Benjamin Durkhan

by Amah-Rose McKnight-Abrams

The Fleshy Flair of Paris' Latest Performance Piece
You had me at hello: because you too Burger Girl, like Kato Kaelin, long to be covered in cum. Then again, who doesn’t? Yet like “The Juice’s” trial, this barebacked beast walks a fine line between pop, schlock, and horror, and for whatever reason, the bearded pathos seem genuine.

So grab a tissue, and sit down for a minute and behold the screaming blood-drenched man-whore with wings who consumes and croons of the follies of a universe, “Where sex and blood mingle with romanticism and spirituality.” Burger Girl is the plaintive oarsman on the “river of love,” burning, like a torch in Legends of the Hidden Temple, her vagina, all for you.

The old gal’s tale begins three sultry years ago, when Parisian dancer and performance artist Benjamin Durkhan decided to grow a very luscious beard. It was an impulsive act, yes, but one that would completely alter the course of his life. The seasoned performer on the avant-garde scene in Europe’s most romantic city seems sweet and unassuming as he sits before me, coquettishly smiling through cyberspace via Skype, and I try to marry this disarming, self-effacing performance artist with the sweltering, simmering 21st century gender mash-up of Burger Girl. Somehow the connection between the two utterly eludes me—where does the angst, anger, and all-out-motherfucking strangeness come from?

“Anger has always motivated and inspired me,” Durkhan says quietly, a manner so ill-fitting to his alter ego that it’s almost spooky. “This anger is inside of me and when I do dance performances and physical theatre I go towards this kind of energy,” he says. “As you can see, I am very sweet I like to scare people … It’s fun. It is the easiest way for me to get an emotional reaction.”

Durkhan has already spent most of his life in intensely physical and emotional settings, working as a dancer for various fêted companies such as La Zampa, François Chaignaud, and Didier Théron, where he can currently be found spinning about on his tootsies. He decided to branch into fashion modeling at the less-than-tender age of 30 and was immediately snapped up at a Jean Paul Gaultier street casting, leading him to work with the designer for the next five seasons. It was at some point during this liaison that Burger Girl was conceived in the twisted recesses of Durkan’s imagination, and despite his clear artistic integrity, the predominant energy running through everything in the Burger Girl world is sex, sex, sex and, more sex...

“What is sex?” he asks me with a discernible glint in his eye. “Sex is energy! And it’s a beautiful energy, but it can also be a drug – something dark that you can be addicted to. This is sex and love also. I know both sides...” He belly-laughs and the inevitable nervous edge of the interview dissipates. Suddenly, I see a kind of dual energy in his personality surface. It almost makes sense, and the humor at the heart of his creation shines through.

“I think it came from a joke, at first,” he says, when pressed on the genesis of his alter ego. “It was just born of the desire to explore my voice and to sing and shout and work with Edouard De Syon, the musician behind the Burger Girl project.” This all sounds fair enough and completely sane, but once you’ve been exposed to the sometimes hilariously bizarre blood, balls and bluster of Burger Girl, you can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something deeper going on, perhaps a desire to shock the status quo, particularly the religious status quo?

“Well, I think that when you talk about sex, you also talk about religion, and I have this kind of religious persona with my beard,” he says. “I guess it’s natural; it’s like Madonna touching herself in a church ... It’s just a conceptual element to stop Burger Girl from being limited to a sexual thing. It’s true that in my music there is always an element of chanting and a religious atmosphere. “

What he’s saying is all apparent enough on his willfully bonkers electro-dance track “BPD,” but I can’t help but wonder if he is playing down his intellectual drives a little—particularly considering that one of his past projects explored the idea of light in Caravaggio paintings in various buildings around Paris via the medium of contemporary dance—but, one suspects, exactly what drives him is deeply personal. He speaks about how he would like to strip back the masks he uses as Burger Girl to expose a truer version of himself in future work, but for now it’s all about screaming, spitting and bizarre costumes, and he and his collaborators have their sights set firmly on the United States.

“At the moment, I am working with Tim Paul, a young theatrical set builder, and we are trying to find a way to make a musical together and see how we can tour it,” he says. “ I would love 2013 to be my American year. We have lots of contacts in New York and San Francisco, and Atlanta ... all over America, it would be great to come over!” Batten down the hatches.