The first cool day, I drape my knotted body with old sweatshirt, cheap canvas sneakers, a dressing down I usually reserve for home
My period 8 days late, I am crying on the steering wheel, unable to allow myself to mourn my shoulders, how they escalate, how I need to pierce myself and drain the excess I am trying everyday to shove inside my skin like a sack of grains but, you know, the rotting kind
I buy makeup that promises glow or glimmer or another adjective I reserve for how fireflies were the only lanterns I knew for the first hundred years of my country life, how everything smelled electric and benches were jaunty wooden stumped hunks and how your porch leapt when it saw me drifting
Instead of glow, I gloom, dark but iridescent dunked gasping, my body on mute except the dreams where I open drawers of my dresser from college: cateye sunglasses, femme gear, things I haven't touched since I started to feel
In another, I am folding laundry still dewy with sunrise, the hammock a knotted metaphor for my clasped back, how I only jumped off of the roof that once, mattress leafed with autumn sparking bark, my legs collapsing into the swell of soft, my own swells still steeping along my hips, my hands, your hair, hideous fist I begged you to leave rattling in the pickup bed
If I could still play with space, I would
interview with zefyr lisowski
Hey there! I'm excited to have/start this conversation, and I'd like to lead with something we've talked about individually with each other several times—what does hybridity mean to you?
We're conducting this conversation both digitally and in person, and I know you've talked about the blurring of forms between essay/poem/memoir in your work. Certainly for me, in both my writing and my physical embodiment—and yours— there's a certain polymorphousness that I'm excited by, a refusal to, so to speak, check just one box. What does the idea of the hybrid mean to you? How is that shaped for you by digitality, disability, queerness, etc?
early 17th century (as a noun): from Latin hybrida ‘offspring of a tame sow and wild boar, child of a freeman and slave, etc.’
This little snippet gives me pause: a miscegenation of two unlike types.
To me, this dualism speaks to well/unwell; IDK that I'm OK identifying as "polymorphous," but I definitely feel that my writing is doing some of the work of embodying me.
There's some stuff I actually can't even speak about except in my work. As someone with sliding degrees of ability, depending on the severity of each oncoming illness flare-up, hybridity is a reminder of the weirdness of the liminal body I inhabit/have available.
Why does polymorphous feel applicable to you?
I love the idea of writing doing the work of embodiment, rather than the other way around. And the way that hybrid projects these meanings of coerced couplings and slavery is deeply unsettling to me, but also reminds me of why I find etymology so interesting: a way of forcing visibility of those violences that have been rendered invisible by day-to-day use. Thank you for drawing my attention to both of those!
For me, "polymorphous" is part of a project of weirdness, like you note, but it's also a way of making work against the ways in which trans and faggy self-representations have been historically constrained. I'm drawing my use of the word from Freud's "polymorphous perversity," the violence that medical gatekeeping, pathologization, etc, have writ onto bodies similar to my own.
I don't need to explain to you why Freud, like, sucks, but I find something exciting about using this language that infantilizes to refer to my own work, bending the box out of shape by claiming the words that made it. Of course, my ability to claim this language has everything to do with my whiteness, ability to present as abled, and so on. Yet still, I think reclaiming it can be important! Do you know the artist Greer Lankton?
Yeah, girl, you talk about her all the time.
I'm obsessed with her! She was a trans artist in '80s New York, but she made these enormous, mutable, life-size dolls out of scraps of fabric and wire--all kinda monstrous, gender-liminal, but also invested with this enormous care and tenderness. There's a photo of her that I think Nan Goldin or Eric Knoll took where she's sitting in a bathtub smiling, and all these dolls are hovering around her:
I love the idea of crafting other selves/forms as something both deeply eerie and kind, and hope to gesture to those same types of mutability—a polymorphousness, to return to Freud—in my own writing. There's this tenderness, but also sadness, in Greer’s eyes that I keep returning to. I think of poems (like dolls in many ways!) as bodies or imitations of bodies. As I’m building a piece, I think of what it would be like in three dimensions, what part of the poem would be the arm, what it would mean to feel that. Looking at Greer’s process helps me picture that in some ways, feel kinda less alone.
I'm deeply bored by ekphrasis and hope we don't start talking about that, but are there artists or non-writers that you channel in your own writing? What places, besides other words, do your words come from?
