Rebecca Goyette: Creating Confrontational Characters and the Art of Lobsta Porn

Cunning and confrontational, bawdy and bold, Rebecca Goyette‘s video art is like nothing else. That may be quite the statement to make about an artist’s entire oeuvre, but how many feminist lobster pornos have you seen in your lifetime? Not enough, would be our answer.

Although she works in all mediums, Goyette recently found her niche crafting lusty lobsta videos, and has filmed her costumed, interspecies pornos around the world. Whether playing Lobsta Girl, Octopussy or Ghost Bitch, her characters are fully fleshed out, from their hand-crafted outfits and detailed backstories to their perfectly cast co-star cohorts. Goyette’s sense of humor stands out as a driving force in her work, yet as outlandish and rowdy as some of her scenes may be, they all manage to delve into serious societal fears about sexuality and the female body unleashed.

We spoke with Goyette in her Bushwick studio (amidst a flurry of explicit and whimsical props) about her process, performance art as therapy, her connection to Salem “witch” Rebecca Nurse, and what’s next. See Rebecca’s work in the group show, “The New Bitch,” curated by Michele Basora, September 4th – October 4th at Gitana Rosa Gallery in NYC.

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“Lobsta Pieta,” video still from “Lobstapus/Lobstapussy,” 2013

How did you create the character of Lobsta Girl and what was her first starring role?

I’m from Massachusetts originally, and my initial interest in the lobster is connected with New England folklore. Digging a bit further, I discovered how lobsters have sex. The lobster female is initially the sexual aggressor, choosing only the strongest males. She boxes the male down, squirts him with aphrodisiac drugs and gets inside his cave to have sex. But in order to have sex, she has to molt her shell completely, leaving her submissive to the male.

The Lobsta Girl saga began when I transformed a pair of boxing gloves to look more like lobster claws. I then started to play around with the idea of who might I be as this female, sexually aggressive character and I performed live.

A friend saw one of my early performances as Lobsta Girl and asked if I knew about Ben Sargent, AKA, Doctor Claw, who was selling lobster rolls out of his apartment in Greenpoint. He would drop lobster rolls off at customers houses or provide take out service through the mail slot in his door. Getting a Dr. Claw lobster roll was akin to making a drug deal. Ben became infamous for the lobster roll business which eventually was shut down by health department authorities. Infamy served Ben well; he has since found fame with his own show, Hook, Line & Dinner, on the Cooking Channel.

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Lobsta Rollin,” movie poster, 2011

Fortunately, prior to his encounter with the health department, I saw some video online that Ben had shot at his apartment. It was very nautical and looked like an instant set. I ordered a lobster roll, had him deliver it to my house, and met him at the door in my costume. I greeted him with, “Hey, would you like to make a lobster sex video with me?” And, with more good fortune and despite his knowledge about lobster sex, he said yes!

He said he would give me one day, he would do as I wished, with no rehearsal. I took three months, sewed all the costumes and got more people involved. He agreed to make lobster rolls throughout the day to use as props in the video but also to feed the crew. I have structured each video similarly since this experience, preparing costumes and props as the ready-made imaginary world in which to improvise.

What was it like working with artist Duke Riley on “Touch My Hull”?

Duke’s artwork is focused in the nautical realm whether he is building a submarine for one to attack the QE2, or creating intricate tattoos and drawings. He knew who Ben Sargent was, and, I suspected, wanted to show Ben up and kick his ass. He told me he had a boat docked in Greenpoint that we could use to shoot the the second Lobsta Girl video. When I explained that lobsters have two dicks, he said he wanted four, with one of them long enough to strangle me. I sewed exactly what he wanted for that video. I made the dicks really long and he ended up strangling Lobsta Girl and shoving her into the hull of the boat, thus the title of the video, “Touch My Hull.” I was bruised up for a while from that shoot. It was very no holds barred, he had that kind of macho bravado.

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Touch My Hull,” movie poster, 2011

Each of these videos is very different. Duke took charge of the situation, where Ben was quite content to take direction from me. I do take charge by creating the concept and structure of each video. My philosophy and work ethic are, “You can be in my fantasy world, yet you are in full command of your role.” I find seeing what chemistry develops between other performers and me fascinating. It’s almost like a first date. No matter whether the person has known me or not, they don’t know how they’re going to operate with the costume and the camera on.

What was your first traveling experience with your work and the lobster porno that it inspired?

I was invited to do a residency on an uninhabited Greek island. There were ruins of a Byzantine church on the center of the island where we were able to camp overnight. My friend who coordinated the residency got together 30 Greek artists, musicians and political theorists to think and make work about democracy. The Greek economy had tanked, and it was their opportunity to brainstorm those issues. I showed up, the only American, with a duffle bag full of double dick speedos and lobster claws for everybody to wear. My approach was, “Who wants to be in my lobster porno!?” Many responded with, “This is a project about democracy and you’re here doing this?”

Artists in Greece had a more serious point of view than my humorous approach, and that initially made my cohorts very suspicious. However, I managed to persuade 7 of them to be in the film with me: 6 males and one female. Everybody participated pretty well, and they all wanted a scenario and storyline. They were a little paranoid about touching or being too sexual, but I broke through that with many of them. It was really interesting dealing with the group dynamic. I feel like their machismo played out less in their performances and more in terms of accepting me as their female director.

