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~ Truth Memes Making: In Conversation with Santiago Corredor-Vergara

Instagram will load in the frontend.

Is my audio okay?

I sat down with Santiago Corredor-Vergara on Zoom as he adjusted his headphones. In the morning light of my computer screen, his afternoon in Spain looked absolutely radiant – we spoke from his balcony as construction pittered about in the background, filtered through our chat about memes, and how capitalism put God on Earth. 

What we mean by that: Santiago’s secret project is influenced heavily and accidentally by a history of banking in Italy which, through his philosophical approach, can be called a pre-Adam Smith flavor of capitalism, where the myth behind religious moral became concrete in monetary value. Money = God on Earth. The locale of Santiago’s ongoing work with said secret project is where major shifts in meaning-making and valuation happen, like that of the 1400s: those points in human history where we fundamentally shifted our approach towards “truth.” 

Where we find ourselves post-truth and reason is where we may find memes in media increasingly valuable. Santiago speaks about this with friendly acuity in the rest of this interview: 

Maya Kotomori: You mentioned post-reason society earlier. How do you approach that in your digital work? 

Santiago Corredor-Vergara: Well, initially this project ( REDACTED(**)**) came up as a way to propose a left version of QAnon.

MK: Sick….

SCV: Yeah,  I wrote a mini-zine for it that’s more esoterically oriented before writing a second book [with the (**)** collective -DM @pl0xi_the_arsonist for a copy] that’s more directly politically minded. It’s the sense that, if you have a post-reason society, fascist elements [of belief] explore it as a means to reach an audience that feels alienated from life. That alienation is so intimate and modern, and semiocapitalism, whatever you want to call it – it’s expropriated us from the world that we live in on a metaphysical level, where God was purged from the world as a prerequisite for capitalism to be the number one principle operating in the [physical] world. 

MK: Back to the 1400’s in Italy. 

SCV: Yes. So, that’s one notion – alienation as intimate. And the other notion, is that information networks have bypassed traditional institutions as a means of transmitting truth, or knowledge, and that those networks are easily hackable. The fact of the matter is, if you want to appeal to people, it has to be on an aesthetic level, not through reason. So, how do you provide a satisfying narrative/aesthetics to people, how can you explain the world? One thing that QAnon has, is that it’s very spectacular – [the narrative] reinvents a world purged of meaning with meaning, and it’s very messianic. Whoever did that…I don’t know. Very smart people.

MK: I agree! QAnon is very post-reason in a world where reason no longer comes from morals, because we used to believe in theocracies where all God was direct law – this was pre-capitalism. Now, the Italian moment you’re talking about, with banking, [basically puts] Gods on Earth, and those Gods are the ones to bestow value, and that value = 1. So, if we exchange infinite values of 1, we’re creating more truth. We’re God-fearing, in this modern world. QAnon came from an understanding of that, and a rejection of there being only one [truth] – they made their own. 

SCV: Of course, the political movement is so reactionary, and horrible. It’s so impressive at the same time, how [the original QAnon] were able to create and manage lore, which is what’s missing from contemporary life. It’s creating a reason to exist, basically. 

MK: That’s why memes are so powerful too. They’re a way to leverage dissonance on a completely individualized level that’s not hedonistic, because they have mass appeal. 

SCV: I definitely see that. Memes are an interesting vehicle for communication because they cut through a lot of representation as a counterintuitive force. When you get a meme that’s on a level just below the surface of an idea, it resonates with you. Not just because you get the joke, but because you feel the joke – which is awesome because it circumvents some of the discursive blockages that someone might have if you explained something through reason. Memes are approachable with their aesthetics, they explain apart from reason. 

Instagram will load in the frontend.

MK: How did you get involved with making memes for STP? 

SCV: I’ve never met Lucien in person actually, but he started following my since-removed meme page. I looked one day, and saw that STP was following, and I saw a picture of the office in New York, so I commented something like ‘yo, how could I get a job here?’ and Lucien replied like ‘message Mia.’ I emailed, and that’s how I started making memes for STP. A fortuitous turn of events! 

MK: For the audiences to give you your flowers: you are the person behind the art memes on STP’s Instagram, and now you’re making an NFT series of memes as well? 

SCV: Yes, exactly. We’re using a lot of the same memes that already occur on the account, and are making modifications to some. Sometimes [making memes] is difficult! You’re basically making a joke every day – it’s not always obvious. 

MK: Kind of a non-question, but where do you think you get your sense of humor? 

SCV: I try to make memes I would consume – a lot of other art meme pages focus on the surreal and absurd aspects of artists’ lives, or someone who’s already sort of successful, which I don’t do at all. I think my forte is thinking in theory and philosophy, and making really nerdy jokes. I would be in class last semester learning about, I dunno, Gordon Matta Clark, in some aesthetics class and I would think “I’m going to make a meme about that later.” Meme making is  very intuitive , like extracting a bit from something you see in real life to apply to a more universal language. I mean, that’s what’s spectacular about memes, is their ability to transmit the particular to the universal. That’s why I use meme templates sometimes, because you can write over them, and into them, universally. 

Instagram will load in the frontend.

MK: I’m thinking back on what you said about metaphysics earlier! It reminds me of this thing I read…about the metaphysics of the phantom limb. 

SCV: For sure. 

MK: So, someone’s arm could be cut off at the elbow, and the person would still be able to feel the “ghost” of their limb, even though it’s been cut off. [The metaphysical take is] that that feeling isn’t just something that exists in your mind – but that there actually is a self beyond the [corporeal] body. It’s a phenomenon that challenges the Western idea that your ‘self’ is contained inside of your body, that your insides are inside and your outsides are outside through the idea that the self exists beyond the physical world. Even the idea of horror, like when you see someone break a bone, you’re scared and even a bit uneasy not only because you can put yourself in that person’s shoes feeling that pain, but also because something that is supposed to be the structural framework of your insides became outside. 

SCV: Right, right. 

MK: Memes are metaphysical in a lot of the ways you’ve expressed because they’re like breaking bones. They’re helping people laugh at being uncomfortable, through a visual language that’s so universal. You’re afraid, but you know why you’re afraid, so a joke can be felt in that metaphysical way you mentioned. 

