. Even musician Beck's mother, Bibbe Hansen, was there to show family movies. Queers, anarchists, artists, debutantes, and Davis's favorite "lowlifes" all bonded for a day and a night under the sun and stars.

All this candy-colored insanity was the brainchild of Shari Frilot, the curator of Platinum, Outfest's experimental section. "I wanted festivals to focus back on the stylistic innovations of the queer community," say Frilot. After seeing Athey and Davis perform at their club Gimp, she knew she had found the perfect people to do just that. She approached them to take their mix of music, art, and sexuality and turn it into a one-night happening for Outfest.

This year's event, July 13-14, is being built around the work of the controversial and decadent artist Pier Paolo Pasolini. "We decided on the oeuvre of Pasolini because he's an intellectual, a writer, poet, and filmmaker, and queer," says Davis. Given Pasolini's well-known taste for hustlers and rough trade, Davis notes that the Coral Sands is a perfectly appropriate place to celebrate his legacy. New works will feature a "Tea Party" room lampooning lesbian separatist culture, the return of Bruce La Bruce--there's a pig somehow involved this time--and a room curated by JD Samson of Le Tigre. Even fashion designer Rick Owens is lending some custom-designed tunics for participants. More than 40 rooms of the hotel will be filled with installations, not including poolside performances. (In case you were wondering, unlike last year, there will be no synchronized swimming.)

If it all sounds slightly tacky, outrageous, and shocking, that's exactly the point. "We wanted a new and innovative way to present art," says Frilot, "and that's what Platinum Oasis is all about." The artists involved feel that queer culture in the big city is veering so close to normal that it's becoming what some groups have feared more than anything else--dull. The solution for artists like Athey is to present a space of "fearless queer culture, where you're not trying to whitewash the factions of queer culture that are self-destructive and nihilistic, hedonistic, and really philosophical."

While some worry that conservatives will sniff out the wild party going on at the Coral Sands and smell controversy, Athey's not worried about Oasis's future. "I think what we do is more tame than what goes on at the Coral Sands usually," he notes with a smirk. With reaction from last year so warm it was downright cuddly, the most staid of groups are snuggling up to the event. Even stodgy Sundance has already asked Davis and Athey to put on a smaller version of Oasis during next year's festival in Utah.

Like the sun and the effervescent smog of L.A., Platinum Oasis seems here to stay. If anything, performers like Magnuson hope that the Oasis vibe will spread beyond L.A.: "Artists of all hues and persuasions in cities, towns, and burgs all over the country should co-opt their local skanky motel for a day of art."

Lopez is a writer for G4 Television.
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Article Details
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Author:Lopez, Vincent
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 23, 2002
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