Ben Werther: For people who haven’t watched your new music video, what is it about?
Brion Starr: I think people have been lonely lately, and they want to feel good; to be with others. It’s about people trying to love one another. All my friends really love each other. Since it’s such a small group of people always hanging out, everybody seems to have slept with each other.
BW: Do you think you can platonically be someone’s Valentine?
BS: Yeah, totally. I really love this group of friends that I wrote this song about. The whole idea is that I love when people love each other, and I have platonic relationships that I enjoy just as much as my non-platonic ones.
BW: Is your valentine going to be a member of your friend group?
BS: I haven’t asked anyone yet.
BW: What were you doing in Paris?
BS: I was working at a studio there where I recorded my last album, and I recorded All My Friends there as well. It’s an old castle that was a recording studio from the sixties. It closed in the eighties. A lot of people recorded there, like David Bowie and Iggy Pop, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd.We’re the first band to record a full length album there since it’s reopened. We got to use the piano that Elton John wrote Candle In the Wind on. The room was at the very top of the castle, and it has a pyramid shaped ceiling with these huge wooden beams running through it. It was kind of like an instrument itself. The sounds in there were crazy.
We have an album we recorded there that’s coming out at the end of this year called A Night to Remember. That’s what I was doing when I was in Europe, mastering that album and setting up the year’s plans with my record label.
BW: How much time do you spend listening to your own music?
BS: After I release an album, I pretty much never listen to it again. Before I release it I’m obsessive about it. I’ve probably listened to A Night to Remember at least 150 times by now.
BW: Do you ever listen to (your music) and think, it’s unfair how good this is?
BS: Yeah, as soon as something’s done, I want to share it and start asking the band and my friends for opinions. I’m bad with that. I get really excited. I do believe that it’s a very good record and I’m really excited to make the music videos for it. I want to make a little movie that’s four or five of the songs all linked into one narrative. There’s a character in the album who’s weaving their way through a weird night in New York, or some city that I made up in my mind.
BW: Do you think people set up unnecessary boundaries in friendships?
BS: I’ve definitely set boundaries that were unnecessary. I’ve done the work to grow and open myself up more to people, which has been a conscious effort. I used to be super introverted and pretty much agoraphobic. I didn’t want to go outside half the time, I was in my own world. I did a lot of inner growing, then, now I’m a much more extroverted person.
BW: What advice would you have for someone who is trying to evade a friend zone situation?
BS: Just be really honest and open and say, “Hey, I like you.” Make sure the friendship is the thing leading your desire to be with them.
BW: What’s your DM game like?
BS: I’ll definitely hit someone up if I think they’re cool.
BW: Do you have a pick up line or something that you use for dms?
BW: So you’re just like what’s up?
BW: Nice. Because “hey” is for horses, right?
BS: Yeah. “You look cool” is nice. Because what do you judge people off of on Instagram? It’s just images, really. Sometimes i’ll compliment someone’s artwork or something if I really like it, just to talk to people about their work and about what they do. I’m extremely fascinated by people generally.
BW: So what would be a compliment you’d like to get?
BS: I am blown away when people write considerate messages to me about music. There’s this 10 year old kid in Germany, who’s obsessed with the music. He writes to me all the time. He speaks mostly German, so his English is a little funny in the messages. He sent me a message like, “I really want to have an autograph from you, I have autographs from my favorite musicians, but I don’t have one from you. I just got one from Benny Andersson from Abba and My parents got me Michael Jackson for Christmas.” So I sent him a signed record.
BW: So he’s your biggest fan?
BS: I mean, he’s like our littlest fan, I think.
BW: Can we shout him out in this article?
BS: Yeah, Etienne!
BW: Shout out to Etienne!
BS: Do you want to ask anyone to be your Valentine?
BS: I wonder if you guys could get me a date with Tracey Emin? That’d be pretty wild. Set me up with Tracey Emin!
BW: That’s a good one. Have you ever been like set up with someone like that before?
BS: I’ve been set up on a few dates. It’s weird.
BW: What don’t you like about it?
BS: I just like when relationships are born naturally and come from the people I already feel a great ease around. I was recently telling a friend of mine that the reason I love her so much is because she gives me this great sense of calm. When I’m with her, it’s like when you’re really far out in the ocean and a big wave comes, but you’re way past the point where it’s breaking, and you the whole thing just moves up and down. That’s what it feels like; just laying out in the ocean on your back. It’s like this giant calm. I really love that feeling. I love to just be with someone where we feel calm around each other and can just talk and talk and talk. It’s really beautiful.
BW: Do you have anything else that you want to add?
BS: I would love it if people shared their ideas about love with me as well. That’d be cool. DM me.
Not Today Satan is LA-based artist Tyler Rexeisen’s (T-Rex) newest solo exhibition on Serving the People. Typically inspired by a combination of the natural world, Los Angeles grit, and his background in clothing design, this new show is Lunar New Year themed and features a twist on his emblematic red figures. He sits with Logan Brown to talk about the new year, his inspiration, and the shift from fashion design to drawing and painting.
Logan Brown: What are you inspired by lately?
Tyler Rexeisen: Light, painters, Francis Bacon, and paint on canvas. George Condos; his medium, his style. I was in an art academy and got kicked out, so I learned the basics then I winged it from there.
LB: What message are you trying to convey through the theme of Lunar New Year?
TR: I’d like to encourage people to be open-minded; to know about things that are happening on the other side of the world. A lot of people are just living in their own bubble, and they’ve never been out of it. More people in the world probably celebrate Chinese New Year than regular new year. It obviously originates in China, but it takes place ceremonially in places everywhere around the world.
LB: How does your work correlate to Chinese New Year themes and where does that inspiration come from?
TR: It’s the year of the ox, and I’m a Taurus, so I really feel connected to horns. I’m a very earthy person. I felt like it all fell into place. The Chinese language has so many words for red. It could mean red, but it could mean a revolutionary. You could say something’s red and it could mean that it’s sincere. It could simply be this scarlet color. So I’m really into red and the psychology of it.
LB: How come?
TR: I’m kind of color blind.
TR: That’s like one of the colors that I always knew. It feels like there used to be a lot of pain in it for me. Sometimes I see pain in a certain red. There are so many different reds that make you feel different ways. I want to dig more into that this year.
LB: How would you imagine your creations celebrating the new year?
TR: Something really accessible, like giving out a blessing- red envelopes with blessings in each one.
LB: Being international, what’s your perspective on a year with “new beginnings?”
TR: What do you mean by new beginnings?
LB: Well, with it being the new moon cycle, for the eastern perspective it’s a kind of new year. For the western, the new year starts on December 31st. You get the best of both worlds if you focus on both. What does that look like for you to have two in one year?
TR: It brightens up the year.
LB: Yeah, that’s great. Start the new year on December 31st and then start it over again if you’re not loving it by February! Which one do you find resonates on a more personal level for you and why?
TR: I’d say both, equally.
LB: The piece with the multiple girls in the bed with the automatics, I thought that piece was phenomenal, from the horns accompanying each girl to the solitude of a sleeping person persona. Do you take into consideration the contradictions or polarities that come with the work?
TR: Yeah, definitely. I wanted to show a lot of tension. Sleep with one eye open, be always on guard.
LB: Where does that stem from? What were you feeling when you made that piece?
TR: Maybe it just stems from being a bad kid and relating to that. All my friends were just getting me into trouble growing up.
LB: Could you explain how you go about experiencing the energy that you bring about?
TR: I really like loud music. I could listen to any type of music and absorb that energy. Music 1000% is an important energy source for me. I also wake up really early and catch the sunrise in my window. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but it’s a ritual for me.
LB: There’s a serenity in that. Your work talks about anger and seeing pain, but at the same time you have a ritual that brings peace and calmness to you when you wake up. That’s very interesting.
TR: It’s like healing, day to day.
LB: Are you more interested in global or local recognition of your work?
TR: Definitely global. I could’ve done shows in LA so many times and but wasn’t as interested. Not yet.
LB: What made you decide to do Japan first?
TR: I guess it was Japan that chose me. I love Japan and they love me back.
LB: What have you found has been most effective way to connect with your audience?
TR: Definitely Instagram.
LB: What in your creations has challenged your perception of the world around you?
TR: The power of manifestation. The things I choose to make in my art attract a certain type of person who I feel are my people. I’m always just in my head and living in my eyes. Even this interview is kind of hard. (My artwork is) how I can get people together and that’s my form of speech.
LB: Has that always been the case for you?
TR: No. Before it was just a talent, not really something that could bring people together.
LB: What does this experience provide for you in relation to the completion and rebirth of the moon cycle? How do you feel today?
TR: I feel like an artist today.
LB: You don’t feel like an artist every day?
TR: Not every day. Sometimes I feel like a graphic designer. Sometimes I feel like a shipping boy or a sticker salesman. On rare occasions, I get to really put something original out.
LB: What was the shift from fashion to painting like for you? Is there a different consumer producer relationship to fashion than art pieces?
TR: Yeah, usually. With designing fashion, there’s a lot of people involved. Fashion is not an art where it’s just me. There’s a lot of people and input that goes into fashion. They’re both fun.
LB: When did your art career start?
TR: Well, my streetwear career died. I was out of money and it takes money to have these brands. I took it back to it’s essence and started making art one-on-one. That was probably 2017. 2018 is when I really just dropped everything.
LB: Have you found yourself more by expressing through painting?
TR: I do good when I’m just making myself happy. The pieces in this show were me getting inspired by watercolor masters. They start in elements which help me find myself.
LB: What motivates you to experiment with new mediums?
TR: I’ll have different artists come to my studio and then I can work with them, then I can step out of my comfort zone. I worked with Chito, he came in with an airbrush machine and that was the first time I ever got to use it. I was really excited. People, collaborations, and other artists motivate me to step out.
LB: What advice do you have for the new generation of artists that are starting out today?
TR: Stay confident, as if you can’t fail. Be patient. We live in an instant gratification type of world. I’m definitely one of those people that likes instant gratification but it’ll all happen in time.
Serving the People is happy to release Not Today Satan, LA-based artist Tyler Rexeisen’s (T-Rex) newest solo exhibition. Typically inspired by Los Angeles grit and his background in clothing design, this new show is Lunar New Year themed and features a twist on his emblematic red figures.
I have a couple things to tell you about Los Angeles. Hollywood starlets once lived in a neighborhood parallel to where the I-10 now runs. Latticed windows and brick manors line West Adams like charms. The best taco you’ll ever have is likely down the street. And there’s a spikey red-haired man with a prop Shop on Adams with knick-knacks you wouldn’t believe.