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“Born to Be Wild,” video still from “Surf and Turf,” 2014

Your recent exhibition at Slag Gallery (and the inspiration for our August Slut of the Month spread) was about a roadtrip with Wolftits you went on which became a video. Can you give a little background on those characters?

I did a road trip around Oregon with Julia Oldham in character as Octopussy and Wolftits, embodying our differences as a sea creature and a land animal. We stirred it up when we went out in public, seeing if we could get people to perceive us in a sexual way. It was more a Borat-style production, but also very Thelma and Louise! Wolftits dealt with death more than sex: every time she made a new friend, she ended up ripping that friend’s throat out. Whereas Octopussy was afraid of getting too sexual with men, terrified that if one got her pregnant she was going to die, since female octopi die when they reproduce.

Our favorite piece of yours is probably “Masshole Love,” can you describe a bit of the background and process for that shoot?

The Greek one was my first travel video, and that was really mindblowing. Shortly after that I was invited to do a residency in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where I created “Masshole Love,” which showed at Freight and Volume Gallery.

I became Lobsta Blue, a burlesque performance artist. There is a tradition of staged and street performances in Provincetown that includes drag queen acts, comedians and singers. My character, Lobsta Blue had an act called the Lobsta Sexcitation Show, a new age sex positive revival with audience participation. I also imagined a Puritan character, a man who dressed anachronistically, to hold onto the old world. I imagined the character as someone who grew up in Provincetown, a man who didn’t quite get the gay tourism of the town, was conflicted about it, and was playing out that repression by wearing the Puritan garb.

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“Sewing in the Secret Garden,” video still from “Masshole Love,” 2013

As it turned out, I was scheduled to do the residency at the same time as Cesare De Credico, who is the son of Al De Credico, a guru professor of mine when I was a painting student at RISD. I asked Cesare asked if he could play the repressed pilgrim. He agreed, and it turned that he was part of Bear culture. Coincidentally, we were in Provincetown during Bear week.

We agreed to use his immersion in Bear culture as a platform to unlock something in his character in a sexual scenario. I developed an inner bodysuit for him to wear with 30 penises. In the video, I show him obsessively sewing the penises on as his private activity. Some time later, he finally bursts onto the street with his penises popping out of his pilgrim suit. He acted like it was just happening to him, but he, himself, was the creator of this new costume which transformed him from anachronistic to a free-spirit. He became unleashed.

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“Lobsta Blue,” photograph (shot by Andy Brown) for “Masshole Love,” 2013

Do you find performance art to be like therapy in a sense, where you deal with issues on camera that connect to your own emotional baggage?

Cesare shared intimate details of his personal history with me in conversation and on camera.

His sensitivity and openness made me delve deeper into my issues as well. In “Masshole Love” I confronted a repressed memory: I had been molested by a cop when I was 12 years old. I asked a close friend to play the role of the cop. During the shoot, the re-enactment became quite physical. At the end of the shoot I was bruised all over. It was crazy and a little re-traumatizing. However, when I looked at the footage, I realized that I really dealt with that memory, and I made peace with it. If my friend had played that scene a little less rough it would not have registered in my head. I now feel done with the original experience.

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“Cop Friend,” video still from “Masshole Love,” 2013

What drove you to focus on sex and sexuality as a topic in your art?

I actually delve into things in my work that I’ve not delved into on a personal level, or that aren’t quite a part of my sexuality per se. It’s beyond myself as a person. Sex is the ripest area to explore psychology and human interaction.

The orchestration that goes into making the videos means I’m getting a lot of my sexuality out in the work. I’m not exactly vanilla, but I’m also just really careful that I want to feel in charge, I want to feel in control whether someone wants to play an interesting game with me or not. That’s true in the work and in my personal life as well.

What’s next for you?

I’m working with a Puritan character called Ghost Bitch. I’ve developed my Puritan character over the years, and have created installations, sculptures and drawings on the subject.

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“Ghost Bitch: Narcissistic Supply,” graphite and acrylic on paper, 8″ x 10″, 2014

My great-grandmother eight generations back was Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged as a Salem witch. When they jailed Rebecca Nurse, she was in her 70’s. The Puritans thought that if you were a witch, you would have extra teats either between your rectum and your vagina or on your body somewhere that your animal familiars could suckle. Rebecca was inspected for these extra teats. It was commonly believed that women who were close to nature were very suspicious. It was thought that witches lurked in the woods, tempting men to cheat on their wives. It was all about blaming the female who has agency. Rebecca Nurse was a female landowner as well, sufficient cause at the time to try to break her down.

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“Ghost Bitch: With Hawk Familiar and Extra Teats,” graphite and acrylic on paper, 8″ x 10″, 2014

As Ghost Bitch, I will be a paranormal Puritan, time-traveling between the Puritan era and the present. I will channel Rebecca Nurse, and test what will stir her spirit, what may anger her or give her peace to rest. My goal is for next summer to be filming in Salem, Massachusetts.

Main Image:”Stuck in a Dry Place,” video still from “Lobstapus/Lobstapussy,” 2013