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Cheryl Wagner

At Home with the Chaos Hag:
An Interview with Courtney Egan

CW: Who is the Chaos Hag?

CE: She is an amalgamation of pieces and parts of the female body, of the female "look," that is fixated on and fetishized by both men and women.

CW: What do you want people to understand about her?

CE: I guess she is taken to the extreme, to make a point, but she still wants people to take her seriously. She thinks of herself as a series of parts, not as a whole, I think she looks at herself through other people's eyes all the time, and that's why she ends up looking monstrous-ish, with certain parts left out and other parts very conspicuous.

CW: What makes a hag a hag?

CE: According to the dictionary, a hag is female, ugly or evil-looking, old. But I rejectall that crap and think of Hags more like Crones, who get the shaft in the dictionary as well. But the Crone is the wise woman. The Crone and the Hag are aspects of the goddess of Greek myth.

I don't think a person can be a hag. Maybe they can have a hag "persona" but they're never "all hag, all the time". It would be too much.

CW. Are there any male hags?

CE. No. They wish.

CW. Why is the Chaos Hag making a spectacle of herself?

CE. She can't help herself. She demands attention despite her faults. She is beyond hiding her flaws. She flaunts them.

CW: Is a Chaos Hag intelligent? If so, does she hide her intelligence? If she does hide her intelligence, why does she hide her intelligence and who does she hide it from?

CE: Yes, she is intelligent. No, she doesn't hide her intelligence; she just misdirects it some of the time.

CW: You are from Mississippi, but you now reside in New Orleans. Is the Chaos Hag also Southern?

CE: You know, I think she resides in a mental space that is programmed into young women's heads at an early age from reading all those crappy women's magazines. I guess I should say that she resides in the mental space of my head, then by default I think she'd be Southern. But I think she started as a more Glamour/Cosmo type… or maybe she is what I as a small-town girl would think a more cosmopolitan type is like. I didn't have MTV in my adolescence; I can only thank heavens for that because who knows how screwed up I would be.

CW: You were once in a sorority. What does the Chaos Hag have to do with sororities?

CE: I don't think she has much to do with sororities, but I think sororities could use more Hags. Sororities need to worship Hags. Then again, all the Hags' paranoias and obsessions (looks, behavior, appearance, propriety) certainly work within sorority environments….

CW: Would a Chaos Hag go to a tailgate party?

CE: If she was in the mood to get drunk or to ridicule people.

CW: Is the Chaos Hag capable of violence? If so, to whom?

CE: Mainly to herself.

CW: What is the Chaos Hag's relationship to her own sexuality? Is the Chaos Hag a lesbian? Is she bisexual? Is she asexual? None of the above?

CE: I don't think she is defined sexually yet. But she is aware of others viewing her, and of the different ways in which she is viewed--with attraction, with disgust—and defines herself in that way. The hags are more about a viewer's projections than about my intentions. Of course I'd like to think that….

CW: Do Chaos Hags enjoy sex?

CE: Depends on which Hag you're talking about. Some enjoy it, some pretend to enjoy it, and others try really hard to enjoy it and are sometimes successful. None of them are "sex-crazed," they are too preoccupied with other things… money and/or fame would be the turn on….

CW: Are you the Chaos Hag?

CE: Uncannily enough I think we share some characteristics. I think the hag is my place to project all those programmed feelings which I am trying to rid myself. Or maybe I am not totally trying to rid myself of them, but to understand them, to play with them and to mess them up, rearrange them. It is also a place to celebrate some sheer physicality, but the celebration ends up perverted, gone awry.

CW: Would you have been able to give birth to the Chaos Hag 10 years ago? 

CE: 10 years ago I was just starting with video. Literally in 1991. The foundation was there, and in my photo and sculptural work I played with established ideas about the interactions women have. My favorite line from a movie then was from Lawrence of Arabia "For some men, nothing is written!" I substituted men for women, though.