What I could also tell you is that I’ve fallen in love with a city that may never love me back. I don’t think you ever really get to know a place until it lets you. Like nods from faces in cars, smiling eyes, and mid-shift lattes. This seems to be a city for lovers, loners, stoners, and besties if you just tune your ear in and follow the call. Because I promise you smog lifts after the rain. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
So promise me you’ll open your heart to this city of Angels just long enough to hear it sing right back. And if your sourdough starter fails, no knead to worry because this city knows no loser, stranger, nemesis, harlot or thief.
Here are 21 different ways to love Los Angeles; our forever forbidden Valentine:
Mouth jewelry is in-but-still-niche, and if your date is down to be a year ahead of the trend they’ll loveee this gift. This one is for the tooth gem lover, the girl who regrets letting her medusa piercing close up, or the one who wants a face piercing but can’t bring herself to do it. We’re pretty sure these mouth guards from Daemon Concept just latch onto your bottom lip, so you can just add it to the dish next to your apartment door: phone, keys, wallet, mask, mouth guard!
This is fairy-like but elevated, ornamental but not kitschy. We really, really love these Joanne Burke necklaces, and everything else she makes.
Oh, Harlot Hands. Harder to get your hands on than a Telfar bag, but if you pull up on her with some pearly handmade neck armor she won’t even be mad that you were a week late with the Valentine’s Day gift!
It is just incredibly goated to have this on your bedside table. If your Valentine’s date takes more than one pill a day, or even just a double dose of multivitamins to keep their immune system straight, pull up on them with a Rebekah Bide pill holder, or any of her other cute, less functional jewelry pieces.
“I walk a mile for your smile, it’s embarrassing” – Hex by Bladee
We scrapped the joke about how yeahitsjewelry makes jewelry for centrists, but really, you gotta be a pretty classy lady for this. Leftists can be very classy too! Regardless of your date’s political beliefs, getting your date a yeahitsjewelry charm will excite her just as much as the first episode of the new season of Gossip Girl will.
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).
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:
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:
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!
When Olivia Laing first came out with Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, I was ignorant to her tastes and the scope of her career. All I knew was that she set out to answer a question at the root of my thinking, what can art do? Due to her past as an environmental activist (and some misleading promotional blurbs), I had assumed that the question, what can art do, would extend forward into specificity- what can art do in a climate emergency? Laing didn’t do much for me, seemingly stuck in that iconic, overworked era à la Warhol, Basquiat and Haring. Funny Weather spoke of AIDs a lot, though, which I’ll return to.
For the artists out there who want to save the world, here is my primer on the potential of your impact and some notes of the kinds of work I think we need. You can scroll down to the first bolded point for the specific guide, but the following introduction is an explanation on why climate change is so difficult to address in the first place.
There is a difference between what is known in the mind and what is taken into the psyche and heart. Feelings are king, that’s who we serve. Though facts, information, and data represent reality, on their own they are not enough to make certain phenomena feel real. If we were different creatures, we would read the statistics on whatever matter, take them in and respond accordingly, but as Candis Callison points out in her book How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts, climate change cannot “become real” to the individual without cultural mediation. For very few people, Al Gore running through a PowerPoint is enough to make climate change feel real. For most other people, it is not. Believing in climate change, thinking about it, feeling anxious about it, responding to it, and changing because of it- that takes work.
The difficulty of our environmental issues is that the reality of degradation is hardly felt. We encounter this reality through knowledge more than experience. How is it that every object I interact with is a poisonous one, gauged from a denuded and fracked earth and refined by various kinds of unjust labor? I’ve read about it. It makes sense that it is true. But it’s impossible to experience a global supply chain; commodities ricocheting like pinballs across borders. These things arrive to us innocent. We must think hard at the object in our hands to even glimmer the truth of it.
As an anthropologist, Callison understood that the “making real” of climate change is a culturally specific process. For the religious, a trusted messenger within the faith is necessary. For journalists, the scientist’s work complemented by confirming reporting experiences could be enough. For the indigenous people who Callison worked with in the Arctic, the messenger was undeniable. The cracking ice that had led to accidents while hunting was made all the more legible by a culture ready to listen to water. These examples are predicated on those who are paying attention or ready to “believe” in climate change. Attention is a labor not many of us have the luxury to take on. As Shklovsly notes in his essay “Art as Device,” “Held accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives and at our fear of war.” We let the evils of the world become familiar when they should be unfamiliar, wrong, unnatural, terrifying, dissociative, disgusting. Shklovsky’s opinion is that art is the device by which we laboriously resuscitate a world that has become overly familiar.
Callison’s work addressed that frustrating first step. The breaking of the news. This is what has been happening and this is what will happen. What kind of cultural work do we need to go beyond understanding, or acceptance? What kind of cultural work do we need to create a community ready to respond?
Ultimately, “climate change” is not a story we can really tell, as Kate Knibbs notes in her review of fiction, which tries to take on how the internet has changed our lives, “The internet is a place, not a plot.” (Though, I encourage you to experiment and try to make place into plot). The thing we can focus on, though, is how to be and how not to be. In a society fit to respond to the challenge of climate change, what do our villains and heroes look like? How can we prime the coming generations, and this one, for resistance, community strength, and agility? What kind of people survive without making the wrong kinds of sacrifices? What are the right kinds of sacrifices? I admit to being stupidly earnest. I don’t have many tactics for the truly cynical. Maybe one could channel their certainty into self-sacrifice.
I love you microbe. How fascinating, you are.
To again reference the likes of Bennet or Shklovsky, attention is animating. So, pay attention. Integrate an attention of the world into your art practice, and then give at least one person a new set of eyes. What is in your trash can, on the edge of entering the oxygen-less territory that will convert it from potential nutrient to sure methane? A component of leachate, that dangerous milk of inverted rot. What hormones live in the water? I would look at the work often shown at Art Laboratory Berlin for inspiration. It seems to be good fodder for the conceptual artist, especially.
Let’s be careful how our needs shape us.
My favorite line from Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler’s now appreciated cli-fi masterpiece, is “We must be very careful how our needs shape us now.” Butler is the rare individual to have converted the hyperobject of climate change into a story of a world that is difficult to live in. Violence and suffering strikes a people without the foundation for dealing with extreme resource stress on top of their usual social, economic, and political ills. How do we prepare people to draw together on impact instead of splitting apart? Butler helped show me how. One book series is not enough. There must be permeation of the lesson, a lesson which is necessarily in tandem with the education on ‘how to live lightly on the earth.’ How to become a resilient, agile, wise and kind people. Self-sufficiency and strength that is not isolationist or aggressive. It is through this strength that we might be able to create communities that don’t fear desperate strangers, but are capable enough to take them in.
It’s like when they made the cops into pigs.
Who are these villains? It is too easy to see businessmen as innocent. Imagining someone at a desk, making calls, delegating decisions down a pipeline of bureaucracies, doesn’t feel as dangerous as someone wielding a gun, even if we know that business has risked an innumerable amount of lives by betting on oil, logging, mining, etc. We must become creative in depicting him as the corpsefucker he is.
People often make the point that there is no point in naming and shaming someone out of their position. No matter who is fired or otherwise deposed of, someone will take the last villain’s place. We need to make it our job to make it unlivable to take such jobs. The position must become unattractive, even with the carrot of enormous profit. To do this, we must know their faces and their names. The greatest benefit of the elite is that no one knows their names. As Parish and Hansen point out in their essay about defining the category of ‘elite’, “Through the manipulation of cultural codes, the elite can all but vanish behind the screen of institutions and images that provide privacy and security and conceals the extent of their power, influence, and holdings.”
Do you know the 20 most carbon polluting firms in the world? Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, Exxonmobil, National Iranian Oil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Pemex, Petróleos de Venezuela, PetroChina, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., Kuwait Petroleum Co, Iraq National Oil Co., Total SA, Sonatrach, BHP Biliton, and Petrobras. These firms are responsible for one third of the world’s carbon.
Do you know the names of the people behind them? Me neither. Here is an organization that will help you find them: Lil Sis.
The AIDs epidemic sparked an incredible fount of moving and effective protest art. It feels, at least from my view on history, to be the model of what art can do in an emergency. Olivia Laing focused on this work for good reason. Of course, she focused on particular celebrities within that effort even though the majority were made by ‘regular people,’ people like Duane Kearns, who was 22 when he was diagnosed with AIDs. Perhaps the reason he is smiling but squinting in that picture of him holding his AIDs blanket, is because of the sun. Alternatively, it’s also easy to see the saddest face in the world, arms spread, offering witness to his death sentence. This work, like all other protest art made during this period, wasn’t offered as a tribute to acceptance, but made in order to change shit. I don’t want to get into the gesture of weighing whether the work ‘worked,’ but imagine, for a moment, what the government’s response to AIDs would’ve been without the enourmous push to humanize the ‘gay cancer’. Imagine the anonymity of the historical record without it.
We can’t compare AIDs and climate change. However, let’s think about what makes AIDs protest art such an immediate portal for grief and rage.
Emmanuel Levinas, a philosopher and survivor of the Holocaust, has posited a somewhat simple ethical arguement. Each of us have a face which serves as a confirmation of our individual uniqueness on this Earth. When someone calls out to you for help and you see their face, you are bound to help. It is love we have to offer. “Love without concupiscence, in which man’s right assumes meaning; the right of the beloved, that is, the dignity of the unique.”
AIDs art revealed the pivotal truth: a lot of people died very quickly, in large part because of government neglect. That neglect was only possible because the sufferers largely came from an ‘undesirable’ community. The art served as a face for what would have otherwise been the faceless plight of the crowd. Look at Duane. Let’s refer to another iconic piece, ‘For the Record’ by the lesbian art collective fierce pussy. The collective, though founded in the early 1990s, came out with this piece in 2013. It is a lively grief for those who dwell in the lover’s eye, a grief that comes from losing anybody and knowing anybody could have been the beloved.
Due to the fact that AIDs is held in the body, everything was doubled: here is the unique face, here is the death. Save the face, spare it from the death.
Knowledge of climate change came into this world from the top down. It was caught on to by scientists in the late 80’s who exposed the idea to the government and the parasitic corporations that stay close to it. From there, the science was debated and oil companies got a head start on influencing public opinion. Putting aside the expected bullshit of oil companies, there was another result. The language and visual life of climate change was dictated by scientific mode and bureaucratic standards, rendering it merely data for most people. Without any personal experience of harm or difference to confirm the concept as real, it remained unreal. It stayed nebulous, attacking everyone yet no one at all.
Climate change must be shown to be as personally impacting as it truly is. We must find what we are losing and what is at risk. I already fear for the climate refugee who will be forced to cross an already killer desert. Avoiding, with any luck, border guards of the nation who displaced them in the first place. We should all cry our specific cries. I read about climate change, and it is just a tidal wave. Let it be a face I want to protect.
Ghibli but not cottagecore.