SCV: For sure. I would begin with a concept called phenomenology of the every day, which parts from the notion that an artwork “is”: if you can reduce the definition of an artwork to its most basic, then it’s an object that exists in and of itself, for itself – so there’s no reason for the artwork to exist, other than the fact that it does. That’s how I think one could think of the universe. There’s no reason for existence, basically, other than existence. When you experience the beauty in the universe – that’s what I think was so cool about modernism, is the idea that beauty can expand to include anything – anything can be considered beautiful just because existence means existence. Nothing is by accident, everything is just so. 

MK: Reason is existence, period. 

A little about the upcoming project:

Memes have taken on unprecedented cultural significance in the last two decades, as social media has become a ubiquitous means of communication. The significance of these seemingly insignificant images goes far beyond their obvious capacity to visually transmit a joke–memes move mountains; they’ve swayed elections after all. More importantly, it is their capacity to foster community among people invested and interested in niche topics.

Santiago, also known as @pl0xi_the_arsonist, is a 25 year old painter, who spends his time between New York City and Bogotá. He graduated from The Cooper Union in 2018 and is currently pursuing a masters in philosophy at the University of Salamanca. Santiago has been creating memes for Serving the People’s Instagram for the past year. His contribution has helped cultivate and onboard an amazing audience to [@servingthepeople](https://instagram.com/servingthepeople)’s community. 

The memes Santiago creates are invested in contemporary art, theory, and highlight the traditional art world’s contradictions. These memes are a thoughtful testament to a deep appreciation for the world of art. By bringing the memes on chain, it creates a space for these pieces to exist as a collectible art and elevates them as a legitimate art form. Santiago is releasing his first NFTs on Thursday, May 19th as a series of memes, originally posted on @servingthepeople. This series reimagines the confines of what is considered art and paves the way for meme accounts and creators to retain ownership of their work. A portion of the proceeds from the secondary sale will be donated to the STP Creative Foundation.

Maya Kotomori is a 23 year old arts and entertainment journalist and pre-modern enthusiast from Riverside, California. Her work is really fun and rated E for Everyone Read It. 

Visit https://www.lobus.io/stp-memes to sign up for the Meme NFT drop.

~ FCKKDD Up: A Conversation with Raafae Ghory

FCKKDD Up: A Conversation with Raafae Ghory

The laptop rang on a Tuesday night. Dehydrated, STP’s Maya Kotomori pinged artist and friend Raafae Ghory into the Zoom call, eager to quench her thirst with some good art-chat. Raafae Ghory (b. 1997, Lahore) is a photography based artist whose recent work explores the ways in which a persona can be performatively generated, dispersed, and then corrupted in and across digital and physical spaces. We chat about it all in the wake of his sold out book, ‘FCKKDD.’

Maya Kotomori: What was the process of making this book like?

Raafae Ghory: It’s funny to think about an artistic process when memes [are the] subject matter. That’s so silly! Archiving these images was something I did naturally. I didn’t think about it as a process or practice until I had the idea of making a book. Then I started going back through the images, re-experiencing them. I came across some really good texts that became the foundational theoretical framework of the ideas behind what I did.

MK: What did you read?

RG: The first one that put me in a good place was Giving An Account of Oneself by Judith Butler. After that, I read The Undercommons by Fred Moten, I would recommend that if you haven’t read it. I read The Fisherwoman by Toni Morrison, also.

MK: Fire, I love her.

RG: Have you read that piece? 

MK: YES!!

RG: Yes! And also, The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, which I just posted on my story yesterday, ‘cause I was thinking about Debord, and some French Marxists too. 

MK: So, the book is a processed version of your trap account on Insta that became a book! Beyond the account, where did you see that materiality going?

RG: I took the content of the account and wanted to recontextualize it into the form of a book. We’re so used to seeing these types of images right in front of our faces – on a screen – all day. Outside of that, [the book] is a way of reading the world around you. It’s subject matter that lives online! That’s so ingrained in our heads that we often don’t take the time to think about what we’re sharing or consuming. 

MK: There was a lot of personality within ‘FCKKDD.’ There’s also a lot of homies in the book. How did they feel to have that shout out in print?

RG: I don’t really know! A bunch of friends have seen the book in its earliest form when I made it three years ago. When I show it to them now, I get a lot of smiles. I think the content and just the nature of the book are both so overwhelming that people don’t even like when they see themselves in it, and they’re still processing all of the material in between that you have to go through, like on an online feed.

MK: If you could define that material in between, what is one word that you would use to define it?

RG: Ether.

MK: Ether – I love it. Did you know that not only is “ether” an imaginary space, but also a chemical? They used to use it back in the day as an anesthetic. I’m not super familiar with its structure, but I know it’s really bad for you. 

RG: Well, there you go. 

MK: The book feels like a really broken down time capsule for 2018. Why did you pick that year specifically?

RG: That’s a good question. I feel like the pain [of that year] was definitely an aspect to that. I also just happened to be in a class where I had free reign on what I wanted to create. I was trying to figure out a way to organize ‘FCKKDD’ in a way that made sense, and I also wanted to have a hard start and stop to the work. If there wasn’t that start and stop, the work becomes just like our feeds – it just keeps on going. Having a “year” was a good way to contain that set of work.

MK: Do you hope to make more collections? The side of the book says ‘Volume One’ and I’m trying to try to see another one…

RG: That’s kind of my intention. I mean, as you know, I still keep this ‘FCKKDD’ archive online and it’s an ongoing thing that I’ll do whenever I feel like it. I think the next one that I would do would be for the year 2020. It’s kind of obvious because we basically lived that entire year mediated through our technological tools, and most of our social interactions took place through the Internet. I want to look back at that, but I’m not really in a rush. I don’t really want to process that that year so soon.

MK: When you said 2020, it made me think back to Society of the Spectacle and the idea of the information highway, and the Agora, and how Debord made those connections with public space as a digital experience. With wanting a hard beginning and a hard stop, how would that translate into the layering that you used in the book? What are your opinions on time in that way?