I have been working on a pop-ekphrastic series based on episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, which I binge-watched when I first got really sick in 2016. I began jotting down slivers of dialogue, and the off-screen narration from one of the characters (usually the titular Grey) that opens each episode.
I like the idea that we can articulate patterns and themes as they happen, which I know comes largely from my work as a writing consultant. This kind of meta-awareness of practice can lead to valuable insights about personal needs in creative projects: I work best on my phone with some tea and a heating pad.
It’s funny that I identify with the GA narratives about doctors and surgeries: I’m so suspicious of the cultural power that MDs wield, but I’m drawn to the intensity of the work as it’s depicted on the show. I waited tables for a super long time—and I loved it—so I harbor nostalgia for urgency, embodied laboring that I can no longer perform since my chronic illnesses have pulled me away.
Otherwise, contemporary poetry is super exciting. I’m constantly favoriting new issues of mags on Twitter and when I revisit the links, I’m like, I should have done this sooner. I also love Instagram meme accounts, although the form is so different from my own work. Something about the disregard for professionalism is enticing.
How/do you find shards of your writing practice showing up elsewhere in your life?
In my text messages, weirdly! Writing poetry has made me a better (or at least weirder) texter, and there's a constant transmutation between texts and poems, switching back & forth. I suspect this is true for most writers of this generation, though—it's really interesting to see how technologies are affecting writing, and I share your enthusiasm for memes as a similarly millennial way of wilding/queering form in these interesting ways.
Even though I think of myself as someone who is bound by the page in some ways—I started making visual art before I really started writing, and keep returning to the physicality of a watercolor brush or sturdiness of a pad of paper in moments of high stress—it's undeniable that digital technologies shape my writing. And that's something that I think is so important to talk about! How have computers, smartphones, etc changed the way we think, or write? In what ways can these changes constitute a queering? (You don't have to answer these questions if you don't want to).
But there's that word "shard" that you used, as well—I'm so interested in rupture and in my current work am looking a lot at different units of breaking—writing about holes, and decay, and glinting. How a thing shards apart. What’s left after the shard. What meanings do the break/shard hold for you or your writing?
That’s not weird!
I think of “shards” often lately: memories, snippets of conversation. I have late-stage Lyme disease, and especially when I’m tired or in pain, I feel much of my emotional and intellectual work appears as these “shards.”
I have an acute memory of hosting Nicole Steinberg, JD Scott, and Niina Pollari on tour in 2012 when I was running the Juniper Bends Reading Series back in Asheville, NC. Niina got up and read weirdly and fabulously off of her phone and I was like, done. I had never seen anyone read off of their phone, and it was such an intensely casual and confident gesture, and she did it in this astounding laid-back style that totally rocked my world.
Obviously, this gesture has become more commonplace, but Niina’s performance laid the foundation for me to start working on my phone: the aforementioned work on Grey’s Anatomy, my first book forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in 2019, much of my work towards my MA and now my PhD—all completed on my phone. I can lay on a heating pad and watch workplace TV dramas and write.
I tend not to tell my PhD colleagues about this behavior, but I do talk to my students at City College and Cooper Union about this, and about how lowering the stakes of *sitting down to compose* has helped me loosen up and experiment with weirdnesses that have always rendered me self-conscious in other writing spaces. I don't know that it's a queering, but it's definitely an important piece of student-centered writing pedagogy!
I'm all about this practice! I think it was you who turned me on to writing on my phone—it’s definitely lower-stakes, but also does weird things with form that I'm interested in. In a lot of ways, phone writing—for me—becomes sort of a box building process, the constraints of the screen (and you know my phone is tiny) a way to get in to the poem immediately, do some weird stuff, and get out. To that end, it's especially good for editing for me, forcing a kind of concision I don't naturally drift to.
I'm preparing to give a conference presentation on ecologies as we're emailing each other so I'm all over the place, but I'd like to conclude by thinking about how technology or writing intersects with our environments, too. My presentation and, like, two of the chapbooks I'm pulling together currently (like a typical Gemini moon, I'm always working on six too many things) is about ~trans becoming~ as a form of kinship-making with surrounding biomes—what it means to queer a body or queer a form of writing against the mass extinctions, etc, that are unfolding everywhere.