I credit Miyazaki’s movies for the values I have today, even if I don’t always act on those values. The tales these movies tell reframe the quest narrative. These are typically individualist, ‘heroic’ in the sense of cutting through obstacles, craving escape from the bonds and burdens of community. In the following links, you can find an expression of this idea by thinkers much better than I, with detail to back up the claim: Rebecca Solnit, Ursula Le Guin, and Anna Tsing. They all draw from Virginia Woolf’s definition of heroism as botulism, a fatal illness caused by some neurotoxic bacteria which cannot be tasted, smelled or seen.
The typical hero drives the narrative to take this particular shape –as described by Le Guin in the afore linked piece The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction– “first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting hereand going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn’t any good if he isn’t in it.” This conflict, though feigning a concern for the “light” that exists in the dark villain, doesn’t go beyond a binary consideration of who is on the inside and the outside of the group, who are the good people who should live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Miyazaki film concluded on the celebratory climax of the killed villain.
Instead, the Ghibli films led by Miyazaki prioritize a love of home and the people who live within it. The joy found in the Ghibli film is often a domestic one. The careful spinning of daily life that is not bound to the home. Adventure is not predicated on the abandonment of community, but precisely in the quest to keep it together and expand the net of care.
The girls at the head of most of these films are not the typical hero. They are not endowed with exceptional strength, magic, or intelligence (the heroes we worship IRL are these wunderkinds, and we wish to be them, and how do so many of them end up? Trust fund managers??). Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle is an old woman. Mei of My Neighbor Totoro, and Sosuke of Ponyo, are just five year olds. Chirhiro of Spirited Away, is also a young, plain girl. Even Kiki of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the witch of the group, can only do the bare minimum–fly. They are surrounded by the powerful, interesting, storybook characters, and yet Miyazaki tells us that isn’t where the value lies by not utilizing them as protagonists. Instead, he says watch this child who is uniquely loving- lovingness which hasn’t been fossilized by fear of weakness.
This touches everything. When heroism is grounded in care of community, meaning EVERYONE and EVERYTHING, where does the urge to dominate find ground?
There is no place in that behavioral system for the kind of greed, power building, and sightless ambition that validates those who choose profit over people and Earth.
And I say not cottagecore because: How often are those pictures of cozy cabins, fields of flowers and cows populated by people? People, children and elderly working, playing, dying, cooking, doomscrolling–and asking you for things all the time. Needing you to be present and do things you don’t want to do. It’s like that feeling when you’re with your fucking family. Cottagecore is let me be away from people, let me be alone on domesticated land. So, no, not cottagecore.
Let’s make this a living document. Should you have any suggestions for this list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Depending on the results of my gatekeeping, it shall be added here with credit.
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 Lolita, Black 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.
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.
Many artists working in the intersection of art and science will make the generalization that the art world is not as hospitable as the world of science. Within this lies some truth. I started high school with the intent to study biology and spent my breaks and summers at the local college working with the bio department and research labs. Despite being an outsider, they welcomed me and taught without pretension. Science was made accessible to me. Later in art school, despite there being an engineering sub-school on campus, I felt more disconnected from science than ever.
I came to enjoy growing my own materials to make what could be called BioArt. I wonder if we can explore alternate materiality through science without casting the work off into an underappreciated side category.
I am appreciative of my ability to grow my own materials, creating new relationships to the things I make. Tied in with this idea is indigenous knowledge; alternative ways of making and being. I owe a lot to these alternatives and to the people who have taught them to me.
There are countless materials in the BioArt category, SCOBY is just one. SCOBY continues to fascinate many with its multifaceted look and connotations to skin, placenta and the animal world. As a fruitful material that can be grown for relatively cheap, its uses for sculpture, paper, canvas, etc. become all the more attractive.
While kombucha as a drink has been around for over 2000 years, it is unclear when the SCOBY needed to make it started being used for other purposes. The process of sharing your SCOBY or receiving one from someone in your community offers the opportunity for communal building and non-monetary sharing.
The easiest way to make kombucha is to find someone in your community who can share a piece of their SCOBY with you. If this isn’t an option, there are stores that sell them or you can grow them yourself.
Part I: SCOBY Recipe
3.5 cups water
2 tea bags (I use one green and one black)
¼ cup refined white sugar (look for organic, otherwise chances are it’s not vegan)
Medium sized jar (I use old pasta sauce jars, etc.)
Coffee filter/paper towel/piece of cloth
½ cup plain store bought kombucha (no flavoring, as it might inhibit the formation of SCOBY)
Boil the water and brew the tea
Add the sugar while the tea is hot, so it will dissolve
Let the tea cool to room temperature and remove the tea bags
Mix cool tea with plain kombucha, trying to ensure the solids from the bottom of the bottle (those are baby scobies) are included
Pour mix into a new jar, the jar should be washed thoroughly (no soap residue or food, etc.)
Place coffee filter or cloth over the mouth of the jar and use rubber band to secure it there
Place jar in a dark and warm place, ideally kept around 70°F. (it will still form with slightly colder temps, it might just take longer)
Leave jar for 1-3 weeks to allow SCOBY to form
Part II: Kombucha Recipe
This can be done once you have a SCOBY. This will be cheaper than buying kombucha at the store and you can invent flavors that you would never find otherwise!
7 cups water
4 bags tea (I use green for increased cellulose production, but not for taste)
1 cup refined vegan sugar
1 cup SCOBY liquid
Flavoring (fruit juice or literally anything else)
Repeat the process outlined above in steps 1-3 (make the tea and add the sugar while it’s hot)
When the mixture is cool, add your SCOBY and cover in the same way with a porous lid and rubber band (keep this closed to avoid attracting fruit flies)
Leave it alone for 7-10 days
Time for a second fermentation!
For the perfect carbonation, you’ll need a second fermentation. This will mean transferring the kombucha from a jar with a porous lid to one that is sealed. I usually save my bottles of GT kombucha and use those to bottle my own. If you want the burn your throat kind of fizz, you need to seal your bottles as tight as possible using swing-top bottles or something that creates a real seal. You can also add more sugar, which will increase carbonation.
Remove your SCOBY and put it somewhere safe (it has to be in the liquid it was in before and submerged completely)
Pour your kombucha into bottles that seal ¾ of the way full
Use the remainder of the space to add fruit/vegetable juices and small amounts of sugar (optional)
Seal bottles and leave for 2 to 5 days
I’ve made kombucha in the past but my interest really lies in the SCOBY itself; the symbiotic set of organisms that make kombucha.
As a material, there are really no limits to how the SCOBY can be utilized.
The SCOBY will expand to fit the container you put it in. For kombucha and drinking purposes, it is best the SCOBY be in a vessel that is taller than it is wide such as a mason jar or vase. For material purposes, the container can be as small or as big as you’d like and the possibility of using shaped containers can be fruitful in art making.
The SCOBY will take on the color of the liquid you put it in. I make my own natural dyes when making SCOBY paper, but either way the color will depend on the type of tea or additive you use.
It is undoubtedly hard to market BioArt, but that doesn’t mean we should stop making unsellable work. Most of what I made in high school and college is ultimately unsellable, for now anyway. While the most elitist part of the art world likes to think it operates on a different plane from the rest of the world, we must expect the same kind of attention to sustainability from the art world as we expect from our elected officials and corporations.
BioArt is not the only route to bring sustainability into one’s practice, but in my experience, the shift in thought and autonomy that comes with growing my own materials has been pivotal to my understanding of my contribution to the climate crisis. In my practice, addressing sustainability is no longer a question. Most of all, I am happy to be able to introduce ideas that significantly changed my practice to others who might feel the same. Sustainable materials are cool, as there are endless possibilities to things you can grow in your own home.
What’s up y’all? It’s the self-proclaimed King of Snacks here to highlight the best (gas) and worst (trash) snack releases for the month of January. The end of 2020 was filled with recycled holiday products, and I couldn’t wait to try something that was flavored with something other than pumpkin or gingerbread. We tipped off the new year with some major gas guzzlers, some others that belonged in the dumpster. Let’s start with the GAS! My three favorite releases this month had to be the Little Debbies x Kelloggs Oatmeal Creme Pies Cereal, Brookie-O Oreos, & Flamin’ Hot Limon Kettle Chips (in that order).
The Oatmeal Creme Pies cereal had strong notes of caramel and cinnamon, which blended perfectly with the grainy oat cereal pieces. I was a bit bummed that there was no cream filling in the cereal pieces, but each piece had a layer of white glaze on the exterior that satisfied the creme flavor element. Little Debbie has made some iconic treats over the years, but NOTHING hits QUITE like a classic oatmeal creme pie! Throw some milk in the mix and now we’re really playing with fire. I gave these a score of 8.8/10 and I would absolutely recommend y’all give these a shot.
The “Brookie-O” Oreos were just short of magical. For those of you who don’t know, a “brookie” is a brownie fused with a chocolate chip cookie (aka a stoner’s delight). This exciting new addition to the Oreo family includes three layers of flavored creams- brownie, original, and cookie dough- slapped between two (classic) chocolate Oreo cookies! With three thicc layers of creme, the size of these cookies is slightly larger than a “Mega Stuf’d” Oreo. No skimping on this side! While one corner of my mouth was enjoying a brownie, the other was smacking down some chocolate chip cookie dough, and then finally came that classic Oreo creme! Just eating ONE cookie was an entire experience…but of course, I ate about 12. I gave these a score of 8.6/10 and added them to my “MUST TRY” list.
The Flamin’ Hot Limon Kettle Chips were a TREAT with some HEAT! This fresh drop from the folks at Frito-Lay includes classic kettle style potato chips coated in their signature “flamin’ hot & lime flavored seasoning! As a major fan of both kettle chips & anything “flamin’ hot,” I had a strong feeling that we were playing with petrol here! The classic “batch cooked” kettle style flavors of oil & sea salt were well supported by the zesty and tangy flavors of the spicy citrus seasoning. The terpz were BURSTING & my tastebuds were BURNING! I gave these a score of 8.6/10 and will be grubbing them regularly.
Time to talk TRASH! My three least favorite releases this month were Pokemon Cereal, Crayola Cereal, & (surprisingly) Dunkaroo’s Cereal.
The Pokemon “Berry Bolt” Cereal was rather tragic. In this snack game, my motto has ALWAYS been “GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL” so you can only imagine how I felt when I saw these on the shelf! This fresh drop from General Mills includes berry flavored sweetened corn puffs (aka berry berry Kix) with Pokémon shaped cereal marshmallows. This cereal tasted like a “Berry Tie-Die” Fruit by the Foot flavored corn puff! Add a little milk into the mix and you’re looking at a real recipe for disaster. I gave these a score of 4.8/10 and recommend y’all stay far away.
