.:.SORCERY AND SEX APPEAL.:.
Kristen Korvette Discusses Slutist‘s Legacy of the Witch Festival
Something witchy is afoot in New York City. Blending music, art, and feminism, Slutist’s Legacy of the Witch Festival is back for a second year of celebrating the magic of iconoclastic women. The event, taking place on Saturday, April 23, at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, brings together an impressive cadre of artists and performers for an evening described as reveling in “the pagan, the profane, ecstatic transgression and unsung female forces.” Fearless and taboo-busting, the 2015 edition of the festival garnered praise from publications like the Village Voice and Bust Magazine.
An atmosphere of inclusion and positivity characterizes the Slutist worldview. Slutist founder and Legacy of the Witch organizer Kristen Korvette has said that “you don’t have to believe in anything beyond yourself and the power of women” to enjoy what she organizes. This attitude is underscored by the site she’s curated, which features a range of woman-focused work, from Katie Skelly’s playfully erotic comics to profiles on feminist activists, to my own column on sexually empowered women in history.
Kristen took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about the upcoming festival as well as her own feelings on the importance of the witch as an icon and the state of feminism in 2016.
Heathen Harvest: You’ve assembled a terrific lineup for this year’s festival, including bands Wax Idols, Void Vision, and Sabbath Assembly, along with burlesque, performance art, and visual art. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mixture of entertainment that brings together fans of artists who might not ordinarily attend the same event. Is this intentional on your part? What does the overall process for developing the event look like?
Kristen Korvette: I love a show that has both a strong aesthetic and an ethos. I absorbed a lot from frequenting and working the Wierd parties between 2006 to 2012, where seemingly dissimilar and disparate elements really came together in an unexpected way. I’m half nerdy academic and half party slut, so for Legacy of the Witch, I wanted to bring in work balancing on that axis. I try not to think too hard about it and just go with what I like and what feels right, and cross my fingers that others dig it!
HH: Is there a specific kind of experience that you want to create for attendees?
KK: Hopefully a memorable, titillating, and entertaining one…
HH: Legacy of the Witch is much more than just a concert. In addition to celebrating feminist philosophy, a portion of the proceeds will benefit R.A.I.N.N. Why is it important to you, personally, to tie this type of social awareness to entertainment?
KK: Since Legacy of the Witch is specifically about reclaiming, celebrating, and honoring an icon of female power and persecution, it would be impossible not to put our money where our mouth is. R.A.I.N.N. is one of the top organizations fighting for survivors of rape, abuse, incest, and assault, so it felt like a perfect fit.
HH: Is there a performance you’re especially excited about this year?
KK: All of them? I seriously can’t pick one.
HH: By all accounts, the first Legacy of the Witch festival last year was a huge success, achieving rave reviews from a diverse group of attendees. What were some of the most rewarding aspects of the inaugural Legacy of the Witch festival in 2015? Are there things you learned that you’re applying to this year’s event?
KK: At the end of the night last year, one woman came up and told me she had just left an abusive relationship and that being at the show made her realize she made the right choice. I was pretty floored to hear that, along with a few other comments that were really raw and emotional that I received over the course of the event.
As for what I learned, I was in work mode throughout most of last year’s show between emceeing, stage managing, and playing keys with Azar Swan, so I didn’t take enough time to enjoy it all before it was over. Being more mindful to be in the moment and maybe partying a little harder is on my list for this one.
HH: You’ve spoken and written a great deal about reclaiming the symbol of the witch to represent female community and power. Mainstream culture also seems to be embracing the witch in the worlds of fashion, film, and art. What do you think accounts for this witchy zeitgeist right now, in 2016?
KK: The mainstream popularity of both witchcraft and feminism in 2016 is no coincidence. The witch offers an avenue for empowerment (particularly for women and queer folks) outside the constraints of patriarchy, hyper-capitalism, and paternalistic religion by encouraging a sex-positive, communally connected, earth-conscious approach to life which is sorely needed right now. However, like being a feminist, there’s no one way to be a witch or to identify with the witch: you can engage in a particular codified occult practice or fly solo, or just be inspired by the witch as a radical archetype and eschew the ritual and spiritual part altogether. With the witch, you also have an embrace of darkness that’s really appealing to me in particular—a darkness that’s devoid of any moralistic good or evil, but instead mirrors the natural order of life and death, winter and spring, mo(u)rning and night. What’s not to like?
HH: One of the things I appreciate most about Slutist as an organization is its focus on women who are creating, teaching, or otherwise making a positive impact on the world around them. You’ve gathered a wonderfully varied group of contributors and profile subjects, from traditional and nontraditional visual artists to sex workers of all kinds to activists. How do you find these people, and what unites them as part of Slutist’s world?
KK: First let me say that you are one of those artists I’m so thrilled to have met! There is such a massive labyrinthine chain of folks I’ve been introduced to through friends, friends of friends, and just being a bar fly in New York City for fifteen years. I honestly don’t have to look; these people are everywhere, creating inspiring work, and it’s almost a joke how many there are. I am never at a loss for new contributors or artists to feature on the site—it’s just a matter of resources to keep it going. And the one uniting aspect I think is that everyone considers themselves some sort of weirdo or witchy outlier or lover of certain things considered “alternative” or “underground” (whatever those words may mean today).
HH: There seems to be room at Slutist to enjoy messy and seemingly “non-feminist” interests that have been determined to be controversial by other left-leaning publications. For example, you’re a huge fan of hair metal, and I have a great love of exploitation films. How do you feel about the conversations surrounding this kind of art and music that has been dubbed “problematic” elsewhere?
KK: I’m a big fan of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and I definitely was one before there was a name for it. I 100% think feminist critiques of “problematic” art are so vital and can actually enact social change. I am also going to be a person who likes that “problematic” art a lot of the time. For me, mindful consumption is key. There’s something to be said for liking something because it repulses you or challenges you. I think you can consume music, art, or film for one reason and dislike it for another. I guess I’m personally just so messy and contradictory myself that Slutist reflects that tendency. I don’t want to only like things that fall neatly into my worldview. How boring!
HH: With a successful blog and now two festivals to your credit, what is next for the Slutist empire?
KK: I didn’t realize I’d gotten to empire status, but I’ll take it! As for my upcoming plans, I just got a book deal and am working on a book that will be out early next year. Without giving too much away, it will have witches, sluts, feminism, history, art—all the juicy things you’re likely find on Slutist. I cannot wait to unleash this little beast.