A sauna and strap-ons? Electronic music-machines and ugly pink bathing suits? Hairy costumes and oversized acrylic necklaces? This is the studio visit that defies all others, where the artist herself emphatically dubs it the “anti-studio visit.” Located in the sauna of Stattbad Wedding, a turn of the century bathhouse converted into exhibition and studio spaces in 2009, Peaches’ Berlin studio provides an experience not unlike one of her shows: disorienting, delirium-inducing, and full of the unexpected.
Born as Merrill Beth Nisker in Toronto, Peaches has been based in Berlin for over ten years. Where Peaches may be best known for her ravenously raunchy, gender-reevaluating, and explosive electro-clash tracks such as Fuck the Pain Away and Mommy Complex, music is just one component of her expansive oeuvre. Throughout her career, she has furthered her experimental sound and stage creations, allowing for an opportunity to delve deeper into the evolution of the Peaches persona.
Being no stranger to pushing different artistic mediums in unconventional contexts, her most recent project and first feature film, Peaches Does Herself, was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this past autumn. The semi-autobiographical film was composed of audio and video taken from the live rock opera of the same name that took Berlin over in October 2010. In many ways the film was the perfect storm for the artist: it allowed for her nothing-not-worth-trying attitude to exercise itself to the maximum, whether through the variety of sets, lavish costumes, or fantastical characters.
“Fan Base”(exterior and interior), installation at Le 5e Biennale de Montreal (2007), Images courtesy of the artist
The increasing notoriety and recognition that Peaches has achieved from her music and performance work has afforded an opportunity for her to push further into the visual-arts world. In 2007, she exhibited an original installation, Fan Base, at Le 5e Biennale de Montreal. A hairy, organically sculpted cave on the outside, and a media frenzy, pop-shrine on the inside, Fan Base was built from the various objects fans have thrown onstage during Peaches’ performances. Bras, dildos, condoms, t-shirts, panties, baseball caps: Peaches kept everything for nearly six years. The interior displays the collection in a controlled chaos, perhaps nodding to the energetic way in which they entered Peaches’ possession.
Surrounded by the disparate objects of the cave, she also included a video installation. For a full tour, Peaches asked various audience members to sing her closing song, Fuck the Pain Away. These audience performances were edited together to recreate the full song in the video, which she empathetically says, “gives back to her fans what they gave to her.” In 2010, Fan Base traveled to South Korea to be featured in the group show No More Heroes & Daughters. As the installation was added to after each tour, the Korean Fan Base differed as much from the Canadian Fan Base as each of Peaches’ modes of expression.
Photoshoot in Warsaw, Poland (2011), Photo by Monica Salazar
And the borders between music, performance, and visual art continue to break down in Peaches’ work. On January 16, she performed, along-side other music legends such as Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and The Magnetic Fields, at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as part of John Cale’s curated celebration of the epic singer-songwriter Nico. Her inclusion on the roster initially baffled critics, however she blew the audience away with her interpretation of Mutterlein and the sharp way she musically projected Nico’s German roots. Of the star-studded line-up, she was the only artist to take on the challenge of singing two of Nico’s songs in German. On February 16, Peaches will collaborate with yet another music/art legend, Yoko Ono, along with the Plastic Ono Band, in Berlin at the Volksbühne.
Ultimately, Peaches is the quintessential hybridizer. From theater to fashion, gender and identity politics to music, installation to performance art, it all comes together to make a veritable over-the-top experience. To quote Peaches, “it’s more than just music.”
Berlin Art Link Interview with PEACHES on “Peaches Does Herself”
See more of Peaches’ work:
Peaches on Vimeo:
Guest appearance with Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band
Performance: Sunday Feb. 17
Linienstraße 227 (Click here for map)
Elizabeth Feder is a designer and writer from New York City currently based in San Francisco. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and is developing new work at the intersection of architecture, design, and digital space.