The Lydian Mode – No-wave firebrand Lydia Lunch hosts creative women’s retreat

At 53, Lydia Lunch shows no signs of smoothing out the edginess that made her one of the powerful forces in late-’70s New York and the No Wave scene. To talk to her is to jump into a fiery whirlwind of creativity, one that whips up everybody else. It makes sense, then, that her upcoming workshop in Ojai — dubbed the Post-Catastrophe Collaborative Ojai Artists’ Workshop by and for Women — is designed to do just that for all the attendees, creating an environment for women, whether veterans of the arts or new recruits, to express their artistic sides. But what is this catastrophe in the title?

“Did you wake up today? Did you watch the news?” Ms. Lunch laughs. “Do I have to itemize things here? It’s easy in California to forget the amount of catastrophe that’s out there. … The weather is terrifying. The 800 military bases that the U.S. has is terrifying. Wars continuing all over the world is terrifying. Man-made economic crisis is terrifying. … I don’t have fear, myself, but maybe that’s because I have so many vehicles to express my concern.”

And so this Ojai gathering is about building those vehicles. That is, making art.

There’s something anachronistic about Ms. Lunch coming to sunny Ojai. Since her first appearance as the lead singer of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, through her solo work of the ’80s, the singer turned spoken word artist has been associated with the darkness of goth, of BDSM, of explorations of evil and decadence, with a sound assaultive, ear-splitting and uncompromising. Decades later, her voice has dropped an octave and her outlook has opened up a bit more.

Since 2005, she’s lived in Barcelona, having left the States because making a living an as artist was impossible for her. She keeps very few possessions, and sells most everything off when she moves apartments every few years.

The workshop is about “creating a sacred place where you go in to get to the essence, the root of expression, whether based on pain or joy, it is pure. And from that to make something that affects people on a cellular level. To me art is a salve for the universal wound.”

The list of her workshop collaborators — and Ms. Lunch’s history is filled with collaborators — includes No Wave veteran Adele Bertei, who will speak on the “science of sound”; printmaker and painter Kelly Luscombe Bea, who will lead in creating a large painting; writer Deb Norton, who will teach writing exercises focusing on opening up the writing process; ritual musician Judy Piazza; and a Butoh-inspired performance and movement workshop by Vanessa Skantze.

The first workshop took place in France, and was a success. Ojai is the next stop on what looks to be a series of such events. Ms. Lunch even promises to return with an all-male version in a year or two.

Ms. Lunch doesn’t consider herself a leader or a teacher, but instead, when asked to define her role in this weekend, she prefers “cattle prod.”

“If you have it in your blood to create,” she says, “that means you have a voice that needs to speak for others that haven’t found it yet.”

Post-Catastrophe Collaborative Ojai Artists’ Workshop By and For Women
When: All day, Fri.-Mon.
Where: The Ananda Verandah, Ojai
Cost: $345, with drop-in days 10 a.m.-6 p.m. $115

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