RG: I did the layering and the collaging in the book as an aesthetic way to capture what it feels like to be in the internet. The “higher ups” have said Instagram is all clean lines and grids and you know, infinitely scrolling timelines, but it doesn’t feel that way for the most part. It can just feel like a disorganized sort of overstimulating experience of information, that’s never ending. I wanted to mimic that feeling. 

MK:  Logic question: is this the first physical book you’ve ever made in print?

RG: This is the first one that I’m putting out to the public. I made another book in 2017, that was just my photographs of my friends, and another for my project about Mecca. Books are my professional career right now. I work at a book publisher called Conveyor Studio in Jersey. It’s a cool spot, there’s only four of us in the shop. They have their own publishing label, and they do a lot of just on demand printing for museums and places like that.

MK: Bookbinding is fascinating! 

RG: It is! All 2020 I was still consuming content online, and that was what I posted during that time on my private account. That [reminds me of] one of the main questions that I posed for myself when I was making the book: how can you negotiate a personal experience against the idea of a collective consciousness, how might a stranger who doesn’t even know me be able to relate to the images based on content and subject matter? That [relationship] is ubiquitous, but then again, at the same time, it’s definitely a piece specific to it’s time.

MK: A lot of other artists right now put out self-defining work that is all identity politics, and you don’t do that at all, while building that relationship with the audience. It comes out in a lot of your other work too! I was going through my story archives earlier, and I remember when you had ‘Hajji’ at the Tisch windows for all of January and February and March…

RG: And April 😉

MK: This man said we got a four month run! How do you relate yourself in terms of those two projects – ‘Haajji’ and ‘FCKKDD’?

RG: That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and most of my traditional photography work revolves around these two words: like social documentary in a sense. At the same time, I was thinking about documentary as a form and what exactly that means. Even though it (FCKKDD) doesn’t really have the defining features of what one might consider a documentary, it’s still very much an object, an artifact of smaller artifacts that connect to different people in society.

MK: Super leading question but: how do you feel about the Internet? It’s funny how the internet was started, you know, as this big democratic network, and now, Trump is banned on Twitter? How do you see that [shift]? 

RG: That’s something I think about almost every day when I’m at work. I guess it’s really just a big double-edged sword in a sense, because I, myself, when making this book, I wrote a 15 page paper about how memes are the single most democratic form of social critique that we have to this day. But then again, at the same time, the Internet has enabled a space of unparalleled consumerism and just enabled this sort of obliviousness, if you’re not careful. Then you have all the other stuff that goes along with it, like the rise of the far right and that weird space. 

MK: Yeah, because the Internet facilitates everyone, it facilitates everyone. And it (internet) also isn’t a neutral thing either. The internet can fit certain agendas which is probably my favorite aspect of the book. The object itself is that the one thing that unifies it. 

RG: Another question that I was asking myself was how does our relationship with these images and cultural obsessions change with time? Because there’s a lot in that book that now exists as a dated cultural object in a sense, because we don’t share those images. I was asking the question of what happens to these images that we move on from? I was scrolling on Twitter and there’s people talking about ancient memes, which just popped up today. Like the original Wojack faces, you know what I’m talking about? Just out of nowhere, those are coming back up after what, 10 years of meme progression?

MK: That says a lot about the importance of the archive, because something really old can take on a new meaning, where the old thing is extra-important because it’s really old. And now the Internet is speeding that up where even the book feels distinctly “2018” though 2018 was only three years ago.

RG: Yeah. It’s insane. It’s crazy.

MK: What is your favorite ancient meme and how did you feel about Pepe the frog censorship?

RG: I don’t even know if I have an opinion on that. With memes, how can a certain group of people hijack an image, you know? [Pepe] has been recontextualized so many times on 4chan and Reddit. I don’t know if you’re active on Discord, but some of the Discord groups I’m in all use Pepe. The second you look at it, it just brings up these associations that have kind of been ascribed to it, when at the end of the day, it’s a picture of a frog. It’s so weird how a seemingly meaningless image can hold such cultural weight.

MK: The power of the zeitgeist, and also the power of concealing something is exactly what ‘FCKKDD’ subverts. It also has a dual existence. It still is a private account,  and it is a [sold-out] book. Before you opened the book to the public, did anyone random who doesn’t follow the account see it?

RG: Yeah, actually. It’s a funny story. I brought the book to Dashwood about a [couple months] ago, and I was showing it to Miwa.  She was really into it, but they’re not taking in books right now. While I was showing it to her, this random man in the store just came up and entered the conversation. And he was like, “Oh, I’m actually working on a project about the Internet, your book seems like it’s right up that alley.” So I was like, “Yeah sure, you want to look at it?” And he was like “Sick, how much? I’ll buy it right now.” And then I sold it to him at Dashwood.

MK: So you subverted Dashwood at Dashwood.

RG: Yeah, exactly. I was like, “you got Cash App?” And that random person, I think his name is Dylan or something, got a copy of the book before I released it.

MK: Do you have a favorite style moment or time period? 

RG: Kiko Kostadinov, or Old Navy.

MK: Bro, Old Navy is the shit. I remember like three years ago everyone was trying to bring Gap back and I’m just like, nah nah nah. It’s all about $5 tees at Old Navy.

RG: When I was a kid my mom always used to get clothes for me from Old Navy. I used to hate it so much. And now I’m finding the sickest Old Navy objects on Depop and thrift stores. I was not with it back in the day.

MK: Should we be expecting any ‘FCKKDD’ clothing drops in the future or…?

RG: You know, maybe. It’s not something I’m thinking about, but that might be cool. I don’t know what I would do, but nothing’s off the table.

MK: “Weigh all the options, nothing’s off the table.

~ Tech Literacy and The News

Toss your iPhones to the proverbial wolves, sheeple: or it will be YOUR ass! Live from her Sidekick II, dystopian futurist Maya Kotomori is here to hit you with solid proof that the Internet is trying to turn us into fishpeople who feed on microplastics. You’re welcome.

