Liv Fontaine: A Performer’s Body Is Public Property

Expect a manic vocal style, cutting sarcasm and confrontational bodily exposure from the Glasgow-based artist, whose uncomfortably hilarious material is personal as well as political.

Liv Fontaine, Titwank, ongoing exploration
Titwank, ongoing exploration

Young Glasgow-based artist Liv Fontaine imposes her sharply feminist perspective on audiences through anger-driven performances: expect a manic vocal style, cutting sarcasm and confrontational bodily exposure. She often adopts alter egos as a means of exposing absurdity, inequality and the unrealistic depiction of women by the male-controlled media—for example Treacle Fuckface, of whom Liv says “She is a lusty busty exhibitionist. She is militant in her agenda. She feels no shame… She is my role model.”

Liv Fontaine isn’t her real name, either, but her uncomfortably hilarious material is evidently personal as well as political—so much so that she created the character Viv Insane “to say the things I felt I couldn’t as Liv Fontaine”. Recently Liv has confronted a challenge rather different from the patriarchy: illnessYet in a typically positive manner, being bedridden facilitated an expansion into drawings which carry through her character-led diatribes in new ways—and she’s now back performing, too. 

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How did you arrive at your name?

I chose Liv Fontaine as a teenager for pure glamour, expecting to become an actress or a topless model. Everyone knows that a performer’s body is public property and I have often promoted this, laying my body in the pig trough and dragging myself by my own hair through the audience and onto the stage. A fake name was one of my wiser decisions, allowing the vital separation between personal life and public work—after all, I’m not always an artist and the last thing I want is Pervey Pete in HR accessing the crotch shots online.

Treacle Fuckface towards the end, 2014
Treacle Fuckface towards the end, 2014

Are you an exhibitionist or just pretending?

Just pretending. I am quite shy actually. At this point I’m in the market to settle down, become impregnated by a man of maybe 6ft 2, medium build, with a job. I want to buy a Citroen Picasso, and would like to live in the country.

Your performances are often angry. What riles you most?

Political injustice, polarizations of wealth, gender inequalities, bad shoes, bad breath, bad health, bad hair, bad sex, tax avoidance, empathy deficits, wicked men not calling me back, strident stereotypes, impossible expectations, inappropriate appropriations—all the usual total nightmares.

You published your “rules for a good love life”. What’s the most important one?

Do not discriminate! Except on age. If your lover is too young to remember Diana’s death, they know nothing of real pain, collective pain, pain of a nation—and let’s face it, if you haven’t felt that you’re probably bad in bed. 

Do you have any other advice for our male readers?

Sit down and shut up.

You once diagnosed yourself as an attention seeker. Is there anything in that?

In a performance I scream: “You say I am an attention seeker! I thought I was just a public speaker! You say I am preoccupied and I live for drama! OH MY GOD! I was just trying to eat a banana!” 

Performing as Treacle Fuckface, 2014
Performing as Treacle Fuckface, 2014

What’s that about?

A woman is given a hard time because she loves eating bananas in public. She stands up for herself, calling out and debunking the myths of “female hysteria”, “histrionic behaviour” and the empty expression “psycho bitch”. She won’t stop, and subsequently ends up in a mental institution abused and alone. It’s an awful yet familiar tale of shame equivalency, sexual expectation and exploitation.  

What chance did she have?

Not much. She talks in the language of trauma because she is traumatized. She behaves in an antisocial way because she is being constantly de-socialized. On dating apps you see so many men saying “no psychos please” in their bios… It really brings out the online troll in me. 

Left: Self Portrait (in the Gym), 2015; Right: Cold Whore Crisis (Narrcisis), 2018
Self Portrait (in the Gym), 2015

How do your characters operate, as opposed to “yourself”?

I would like to think the characters live without consequence and responsibility. This obviously isn’t true, though, as my work is autobiographical and I am very complicit in constructing the orgy of depravity in which they live and take inspiration. My primary incentive is to subvert stereotypes, but I’m also aware of the contribution I make to them. The characters are the extremes of my behaviour, a reduction that leaves just the raw emotion—raw enough to comment critically, perform sexually, perhaps entertain comically and often fail spectacularly.  

Self Portrait, 2018
Self Portrait, 2018

You’re not like that, then?

The characters will never compromise, which is in great contrast to my own personality. I’m an absolute pushover. You can get me to do anything by either making me feel guilty or buying me gifts. And I’m not even talking about anything decent—two Kinder eggs, a white wine spritzer or a ride in an Uber Exec and I’m yours. 

You have recently produced drawings and paintings. How come?

I wanted to document my existence as an artist and also to make everything less finished. It takes great control to look so out of control. There’s a lot of pressure when performing to get everything right, to make sense, to remember the words, to not be too nervous or too drunk, to be offensive but not too offensive. The pleasure I take from performing is euphoric and orgasmic but it often seems like there’s nothing to show for all this showmanship! With the drawings I felt freedom in all my fuck-ups. I liked being calm in the studio, focusing on just one thing.

Once I sat down, though, in a cruel twist of fate, I couldn’t get back up. I got sick like Dennis Potter’s Singing Detective. My relationships fell apart, my skin fell off, I couldn’t walk. I had to stay in bed for months, so I just got really into drawing and watching Dragons’ Den. I am performing again now but have continued drawing the beginnings of stories that I am writing as performances. It’s a great thought process. And people decorate their homes with colourful physical objects, so from a capitalist view it seems like a good idea too! 

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  • Left: Cold Whore Crisis (Narrcisis), 2018; Right: Still from Cold Whore Crisis, 2018

One of your drawings jokes that male ladybugs must be secure in their masculinity… Do you think men in general are insecure these days?  

I do not joke about such serious matters. Masculine insecurities can become critically dangerous, not just to women but to men, and to the environment too. Pride seems to be the problem. Pride and shame and dignity is a toxic triangle protected by privilege. But what if you never had the privilege in the first place? And you were forced to live a life as a shameful, heinous, undignified monster? Masculine pride may be damaged or dented but with the help of mothers and whores it will be restored. But the monster however, will be damaged goods forever.

Finally, any advice on Brexit?

Campaign for a second referendum—freedom of movement is fundamental for a good fuck.