I know we're both vegan (which is boring to talk about—vegans, especially white vegans, as you know, suck) so we could obviously talk about animal rights in our poetry or whatever, but I'm deeply uninterested in that. Considering this instead, I'm wondering what it means for you to write environmentally. We're both from North Carolina, which is such a fecund state. For me, the greenery there—the Great Dismal Swamp especially, but the swaths of kudzu across the plains, the dogwoods flowering everywhere, Appalachia—is something that keeps me scrappy. I love those territories of becoming, wildness, and home, and I try to channel in my own writing.
But, of course, "nature writing" as a genre is marked by really intense ableism and also colonialism! So much of the "natural" world is glorified as a way of emphasizing nature writers' physical health, the ability of people or bodies to make do without accommodations. And, obviously, the creation of natural parks, preserves, etc, is an act of theft, stealing the land away from the poor, frequently Black and indigenous inhabitants who were already living there (to say nothing of the original thefts in the United States that happened as part of manifest destiny, etc).
So what I'm constantly trying to do is figure out how I can write about nature in the 21st century without glorifying any of these processes. I'm not sure it's even possible! But how do you connect with the physicalness of your home state yourself, avoiding those toxicities? How does technology intersect with that? I know you aren't even interested in writing about nature, but I see its shadow in a bunch of what you produce, especially how your first chapbook, Soft Switch, uses the moon as a framing device. Where does this sit within you?
You know, I’ve thought so much about how to I neglected to credit the Indigenous
knowledge of the moon that I relied heavily on in Soft Switch, and that's 100% my white privilege showing; we have the ability to ignore historical contributions by BIPOC to all forms of knowledge, but it’s especially pervasive in white *healing* spaces and social justice work.
I apologize for this tremendous oversight, and I commit to unpacking the white entitlement that allowed me access to this knowledge without giving credit to the folks whose labor I took for granted.
When I moved to the west coast, I began to feel my Southerness as I faced loads of anti-Southern language and ideologies (white liberal cities *shrug*). I began to dream of venus fly traps, dogwood & azalea blossoms, afternoon thunderstorms, and while I don’t especially work with the pastoral in my work, I definitely feel grounded in my North Carolina roots, and I know now that much of that ethos carries me through my work.
Roots are so important! Not just metaphorically—although that shit is definitely true—but literally, as well. I’m always trying to find inspiration in the ways plants suck up water, tether themselves, are buried in dirt, as a resistant strategy.
(Sad Spell Press, June 2017)
NW: For context, I’ve just watched a documentary on The Carpenters & am listening to them while writing this. I was wondering while reading your collection when it became just that: a collection. The poems fit alongside one another so well that it’s hard to imagine them without each other. Do you always keep your poems close to each other, or was it only through making a decision to create a pamphlet that you decided to bring them together?
FK: A cluster of poems in the collection (Annie, A 33 Year Old Man Is Obsessed With Me, Father, The Goddess) were written within a very short period of my life—the summer and autumn of 2014, when I had just graduated high school and was moving to another country. I was just realizing that the poems I was writing had a similar style and voice connecting them, so I started to compile them into Word documents together but not really thinking about getting them published as a collection. I tend to have documents with a few poems in them at a time that I think work well together, and then sometimes merge or switch out poems from those smaller documents as I edit them. I didn’t even decide that I wanted to publish those poems, plus newer ones I had written, as a pamphlet until around early 2016, when I was submitting IT FELT LIKE WORSHIP to a few different places and testing the waters to see if anyone would even be willing to publish it. And the collection I’m working on now has been largely the same way, with smaller collections of poems merging and growing as I continue to write and edit until what feels like a cohesive collection has been born.
NW: The way narration works is very interesting—it’s not always obvious who a poem is addressing (if anyone in the literal sense of the word). This is what makes the opening poem linger afterwards, the intimacy of the address to Annie. The first poem is great because there are so many images in which are refused later in the poem in different contexts, like, the “angel wings,” or “cheap ice cream.” Is this why this poem comes first? Is address something you think about when writing your poems?
FK: The notable thing about Annie, and the reason why that poem opens the collection, is that it is the only poem in the entire collection that is very clearly (in my mind) addressed to a real, singular, tangible person—my friend Annie. That poem is maybe the most honest, direct poem I’ve ever written just because every image in it can be traced to something real and physical that happened. I think because the images in it are so real and therefore visceral to me, and the events of that poem were a huge deal in my life at the time, I use those images in other poems as a sort of base and build on them. I put Sitting In Front Of Our Lockers In High School (a poem I wrote maybe a year after I wrote Annie, after I had distanced myself from high school and my life during it) next to Annie because of the recurring “angel wings” image that now meant something else to me but was rooted in the events and images in Annie. Later in the collection I have the poem Wedding Cake (“meat without salt/men without anger”) next to the poem Bones (“i am my own pestle eating the dust/of my self/butcher & lamb/a piece of meat/salted”), even though I wrote those poems a few months apart from one another, because the image of salted meat felt so significant. But I also didn’t purposely write those poems with the same image—it was very subconscious and a sign to me that these poems should become a collection.