If the last 2 weeks had an acronym, it would be ‘NFT,’ which every struggling artist was trying to capitalize on last week. What the fuck is an NFT really? Why did they become so immediately popular? Are they a money laundering scheme? Why did Kings of Leon decide to release their album on one? What I do know: NFT stands for non-fungible token; cryptocurrency whose value doesn’t translate into cold hard cash, but unique “assets.”They are a way into the art game, a way for artists to define their own practice online, via their assets, in an anyone-can-do-it, American dream way. Ultimately, they allow artists to integrate their work into a value economy, and NFT transactions are accounted for on a blockchain. This eases the fear of insider trading playing puppetmaster behind the curtain. Still confused? So am I. For an explanation, DM any local male artist who uses Clubhouse, the new invite-only talk-forum app where every conversation circles around to why or why not NFTs are just a trend.

Kings of Leon are back (with a non-fungible album release) and Mumford & Sons are also back (for closeted racism). Unfortunately, we won’t be getting an NFT album release of faux-religious lyrics and frenzied banjo playing any time soon, after one ‘Son,’ Winston Marshall (fake name), tweeted in support of far-right author Andy Ngo’s new book, titled “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.” Several people are calling him a literal Nazi. Marshall is now “taking a break” to examine his “blindspots,” as explained in this notes app post. I don’t know why anyone thought that a band of white guys making Deliverance pop wouldn’t support someone like Angy Ngo. Stand by for my first NFT release on STP Blog, including a copy of “Unmasked” that Marshall pretended to read. 

Pop icon William Eyelash recently dropped a new documentary, ‘The World’s A Little Blurry,’ on Apple TV. Two and a half unadulterated hours of Billie’s life, the documentary is exactly what you would expect. It’s also a lot better than you’d expect; who doesn’t want a look into how definitely-not-incestuous her music making process is with her producer/brother, Finneas? Jokes aside, ‘The World’s A Little Blurry’ earned itself 2.5 stars by Roger Ebert, an irrelevant opinion considering that Billie’s a Gen Z princess who, I must add, sang her ass off at the 63rd Grammy Awards this past Sunday. Perhaps the most valuable part of this Grammys (apart from Kanye’s win in the Contemporary Christian Album category) is the above meme of the televised footage from the awards. Is this what we have to look forward to now that it’s virtual awards season? Televised experiences that eerily resemble CENTER JENNY

Since we’re on the topic of internet valuation: on March 4th, the Capitol building announced implementation of extra security measures in response to a QAnon conspiracy theory alleging Trump’s real inauguration on March 4th, the USA’s original inauguration date. While the Capitol Police alleged fear of a repeat situation of January 6th’s “insurrection,”It’s strange to think a state of nation-wide panic can be caused by a bunch of far-right 4chan jabronis. The government kind of gave QAnon a W – I mean, The New York Times published 3 articles on the prospect of another “impending insurrection” in the span of one day. All this because a group of people who believe Obama drinks children’s blood made some ‘threats’ about a second inauguration day? 

Source: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Cuomosexual merchandise is in the toilet after last week’s news that our New York governor is a creep. In a press conference last Wednesday, Cuomo addressed allegations of inappropriate touching and general sexual harassment from multiple women, including two employees of the state. What we know for sure: Cuomo has made inappropriate comments towards female employees in the workplace, asked to kiss someone at a wedding, and has denied most of these allegations, differentiating them from larger #MeToo conversations out of self-preservation. Is Cuomo an ab*ser (redacted in honor of the YouTubers who get demonetized for saying the wrong buzzwords), or is he just Italian? Do these women know any Italians?Maybe if they weren’t so racist against Italians, my favorite white people of color, they’d know that kissing is how you greet people. 

Talk about cultural insensitivity! Two days ago, it was announced that both Riz Ahmed, star of Sound of Metal (2019)and Steven Yeun, ensemble member of Minari (2020), clinched the Academy nomination for Best Actor. The New York Times reports that this is the first time in nearly 20 years that any man of Asian descent has been nominated for this award, which makes sense (not in a racist way, in an industry way). Both movies were really good, both actors delivered, and I would also bet my life savings that one of them will secure the Oscar for every single reason other than their great performances. A white guy just committed a series of murders specifically targeting Asian women, so the Academy is definitely going to monetize death as fuel for the identity politics machine, as if that’s what any marginalized group wants: some actor to become a poster child for how America is changing when people are dying. Representation matters, right? 

Anyway, I stand by those brave enough to share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, and I really do not fuck with hate crimes. If the Internet had its way – what would that mean for the value economy, art, and artists? The Internet serves a million agendas at once, cancels those who can’t get with the times, and exalts the ones that follow. We shouldn’t be afraid, we should leverage the living shit out of it – for Italians, Asians, XYZAnon, this virtual awards season, and crypto-bros everywhere.

Maya loves Italians

Dedicated to my dear friend Louis “Gigi” Cedrone.

~ STP News Biennial

STP News Biennial

Welcome to the STP News Biennial! Last October, the Whitney Museum of American Art announced that they would postpone their Biennial to 2022 due to the pandemic. Instead of waiting, we’re doing our own! Not only is February Black History Month, it is also full of some iconic yearly awards shows, like the Academy Awards (this year postponed to April 25) and the BAFTA Awards, set to occur the customary two weeks before the Oscars. In true awards show host fashion, I would like to present North West with the uber-prestigious trophy for Best Painting Ever Created. Looking forward to hearing an acceptance speech – our people will be in touch with your people. With that aside, the STP News Biennial is not an art show. Did I need to google what ‘biennial’ means? Yes! Will we be hosting another one in two years? I don’t know! 

Beyond the work, the Whitney Biennial is an opportunity for the institution to place emphasis on a unified curational point of view – the STP News Biennial seeks to do the same. As the curator, I’m choosing to focus on pieces of journalism that are on some Walter Cronkite shit.

