"All of my work has always been about the duplicitous nature of emotion," says prolific provocateur Lydia Lunch. "You hate it but you love it. You shouldn't do it, but you can't stop yourself."
That's the secret behind the seduction of Lunch's starkly honest statements about sex, power, beauty and horror, which have made her a subcultural icon.
Her career started in 1976, when she became the front woman for influential "No-Wave" band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. In 1982, Lunch added spoken word to her repertoire, and in the mid-'80s, she began appearing in films -- most notoriously in Richard Kern's Fingered. Throughout the years, Lunch has collaborated with the Birthday Party, Foetus, Henry Rollins, and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. She's also written screenplays and novels, published poetry and penned comics.
Indeed, Lunch's passion to create seems to have no limits, as demonstrated by "Criminal Impulse," her photography exhibition at Perihelion Arts, and her spoken-word show at Hollywood Alley this weekend.
Unlike most of Lunch's confrontational work, which relies on her verbal talents, her photography speaks for itself. However, its subject matter still deals with dark obsessions. In "Criminal Impulse," she presents a romantic noir series called "Couples Who Kill Each Other," as well as a series of images of young criminal offenders. "Arson," her collaboration with Mark Viaplana, includes photos of a burned-down photography studio in Tennessee, which may or may not have been destroyed by arson, along with mysterious negatives and prints rescued from the site.
"I am impulsive, I am obsessive," Lunch says of her work, "and these are the things that draw me to them, whether it's the blooming of adolescence, the decaying of a building, a crashed car, guns, or the potential to be victimized or be the victimizer."
Memory and Madness, Lunch's spoken-word piece, is both autobiographical and universal. "It's about how the intent and the origination of a relationship may be one thing, but due to alcohol, drugs, sex or misinterpretation, things can just go haywire. And the pain within that."
Lunch admits that it's not always easy to dredge up the damage of the past. "But of course, other people have been through this," she says. "This is what gave me the power, in 1982 when I first began spoken word, to talk about such intimate things."
While the details of the relationships are different, Lunch says, the effect is the same. "We've all had painful relationships. In the end, there's passion and beauty and intensity -- and then if what leads beyond that is creativity, then I will take the chance again and again.