The Crayola Cereal was wrong on so many levels. These multicolored corn cereal balls are flavored with “Jazz-berry” (whatever that means). I was honestly just praying that these things DIDN’T taste like crayons! The shape and texture is similar to that of crunch berries, but they don’t taste as good. I gave these a score of 3.6/10 and recommend y’all stay far away.
The Dunkaroo’s cereal was a major let down. I had been waiting on this release to come out, but they turned out to just be vanilla cupcake flavored cereal pieces. This cereal shares the shape/texture of Birthday Cake Cookie Crisp (2019), and tastes almost identical to Funfetti Cereal (2020). The cereal was pretty tasty, but it didn’t taste much like Dunakroos at all! Although I gave these a score of 7/10based on flavor, overall, the whole thing just felt lazy, but hey, at least the box looks cool!
Thanks for tuning in to the first ever STP x ShitGrub snack round up! Check out the ShitGrub Instagram for full reviews of the aforementioned products, and more!
Alisa Petrosova couldn’t get out of bed. She had weathered one too many hits, between Bret Kavanaugh’s nomination and her increasing awareness of climate change’s ceaseless march. A senior at Cooper Union, Petrosova shifted her focus from art to infecting art institutions with a commitment to the most urgent crisis at hand, the climate emergency. Founder of the Cooper Climate Coalition amongst other high profile projects, Petrosova is well on her way to becoming a key change maker in the New York art scene.
Shanti Escalante is a model, entrepreneur, PhD, Hobby Lobby senior executive, and contributing editor for STP focused on culture and climate change. She was raised by a 90 year old lithium heiress in the Hamptons before being shipped off to NYC to finish school, where she has since remained. She chatted with Alisa Petrosova to discuss how Petrosova’s passion towards influencing climate change in arts communities came to be.
Shanti Escalante: Could you walk me through what you’re hoping the program “What Will You Tell Next Year?” is going to look like for the people who end up getting the fellowship?
Alisa Petrosova: We’re thinking about [hosting] intimate meetings that would happen on zoom, where people would share their projects and ideas with each other and just be able to chat. Then there’ll be four Zoom critiques that are curated based on themes. For example, if there were three projects that had to do with apocalypse we would put them together and have a mentor, an artist that is older or well-known who deals with that in their own practice, [to aid in that]. We’d also promote an open critique for people to come and see the work as it’s developing. Then there will be a final presentation in May or June. The format of what that is TBD based on COVID guidelines–whether there’ll be some kind of in-person launch or this will stay completely virtual.
SE: And the deadline?
AP: The 10th of February.
SE: Where did this project idea come from?
AP: I’m interested in taking cultural institutions, foundations, galleries, the art world, and places that just aren’t generally talking about climate as their M.O. and turning them into places for this type of discourse. If you’re thinking about starting a space that is climate oriented, then there’s only a certain group of people that you’re [speaking to] versus, if there’s something [within] the arts that can handle this topic, then there’s a broader audience, and you’re not just preaching to the choir. There are people that you’re actually serving new information to. I really wanted to use Serving the People to do that. This was actually beta-launched within the coalition that I run at Cooper [Union]. I wanted to see it reach a broader audience and have a disparate group of people apply who would be interested in doing this kind of [work] on a different scale of platform.
I realized that I wouldn’t have the luxury of just addressing art and art history and culture.
SE: I definitely empathize with the urge to bring culture and art together, especially in artistic institutions, which I think are getting involved with climate change but only at a kind buzzword level of engagement. Are there particular artists or creatives who you’ve seen working with Anthropocene issues in a way that you found to be productive or engaging?
AP: I really appreciate Sondra Perry. She deals with race and ecology and environment, blending that with images of apocalypse, collapse or natural disaster. These various contending crises are interconnected and Perry [shows] that really well.
SE: When did you start getting interested in the climate crisis as something you were going to be engaging with at this level?
AP: I grew up in California, which is a generally eco minded state. You grow up learning to turn the water off when you brush your teeth. But my background was always in the arts. When I got to Cooper, (the shift started) at a class called Interdisciplinary Seminar, where every week different artists, economists, engineers, architects, and people from all various walks of life come [in and speak] with a through line about the climate crisis. Each one of them painted the picture of how the world would be completely different very soon. [Then] the IPC report came out, which was the report that said we had, you know, 12 years (before irreversible climate catastrophe).
Also, the Brett Kavanaugh trials. There was one week where I almost didn’t get out of bed. Them, It wasn’t immediately like, ah! I’m going to dedicate my life to climate! But soon after coming out of that headspace, I realized that I wouldn’t have the luxury of just addressing art and art history and culture. Even if I really wanted to ignore, it at some point I was going to have to face it, so I decided to shift everything I’m doing toward climate awareness and figure out ways in which we may begin to adapt and mitigate.
SE: There’s definitely a wall that we all hit.
AP: Yeah. I think COVID kind of gave us a sneak preview, like a dress rehearsal for what it’s like to really quickly adapt to something.
SE: I definitely saw a lot of memes [comparing COVID and climate change], which were like, the wave of COVID and behind it, this ultra mega monster tsunami that was climate change. There’s always been this narrative with climate change that we can’t respond to it properly because it’s not a disaster. Then a disaster happens, and it’s like, well, it’s not like we’re amazing at dealing with that either.
AP: I personally believe that the reason we dealt with COVID relatively quickly, in terms of how the last fastest vaccine took four years, is because we’re not saving people, we’re saving the economy. If [the economy] didn’t suffer so much because of COVID, I don’t think we would have gotten that quickly to a vaccine. I think that’s the same thing for climate. People are suffering right now, but the economy hasn’t yet been hit significantly because of the climate crisis so…
SE: Then, seeing everything that happened at the Capitol is distressing. A lot of these people have their own get back to the wilderness, self-sufficiency fantasy. I don’t think people understand the extent to which different visions of living closer to nature have a very, very, very wide political ideological range. But then there’s the climate skeptics.
AP: There’s a lot of undoing for us to do politically. How are [things like] air quality or water quality or species extinction politicized? It’s because of mass misinformation. The fact is, oil companies hired the same people that released the misinformation [to support] Big Tobacco. The unlearning and the undoing is a lot slower of a process than the learning and the doing unfortunately. Consequently, we’ve lost 50 years we didn’t have. So I think, in terms of politics, the uglier it gets, the more time we lose.
SE: Then again, I remember first getting into school, thinking ‘okay, climate skepticism is something that I’m really interested in.’ In the four years since then, it feels like climate skepticism isn’t even the issue at hand, you know?
AP: There are different boats, too. There are the people that think, “Oh, the only people we need to be talking to are the climate skeptics.” And then there’s a whole other boat where it’s like, “just leave them behind. We don’t have the time to connect.”
SE: And why bother, sometimes. There’s such a weird form of discourse that takes place online, which I think was primarily affirmed during Gamergate and has continued on since then, which feels like you can have this pool of senseless and contradictory chatter and it’ll just confirm itself without any real logic or centrality. Trying to approach people that are inside of that–you’re just going to go in circles forever.
AP: I was working on this TV show about climate change and we had a lot of experts come in and to chat with the writers’ room. We spoke to somebody that runs a specific company that tries to clear [up] misinformation. It’s just really crazy to see this graph of the day before the UN climate action summit, and there are these giant spikes [in content] to basically drown all the [relevant] hashtags so that anything that’s tagged becomes drowned in misinformation.
SE: Circling back a bit closer to your upcoming STP program, this is a question I’ve been thinking a lot about: what can art do in an emergency, and particularly, a climate emergency?
AP: I think building community is a way of fighting the climate crisis and being able to introduce people to it and kind of slow down, working against the speed that we’re forced to [operate at] right now; the transactional nature that we’re forced into every day.
SE: Do you need to believe in the future to participate in trying to save it?
AP: You need to want a future to participate in, you have to believe in humanity a little bit, believe that humanity should continue. I read this book by Rebecca Solnit called Hope in the Dark. She was saying about France under the monarchy, that if they didn’t imagine life outside of monarchy, there would’ve been no revolution. In my head, that’s a driving force.
Click here to submit climate-related work to “What Will You Tell Next Year.”
They say gossip rots your brain, and they’re absolutely right. But, what if rotting your brain is useful? There’s a common thread of last week’s drama; things just keep coming back to life. As if being in disguise, dead eras come back with a secret vengeance – to subtly remediate old content and dismantle past forms so that they can be bricolaged in the present. If ‘formal’ refers to the mimesis of past forms, then it’s ‘zombielike’ when past media and political agendas are retrofitted for current tastes. Under this metaphor, elements of the new social-political shifts can be described in terms of Walter Robinson’s 2014 art term Zombie Formalism. A phrase mutilated in past years, zombie formalism is not limited to resurrections, but also questions whether remediation is merely propaganda wearing a funny hat and mustache. Isn’t remediating what early Perez Hilton did with gossip tabloids, and what I’m trying to do with pop culture news roughly 15 years later? Is post-modern resurrection useless in its mimesis, or genius in its recontextualization? For this weeks news, we’re going to scoop up a bowl of brain stew and examine the undead media among us, 28 Days Later-style because lame zombies eat last.
If you follow US politics, or have any social media at all, you know that president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris were inaugurated into the White House on January 20th. Understandably, there was quite a bit of Internet-hoopla, the most interesting of which being theTwitter hashtag #bidenerasedwomen. The hashtag, which hit critical mass in the hours following the ceremony, was full of commentary regarding Biden’s purported erasure of women- not in reference to certain womanizing allegations, but as a response to elements of a new Executive Order. The order details various human rights mandates, including a safeguard for trans people’s rights to participate in organized sports and use bathrooms that coincide with their gender identity. Some pockets of feminism crowded #bidenerasedwomen with concerns that embracing gender diversity in sports threatens their exclusionary conception of sex-based rights. An age-old question of sex, gender, and permission, this order is one of 17 directives Biden signed on his first day, elucidated here.
One noted unkillable zombie emerged during the inauguration; that one damn Bernie Sanders meme. Admittedly, we love to watch the elite put on their stupid little outfits and perform their stupid little ceremonies, as evidenced by our reaction to Bernie Sanders’ off duty butcher from Vermont look. Other pathologized fashion moments from said elite include previously unbeknownst-to-us-until-someone-said-she-was-important poet-laureate Amanda Gorman, wearing full primary color Prada. Major points to her stylist for using a gorgeous candy-red satin headband as a giant elastic for Gorman’s box braid-bun. Miss Miucca Prada’s second line was worn by Ella Emhoff, the darling stepdaughter of Kamala Harris, whose Miu Miu coat gave us Bushwick-lesbian-with-secret-access-to-trust-fund energy. Paired with a Batsheva prairie dress and little round wire glasses, Emhoff delivered the wealthy Parsons student DIY aesthetic in a classic Americana flavor. Maybe her outfit owned fashion in a unique, cool-girl way, like the magazines are trying to let on, but maybe her look was just the perfect combination of recognizable, yet alluring fashion references which serves to reinvent, à la zombie formalism.