(Sourced from Google)
(Sourced from Google)

Speaking of the past, pop icon Britney Spears re-entered family dinner discourse due to the latest episode from The New York Times Presents series on Hulu, titled ‘Framing Britney Spears’. 75 minutes of pure emotion, the narrative told in ‘Framing Britney’ has you ready to put a hit out on daddy Spears himself. Apparently, Brit has spent 13 years a slave; locked in a court-appointed conservatorship, where her father, Jamie Spears, has complete oversight over the pop star’s career, her earnings, and even her public appearances. Not only did ‘Framing Britney’ remind us of Perez Hilton’s evil and send out a dog whistle toTwitter for a public guillotining of Daddy Spears, it also reinvigorated every bad thing Justin Timberlake has ever done. One tongue-in-cheek plot point in the documentary was Timberlake’s and Brit’s y2k relationship. That album inspired one of the most well produced pop albums of all time, in addition to inspiring a Medusa-like depiction of Britney Spears in the media. In light of the documentary, JT apologized on Friday, February 12 for reaping the benefits of Britney’s character assasination, even mentioning how he ‘failed’ her and Janet Jackson, referring to Jackson and Timberlake’s iconic 2004 Superbowl wardrobe malfunction. The sheer nebula of fan drama, legal implications, and pop-girl nostalgia is why this piece of Britney journalism is the first to grace the STP News Biennial.

A third hot blonde (apart from myself) is featured in this Biennial, and that’s Anna Nicole Smith. ABC honored the 14th anniversary of her death on February 8th with a 20/20 episodeentitled Tragic Beauty: Anna Nicole Smith. The episode features Smith’s daughter Dannielynn Birkhead, who was left without her biological mother just five months after her birth. In the documentary, Dannielynn and her father, Larry Birkhead, travel around Texas to visit sentimental places for Smith as a means to celebrate her legacy and build a connection. Not only could the teenage Dannielynn be the late Smith’s twin, but the amount of tears shed in the process of depicting the new perspective of Anna Nicole’s career busted my heart wide open. Apart from the fact that she looks really good next to Britney Spears, Miss Anna Nicole Smith’s anniversary documentary earned its way into the Biennial for sheer emotional merit.

(‘Open Casket’ by Dana Schutz, 99 x 135 cm, Oil on Canvas, 2016, sourced from Google)
(‘Open Casket’ by Dana Schutz, 99 x 135 cm, Oil on Canvas, 2016, sourced from Google)

Like Dana Schutz’s ‘Open Casket’ in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, you always need a controversial call, so let’s talk about Sia’s new “film” called Music (2021). Dance Moms darling Maddie Ziegler, aka Sia’s no-longer-underaged child proxy, starred in this really bad movie, which has come under fire for portraying the neuroatypical community in a stereotypical light.

(sourced from @autisticats) on Twitter
(Sourced from @autisticats) on Twitter

Apart from the large amounts of offense I took with most of the content in the film, I think it would be really great as one of those films you put on in that really dark room in an art museum, in between two really canonical works, like a Nan Goldin slideshow or a Pope L performance recording. I would also definitely include Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’ music video from 2014, just to really show Maddie’s range and to capitalize on the weird Shia LaBeouf drama from back then. 

In addition to Maddie Ziegler saying that Shia Labeouf smelled bad on set that one time, Shia Labeouf is, like, a real abuser now. On February 17th, ELLE Magazine coverstar FKA twigs shared a more detailed recounting of the events leading up to her escape from former partner Shia, which were initially brought into the public eye this past December. The next day, an interview between twigs and Gayle King furthered the discussion on partner abuse. Due to the length of this affair, twigs and her team are playing the long game with her very public, very yas-kween recovery from this whole situation! Production creds are warranted; if this situation were physically in the Biennial, it would be a really big, personal, and immersive installation designed for audience interaction.

Alas, we’ve covered everything newsworthy that I’ve collected over the past two weeks for the Biennial. If this pop culture segment says anything, it’s that I should never be given any curatorial power – ever. 

~ How to Buy Morals

How to Buy Morals

There’s a reason why people romanticize 1950’s American culture: self-starting businessmen selling encyclopedias and bibles in cheap suits, people going out more, the only milk coffee was served with coming from a cow. In a country whose name was once mainly associated with well-made cherry pie and a cross, I wonder: what was all that nostalgia really about? 

To answer my own rhetorical question: capitalism. If God took a Polaroid of the 50’s, it would show up as a stock market graph rather than a sexy pin-up with perfect, finger waved hair. The cherry pies and hoop skirts function in an economy of taste that result in cold, hard cash. Perhaps the best, most absurd element of this relationship is its arbitrary-ness to the outsider.

Why should I care that a Jackson Pollock is worth hundreds of millions? Because of what he represents (alo ng with his role in the body of abstract expressionism). If these things mean nothing to you, Pollock’s drippy paintings say “i am worth millions, therefore I am important” before they say “I am an integral part of an art movement that challenged figuration.” Both of these statements are true, but unless you have a working knowledge of Pollock, the work is a symbol for money before anything else.

This symbolic capitalism is analogous to our valuation of  recent events. If you’re alive, you’re playing games in the social economy, my friends. For example: a really hot button issue is the Golden Globe nominations. Guaranteed, if you write a pithy, critical tweet about why I May Destroy You was dubbed, your social profitability will be in the positives (thank me later).

still from The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Still from The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Speaking of the economy, our ideas of capitalism are currently being challenged by a group of Redditors who run Wall Street right now. I’m just a dumb woman with no money know-how, but here’s the sitch: Wall Street people have been betting against GameStop forever, then members of r/WallStreetBets collectively raised the value of GameStop which lost those business people betting against it them a lot of dosh. There is an added social incentive too; the social media conversation adds to one’s social capital, where every Reddit bet gains social value as it contributes to memestocking. Redditors pumped up their GameStop shares on such a scale that the company has risen over 14,300% in stock. While various business people chalk the current stock market situation up as “dangerous,” the question remains: how could this happen? Beyond speculation of illegal activity, what we’re seeing is a group of people who leveraged the social economy in order to play the physical one. Not only were there enough Redditors to completely shift the demand of GameStop stock, there was enough prospective social capital in effectively hijacking Wall Street to make that shift possible. More than this situation is about money, it’s about being able to leverage what is the most socially profitable. 

