Kembra Pfahler

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Kembra Pfahler
Kembra Pfahler (center) with her band at the "It's Not Only Rock'n'Roll Baby" exhibition, Bozar, Brussels, 19 June 2008
Kembra Pfahler (center) with her band at the "It's Not Only Rock'n'Roll Baby" exhibition, Bozar, Brussels, 19 June 2008
Background information
Born (1961-08-04) August 4, 1961 (age 60)
Hermosa Beach, California, United States
GenresGlam rock, punk rock, shock rock
Occupation(s)Singer, filmmaker, visual artist, educator

Kembra Pfahler (born August 4, 1961 in Hermosa Beach, California, United States)[1] is an American filmmaker, performance artist, visual artist, adjunct professor, rock musician, and film actress.

Her film work is associated with the movement known as the Cinema of Transgression. As a musician, she leads the band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, who are inspired by glam, punk and shock rock.[2] As a visual artist, Pfahler is known for self-portraits and for founding the art movements Anti-naturalism and Availabism. She co-authored "13 Tenets of Future Feminism". She has also been called the "godmother of modern day shock art".[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Pfahler is the daughter of surfer Freddy Pfahler, who had appeared in the 1958 surf film Slippery When Wet, directed by Bruce Brown.[4] Her brother is Adam Pfahler, the drummer of Jawbreaker. [2] She grew up in Southern California. She went to college at the School of Visual Arts in New York and studied under Mary Heilmann and Lorraine O’Grady. [5]


She appeared as a child actress in TV commercials for Kodak film. Later on, as a teenager, she moved to the East Coast of the United States and became involved in the 1980s East Village scene associated with ABC No Rio, when she began acting in low-budget horror, fetish and sadomasochistic films.[2] She appeared in the films Surf Gang (2006) and Gang Girls (2000), both directed by Katrina del Mar.


During the 1980s, Pfahler worked as a Calvin Klein model, during an advertising campaign in the heroin chic style.[6] She appeared as a model in the photographs accompanying the article "These Children that Come at You with Knives" written by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain in a 1999 issue of Pop Smear Magazine. In this comic-book style layout depicting the Manson Family, Pfahler played Sharon Tate alongside Maynard James Keenan as Charles Manson. [7]

In fall 2019, Pfahler walked in the Mugler Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear fashion show.[8] She has also modeled for Rick Owens, Rodarte, Marc Jacobs, and Helmut Lang.[9]


In 1990, Pfahler and Samoa Moriki, her husband at the time, founded the band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black on the Lower East Side of New York City. The band was named in homage to actress Karen Black. They released three albums: A National Healthcare (1993); Anti-Naturalists (1995); and Black Date (1998); as well as several limited-edition presses on vinyl. [7][2]

Pfahler and Samoa shot many horror films and used visual and performance art for their performances. VHOKB's live performance of The Wall of Vagina appears on Disinformation DVD - The Complete Series. VHOKB also appear on the album Virgin Voices: A Tribute to Madonna.

Pfahler sang backup on the song "Shoot, Knife, Strangle, Beat and Crucify" on the album Brutality and Bloodshed for All of GG Allin And The Murder Junkies.[10]

In 2013, she covered the traditional "Barnacle Bill the Sailor" for the sea shanty compilation Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys.[11]

Visual and Performance Art[edit]

Pfahler founded the art movements and conceptual philosophies of availabilism,[12][6] using what is closest at hand ("available") as both the inspiration for her work and the medium of her expression, and Antinaturalism, describing the aesthetic of total artificiality. [7][13] She has shown work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, Deitch Projects, The Hole Gallery in New York, Bowman Gallery, and Kenny Schachter Rove Gallery, in London. Her drawings are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. [14]