NW: With regards to the themes which are explored and connected in so many great ways within the piece, I wondered of their relevance to your own life (if any) - I think particularly the religious imagery had this effect on me. It made me wonder what role religion has played in your life, if any, and how you feel about incorporating it?
FK: My relationship with religion is complicated by the fact that I’m still living within a religious world—my family is Greek Orthodox, and I go to church pretty regularly. There are a lot of aspects of this religion that disgust me, like how if you’re menstruating you can’t get communion, you’re not supposed to marry outside of the religion, etc. The trappings this religion have surrounded me my entire life. And like Catholic guilt there’s Greek Orthodox guilt. I went to a Greek Orthodox summer camp once and spent hours in the bathroom in the basement of the chapel just crying and crying. It’s something that permeates me profoundly and I don’t think I could ignore it in my writing. But I still feel bad—for lack of a better word, and also I think “bad” sums it up in a really childlike, black-and-white sense—when I write about religion, like I could get in trouble. Poems like Father and Being Adam/Being Eve were hard to write not because the ideas for them were hard to develop but because I lived, and still live, in an environment where you shouldn’t say anything bad about the church, because the church is your community and your life.
NW: I remember reading in a review of your work that you invoke within your work an “America” of “deep fried candy.” Maybe I’ve misremembered it. This being said, it is hard to read your writing without thinking about America and how it has been presented in poetry. Do you feel a weight, or responsibility, around writing about your “America” in this day and age? Do you think that when a poet writes about America (or a creative explores their own country as a theme) that there is an obligation to be critical? Did you write these poems with a particular “America” you wanted to invoke or did it arise?
FK: Most of these poems were written while I was living in England. I had never been out of America for so long, so it was easy to write about my experience of living in America while I was distanced from it. I think the way I write about America is affected most by the fact that I’m Greek American, and the way my parents and my grandparents are hesitant and often unwilling to consider themselves American—my mom is always saying, like, “Ugh, those Americans.” So I’ve never felt 100 percent American but also never 100 percent Greek. I’m critical of America mostly because of my upbringing, but I also attribute a lot of it to being from Chicago, which has made me aware of a lot of deeply embedded flaws in America that I probably wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise. Living in England, and also traveling throughout Greece for a month this summer, didn’t necessarily make me feel like being more or less critical of America, but I noticed issues of segregation, injustice, intolerance in those places because my eyes had been opened to those glaring flaws by living in America. The motif of “deep fried Oreos” comes up in a lot of my poems because I remember the first time I saw them at the Mall of America as a distinctly disturbing moment in my life, something so sickly and pallid that it was hard to look at, and harder to imagine to swallow. And living in America is sometimes like being forced to swallow.
NW: One of the main ideas I got from the work, and which I really “felt” was this anxiety around gender. Or how difficult it is to turn from a girl into a woman and I think the pamphlet inhabits the space between both of these things. One of the blurbs for your chapbook says that you “bridge girlhood and womanhood with beautiful imagery, attempting to balance loss of power.” Whereas, I feel like in the pamphlet the reader is sucked into that world of the in-between, toing and froing inside it, with no indication of which direction they are being pulled into (girl or woman). I’m thinking of your lines, such as, “the goddess of being hit to hard” and also the end of the first poem “we’d never admit it, Annie but it felt like worship.” So much of the female experience is self-punishment for enjoying the things that we know we shouldn’t enjoy (& also which reinforce negative stereotypes e.g., the woman who is asking for it. As someone who has written about BDSM it’s something I think about a lot). So my question to you would be, in what ways do you personally draw the line between what you want and what society wants? Not that it’s possible to do that but I suppose I’m wondering if you are writing this poetry to compensate it in some way?