Since we’re on the topic of girls you’d think to bully at Mood Ring circa 2018, Tavi Gevinson and the Rookie Magazinegirlies are back in a big way. After its fold in 2018, Gevinson’s Rookie had effectively done its job. Geeky bunches of pre-teen girls grew into geekier girls with recurring Vice bylines, and young creatives were able to form a now-eponymous “collective” via Gevinson’s smol bean network, as seen in the Rookie Yearbook series. So why come back? For the sake of our favorite buzzword, community. Since denouncing her #girlboss title, Tavi Gevinson has missed the people, which is why it’s only fitting that Rookie’s return is in audio form in partnership with Audible and inspired by the earlier Rookie podcasts. The limited project contains episodes with Tavi’s never-ending collection of good homies who dole out advice on topics like self-care and communication skills. Nostalgia is all the rage! The internet needed its big sister back. We missed you, Tavi!
Speaking of nostalgia, Miss Gevinson is set to appear in the Gossip Girl reboot, premiering sometime this year on HBO Max. This juicy revamp will carry the same elements of our favorite teen dramas from the 2000’s, but with a twist. Think 20-somethings playing teenage high school students, with a grating overtone of “representation matters.” Here’s what we know: Gevinson plays cute Constance blonde named Kate Keller, while Canadian singer-songwriter Jordan Alexander plays Julien Calloway, rumored to be named after writer and beloved-by-STP influencer Caroline Calloway. Apart from the cast and basic plot, the new Gossip Girl is considered to be very “now” – Harper’s Bazaar harps (hehe) on the importance of diversity (reinforced by the cast haircuts), along with one key idea to ground the show- this time, we know who Gossip Girl is. Creator Josh Schwartz weaves millennial identity politics into the fabric of the new show, saying everyone will be Gossip Girl. Rather than coming from a single, mysterious blogger, Gossip Girl intel will be crowd-sourced from the Constance-St. Jude crew themselves. Elements of the OG Gossip Girl, such as the original costume designer, will make an appearance in this reboot, yet this time, the cast will be accessorized with a social media self-awareness that could only exist in this post-everything time. The new Constance dress code is formal(ism)-wear, sprinkled with a recontextualization that promises political correctness and the new season’s elevated Prada headbands.
Prada SS 2021 hair accessories are a formalist feat, and along with prophesizing the Sex in the City reboot, our renewed appreciation for Prada accessories can be linked back to our DNA memory of the outfit Carrie Bradshaw accessorized with the OG Prada headband back in the aughts. If the current obsession with early 2000s trends isn’t empirical evidence for our social disposition for what the Walter Robinson article described as a “simulacrum of originality,” then what is? HBO Max recently announced that Sex and the City is getting a facelift, sans Kim Cattrall. Since this news dropped last December, the rumor mill has been churning – what will come of the iconic Samantha Jones? Will her breast cancer relapse? Cattrall and Parker are alleged frenemies– will there be a fictional falling out between her, Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda? Will Catrall and Parker’s real life beef roam throughout the new Sex and the City, hungry for brains? All we have is past form and a basic understanding of postmodernism to guide us on this one. And if you’re sick of reboots, you can hold onto hope that the critics were right about Zombie formalism, and that mixing old form with new fashion will plummet ratings before talks of season renewals even hit the table.
Art imitates life, gossip anticipates time, and time imitates time, time and time again. What has happened before will happen again, inspired by how it happens now. When it comes to reboots of iconic shows, regurgitation of gossip and rumors, and readjustments throughout the executive branch of power, everything becomes and is becoming more and more self-referential.
There is a famous quote that gets flung around a lot when we try to write about writing. It is the opening line to Joan Didion’s essay White Album, an essay that is largely a treatise to self-mythology and its pitfalls: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” The need to self -mythologize is an easy one to recognize in ourselves, which is probably why this quote gets flung around so much. Confirmation bias, pattern-recognition, even belief in a higher power are all versions of the human need to wrestle difficulty, suffering, and achievement into a tidy narrative arc. In doing so we might locate ourselves amidst the chaos.
In 2010, the iPhone with a front facing camera was released. Instagram came into being in 2012. We suddenly had new methods and means by which to share ourselves, to tell stories about ourselves, and more importantly, to each other. The locus of our self understanding was quickly externalized and marketed, and the medium itself has become not so much a record of one’s life, but its presentation; one that could make it a suitable window display for a rotation of products. This paradigm is what makes the Instagram presence of influencer and writer Caroline Calloway so compelling. Her content contains the same sense of raw, earnest curiosity that we used to have as a generation raised on the internet, one which has since been overtaken by cynicism towards social media. There was once a brief period when the idea of laterally sharing thoughts and information was exciting, when the prospect of being intimately connected regardless of space and time was fun and not, as it has proven to be, psychologically exhausting.
Caroline Calloway as an influencer is perpetually engaged in an act of self mythologizing That most of us relegated from Instagram to the Notes app long ago. Her posts are a meticulous record of her young adult life from the beginning of her account in 2013 to now, chronicling ages 21-29. She doesn’t discriminate between tragedy and success — almost everything makes it to her Instagram at some point or another, in a form of memoir that is both calculated meting out of information and bursts of extremely personal divulgence. She is not the only influencer to utilize exposure in her online presence, but few others do with the same idealism. In a recent post, Calloway wrote, “My social media is my art. It’s not my only art form, but it’s a major way that I process and create my experiences in the world. I’m allowed to center MY feelings and MY experiences in MY art. If you don’t like the free content I create on here—if you don’t consider it art—leave.”
The defensive tone of this particular caption is not unwarranted; Calloway’s writing has drawn more public ire than appreciation. Influencers, especially female ones, generally do not use their platforms for the express purpose of elevating the act of living their lives into ‘artwork’. Mysteriousness is preferred over divulgence, coolness over earnestness. Calloway’s persona is neither of these things. Yet, as Calloway herself understands, nobody watches a performance for its elusiveness; nobody reads anything for its sense of ironic distance.
Like many, I first became aware of Calloway through Natalie Beach’s essay, I Was Caroline Calloway, published in ‘The Cut’ in September of 2019. The essay details the years that Beach spent being friend, assistant, ghost writer, and side-fiddle to Calloway after meeting her in a personal essay class at NYU, ending after a particularly hellish night in Amsterdam. It is ostensibly a story of two girls’ creative codependence, yet the work’s gravitational pull is Calloway’s chaotic allure. Beach admits this pull herself early on in the essay, “To my other friends, I described her as someone you couldn’t count on to remember a birthday but the one I’d call if I needed a black-market kidney. What I meant was that she was someone to write about, and that was what I wanted most of all.” In Calloway’s response essay, written a year later, (a characteristic of her oeuvre is that she is helpless but to respond to every piece written about her), she talks about the impulse to write herself: “I don’t know what, as a child, made me believe that being a famous memoirist was going to solve all my problems since all anyone ever told me was to pick a different goal. But I latched onto a vision of myself in a ball gown, with flowers in my hair, inside a castle, inside a story, inside a true story. I wanted that.” When Calloway manages to cut out the middle man of her own interpretation, Beach finds herself devoid of a muse, of a life to mine for her own literary purposes, and she is forced to come to terms with the consequences of feeding such an unbalanced friendship. Beach writes, “I had built my whole career around my commitment to her persona — crafting it, caring for it, and trying my hardest to copy it… (b)ut in Cambridge I didn’t see someone I wanted to be but a girl living with one fork, no friends, and multiple copies of Prozac Nation. Now I saw Caroline for what she was — a person in need of help that I didn’t know how to give.”
In the intervening time between the end of Beach’s essay and now, Caroline has continued to use Instagram as her primary platform. Her profile is a manifestation of this life-inside-a-story, the images themselves a collection of thematic objects chosen and developed over time. Experienced post by post, Calloway’s Instagram is unstructured and earnest, her captions read as diaristic, impulsive, verging on the melodramatic; experienced in its totality, it is a deft understanding of herself as a protagonist. She repeatedly charts the arc that brought her to her current infamy, laced with mistakes and public upsets, but never devoid of romance and relatable fallibility. We move from the starry-eyed NYU student with a dream to go to Cambridge, to Caroline at Cambridge, going to balls until dawn and studying in dusty libraries. Then we move to Caroline the addict, her childhood with a mentally ill parent in less privileged circumstances. After that it’s Caroline in New York, going to therapy and pilates, wearing flowers in her hair and painting on her floor. We get the pitfall stories, the ones that made her infamous, like the time that she set up an ill advised ‘creative workshop’ near the height of her influence and accidentally ordered enough Mason Jars to stock a small factory to her studio apartment. The stories serve as self-sustaining entities that build a body of work which is — criticisms of form and craft aside — a unique exercise in memoir that, to my knowledge, no other influencer has been able to create.
What Calloway has done moves outside of traditional memoir in its intimacy, as well as its visual acuity. Through Instagram, she has created a shorthand for all these stories, no doubt an instinct gleaned from her years studying art history (which is itself another pin in the Calloway signifier yarn map). Her grid has little variation: the color turquoise, flower crowns, photos of dawns and sunsets from inside her apartment, Matisse’s Blue Nude. Each stand in place for gradations of feeling or powerful memories which are usually detailed in the caption. They are punctuated by retrospectives and intertwining of previous thematics, along with personal details about her own life that run the full gamut from raw to coy disclosures; from posting her father’s autopsy results to placing butterfly emojis over the faces of ‘lovers’.
To go beyond Calloway’s Instagram and speak to the little writing she has (self) published, it is unsurprising that Instagram remains her primary medium. All of her formal writing shares a disinterest in speaking for itself, instead it is just another vehicle for Calloway’s self projection, but slightly less convenient. This is not to say the writing is bad — Calloway’s work has strong echoes of Wurtzel in its immediacy and introspection — it just lacks the patience needed for traditional form. In reaction to Beach’s I Was Caroline Calloway, Caroline wrote her own essay: I Am Caroline Calloway. The essay is unabashedly impatient and scattered; it pores over details and discrepancies that are largely uninteresting to anyone apart from Calloway herself. As Calloway points out in the essay, what Beach lacks in insight she makes up for in rigor, and vice versa with her own writing. She also writes about her particular dilettantism in the context of her studies at Cambridge, describing the art history damsel with a love for close-reading and the storybook world of old money academia who could never turn an essay in on time. At the same time, to focus too much on form would be to miss Calloway’s quiet, sophisticated turns of metaphor, her emotional fluency, her often withering self awareness. This purposeful unfolding of one person’s emotional core is what makes Caroline Calloway the person, as is the case with all memoir writing, compelling. A lack of rigor also means her writing is not diversionary, not obscure.