Along with those things that bank on an increase in social profitability, there are the mishaps which threaten those same profits., Tik Tok teen Charli D’amelio made a bold, bad bet on the Twitter hashtag #hereforcharli. In the wake of musician-producer SOPHIE’s accidental death last weekend, several fans took to Twitter to comfort SOPHIE’s fellow pop girl and collaborator, Charli XCX, as she’d  lost a very close friend. Though the situation had absolutely nothing to do with her, Charli D’amelio tweeted the following: 

sourced from Twitter
Sourced from Twitter

Immediately after, fans of SOPHIE and Charli XCX crucified D’amelio for this embarrassing misstep (which has since been deleted). At the end of last year, Charli, 16 and her older sister Dixie, 19, came under fire when a video uploaded to their family channel showed the two teens sneering at food prepared for them by a private chef. After the internet tore both D’amelio girls to shreds for being disrespectful, I can see why Charli would want to change her tune from crying on Tik Tok to gratitude via Twitter – she took a hit of -1 million followers when that video came out. A thank you to her fans could revamp her image and boost the Charli social stock. Note to Charli: fire your research team girl, they didn’t know who SOPHIE or Charli XCX were! Reports to come on how this bet will fare in Twitter’s cultural economy. 

And on that note let’s see what hill PETA invented and then chose to die on this week! Last Tuesday, their Twitter account posted the following: 

from @peta on Twitter
from @peta on Twitter

With conversations mounting against this provocative “ism,” the verdict is still out on whether PETA is trolling us with this one. While this statement is in line with the hyper-specific vegan moralism the organization pioneered, PETA’s trackrecord is not so savory. Regardless of their intentions, PETA gets a lot of engagement with their posts, which is the goal, I guess. They’re positioned among a niche-enough circle of ethical vegans/animal rights activists that they’re able to stay socially relevant, even though us normies might not understand the vision.

While we’re challenging belief systems, apparently we have to wear two or three masks now? Per this statement from Dr. Anthony Fauci, maximum protection from Coronavirus variants comes from the following mask cocktail: two surgical masks (one, if you don’t want to waste) followed up by a cloth covering to act as another filter between your mouth and nose and the COVID-y air. So far, Europe has introduced a medical grade mask mandate, while the US is suggesting multiple masks for multilayer protection. So – what’s tea?

It seems like we live in South Park-level absurdity with masks. We’ve heard, “you don’t need to wear a mask,” then “wear a mask or you’re a bad person,” and now, “you have to wear two or three masks or you’re a bad person.” What we actually know is the CDC switched up the consensus on masks, and it was based on new research showing that novel COVID could be prevented by mask wearing, despite previous studies showing that mask-wearing does not prevent the spread of viral respiratory infections. We also know that Pfizer is a large producer of PPE, and also one of the first companies supported by WHO and the CDC for vaccine research and development. 

Everyone wants to be the social cops as if it will stop us from dying. We have no reliable flow of information, other than a paper trail of potentially huge return investments for companies like Pfizer, meanwhile California governor Gavin Newsom has cancelled stay at home orders, and hoping to open school campuses without vaccinating teachers in what looks like an effort to both stimulate the economy and mask (pun intended) California’s existing COVID numbers. This all comes at the expense of healthcare and essential workers, and those who lack the privilege to avoid large groups of people. Companies are profiting directly off of COVID, both fiscally and socially. Everyone wants to wear a badge that reads “I am doing the right thing” (or two or three of them). When we don’t even know what the right “thing” even is, the emphasis will be on who is profiting, and how. 

People: take precautions against, mask up, and also ask questions. 

So, there are two economies to worry about: the social, and the fiscal – both of which inform each other in ways we can see in the arts, in the news, and most importantly, on Twitter. We evaluate taste as a currency exchanged for clout, in the barest sense. How do you reckon with this? Let us know in the comments!

~ Black Goth Girls (Mini Research Paper)

Black Goth Girls (Mini Research Paper)

1.0  – Introduction

Goth, more than a look aspired to by tweens reading vampire novels, is a lifestyle – one based in darkness both in aesthetic, and attitude. Beyond the black eyeshadow and neo-Victorian clothing left for “normies” to ponder, the Goth lifestyle raises questions about darkness as a concept; what it means to be “dark,” and how the word’s associations – dark, black, sinister – define a subculture. What do these words mean culturally, how can darkness, subculturally, relate to Blackness, from a raced perspective? Goth, more than a look aspired to by tweens reading vampire novels, is a lifestyle – one based in darkness both in aesthetic and attitude, meant to be celebrated on the margins of mainstream society. Beyond the black eyeshadow, neo-Victorian clothing and other aesthetic performance for “normies’ ‘ to ponder, the Goth lifestyle raises questions about darkness as a concept. What does it mean to be “dark,”  how does the word’s associations – dark, black, sinister – define a subculture defined by the norm of its white participants? 

Though within a separate category of culture, subcultures exist within cultures rather than being opposed to them. They are communities based on shared aspects within a culture that are not considered visually hegemonic. Because of this relationship, subcultures visually manifest themselves into beauty standards similarly to the way cultural hegemonies exist within interpretations of beauty. Subcultural hegemonies cannot exist, because a hegemony implies that a standard, such as the cultural domain of whiteness and heterosexuality, are so dominant that they are considered the natural state of being. Because the definition of a subculture requires that it exists on the fringes of culture, its existence alludes to a reductive visual aesthetic that is  alternative to that of the mainstream yet affected by larger hegemonies within beauty such as whiteness and heterosexuality. In analyzing the Black peoples’ interactions within the Goth subculture, hegemonic structures of whiteness and femininity support the visual Goth aesthetic and can be seen in the existence of online communities specifically dedicated to the assertion that Black people have a place in the community despite reductive beauty standards. 