FK: Identifying as a woman in the world is a lot like not existing at all sometimes. I never know what I should do or what I should say, what I will get in trouble for or what will be deemed acceptable behavior, so that I often end up not doing or saying anything. It’s so hard for me to draw that line, to identify who I really am, if that is anyone at all. I remember seeing a post on Tumblr that was like, “Virgos come back as a different person every time you see them.” I’m guilty of that, and I don’t know if that’s because I’m a Virgo or because I’m a non-cis-man in a patriarchal space. Something that I think about a lot, and something I think you can see in poems like This Is Hardcore (“my heart is/a trailer park/i’ll let anything/in”) and Not Mine (“but i/’m just how/u made me”), is this constant, constant lack of sureness and therefore a lack of self. And in the poem Swan I write: “contorting my bones/a swan nestled in itself”—our bodies doing the impossible, the unnatural; they’re soft, unformed, weak. Do I like being hit during sex? Do I like who I am? Do I know who I am? I don’t know if I do, and that’s such a loss of power that I struggle with throughout this collection and still/now/always.
NW: I think I would also want to ask what project you are (if any) currently working on? If there are themes you are not done yet exploring and if so what these are?
FK: I’m trying to complete a full-length collection of poems, tentatively titled Bittering. They’re more playful in form and maybe more daring than the poems in IFLW, but I think some of the themes are definitely similar: Trying to understand my own mind, trying to feel at home in my own body. Thinking about my family, my family history—my great-grandmother who had my Greek name (Euphrosyne, meaning “gleefulness” or “delighfulness”) died during childbirth. And the saint who we were named for disguised herself as a man to live as a monk. I’m writing about Princess Diana and thinking about Claudia Rankine’s quote from Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: “From behind a screen of smoke my grandmother says, We should all change our names when we don’t like what we see in the mirror.” Trying to figure out what I see in the mirror, why I don’t like it, what my name is/what I should change it to.
NW: Also what’s with these wedding cakes getting punched and knifed?
FK: When we moved into the house I lived in when I was younger, there were these holes punched and kicked into the walls and doors. And while we lived there, more holes got punched and kicked in. I was thinking of the home as a soft wedding cake, so easily damaged. And like Lisa Simpson in that episode where she destroys the cake that says “Happy Labor Day Lenny” out of pure hunger—my favorite scene in TV show history, maybe.
NW: ALSO: I feel like you must have had such a backlog of inspiration that went behind these poems. I wondered if there are films or music I could listen to which might add some more context to which I could bring to my reading of your work? Like footnotes I guess?
FK: My poem This Is Hardcore was indirectly influenced by the Pulp song/music video by the same name—the heavy, cinematic element of it and of being a fake, an actor in your own life even in the most intimate moments, and nothing is pure. I have a playlist I constantly listen to while writing that’s simply titled with the seashell emoji, which I picked because all the songs are kinda hazy and distant and make me feel like I should be half-sleeping at the beach, and being put in that mood improves my writing somehow. Some of the songs on that playlist are First Love / Late Spring by Mitski, Playground Love by Air (from The Virgin Suicides soundtrack), Spit on a Stranger by Pavement, Lost by Chance the Rapper, Velvet Ring by Big Thief, Nancy From Now On by Father John Misty, Yesterday by Noname, God Bless The Child by Billie Holiday, and I Can Dream, Can’t I by The Carpenters. The Carpenters are so great to listen to while writing because their lyrics, and Karen’s voice itself, are so celestial and poetic that it’s impossible not to be moved by them/it/her. I also listen to a lot of Dory Previn while writing (especially Beware of Young Girls, Did Jesus Have A Baby Sister, Lady With The Braid, With My Daddy In The Attic, Lemon Haired Ladies) because she’s such a bitter woman but also so gentle and forgiving and sensitive.
NW: I think Americana definitely hit me the hardest. I’m so glad you wrote that poem. Was there a particular idea behind it? Also the idea of a girl throwing up and walking on that sea—where did that come from? I think poetry is great because sometimes you get to see yourself in someone else writing. There’s that moment of recognition and connection which is forged. The thing is I never expected to recognise the part of myself which I saw in Americana and it made me feel powerful.
FK: I was on vacation with my family in Florida and it was so hot and I couldn’t sleep one night and heard the sounds of the dryer and the air conditioner and thought for sure someone was going to murder me. I felt so trapped and was thinking of all the institutions that make me feel that way, mostly religion and men. Which are so intertwined. And I was thinking about all the times men have treated me like dirt or did things to me that I didn’t know if I wanted or not and I stood there and did nothing. I think the reasons I called it Americana were that I was in Florida, which feels like an absurd and concentrated form of the rest of America, and that I was thinking about American Girl dolls and being an American Girl doll. But I’m also glad that you recognized yourself in it, and I love that through a loss of personal power there is still power to be regained somehow.