To write the self is to take measures against damage. The cliché of the artist’s compulsion to create is that it is done in order to evade death, to live on posthumously. I think the instinct is less grand. Creating stories about oneself is a quotidian protective exercise, like buckling a seatbelt. Whether the stories are cruel or self aggrandizing, they are protective against more pollutive interpretations, against other’s decisions on how much we matter and where we fit. This is, to an extent, also the function of social media: an attempt to control the narrative.
As an influencer, Caroline Calloway’s diligent logging of herself through her own eyes feels, in contrast to most influencer’s accounts, like it isn’t actually for us. Her Instagram is not a more perfect reflection for an anonymous or imagined ideal audience, but the work of an artist who has found that her voice and imagination magically fit a medium. One would think, looking at Calloway’s Instagram and her writing, that this woman’s instinct for self protection is non-existent. She writes about things so personal — in one memorable post she takes us on a tour of the house in which her father completed suicide; the house has not been touched since — with such an unstudied and vulnerable voice, that she must have some penchant for masochism.
Despite this, a sense of joy is woven throughout, a Sagittarian optimism that allows Calloway to crest buoyantly through and over her worst moments, like any good heroine is required to do. The confounding element of Calloway is the unanswerable question of whether or not someone ‘deserves’ something when it has not been ‘properly’ given, whether that is fame, or the right to call oneself an artist. Calloway’s work violates the social agreement of Instagram as a space where we are supposed to perform. This is what makes her Instagram and her online persona a magnet for vitriol and fascination. Despite cries that all this documentation is the end of privacy, few of us truly use it to share ourselves.
The prospect of granting permission to oneself is intimidating, and often we are angered by anyone who acts without it, especially in a world where centralized institutions of media have become less esteemed and less necessary. In this moment when we are all immortalizing ourselves on such tenuous and fluid grounds, we are stuck feeling at once anonymous and overexposed, shouting into a void for not much more than short-lived gratification. What Calloway does is embrace this space of overexposure; she is idealistic and generous in a way not many of us are prepared to be, and in the end, that makes for good reading.
To learn more about “it girls” past and present, check out the podcast It Girl Theory, co-hosted by Martha Fearnley
Curated by Adriana Furlong Co-curated by Margaux Halloran
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Ralph Lauren has taken the American Dream and brought it to the runway. His campaigns show the beauty of American life- perfectly groomed and dressed families sitting in beautiful homes, doll-like children at play without a care in the world. The ads give us a glimpse into an American life we wish we had, one that allows us to enjoy nature and excess with our family without thoughts of struggle. My American life is different from what I see in Ralph Lauren campaigns.
One Ralph Lauren print ad recently stuck out to me, it featured a young black boy playing lacrosse for a Polo Kids ad. I was stopped from enjoying the beauty of the photo as I remembered a story my older cousin told me years ago that he brushed off as a joke. He would wear a lacrosse lanyard from his former high school, only to be questioned by other students “You’re black, you don’t play lacrosse.” The irony of this story is reflected in my film “The Potency Of The American Dream.” While one image evokes feelings of optimism and the American dream, the other is of a less attractive, more authentic American life. America is a bull, a torture machine, and a greedy nation. We should be wary of anything that feels truly “American”.
The distance between my America and the one in a Ralph Lauren ad speaks to the class struggles that we deal with every single day. While my idea of the American dream is shaped by people who struggle and have been treated unfairly by the world around them, these people are not a part of Ralph Lauren’s idealizations. At one point, Ralph Lauren was a poor boy from the Bronx who managed to work his way up. The people in his advertisements are the people he aspired to become. It’s a bit strange to see these same clothes on the backs of people who could never afford to live like anything displayed in a campaign. My whole life, I’d see it on the backs of older cousins and peers, people who are intentionally omitted from Ralph Lauren campaigns so as to not disrupt the brand image.
It is irresponsible to make an attempt to sell the American dream, when America is in the state it’s in. Campaigns such as these are another form of American propaganda, which has led us to believe we’re a nation of great wealth and prosperity when the people wearing the clothes do not reflect that. Many people see the American dream as something that anybody can obtain as long as they work hard, without any mention of the struggles and hardships many people face solely because of the color of their skin, their family background, the people they love, the list goes on and on. This is not to say that I don’t believe success to that level is something people should strive for, but we need to be honest with ourselves and the American people about what America is- ripping the mask off of the Scooby-Doo villain.
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.
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-upone 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).
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.
Wʀᴇᴛᴄʜᴇᴅ Lɪɢʜᴛ Iɴᴅᴜsᴛʀʏ has arrived on stp.world – a collaborative virtual world cobbled together in Scotland by @ueq__ & @darlingtonjay
The map of Eilean Fogg comprises 33 environments made by emerging digital artists, magicians, jammers, worlders and dreamers from all over our globe. Wander freely around our sunny isle; there might be mazes, offices, sea serpents, sheep, shrines, forests and more.
Hypercubes by Alfie Dwyer I’m a multimedia artist, animator, and filmmaker. My work focuses on the human body, the digital world, and dark comedy. I’m also interested in new ways of looking at images, and new ways of looking at reality. Website
Harris Isle by Alice Pool I am an Artist from Sheffield, currently living in Glasgow. I studied at the Glasgow School of Art, and graduated in 2020, in the Department of Sculpture & Environmental Art. My current practice uses digital animation, I generate 3D computer images, in which I try to share an aesthetic experience. Building emotional and poetic worlds in the digital inevitably provokes me to explore people’s relationship to their own history and their perception of time, experience, and memory. Website
Crying in the Chapel by Angus MacDonald A recent graduate from the Glasgow School of Art, I am a multidisciplinary artist and musician working with installation, animation, and performance. In 2019 – March 2020 I was involved with Sonomama sessions, a monthly session of improvised performances and discussions at the CCA: Glasgow. Recently, I have been directing and animating a music video for This Is The Deep, a London based collective. Website
Asks Air Silence (This Time, I’m Gonna Lose) by Anna Clegg My practice revolves around ideas of embodiment, presence and memory as mediated by technology and the image. The body now only a semi-present state, constant access to media has allowed for a rift between embodied reality and a secondary, image-based existence to form, and a certain motion sickness ensues. Technology acts to heighten phenomena, allowing for the incarnation of extra information: lens flare, copy-paste, bicubic interpolation, slow motion, the solidification of smoke – rendered as heavy as the Pepsi bottle it cloaks. My paintings strive to mimic bodies of software whose intended purpose is to filter reallife phenomena; a voice thinned by autotune, an image veiled with copies of itself. Visual effects overlay media to signify a distancing in both space and time innate to memory, yet the mask is illusionary. The wet haze plaguing the remembered image in cinema, the reverb following dialogue like a ghost, seem to forget that memory has access to your body in a way most physical realities, save perhaps for invasive surgery, don’t. It exists inside the skin. Anna Clegg is a visual artist working with painting, photography, video and sound. She studied at Chelsea College of Arts, where she achieved a First Class Honours for BA Fine Art, and at Universität der Künste Berlin. In 2018 she won the £10,000 Painter-Stainers’ Company prize for painting, and won the Court Barn Bursary award in 2016. She lives and works in London. Website
To Love Lock by Antonio Parker-Rees I’ve always seen myself primarily as a painter. Although my practice extends across a range of mediums from digital model making to printed textiles, I aim to maintain painting’s sensibility throughout. The imagery and processes I use often deal with themes of desire, labour, attention and immediacy. Adopting relatively arbitrary motifs and imagery, my work tries to open space between purpose and affect, resulting in combinations which can feel antithetical and weird, even ghostly. Website
00000000 by Ariel Helyes Ariel Helyes is a London based artist working with video, sculpture and appropriation to address ideas of powerlessness, labour and finance. He is part of the conceptual creative agency Declined & Deceased. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2020. Recent exhibitions include 50/50 in Fold Gallery, London, When Grasshoppers Make their Great Leaps in Téte, Berlin and Attention Anticipation Anxiety Relief Release in Fitzrovia Gallery, London. Website
Stuttered Heart by Bel Docherty Bel Docherty is a freelance CGI artist currently based in Paris, using digital mediums for object, space and image creation. Recent graduate from The Glasgow School of Art with a BA (Hons) in Communication Design. Her work explores future potential design processes and the visualisation of scent and the culture that surrounds it. With experience in textiles and sculpture, her work researches the digital materiality of objects in aim to feel real and engaging, while communicating initially intangible and abstract ideas. Her design process takes visual reference from luxury fashion, technology advertising and contemporary graphic design in the venture to create clean, inventive graphics. Website
Eyewitnessed Accounts by Benjamin Hall I am an artist, animator, filmmaker, gamemaker and writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. My practice examines the fatalistic relationship between predictability and chaos, and their confusion, conflation and obfuscation by contemporary systems of digitised control. I recently graduated from BA Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art, where I led DS2020 Simulator; a student project that recreated the cohort’s cancelled degree show as a free and accessible game. It featured the work of 136 affected graduates, and both DS2020 Simulator and I appeared on BBC One, BBC Radio Scotland, the List UK and more. My work has also appeared on the Piccadilly Circus billboard as part of CIRCA’s c. 20:20 series (2020), in the Wrong Biennale (2019/20), Visual Arts Scotland’s Graduate Showcase (2020), HomeBrew Digital Commissions (2020) and Digital Artist Residency (2020). Website
Violet Inferno by Cat McClay and Éiméar McClay Our collaborative work considers ideas of queerness, abjection and patriarchal systems of power and oppression through an interdisciplinary body of work comprising video, 3D models, installation and digital collage; it draws on and seeks to examine the historical narration of the queer body within heteronormative society. By amalgamating striking visuals, academic research, politics and references to popular culture, we aim to collapse hierarchies between high and low cultural material. We focus on the pervasive influence of Christianity, and the social expression of the normative values communicated by religious institutions. Expanding on this, we explore the influence that dominant cultural texts – including the bible – have over identity formation, focussing particularly on how they both shape and are shaped by societal attitudes. Instagram
VG+b by Dexter Stokes-Mellor My work focuses on cultural phenomenon like cinema and club culture with an added awareness of other contemporary artistic practices. ‘24x Psycho’ for example. Using Douglas Gordon’s ’24 Hour Psycho’ as a inspiration to create a new rendition of an already loved artwork. Or my work ‘I listen to Blue Monday every Monday’ that being almost meditative video piece on the worldwide impact and effect of club music, and specifically the effect of Blue Monday. More work re-contextualises already known phenomena and place the viewer into a position where they have no choice but to think of this phoneme in an entirely different light. Website
unfolding by Enorê Enorê is an artist from Rio de Janeiro currently based in London, where they have recently completed their MFA in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths. Their work revolves around the fluidity of digital media into physicality and back, the modes of translation and transcoding that arise from these dynamics and how that relates to ways in which the body itself mediates and processes information. They work in multiple media including, but not limited to, computer programming, 3D modelling, painting, ceramics and textile; and have recently exhibited with BBZ BLK BK, Circa Art Class of 2020 and NEoN Digital Arts. Website
Salmonopticon 2025 by Finn Rabbitt Dove & Toby Mills Salmonopticon 2025 follows the story of Sarah, a salmon farm worker, in a not too distant future where human systems of domestication have filtered down into the species they wish to domesticate. This mystery game builds on Prof. Marianne Lien’s chapter, ‘Unruly Appetites: Salmon Domestication “All the way down”’, to speculate human, salmon, cleaner fish and sea lice relations in the near future. Finn’s Website Toby’s Email
Cemetery of the Holy Doors by Hannah Lim & Hugo Harris Hannah Lim and Hugo Harris combine their artistic practices in a series of collaborative pieces – joining Hugo’s sculptural work, which is primarily concerned with the human body and Hannah’s, which she uses to explore concepts of cultural identity through sculptural design. Digitising their physical sculptural work and line drawings through photogrammetry allows them to have conversations through software, sending work back and forth to one another, adding and manipulating the object with each ‘reply’.
