Daughter, Mother, Mirror: Zackary Drucker's Southern For Pussy
Throughout Zackary Drucker's work, there's a consistent theme: collaboration. From Translady Fanzine, her photographic collaboration with Amos Mac, to She Gone Rogue, the film that brought Drucker and Rhys Ernst to the 2014 Whitney Biennial, to Transparent, Amazon.com's Emmy Award-winning television series on which Drucker serves as associate producer, Drucker seems to work best in dialogue with others. Southern For Pussy (2015), Drucker's recently-released pilot for OpenTV, is no exception. In this mini-episode, Drucker returns again to a collaboration that has fueled some of her most striking work, as she writes and acts alongside Penny Sori, her mother. Yet with Southern For Pussy, Drucker not only revisits her collaboration with her mother. In addition, she continues to explore a visual vocabulary of collaboration that she has developed through the image of the mirror and the figure of the double.
As an artist who works across mediums, from film to video to photography to performance art, collaboration offers Drucker practical advantages, especially when she works in a new medium or a new genre. As Drucker explained at the Chicago premiere of Southern For Pussy, her collaboration with the independent filmmaker Rhys Ernst enabled her shift into narrative-based work. With She Gone Rogue (2012) and Transparent (2014), Drucker became interested in exploring the possibilities of narrative, an element that had been absent from her experimental video art. Southern For Pussy is the next step for Drucker as she ventures into narrative storytelling. Yet for Drucker, collaboration is more than just pragmatic, and Southern For Pussy builds on the visual vocabulary of collaboration that Drucker has developed in other projects.
In Drucker's work, collaboration emerges again and again through visuals that invoke the mirror and the double. Over and over, Drucker's work shows us the self-emerging through dialogue with an other. In some cases, this “other” doubles Drucker metaphorically, as in her collaborations with Flawless Sabrina, an iconic queen who ran drag pageants in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, in Drucker's 2011 film At Least You Know You Exist, Drucker and Flawless Sabrina mirror each other, staging transfeminine history as a reflection that crosses generations:
Elsewhere, mirrors and doubling appear both metaphorically and literally, as in Drucker and Ernst's Relationship series, a series of photographs which won accolades in the 2014 Whitney Biennial along with She Gone Rogue. Created over six years, Relationship begins with a selfie of Drucker and Ernst shot in a mirror. Although they explore doubling in a variety of ways—in early images, reflecting each other in their shared androgyny, and in later images, doubling each other in silhouette—mirror reflections are a persistent visual theme:
In She Gone Rogue, the mirror reflection becomes the embodied double as Drucker's character, Darling, is pursued by her doppelganger, also played by Drucker. Moreover, She Gone Rogue continues Drucker's exploration of intergenerational doubling, as Darling interacts with transfeminine pioneers Holly Woodlawn, Vaginal Davis, and Flawless Sabrina. And in She Gone Rogue, Drucker also turns the camera once again on the woman who was her first photographic subject: her mother.
Despite Southern For Pussy's linear narrative and accessible wit, there are many continuities between the pilot and Drucker's other collaborations with her mother. For example, Southern For Pussy's dry, sexually explicit dialogue echoes Drucker's earlier collaboration with Sori, the two-minute experimental video piece FISH: A Matrilineage of Cunty White-Woman Realness (2008). In FISH, Drucker and Sori complete (and pervert) each other's sentences, while mirroring each other in matching makeup and wigs against a hot pink background:
In Southern For Pussy, Drucker and Sori mirror each other once again, albeit more naturally, through visuals that place them side-by-side, or through cluttered mirror reflections that also recall images from the Relationship series:
In Southern For Pussy, Drucker explores collaboration both behind-the-scenes and within the image, as she brings the visual vocabulary of collaboration that she has developed elsewhere into her independent television pilot. As in her other work, Drucker envisions the self in dialogue with others, and she represents this relationship through mirror images and intergenerational doubling. Moreover, within Southern For Pussy, there is even a striking composition that evokes one of the stranger images from the Relationship series. As Drucker's character Moxy applies her makeup, the camera captures Moxy's eye, reflected and distorted in a hand-held makeup mirror:
This layered composition centers Drucker's reflected eye, and recalls Relationship #35, which also centers Drucker's eye, reflected and distorted in a standing makeup mirror:
This resemblance shouldn't come as a surprise. For although Southern For Pussy may appear more conventional than some of Drucker's other work, it is concerned with some of the same thematic and aesthetic questions. As Drucker ventures into new territory, creating narrative independent television, she brings with her the visual vocabulary of collaboration that she has been developing across photography, video, and film.
Nicole Erin Morse is a PhD student at the University of Chicago in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Nicole's dissertation examines selfies and self-representation, placing Zackary Drucker's work in relation to selfie aesthetics.