NW: Also I wondered (well I think we’ve had a similar conversation before) that if you associated yourself with a body of water, would it be the sea? I’ve recently come to the realisation that I am a well. Jokes. I would also here refer to a lyric in Jamila Woods song LSD in which the chorus is “you wanna love me/ better love the lake.” I heard that and was like, yeah.
FK: I just listened to that song for the first time and it was amazing. She’s from Chicago so I’m 99% sure she’s referencing Lake Michigan and the highway that goes along the lake, Lake Shore Drive (LSD). I love the lake but I prefer the sea, with all its salt. It burns and it can hurt, it’s rough and horrifying and sad, it’s filled with writhing things, it has its moods, but it demands respect. The ocean is my role model. Also, doesn’t being depressed feel like drowning in an ocean more than anything else? Like the ocean is within you and you’re drowning in yourself. That’s how it feels to me.
Get a copy of IT FELT LIKE WORSHIP here.
casper connect by tubafresh
Cover Art by Aronow
Photo Credit, from left to right: Lindsay Slay, King Texas, Bruce Kung
1. First off, who are we speaking with? If there's one thing we need to know about you, what is it?
You're speaking to Chanell Crichlow from tubafresh. I guess one thing you should know is that I'm a leo so my birthday is coming up!
2. My music review vocabulary is limited, so I won't pretend I know what I'm talking about in terms of fancy lingo. What I can say is that your music moves me immensely and I feel at home in it. What sorts of feelings do you hope to invoke within your fans when they listen to your music?
Thank you so much! I hope that folks feel like they can explore themselves and their emotions especially with feelings that don't easily come out. Casper Connect is really about letting go of all these expectations and building pressure and just releasing it and moving on to focusing on you.
3. How personal is your creative process? What parts of it do you find yourself revisiting the most?
The process is extremely personal. I'm the kind of person that works well not pushing the music out, so mostly I spend my time experiencing and living and letting things come up when they want to. I think that just generally lies within my own eternal clock and when sadness or happiness or love comes over me or when I actually want to express it. Sometimes I'm writing songs of feelings or things that happened like 5 years ago or when I was a kid. I find myself mostly revisiting love, past relationships, being a black woman and a queer masculine of center woman growing up in a West Indian family. These all seem to be rotating themes in my life, ha!
4. What did you do yesterday? Did you enjoy it?
Dang, well yesterday I hung around the house with my sweetheart and watched Glow. A little bit later we wen to a cute place on Atlantic avenue in Brooklyn called Bijan's and then schelped out to Williamsburg to see the fireworks. I enjoyed everything but trying to find parking in Williamsburg. It was a good day.
5. We love the new single, "Casper Connect". Can you give our readers two pieces of insight about it?
When I wrote this song I was bottling up a lot of emotions and felt like I just had to get through the days, months before I can really make the time to get to them and work things out. It went through different forms and changed up to the very last minute and just all came together. I took a different approach with this song and played almost every instrument on the track besides drums and trumpet, it was really fun to do.
6. You wake up tomorrow and things are suddenly perfect. Describe the world around you.
Maxine Waters is president, my mom, my sweetheart and me are in Trinidad on the beach drinking rum and coke and eating crab and dumpling. Solange and Toro Y Moi share the same stage and I have tickets. No one's posting selfies and queer black people are everywhere I go.
7. What does the future hold for you, musically and/or otherwise?
I'll be putting out more music and visuals, and am excited about doing some collaborations with all kinds of artists as well.
8. Pick a prominent moment in your life that you're comfortable sharing with us (good, bad or seemingly insignificant). What happened? Are there any sensory details that have stuck with you? How does it influence you today?
My granny passed this spring. I think about her a lot...I think about not seeing her before she passed, how she raised me and so many others, how she loved so blindly and selflessly. She was a great woman and sometimes I call Trinidad and want to ask for her, surprised she hasn't answered the phone. It's a crazy feeling of loss and not really knowing how to deal with it and how to understand it. I'm tearing up right now. It's a reminder to see people, really see them and love them. Today, that simple action is way too hard for most of us to do.