The most recent architectural designs have been influenced by a series of classical style buildings from places that the pair have spent time together; Edinburgh, Florence and West London. Using photo scans as their building blocks Hugo has created structures inspired by such buildings, Hannah then continues the design process, incorporating features more characteristic of Chinese Imperial buildings along with colour. The finished structures blend elements of Western and Eastern architectural designs, enabling them to have a sculptural, digital dialogue through which they have been able to communicate their own artistic styles and interests to one another. Hugo’s Website Hannah’s Website
Whowle by Harriet Davey Harriet Davey (She/Her) is a 3D Artist, Graphic Designer, and AR creator based across London and Berlin. Obsessed with questioning what it means to be fluid and human in a digital world: her work examines and interrogates the ugly and the beautiful; the maximum and the minimum; the online and the offline. Instagram
Freefall II (Rethinking Ruderal Ecologies) by India Stanbra Engaging with a world increasingly mediated by the presence of technology, my practice asks how our intimacy with the screen, and our relationship with the artificial might evolve and adapt in a posthuman context. Using 3D software to mimic and reconstruct moments from the everyday, my work explores the referential quality of digital imagery in its imitation of reality. I am interested in how the viewer encounters these simulated moments, speculatively exploring alternate modes of seeing and understanding. Website
Into The Wild Blue Yonder: Part 1 by Jake Major My work centres around an extraordinary curiosity towards the mountains of fictional and fantastical media that surrounds us all. Holding the belief that the endless heroic journeys taken by the icon’s of these imaginary worlds have been formative of my own identity and our culture at large, some time ago I assumed the alter ego of Don Quixote through my artistic practice. A maniacal nobleman, one who has lost their mind, endeavouring to revive the age of chivalry and heroism. Employing digital rendering software and video game engines, this virtual disguise allows me to insert myself into an unreal fantasy. To be a hero of my owncinemtaic universe and the master of my own video game land. Website
Pine Processionary by Jay Darlington Jay Darlington (22) is an artist based in Glasgow, Scotland, and a recent graduate from the Glasgow School of Art. Jay’s work aims to question the autonomy of virtual systems, doing so through the exploration of the barrier between our physical experience and the mythical powers of the signal-based information we digest: the internet, video games, and cinema. Through video installation and 3d printed/cast sculptural work, Jay focuses upon the idea that the virtual has locked us in a paradoxical state; we are seemingly stuck in an environment of hyper speed, yet in many ways lack any forward motion. Standstill. Website
Take me lightly by Jazeel Ameen Jazeel is currently in the midst of a storm figuring out how to accept/reject the non-affordances we aren’t vulnerable to as non-participants of the un-designed un-curated un-vetted experiences nervously hovering at the fringes of our lives. Currently working as an Experience Designer in the tech industry, the battle rages on as he attempts to advocate for interfaces which can hurt you unexpectedly (they’re trying to do their best!) and hopefully get you to cry yourself to sleep for abusing an elevator button. He was born and raised in Chennai and graduated with a Design degree from IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay. Instagram
SOFT SANCTUARY OF MINE by Joe Jack Chapman & Luke Thompson Uk based multidisciplinary artist whose work threads together speculative world building, digitally rendered matter, and physically archived material with the intention to broaden our ideas of companionship, playing and the cultivation of my own virtual ecosystem. Drawing reference from The Codex Seraphinianus, Satoshi Tajiri’s “Pocket Monsters”, Miyazaki’s fantasy worlds and organic occurrences in the nature. Each piece of work, whether a rendered animation, textile piece or inkjet print- expands upon this imagined ecosystem continuously, not driven by hardwired evolution but instead by digital experimentation. Instagram
But I Have My Gossips! by Johanna Saunderson Johanna Saunderson creates work that seeks to unearth intimacies between time, place and the more than human. Through moving image, sound and sculpture she builds environments that contain multiple perspectives and hold space for contradiction. Johanna is a 2020 graduate from Glasgow School of Art and currently participating in Wysing Arts Centre’s AMPlify residency, a learning programme using digital tools to create future visions of the world. Website
sunrise/sunset/all the god time by Kate Frances Lingard Kate Frances Lingard lives and works in Glasgow. At the moment, they are thinking about how to enact an ethics/politics of care within the digital commons. Working with digitally created images, objects, environments and playing around with programming, they hope to question systems that define how we act and live together. Recently, they have been working with friends and collaborators to discuss the possibilities and complexities of decentralised and distributed technologies as shared infrastructure. The work for Wretched Light Industry has stemmed from ideas of interdependency, reliance, exhaustion and illness using references to bodily systems as a way of understanding complex interconnectedness. Website
Plinths by Luca Guarino Luca Guarino is a multimedia artist based in Glasgow and Canterbury. In his work, he imagines unreal spaces where the interfaces and apathy of digital media pour into the physical world in ways that are at once seductive and uncanny, resulting in surreal works that invert images and objects’ relationships with each other and the viewer. This work is a meditation on an increasingly tactile digital media contesting the attention of the physical world and static image making. Instagram
The Land of Everythingness by Niamh Lynch Niamh Lynch uses situations found on Reddit relationship advice forums and builds upon them through scripts, monologues and fairy tales. A process notably similar to the growing trend of writing Fan Fiction online, something that allows people to project their own experiences or fantasies onto established fictional characters. A key influence on her writing is the melodrama found in Young Adult Fiction. By combining the desperation and longing expressed in this genre with the situations she finds on Reddit, Lynch moulds the existing scenarios into her own new narratives. The combination of real-life scenarios and melodramatic fiction blurs the lines of reality and fantasy, a distinction that is further blurred by the Reddit posts themselves, as there is no way to know if they are ‘real’ to begin with. In Lynch’s work there is no separation between humans and cartoons, with cartoon-like characters acting as vessels to explore complicated human relationships. These characters are disarmingly cute on the surface, with the childish aesthetic providing a thin veil to mask the sinister and melancholy subtext. Website
Threshold by Nicholas Delap Nicholas Delap is a Digital artist who explores wilderness, Post Humanism and re-wilding as themes within his artworks, creating immersive and other worldly virtual environments, sculptures and video installations. His work seeks to undermine the traditional boundaries between the Human, The Natural and the Technological. Instagram
Shinkokyu by nenemu.lab (Aubrie, Yurike, Sorutie) nenemu.lab is a diverse team of creatives based in Tokyo, Japan. Consisted of Aubrie (Visual Artist, Motion Designer), Yurike (Interaction Designer, Technical Specialist), Sorutie (Digital Designer, Illustrator), members are from Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore. We are young aspiring creators who use interactive media art as a contemplative platform to tell meaningful stories. Our narratives revolve around human nature, creating and opening up dialogues and perspectives on human vulnerabilities. The tools we utilize are unlimited: we play with 2D and 3D visuals, crafting, projection mapping, and any suitable materials and technologies. For us the journey of constant experimentation echoes with our creative growth individually and collectively. Aubrie’s Website Yurike’s Website Sorutie’s Behance
In Love with the Radio-Man by Oma Keeling Oma Keeling – Glasgow based artist and researcher. I work across mediums and am interested in the combination and glitches of the analogue and digital. My focus is on the boundaries of emotive communication, the language of games and play, and the difficulties of expression. Website
Charging Bull by Rebecca Gill Rebecca is based in Glasgow. Her research interests are currently centred around the distributive mechanisms of power in network politics and the means by which these structure social organisation in digital space. She has been writing and researching on value designation in digital spaces of knowledge production/ organisation, and the economic, social and political bases that influence the weight these values hold. Instagram
PLANTAESICA-C. by Sade Arellano & Ark Audio My practice shape-shifts between mediums across a network of digital alter-egos. In my work I attempt to investigate the collective experience of chronic human mortality bound in the matrix of advanced capitalism and technology, and attempt to deprogram and glitsch the mythology of dualisms (e.g Mind/Body, Organic/Synthetic, Digital/Physical, Internal/External). I do this through various forms of playing; I play with my food, with artificial intelligence, and language. My work and I exist mostly in the virtual plane, expanding and contracting around a constellation of digitally archived moments, histories and cultures. Both online and offline I create visuals, objects and sounds, and spaces that evoke a range of unfamiliar human emotions such as apprehensive happiness, ecstatic disgust, giddy confusion and existential lust. Website
genesis glade by Salvi de Sena Working primarily within 3D animation, sound and text; Salvi De Sena (b. 1998, Somerset) is curiously preoccupied with the enigmatic qualities of the physical elements through which we live. In his work, the geological strata beneath one’s feet and the charged atmospheres above become the imprint surfaces of unseen pasts and strange enmeshments of bodies and landscapes — melted whisper music of ethereal origins; dusts of primeval formations and creatures; and fossilised moments of queer desire manifest themselves materially and rise up to the surface of perception. Website
European Pastoral Landscape with Citizen by Sean Robertson Sean Robertson is an interdisciplinary artist interested in the manufacturing of social narrative and essence, investigating the construction of character through flesh, proxy, and dystopian universalities. Working across video, simulation, animation, installation, painting, and etching, he is increasingly pursuing collaborative performance works utilising new media. Website
TOO GUILTY by Soorin Shin I am Soorin Shin, not yet a cyborg, rather an analogue human celebrating the digital age. Feminism, racial discussions and environmental issues are integral to my practice. It takes its forms in digital and physical shapes: sculpture, installation, performance, graphic art, moving images, 3D modelling and 3D printing. Website
PHOSPHENE (DAY)DREAMS by Tasha Lizak
Tasha Lizak,(b. 1996), is a visual artist who lives and works in Glasgow. She graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2019, where she studied Sculpture and Environmental Art. Working across digital moving image, she endorses 3D softwares to construct spaces that are then used in videos, paintings, and prints, creating a network of works that are inherently intertwined. Interested in our contemporary ecology; an hallucinatory entanglement of multiple realms, logics, systems and ideas, her practice navigates through themes of the supernatural in coherence with our saturated digital culture. Since graduating she has been part of group shows at DeFormal Gallery (New York), Outpost Gallery (Norwich), and was selected for the Scottish Sculpture Workshop Graduate Award Residency (Lumsden). Instagram
The oracle by Zach Beech Zach Beech is a London-based visual artist and filmmaker. Working primarily in video and image making, his work uses a mixture of digital collage and 3d animation. Beech delivers his aesthetic of stylised photorealism through the use of real time graphics powered by game engines, and touches on themes of fantasy, political irony and the gamification of everyday life. Instagram
Jim Longden described the creation of his new film, To Erase a Cloud, as a “crash course in filmmaking.” It was the entire cast’s first time acting and Jim Longden’s first time directing, but he was determined not to let his lack of formal film education get in the way of his directorial dreams. At age 20, Longden managed to finesse the resources and support needed to make a low-budget short film work, and not without toughening his skin in the process. Now 21, he sees the film as just a stepping stone, but it’s a show of vulnerability and passion from both director Longden and first-time actor, Sonny Hall. The subject matter is heavy and handled with care but not timidity. In the end, more than just a crash course in filmmaking, To Erase a Cloud teaches a lesson about not letting uncertainty hold you back from moving forward.