CW: The Chaos Hag makes people laugh, but she also makes them extremely uneasy. Is that how you want viewers to feel?

CE: Yes. I purposely want to create conflicting emotions and make people unsure of how to take them.

CW: What does the Chaos Hag have to do with your mother?

CE: Nothing that I will admit.

CW: Is the Chaos Hag afraid of becoming like her mother?

CE: No, not at all. She ate her mother long ago (figuratively, of course).

CW: What does your mother think of the Chaos Hags?

CE: She doesn't know what to think.

CW: Does the Chaos Hag shave her legs?

CE: Certainly, but will grow them out to disgust people.

CW: Does the Chaos Hag eat what she wants or does she count calories?

CE: Both, and she doesn't count the calories when she can justify it in some way, like "I had a hard day", "I deserve this" etc. (Now, this is what she has to do with my mother!)

CW: Is the Chaos Hag concerned with Yoga Butt or Buns of Steel?

CE: She appreciates the plumper female stars of the 50's, yet is not beyond wanting to "better herself."

CW: Would the Chaos Hag collect shoes, or would she consider that self-indulgent?

CE: Collecting shoes would be a very appropriate activity for a Chaos Hag.

CW: If the Chaos Hag and the comic cartoon character "Kathy" went out to lunch, what would happen?

CE: They would overeat then complain about their weight. After bad-mouthing George Bush Jr.

CW: Does the Chaos Hag have a spiritual life? If so, what kind?

CE: She is related to Kali and Tiamat, other ancient Hags….

CW: What is the Chaos Hag's relationship to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus?

CE: That's a good one. Mary was never allowed to throw down, was she? She's been whitewashed, like the equivalent of a prepubescent youth. I guess with the Hags I try to uncover the whitewash (even though they are all white) and show what's been obvious all along but unacknowledged or ignored.

CW: What would the Chaos Hag do if someone was to sexually harass her on the street?

CE: What do you mean by "harass"? Verbal harassment: Spit fire sometimes, at other times wink. Maybe ignore him. Physical harassment: kick the shit out of him… or at least try.

CW: Who relates to the Chaos Hag better-- men or women?

CE: I Don't know, I think women may be more skeptical and examining of them than men, which is good. I'm afraid, that for men, the hags may just reinforce something in their psyches about women, since they don't have the experiences that women will bring to viewing the Hags.

CW: Will the Chaos Hag have children? Why or why not?

CE: No children should not be associated with them, even though they are great creative beings. Reason why: see Liza.

CW: What is your position on so-called "fag hags"?

CE: "Fag hag" is a term I don't like and don't use. Who made up this word anyway? Do gay people call their female friends "fag hags" or is a term that heteros use to demean certain women?

I think it is a misuse of the word Hag, as well as Fag. But truly I am innocent, or (more likely) unaware about these things. When I was in 2nd grade I wrote out all the lyrics to "It's a grand old Flag" but forgot to put the "L" in flag. It took me years to realize why my mom laughed so hysterically.

CW: In a fight to the death, who would win-- the Chaos Hag or you?

CE: I'm afraid the Hag would win. She is the destroyer.

Courtney Egan is a New Orleans-based video collage artist. Her work has exhibited in galleries, on the Web, on television, and at film festivals nationwide. Most recently, Courtney's Chaos Hags were featured in the Louisiana Open at the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans and at the MadCat Women's International Film and Video Festival in San Francisco. Courtney was awarded a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship for 2001. She is currently at work on a series of lifesize, animated video projections, and she teaches video and media literacy at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. Additional animated Hags available here.

Cheryl Wagner is a Hag. Her work has been featured in, Harper's, NPR's This American Life, Dishwasher, McSweeney's, New Orleans Gambit Weekly, Comedy Central, and other web, print, and multimedia publications. She was one of the editors for and has received literary awards from Villa Montalvo and other institutions. She lives in New Orleans.  


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