9. What's the coolest thing about you?
The coolest thing about me? Hmm, well I love my culture and my people and I think we are dope and have so much beauty on so many levels. So I guess the answer would have to be, all of me.
They say, this is not incongruous. To my taste is quite pleasant, though. Such colors are spread in organic environment. Wrapped in raisin elegance with the brand new thirst. Cannot afford. Still late to early pretentiousness. Wandering around that bleached, remember it in purple juice! Streamed away for fertilization of new ethereal sprouts. No expectations, ripening by touch, the gazes are vanishing. As if in jest, with bare steps on serene day, the plisse folds flutter. Hardly touching the paving strewn with pollen, scarf flows after the emerald lisps. Whatever unknown bites have turned into forgetful with a bloom of fragile amethyst. Where did he get that disgusting chocolate jumper? Should be silver now. Fragrant apparel weaved from lacy peonies with strew of spice of smiles haggard with confuse. This scent has no age. Put it on and wear the whole day. Everyday. All year round.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What inspires you to create? Where and when do you feel most comfortable? Who or what inspires and influences you?
Stereoprimitive! Yes, you are! Finally, I have the voice. Isn't it fame? Thank you, Sea Foam Mag! It is only the 4th interview, yet, I bet they are already controversial (I should probably start to encript secret messages in the interviews)! Each time I dig and manage to bring out some gems. Kidding. Only intestines.
I'm a genius, who isn't? The force is a curse, inspiration - voluntary prosecution. Since very childhood I was quixotic, allergic to practical stuff: messed with colors to invent a new one, staged a ghost puppet show, walked on stone surfaces and picked up dry insects for the sacral beauty sake! Same shit, different day. Still collect rocks from my habitats to whisper the stories when I move. Comfortable? Seriously?
2. Where do you live? What are some significant traits of your surroundings (geographical, immediate and/or environmental)? How do they influence you?
Everywhere and nowhere, literally. The plan is to settle down. As an enlightener, I carry my luggage of kilograms of magazines, wreckage of conceptions and essences for the coloring. I chase the opportunities to grow and contribute (when I have a visa of course, my origin comes from the third-world country environment, and being a freelancer doesn't add much to the stability). Almost every encampment leaves a scar, vine stain on the mind-map, wrinkle or sketch and bouquets of stereotypes to work on (carefully fold and dry them, gently dissect afterwards).
3. Love the description of "Overage". Is there a personal feeling or situation that you can relate it to? if you had to describe it in one sentence, what would you say? What do you hope viewers take away from it?
So far art was produced by humans - it is infected with personality of the author. The series is the incarnation of an outdated pattern. It is not only about trendy-brandy fashion, mostly about aging and conversion. I collected several herbs to grow mould on them, extracted them with oil, and only then composed these collages, took pictures; the original is gone. Quite ephemeral (mail me for the protocol and on my 100th anniversary you can make such an installation). In one sentence - watch your petals. It’s all in the posture, liquid elegy I would say, the image appears as retro to us. Have we overgrown them? Is it just a memory? Whatever the viewer can find, poetry or bacteria - that’s the feed!
4. Are there any recurring themes or messages in your work or is each series its own message? Why?
I don't create collages*, rather meanings. There are plenty of pics around. The high mission is to invade minds with ideas, inject intracranially. To share the aid, to overcome the borders, frames… cages. In my case, visual aid. I’m still concerned that decoding is available only for sighted. Somehow my method intertwines with the digestion and appetizers. The common thing that is easy to approach and communicate through it, two-way as well. Look at this juicy lemon, smell the refreshing zest scent and oops-poops! *Lita spreads to various mediums - author's note.
5. How do you feel about the future? What are you hoping for from it, tangible or intangible?
The curve of marshmallow beaver tends to replace the agender cockroach! No one knows. I'm fine-tuned, empathic. Can be split into 10 engineers - too much vibes and impressions to distribute. Jalapeño-woman! The hot filling. The future, huh? Scared as a lady bug and calm as a stuffed seal - either fly from bloom to bloom or enjoy digestion. As an artist I think it is time to establish a holiday - "in honor of those who did not kill themselves" (according to some statistics, creative field is the leader in suicide rating).
6. There is no question (Lita just wants to throw up a word on the routine). Have you ever seen gipsy plumber? Street chemist-jugglers? Programmers that beg you to read the code from your palm?