1.1 – Subcultures as a Microcosm of Culture 

Subcultures are a subcategory of larger dominant cultures versus a structure posed against dominant culture. Pierre Bordieu chocks this up to be that “Taste classifies and classifies the classifier.” In this context, personal preferences place people in different categories based on  visual performance. These tastes fit into ideas of culture insofar as they are visual performances categorized as differences within different cultures. Tastes create an economy-based cultural capital, which maintains that visual performances hold and exchange value in the same way money does, where more money = more power, and where that power reflects hegemonic structures. Subcultures relate to the relationship between culture and taste in a similar way as subheadings relate to headings in an outline. Both structures serve the same purpose, which is to pose a theme for the bulleted information that is to follow; however, the larger heading dictates the theme of the subheading, which then dictates the theme of the bulleted information. Culture and subculture operate like an outline, as seen in the following diagram.

1.2  – Cultural Ideas of Whiteness: The role of Taste in Subculture 

Subculture exists within culture- and according to Bordieu, culture equals taste. Though there are many different cultures with their own tastes, they are all affected by a larger cultural influence that is so dominant it is perceived as natural for all people, called a hegemony. Hegemony is essentially where collective knowledge manifests; the destination of colloquial generalizations. So, even though cultures dominate over subcultures, hegemonic ideals are so dominant over everything that they are perceived as natural. Using the case study of Black people in the Goth subculture, let’s consider whiteness and hegemony. Richard Dyer references whiteness as a constant process towards a state of being which treats race as a verb rather than a noun. Here, whiteness holds the same relationship to taste as culture does. Unlike Reaganomics, the pervasiveness of whiteness does, in fact, trickle down into all facets of culture, including subculture and what visual performances are associated with subcultural tastes. Again referencing Bordieu, culture is synonymous with taste, yet there is no subcategory of taste; there is taste, and there is lack thereof. Subcultures possess their own visual cultures, however, that become synonymous to the subculture itself. I explain this as tackiness, because, in the case study of the Goth subculture, the visual culture is clearly posed against dominant visual culture and, literally, the color aspect of whiteness through the prominence of the color black in their wardrobes. However, it can be argued that this tackiness, though existing in opposition to dominant ideas of taste, still exists within taste because of both the pervasiveness of hegemonic whiteness and the fact that without the existence of taste, tackiness wouldn’t have any visual culture to oppose and wouldn’t exist as well. Effectively, cultural tackiness is subcultural taste, in the case of Goth. Adding onto Figure 1’s relationship of culture and subculture, Figure 2 connects culture and subculture to taste, and additionally tackiness. Hegemonies are placed axiomatically above all cultures and because of this, the idea of a subcultural hegemony cannot exist as it is an oxymoron. This does not mean that cultural hegemonies cannot be expressed through subcultural interpretations of taste. 

1.3  – Hegemonies in Subcultures: Dominant Goth Visual Culture (as reflection of cultural ideas of whiteness)

As cultural hegemony influences both culture and subculture, the interaction of Black people within the Goth subculture points out the effects of hegemonic whiteness as an aesthetic ironically based around the color black. Dyer once said that “white is both a colour and, at once, not a colour and the sign of that which is colourless because it cannot be seen: the soul, the mind, and also emptiness, non-existence and death, all of which form a part of what makes white people socially white.” Goth subculture is predicated on the macabre, both dark symbolically and in practice. With this understanding paired with the context of whiteness, Goths embody the omnipresence of whiteness through their love of darkness. There is even an aspect to the Goth subculture that mimics the naturalness associated with hegemony. Cultural anthropologist Agnes Jasper tells how Gothness is irresistible, natural, and authentic because of that – there is a cult of normalcy within those subcultural people not considered “normal” in a cultural sense. Goth visual culture can be described as autonomous, distinguished by the roles of cultural and subcultural systems in the sense that Goth visual culture has created its own independent network of media and commerce outside that of the dominant culture, though mimicking the framework of the dominant culture.

1.4  – GAGNÉ Gothic/Lolita Negative Identity Practices (as enforcement of whiteness)

Like there are cultural tastes whose antitheses are subcultural tackiness, there is a “right way” to be Goth. Jasper describes this as a search for authenticity within the Goth subculture, what is considered “authentic” to be perceived as ‘naturally Goth.’ The Gothic insiders in Jasper’s ethnography describe Goth as an attitude –even if you don’t perform Goth visually you can be naturally Gothic in embodying the dark attitude associated with the dark look. These Goths are essentially so authentically Goth that they don’t even have to perform their Gothness in dress; it just exudes from them. In an ethnography of Gothic Lolita subculture in Japan, Isaac Gagné observed how Gothic Lolita’s desire to achieve the perfect look led to violence within the online community when it came down to who was the closest to said “perfect look.” The main distinction is made between Gothic Lolitas and those who practice kosupure, or Japanese costume play. Gagné points to this distinction as the difference between cultural emergence or performance – Gothic Lolita culture and dress allows your authentic self to show itself, kosupure conceals it with a costume, an affect. Within the Gothic Lolita subculture, performing in line to the visual culture is seen as crucial to the aspect of forming a subcultural identity through a look. On a larger scale, however, subcultural taste is considered tacky in comparison to the comparison to the cultural norm, so distinguishing between these forms of tacky is futile. 

1.5  – Black Goth Visual Culture (as a Subculture within a Subculture) 

Black people are racialized within the Goth subculture as a mode of viewing the ways in which the Gothic subculture enforces hegemonic ideals of whiteness through its lack of representation in the community. In analyzing three different Facebook pages dedicated to Black Goth girls; Chocolate LolitaBlack Goth Girls Rock, and the professional celebrity page of a famous Black Gothic Lolita named Ariyana Carr, an overwhelming number of the posts are of white Goth bodies. Perhaps the most interesting is that in the 4 years since originally surveying these pages, they have since become practically inactive, or have even been deactivated, in the case of Black Goth Girls Rock. The standard for the whole of the Gothic Lolita community is described as finding solace in the way they can construct a youthful, white, pure self through their makeup. Moving back toward hegemonic ideals of whiteness, Dyer’s understanding of racism as being constructed outwardly on the body as a process can be located as hiding within cultural tastes, and thus these “authentic” norms within subcultural tackiness. Black Goth girls are consistently put in places to prove their Gothness, because their culturally raced bodies have to perform a sub-culturally Gothed body to be considered authentic. Authentically “what,” is the question. Does the inactivity/deactivation of these pages represent a normalization of subculture tackiness, to the point where it has been culturally ‘seen’ enough to not warrant Facebook groups for those Black Goth girls to share their experiences? 

