Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Jess Dobkin’s body blows

Kicking love in the stomach

SPARKLING BOLDNESS. Performance artist Jess Dobkin presents an evening billed as a "preemptive strike against Cupid's day of love." Credit: David Hawe

Jess Dobkin is not allowed to put anything in her vagina for the next three days. So says her doctor after a recent medical exam. Fortunately, her upcoming event I Love You: A Night Of Heartbreaking Performance Art at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, is far enough in the future that her pussy will be back in tiptop shape in time.

“When people hear that I’m performing they always ask, ‘So what will you be putting in your vagina?’” says Dobkin, laughing. “It’s true that I do that a lot in my work, but it’s not about shock or exhibitionism. It’s more about exploring my own humanity.”

For I Love You, Dobkin has prepared a series of new performances of her own, as well as curating an eclectic collection of queer and straight women performance artists, all presenting new work around the theme of heartbreak. “I was interested in having people explore heartbreak outside of the conventional romantic connotation,” Dobkin says. “I wanted to really push people to experiment and work outside of their comfort zones.”

Billed as a “preemptive strike against Cupid’s day of love,” the event is scheduled a full two weeks before Valentine’s Day. “I had thought about doing something on Valentine’s Day but I feel like we’re so saturated with everything Hallmark leading up to it that by the time we get there people are a bit sick of it,” Dobkin says. “Also holding an event on Valentine’s Day makes people feel like they have to bring a date and I want to make it clear that people will not need a date at this event to have a good time.”

The evening features NYC-based queer artist Felice Shays, who last wowed Toronto audiences with her rule-breaking brand of performance at the Hysteria Festival in 2007. Her piece explores her struggle to communicate with a partner who has passed away. Also on the bill is Toronto-based writer Dianah Smith, who founded the writing series A is for Orange which features emerging queer Caribbean writers. Her take on heartbreak is an autobiographical piece about a crush on a grade school teacher that goes way too far. The evening rounds out with other performances from Liya Hyunjoo Choi, Cathy Gordon and video from Elisabeth Belliveau.

After that the night really kicks into high gear with (I Love You) Too, a dance party with DJ Cozmic Cat, performances by drag king Daddy K of the Scandelles and a video montage by Kathleen Mullen. The evening is sponsored by Good for Her and the recently opened queer-run video emporium West Side Stories and will feature a selection of sexy prizes from both places.

Dobkin is still working out how the goodies will be dispensed but is clear that it won’t be through door prizes or a wet T-shirt contest. “Those random prize draws and contests at events totally disrupt the flow of the evening,” she says. “Also I believe free sex toys — like housing and food — should be distributed according to need.”