Performance artist and curator Coco Dolle is ready to take over the Big Apple. Debuting her new curatorial show, Milk and Night, for the Spring/Break Art Show at the Condé Nast Building in New York's Times Square, Dolle isn't afraid to demonstrate her thoughts on being a female in unconventional ways. Like Daenerys and her dragons, Dolle brings in a pack of 13 artists to conquer the art world.

We chat about how writer/professor Helene Cixous inspired the show, feminism and what it means to be an artist in Donald Trump's America.


How did you create of idea of Milk and Night for the Spring/Break Art Show?

I designed this exhibition around the subject of the Black Mirror, the main theme of the Spring/Break Art Show this year. I wanted to explore an aesthetic of darkness and play with elements of humour, derision, restraints, outrage, shock and beauty.

You mentioned that Helene Cixous inspired your show's title. Why do you relate to her and what aspects of the show align to her work?

Milk and Night is both the name of my current show and the title of my on-going curatorial. In context, I started curating under this entity since early 2014, producing multiple group shows and performance events alongside other feminist peers such as Bianca Casady and Kembra Pfahler.

At the time, a new force in the feminist spirit was emerging in NYC, collectives were shaping up, some focused more on activism, others more towards spiritual conversations. I was looking for a title that would inspire all with an artful and poetical meaning. When Helene Cixous' writings came to mind, it made so much sense: "My voice is written in black and white, in milk and night." Her words relate to the kind of feminism I wanted to project both absorbing and reflecting on a culture, compassionate, inclusionary, visionary and bold. Further, coming from a French cultural background myself, my curatorial identity completely immersed with her revolutionary post-structuralist philosophy.

Milk and Night consists of 12 female artists and 1 male artist. What was the idea of presenting 13 artists? Where did you discover them?

I have chosen the number of 13 artists as an element of discomfort, the ill-fated number evoking ideas of sin, curse, rebellion and lawlessness. It is a symbolic number rooted in our patriarchal unconscious since I believe, the biblical times in The Last Supper. In my re-configuration, the balance of power has changed as 12 female artists share my exhibition room with one male artist. I also wanted to focus on concepts of inclusion and breakdown common ideas we have of a feminist exhibition being exclusively female.

In my mind, the male artist, our 'gentle-tokenman', whose work employs the feminine rhetoric of objectification and commodity, is then cast as our thirteen's sinner, he is the one who is now polarizing the duality of redemption and sin. This image of The Last Supper also evokes a more contemporary one - that of the American President signing anti-abortion executive order surrounded only by his 'male disciples'. These imbalances of power and uneven geometry, I believe need to be addressed in creative forms.

All the artists I have presented at Spring/Break have had an ongoing conversation with myself as an artist or as a curator. They come from different pockets of my community of artists, some knew each other's some didn't. I like to navigate between intellectual and pop cultural conversations, between alternative and academic communities, between conceptual and figurative works. I wanted to bring a mosaic of artists who address the construction of their identity whether it is by exploring through digital and social media, by means of traditional photography, experimentation with ink and ceramics, performance, or installation works.

So many of the themes touched on the female identity, sexuality and the body. As a curator, how do you see yourself within the artists and why have you chosen to prioritize the subject for the show?

Since my work as a curator explores conversations in the female voice, I believe most of my artists are body-centered or focused on sexuality, continuously trying to re-define their relationship to the self while breaking boundaries to societal norms. Though not all of the artists I have curated for this show do, a few take on a more conceptual approach to marking the surface and reclaiming their territory of approach.

From a historical viewpoint, feminist art grew out in the early '50s through performance art, engaging the body because it was the only way to address issues around female identity, and so I believe it keeps going. There is still much work to accomplish. As a performance and visual artist myself, I personally relate to this mission and to all the artists I work with.

The show's agenda is to engage and revisit the way we see our own psyche. What anxieties trigger you and why do you choose to address it through art?

The social and political agenda that we live in today is certainly one of the most anxious. Like many of us upon coming back from the Women's March in DC, I wanted to address these tensions through the alchemy of art. With this presidency, the role of the artists is especially pivotal in the breakdown of mainstream media, our dark mirror, which daily confronts us and moves us to self-introspection. Every day we are forced to re-evaluate and re-negotiate our terms of human decency and morality, presenting ourselves to daily critical thinking. Art is the only healthy way out and one of the most progressive tools for changing structural paradigms.

So many artists dream to be exhibited and curators achieve for recognition in the art world by showcasing what is current in art. Since you're both an artist and curator, what struggles have you overcame to break into the art world?

In both my curatorial and performance practices, Milk and Night / Legacy Fatale, I bridge concepts of inclusion and empowerment, which are values I struggled to find in the art world. I believe consistency and perseverance is a must.

What's the next step after you wrap up Milk and Night?

Milk and Night's next curatorial edition is on its way. I'll give you two hints: it's performance-based and transgressive.

Lose yourself in Coco Dolle's world by heading here.