by Tatjana Barbarella Karpinski

(Tainted Life, copyright Barbarella Karpinski aka Tatjana Barbarella Karpinski, Sydney, NSW, Australia)

Notes on Narrative

Tainted Life was created and developed during the Firstdraft Writers Residency, November 2017 – January 2018. This iteration of Tainted Life was performed by writer/performer Tatjana Barbarella Karpinski and collaborative performer Ainslie Templeton at Firstdraft on 19 April 2018, as part of Around The Outside: Feminist Specificities.

Present reflects past and the performance is contextualised with re-imaginings of performances from the past, with cLUB bENT overlaid in the background. A show called “I’m too Beautiful to be a Lesbian” directed by Tanya Denny and performed at Performance Space in 1996.

There are also images from a pop culture tribute to Twin Peaks and Laura Palmer, 1991. And another called: “I am the ghost of Jean Genet come down to earth for some genderfuck in the body of a femme starlet,” 1991.

My writing is about the body in space and time, the GLBTIQ subculture, about ageing, pansexuality, polyamory, alternative interpretations of romanticism and gender diversity.

Courtesy of Firsftdraft, Sydney

The work contains fragments of another time zone, in a disordered narrative, like life itself. The performance was a collage of multiple texts that included memoir (Tainted Life), novel (Rented Time in Rented Rooms), (fiction interconnecting with non-fiction) poetry, (Wasted, Vulnerable and Ruin) and  screenplay (Obnoxious Urban Behaviour).

The images presented alongside the performance contain fragments of the past. This includes 1. A portrait by photo by Damn R. Young circa 1999, an image from my arrest by police in 1978, and videos from both cLUB bENT 1996 (I’m too beautiful to be a lesbian – a satirical look at gender identity and from a performance from 1991 about gender identity called – I am the ghost of Jean Genet come down from heaven for some genderfuck in the form of a femme starlet).

This memoir combines fiction and non-fiction in an experimental and fragmented narrative. The work explores life from within a queer subculture. It touches upon love, relationships, friendships, disappearances and death. It’s about the meaningful, often fast connections that are formed within the subculture. It’s about the process of coping with grief and trauma when these connections disappear and are not acknowledged in the wider world. It’s about learning to be resilient when there is no faith in god, in New Age tenets or in love from an often fractious family.

The screenplay Obnoxious Urban Behaviour is ultimately about queer characters finding friendship and faith within. The spirit of the film is grounded in the subculture of a group at the sexual edge of society who live at  the precipice of life. They have a moral code that is their own.

The film script called Oblivion: Obnoxious Urban Behaviour, is located during the night – with a glimmer of sunrise, but just a hint of light like hope for a new day, a possibility with no certainty.

These fragments provide sections of a work in progress of the novel Tainted Life.

As the writer, I have survived these times and I look back with both the mournfulness and grief of a survivor and the anger of my youthful activist spirit.

This writing is my response to the complex feelings of having dodged bullets, lived and loved in a queer and non-traditional day, and been part of a new world order that I never envisaged I would live to see.

The work is dedicated to all my friends, many of whom did not join me in my journey to today, the future.

This writing is a tribute to those elusive friends of mine who self-destructed, became missing persons, disappeared, died or just chose to lead a tainted life, both enriched and damaged eternally by the experience of living this beautiful, errant and tainted way of being.

I miss and love you all.


Tatjana Barbarella Karpinski

Tatjana Barbarella Karpinski is a writer, journalist, poet and painter and her works include: “I am the Ghost of Jean Genet come down to earth for some Gender Fuck” (1991) , “Liquor, Guns and Ammo” (1994) a film about diabolical combinations of love and sex, “I’m too Beautiful to be a Lesbian”, (play, 1996), “Night Trade” (film, 2000) and Single Sexy Bilingual (Film, 2007). She has worked for Sydney Star Observer, Sydney Morning Herald, and Studio Magazines and is currently working on the completion of her novel, “Tainted Life’.

Ainslie Templeton is a writer and artist who came to the project through rare mutual connections. Drawing upon her understanding of the performative and the poetic, Ainslie holds a fascination with power exchanges in high-stakes situations, and of these being interrupted by the living force of the blasé.


Firstdraft Writers Residency is supported by Runway Australian Experimental Art through the publishing of the writer’s outcomes on Runway Conversations. ‘Tainted Life’ was developed  by Tatjana Barbaralla Karpinski during her 2017/18 Residency. The work was filmed on 19 April 2018 by filmed by Jos Eastwood, and features Karpinski’s and Ainslie Templeton collaborating on the reading and performance of Karpinski’s writing. You can read an extended version of Karpinski’s text at Firstdraft’s webpage.  




#5: foreplay as endgame

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