Pfahler, while in Europe, discovered and took inspiration from the Viennese Actionism movement, specifically Rudolf Schwarzkogler.[6] Her performances have included the cracking of paint-filled eggs on her vulva.[2] In 1984, she performed in XS: The Opera Opus when it was presented at the Pyramid Club. She created solo performances in the 1980s at ABC No Rio. In a performance piece shown in Richard Kern’s Sewing Circle (1992), Pfhaler had her vagina sewn shut by artist Lisa Resurreccion while only wearing a “Young Republicans” t-shirt.[6][15]

In a 2005 Pfahler held a solo exhibition at Rove Projects in London. The exhibition, titled "File Under V", consisted of self-portraits, performance documentation, and band props from Voluptuous Horror. [16] In January 2007, Pfahler, with Julie Atlas Muz, curated a mixed-media art exhibition titled Womanizer at Deitch Projects. The show included works by E.V. Day, Breyer P-Orridge, Vaginal Davis, and burlesque performer Bambi the Mermaid.[17] Her contribution was an installation with a bed set that contained a skeleton and dolls painted in multiple colors, surrounded by walls plastered with red paste, as well as a video that shows her ripping the dolls out of a birthing canal.[18] As part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial and with support from the Art Production Fund, Pfahler and Voluptuous Horror gave a performance in the Park Avenue Armory's Drill Hall on 14 March 2008.[19] These performances included her works Actressocracy and Whitney Live. [7]

In 2009 alongside gallerist Kathy Grason, Pfhaler published a photographic catalog of her work in the form of a book titled Beautalism . [20]

She was interviewed in 2011, as part of the documentary The Advocate for Fagdom by Angélique Bosio about queercore filmmaker Bruce La Bruce,[21][22]


  1. ^ "Kembra Pfahler : Whitney programme". Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
  2. ^ a b c d e Georgina Cardenas (July 11, 1996). "Rocky Horror Stage Show". Miami New Times. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
  3. ^ "Future Feminism, Art and Shock; a conversation with Kembra Pfahler – Too Much Love Magazine". Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  4. ^ Engle, John. Surfing in the Movies: A Critical History, McFarland, 2015, ISBN 978-0786495214
  5. ^ Magazine, BOMB (2015-11-11). "Kembra Pfahler: You Will Lose Friends for Your Art". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  6. ^ a b c d Meltzer, R. Disinformation: The Interviews, New York: Disinformation Ltd, 2002, ISBN 0-9713942-1-0pp.68-80
  7. ^ a b c d Women of the underground : music : cultural innovators speak for themselves. Burden, Zora von, 1968-. San Francisco: Manic D Press. 2010. ISBN 9781933149509. OCLC 701110652.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ "Mugler Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show". Vogue. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  9. ^ Dazed (2017-07-28). "Kembra Pfahler: fearless, shocking and in fashion". Dazed. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  10. ^ GG Allin and the Murder Junkies: After Hours DVD, Volume 2
  11. ^ "Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  12. ^ Kembra Pfahler interview by Brienne Walsh, Bomb, 6 November 2015
  13. ^ "Kembra Pfahler". Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  14. ^ "Bowman Gallery | Kembra Pfahler". Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  15. ^ "Kembra Pfahler: You Will Lose Friends for Your Art", Huffington Post, 11 November 2015
  16. ^ "Kembra Pfahler". Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  17. ^ Womanizer at the Deitch Projects Archived November 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Robinson, Andrew C. "Post-Gender Pandrogyny"Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine Gay City News, 18 January 2007
  19. ^ "2008 Whitney Biennial". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  20. ^ Kembra., Pfahler (2008). Kembra Pfahler : beautalism. Grayson, Kathy., Whitney Biennial (2008). New York, NY: Deitch Projects. ISBN 9780981577135. OCLC 271453255.
  21. ^ Felperin, Leslie (23 February 2011). "The Advocate for Fagdom". Variety. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  22. ^ Klág, Dávid Klág (25 October 2011). "Bruce LaBruce: 'The Advocate For Fagdom'". Dazed. Retrieved 16 May 2019.

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