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
CW: Would a Chaos Hag go to a
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,
CW: The Chaos Hag makes people laugh,
but she also makes them extremely uneasy. Is that how you want viewers to
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
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
Cheryl Wagner is a Hag. Her work has
been featured in openletters.net, 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 openletters.net and has received literary awards from Villa Montalvo
and other institutions. She lives in New Orleans.