Black Goth girls are not represented in Goth subculture because Black girls are not represented outside of stereotypes of Black womanhood in dominant culture. Even in justifying a placement for Black girls within the Goth subculture, the issue of how hegemony’s omnipresence penetrates all aspects of culture and visual performance is not addressed, it is excused.

1.6  – Conclusion

More than hegemony defines the natural, it classifies the unnatural. In the case of Goth, the visual culture is so opposed to what is considered dominant that it can be easily seen at complete odds to it. Though the visual cultures exist on opposite sides of the spectrum, the system of valuing an ability to perform authenticity works the same way as it does for a culture. Subcultures are not isolated spatio-temporal voids protected by cultural understandings of race, because subcultures are a microcosm of culture, not an alternate version. Within Goth, this subculture is seen as most apparent in examining blackness, and how Goth visual culture is able to instill the metaphor of a white body through a visual culture based on the color black, that additionally omits race as a process. With the Goth subculture, the search is for authenticity, which is either defined by a performance of Gothness so well that your authenticity, or purity, cannot be questioned. The role of Black girls in the Goth subculture specifically points out the deeply ingrained perception of whiteness as naturalness, and authenticity as purity. 

~ The Cadaver of Last Week’s Drama

The Cadaver of Last Week's Drama

CW: consensual non-consent (CNC) play, cannibalism. TW: bondage imagery, screenshots detailing violent sexual fantasies.

As Jersey Shore reality star JWoww famously said: same shit, different toilet. Welcome to the new year, where we can still expect people to be dumb on Twitter! The metaphorical dump remains steaming in 2021’s toilet as it did in 2020, and we have to show some appreciation for these sick puppies on the Internet. I mean, how else would we get our entertainment? 

Speaking of sick puppies, Trisha Paytas and Ethan Klein recently honored Jake Paul as the year’s “Biggest COVID-iot” on a recent episode of their Frenemies podcast entitled “We Made The Only Honest Award Show.” His runners-up include Tana Mongeau for jetting around America despite lockdowns, James Charles and the Hype House girlies who escaped their multimillion dollar mansion-prisons to visit the Bahamas, and Nikita Dragun hosting ragers all throughout the year. Though against some pretty tough competition, Paul secured the W due to previous statements where he proclaimed that “COVID is a hoax.” 

Since we’re on the topic of Trish (like fish), let’s take a moment to mourn her Instagram account.

As of December 22nd of last year, the blonde influencer’s Instagram account has been removed from the platform with no explanation. Speculation from Trisha consisted of a critique on Instagram for banning Only Fans content creators who advertise any explicit content in their Instagram bios. This censorship is a part of an update to Instagram’s terms of usewhich occurred two days prior to the removal of Trisha’s main account. Currently her account has not been reinstated. Is Trisha being targeted because of her Only Fans content? For the time being, exxxclusive Trishy goodness can be found on her backup account.

Someone left un-spurned by the new terms is adult content creator Belle Delphine, who came under fire last Wednesday for this Twitter post, captioned “My ideal first date <3” 

The minute the photoset was posted, everyone born after the year 2000 suddenly earned their PhD on the psychology of kinks, crucifying Delphine for encouraging rape culture, pedophilia, and sexual violence. Apart from the backlash, Belle posted an apology-not-apology, earning her even more criticism and a vocal minority of anti-kinkshamers.

Around the same time this was happening, Azealia Banks was removed from Instagram for posting a video she filmed while digging up and boiling her dead cat, Lucifer. The video is no longer available, but there are Twitter users with screen recordings of the kitty soup process, should you want to go looking for it. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this situation is that people automatically leapt to the culinary side of things – like, c’mon. Azealia reveals her brujeria clean-up one time on Periscope, and now she eats 12-year-old pussy carcass soup? I rebuke. With Miss Banks’ past with romanticizing the dark arts in mind, I like to think our favorite witch bitch was boiling Lucifer to preserve his bones. Can’t a girl boil her dead cat in peace?

Not but mere hours later, Twitter was ablaze with rumors of recognized sexy man Armie Hammer’s sexual proclivity for human flesh, in the most literal way possible. That’s right, the guy who symbolically tasted a cum-peach in Call Me By Your Name enjoys the taste of people in his off-screen life. All alleged, of course, with multiple sources on Twitter disseminating the following screenshots of DM’s between Hammer and the multiple women who support these claims. The origin of these DM’s is reported to be an Instagram account called House of Effie. 

Though last weekend’s news, Armie’s bloody little secret has been kept under wraps until now. A private message, allegedly from the woman who runs the House of Effie account, insisted that the whole scandal is a joke. Then, this past Monday a gossip page named Deuxmois in contact with the real admin of the House of Effie page directly purported that the message alleging the fake scandal itself was a fake. To provide evidence that House of Effie and Armie Hammer did have some sort of relationship via Instagram DM, the admin shared a screenshot of an Instagram story sent to the account from Armie Hammer’s official account showing a distinct tattoo on his left ring finger. 

(I ran a Google reverse image search on the pic…the only matches are for various articles like this one who are also reporting on the scandal).

In light of this meaty rumor’s popularity on Twitter, Hammer quickly stepped down from a movie role while debasing the claims as “bullshit.” Amid the media circus, certain exes (bodies still intact) of Armie’s have come into question; estranged wife Elizabeth Chambers, calling him a monster, and Courtney Vucekovich, whose recent Page Six headline reads: “He wanted to ‘barbecue and eat’ me.” 

I’m personally torn, and want to extend an invitation to Armie directly: if you wanna open me up and perform some liposuction on me, you can totally eat a non-lethal amount of my flesh before closing me back up. If you’re not a cannibal and instead just have a visceral attraction to eating extremely rare meat, call me – let’s get a steak sometime.

Are you buying any of this? Feel free to ravish one another with thoughts in the comments.