The film’s effectiveness lies within its ability to maintain a sense of pain throughout its entire span; the pain is not only temporal through the consistent depression of protagonist Johnny Little, played by Sonny Hall, but also spatially embedded throughout the thematic and visual elements Longden employs. One of the themes Longden sprinkles throughout is the theme of falling- falling glass, falling vomit, falling ashes. The short film could be seen as being all falling action- a steady decline toward an ambiguous resolution. Just as the movie is all falling action, fallenness can be seen in the protagonist, who falls victim to an immeasurable and irreparable loneliness. The philosopher Martin Heidegger coins the term fallenness in an existential sense; as humans, we tend to run away from ourselves in order to avoid the anxiety that comes along with existential self-actualization. To face yourself is to face your past self while embracing your future potentiality. Fallenness, for Heidegger, stems from our inability to see our inevitable deaths as incentive to be completely engaged with the world and maximize our self-realization through our honest and direct interaction with our own lives.
Johnny Little, the film’s protagonist, is not fallen in an existential sense as much as in a traumatic sense. Longden chooses to keep this trauma unresolved for as long as he can, a decision maintained through camera motion and shot composition, as well as through Hall’s performance. The frequent frame within a frame effect used by Longden is perpetuated by the emotional distance Sonny Hall’s character embraces through his substance abuse and avoidant gaze. The distance between boy and camera and between gaze and lens maintains that fallen aspect while reiterating Johnny Little’s painful burden. I never once wondered when or why Johnny Little may recover from his pain, and that empathy I felt was not coincidental. Avoidance is inherently human, and that which we obsess over can also be the source of our drive toward running away from our emotions, our past, and our potential to grow. We avoid in order not to feel, even though oftentimes the only way to get to the other side is to go right through. I get the feeling that both Sonny Hall and Jim Longden have had to learn that lesson themselves by the end of the film, when hope glimmers from a source that will bring Johnny Little closer to facing his pain than he has been able to throughout the film’s duration. Longden’s use of frame within a frame lengthens the foreground of the shots and creates a lack of access between viewer and actor, which mirrors the internal inaccessibility between Jonny Little and his own situation. Using Hall’s expressive acting as a feedback loop, Longden is able to use the camera to create more empathy for the character than the unattached characterization of Johnny Little would be able to inspire on his own.
The film is a vessel for understanding the pain that Sonny Hall so genuinely and vulnerably depicts through his palpable headache and pained expression. His distress is captured through his movements and reactions, be they big or small. From Sonny Hall we get slapstick, explosive anger, and gentle emotional exhaustion wrapped up in a 20 minute glimpse into his acting talent. His performance is genuine and believable, and he throws himself into the character to an extent which reveals his trust in Longden’s direction and story-telling capability. Longden and Hall’s creative styles compliment each other like old friends, and the collaborative effort of the crew and post-production exhibit a huge amount of potential for this production team. Jim Longden’s To Erase a Cloud is a movie about obsession by a man who knows what it’s like to be obsessed- with filmmaking. The protagonist of the film runs from his own painful obsession, while Longden takes his obsession with his craft and runs with it. Jim Longden’s short film is proof that being under qualified is not the same as being unqualified, and that you don’t need permission to tell a story. You just have to believe in yourself, in the story, and in your potentiality. Creative self-actualization should be accessible to everyone, and the light at the end of the tunnel only matters to the extent that we can get up and run toward it.
What will you tell next year? will run for 5 months (January-May 2021) and accept 12 participants to independently or collectively make work around the intersections of the climate crisis. Proposals are free to explore futures, community, urbanisation, catastrophe/collapse, and other ecological concerns of the climate-changed present and future.
Themes will develop after proposals are submitted to help guide the participants. These projects will grow to find public form over the course of 6 months. The participants will meet with fellow artists, organizers, and chosen mentors to discuss their work in progress, share ideas, ask questions, and provide support to one another in culminating critiques as well as a final presentation.
My freshman year of college I took up boxing to let off steam. My hands would tremor uncontrollably for up to 24 hours after. Boxing was new to me and the force was a foreign feeling. That same semester, I was in drawing class with one of the hardest professors I’d ever have. She drank bulletproof coffee straight from a mason jar, wore red nail polish, and smelt of Le Labo. I fucking idolized her. She challenged me on every mark I made. Eventually, we transitioned to charcoal. “Squint your eyes,” she’d say, and I learned to see shapes as values and bodies as degrees of dark. She had an intuitive understanding of measurements and could always spot when my shit was off. If my line wasn’t proper, she’d have me measure it again and re-do my mistake.
I was so nervous to attend drawing the day after my second attempt at boxing class. My work, already disproportionate and fuzzy, would be even messier. Surely my professor would sip her bulletproof coffee in displeasure, frustrated with my ineptitude. Do I draft her an email? Let her know before class? I ran through my options. Eventually, I straight out told her.
“My work’s gonna suck today. My hands are all shaky from… boxing.”
“Well, lean into that”
That’s all she said to me. To use the shakiness. She’ll never know, but I pocketed that like a winning lotto ticket. I got a B in the class.
I’m half-laying half-sitting in my bed. The election runs its 20th hour and CNN flitters in the background. Biden has a slight lead. Does America mean something to you? I realize it doesn’t to me and maybe never did. I think of my friend Storm’s work for an exhibition class we are currently in. A giant faded and worn American flag covered in image transfers of 44 past presidents as little boys and teens. Young men with beady eyes and coins in their pockets to throw on the sidewalk. Someone’s son. Because it’s always someone’s son, right? Boys who snicker and lick their lips before tying their shoes. Faces on sons that aren’t our own.
In September, I had an assignment where I had to to sit and observe the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. While I was there, a man in a wheelchair raised his palm up to an image of a woman on a pearly tombstone, maybe his late wife. It’s possible her hand still met his all the way up until 2017. Flowers littered every decadent tombstone. It reminded me of how I would try to bring flowers to my Uncle’s grave over summers in New York. If I went over to my friend Dani’s house for a playdate, I’d make a point to first eyeball what old flowers I could swipe from my home, then I’d make a pitstop on Middle Patent Road to visit Uncle Willy’s grave. Three different times I placed three different types of flowers. First lilies, then pink lilies, and then forsythia. The lilies dried out too easily. Once, while visiting in the rain, I smoked my cigarette on the mound of earth. The flower pile never formed the way I wanted. On the side of Willy’s grave, it says “K.I.S.S.” Mom told me when I was younger that it meant “Keep It Simple Stupid.” I realize grave flowers last longer in Los Angeles.
Then, in October, I walked past the gutted storefront to the retail shop I had worked at until March. Knowing that it’s a privilege to miss the things that I miss doesn’t make me miss them any less. You remember the porch from the shop, don’t you? Where I used to sun my face on the stoop and eat honey crisp apples, the most interesting to eat. I’d commute for an hour and 25 minutes. A 48-55 minute metro to the downtown Santa Monica station, then the 1 Bus from Colorado, then the 4th to Brooks. Something scares me about forgetting those bus stop names, though I’m sure they’ve already forgotten me. Now an empty room to a shop once alive, I think my ghost lives there. It’s weird, right? How space can’t prove you were there once you’re gone. That the things I miss are things I mourn, too. Maybe what ties together everything I miss is that they were my very own and no one else’s. That I witnessed it, and it witnessed me. Lately I make images with only the sun. Without access to the darkroom at school and with the climbing expenses of film development, I just can’t be fucked over any more. I started making cyanotype images. So fun and simple, you can either pre-dye fabric or cloth and then expose your desired images. More tactile than the click of a shutter, I took to this process as a ritual. Everyday before my 3pm class, I’d be outdoors taping, constructing and exposing my cyanotype for the day. Eventually, I would get the light wrong. My compositions were leaky and underexposed, but mistake made me happy, an invitation to interrupt something that was once precious.
Background noise from CNN is still in my ear. There was a time when I was younger and I woke up from sleep with the walls reversed. The room was no longer mine, and when I searched the space with my fingers, the dark got darker. The room changed and never told me, but it was only perspective. My curious sleep-self shifting orientation in my sleep. I was reminded of this when a girl I went to high school with popped up on my newsfeed. The same girl would get frequent sport concussions. I remember her telling me she was so bedridden and light sensitive that all she could stand to do was sit in her room with the lights off and shades drawn for days on end. This kind of situation is a reverse camera to me. What is produced in place of an image is nothing. An image that eats itself. The one that can never be made. What happens when we cannot show proof? When the tree falls but you convince yourself that branch snap was a buzz notification instead? The act of witnessing can so easily float away if we do not first graft it to something. That is my attempt. My only goal. To stick to paper the wings of what I do not want flying off. I just need to tell myself there was proof. My mom told me over summer how she’d monitor my sleep as a baby. As a recently hired nanny, I expressed concern over putting the child down for nap time. How will I know when the child’s asleep? The last thing I wanted was a fussy toddler, roused awake by the clumsy nanny. One pointer finger under the baby’s nose to check for that small puff of breath, mom said. Evidence. I come back to evidence like cats do yarn; forever wrestling strings too tangled to weave, pining for clarity in space murky for all the right reasons. And maybe that is the point, that evidence is never linear just as witnessing is never reliable. But it matters to witness what matters to me. Mistaken marks, images I can never make, breath too soft to hear- I think of it all. Let that be evidence that it once was.