If you’re feeling a little sapped of Kembra Pfahler these days tell your beating heart shut up and be still. While we’ve been sitting around waiting to see Kembra’s follow-up to last year’s Future Feminism exhibition, NYU’s Fales Library has been getting busy canonizing the badass feminist, performance artist, and lead singer of shock rock group The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. The library recently acquired Kembra Pfahler’s archive, adding to the Downtown Collection– a galaxy of archives and what Director Marvin Taylor says is “one of the largest collections about punk rock anywhere.”
“So Kembra’s perfect for us,” he said.
Pfahler’s multifaceted and seemingly inexhaustible artistic output is captured in the acquisition which includes song sheets, notebooks, costumes, flyers and other promotional materials for her performances. The items, which Taylor called “post-punk, feminist, and totally fabulous” span from the late ’70s to the present.
The materials (about 12 archival boxes worth) had been piling up in Pfahler’s apartment when she approached the library to see if they might be interested. “Which of course we were,” Taylor said. “It’s not very large, but it’s very important because of Kembra’s work.”
Taylor characterized Kembra Pfahler as a pivotal figure in the No Wave and Post-Punk movements in New York City and therefore an invaluable asset to the collection which aims “to comprehensively collect the full range of artistic practices and output of the Downtown scene, regardless of format.” And since she’s been producing work that helped define East Village and the Lower East Side from the late ’70s until now, Pfahler’s materials will contribute a significant historical facet to the collection.
“One of the most important things about Kembra is here she is, this hard rocking feminist,” Taylor said. “She’s taking no prisoners in her feminist approach from very, very early on. You see that in the flyers, you see that in the various magazines she’s reviewed in, you see it in her spread for Penthouse she did.”
Pfahler’s contribution has kindred spirits in other Fales acquisitions including the Guerrilla Girls Archive and Kathy Acker materials found in the Serpent’s Tail/High Risk Archive. “They have a similarly intense approach to women’s activism,” Taylor explained. “So I think Kembra fits right in with that part of what we’re doing.”
The materials won’t be accessible to the public for at least another year, but Taylor explained there’s a lot to look forward to including videos the library plans to digitize a la Nightclubbing and Pfahler’s notebooks which offer a window into her creative process. “The notebooks are really important, I was really impressed by those,” Taylor said. “They’re more like working notebooks as opposed to journals, working out ideas for songs and stuff like that.”
If you’re chomping at the bit first of all, don’t do that (we imagine that’s pretty bad for your chompers) but secondly, check out our adventures in spelunking through the Riot Grrrl Archives and our guided tour through the extensive Nightclubbing archive that includes live footage of punk and post-punk acts like DNA, the Cramps, the Suburbs, Pylon, and Prince Iggy himself.