Whereby musicians, actors, artists are the ambassadors of culture, the future heritage, prestige. I elitistically starve and my loan is close to a medic or layer student one. The buns and a good slut are always in need! Nowadays these "follow a dream speculation" just messes people up. Follow the common sense and save up! Artists are totally out of the system (even in Finland, one of the most civilized Nordic countries, the article in local paper said that only 3% of artists live on their artistic income). Welcome to the bloody shows where you can not only entertain, but also learn and suck from the energy share!
Creators produce unique matter – Archimedes’s principle (he may be not a real person, anyway, people love fairy tales) could be discovered and, for sure, would have been by someone else. Authors’ ambrosia is unique!
7. What is the most beautiful thing you can imagine? And the most unpleasant?
You`ve seen my creatures, I can imagine the whole universe. The question is sweet, thank you for asking. I suppose, the cocktail of beauty and disgusting that we are surrounded by: pinch off a piece of flesh, grind an amethyst, shed the light that pierces the ocean, leaf of melissa, acridity of pineapple, greed and bacteria on the tip of a knife. Leave to infuse.
WHAT IS GIRL PLUS ___?
"girl plus ___ is a project that aims to explore spaces & the women that live there. i started this photo series as a way to share my girl gang with the world. all of my friends were doing really incredible things, spreading light in their own way and fulfilling creative endeavors that spoke to them, and it felt like someone outside of our circle should know. it’s a cool thing to create a little corner of the internet for “your kind of people,” and then make connections beyond that. definitely something i had not taken advantage of prior to this project!
i really hope that with these photos and interviews, readers/viewers can visit the world of each person, make connections, bridge the gap, and hopefully see a little bit more of their own potential in the process. what started as a fun side project has become much more purposeful, and i’d love to keep moving in that direction. as always, i’m super thankful for each visitor and whatever impact (if any) these stories have on their lives. my beginning statement has always been the most important truth of this project and i think it’s the best way to give you the gist: we embrace both the mundane & the extraordinary. each person is a tiny, incredible star in the universe. "
EXCERPTS FROM GIRL + BROOKLYN
head over to http://girl--plus.com/ for more photos and interviews from brooklyn, austin, manhattan, dallas and san luis obispo.
at the whitney museum of art, meatpacking district, manhattan
i spent my first month in new york roaming around the city aimlessly, totally solo and without a clue. enter christina: the saving grace i met one sunday after church who heaved me out of my solitude and into the frenzy that is her nyc social life.
christina is currently in grad school at colombia studying arts administration, & she'll probably be running coachella and acl one day so keep an eye out for this one...she's rad.
"After working as a fashion/lifestyle publicist for a couple of years, I decided I needed a change. So I went back to school. It has been amazing. I feel like I'm exploring new interests and possibilities I had never considered. I am excited about the future. However, having to do homework after thinking I was done with that part of my life can be annoying, but it's only for a short time. I'll deal."
where are you from? I spent my formative years in Cincinnati, OH, but I also claim Houston, TX and Richmond, VA. It depends on who I'm talking to.
what do you do? I am a graduate student at Columbia University studying Arts Administration, which is basically a nonprofit business management degree with a focus on the arts. I'm hoping to work in music festival planning and programming one day, but recently I've been obsessed with idea of working at the Brooklyn Museum or BAM.
style is...mixed prints, bright colors, funky African prints.
i start every morning…by checking my horoscope. If it's positive, it's like a pep talk. If not, I'm like these are all lies! Haha
one thing i couldn't live without...my planner. I'm a Virgo...
3 women i admire: Erykah Badu, Solange Knowles, and Cipriana Quann of Urban Bush Babes on the basis of their style.
i am most well-known for...being the social coordinator for my friends. I really enjoy bringing people together.
vintage is...for mixing with new pieces.
i like it when girls...can accept a compliment without feeling the need to reciprocate or deny it. It really is an art.
i like it when guys...are feminists.
lipstick...should be bold/make you feel bold.
the best outfit i ever wore...navy loose top with white polka dots tucked into my favorite high-waisted paisley pants with black booties. I wore it to the BK Museum Artist Ball recently, and I got compliments all night long. I felt like the belle of the ball.
everyday…is a new day.
the best thing about Brooklyn is...diversity. Diverse neighborhoods, diverse people, and diverse things to do. I can't get enough.
currently reading: White Teeth by Zadie Smith
currently listening to: Mean Lady, Tei Shi, and Tennis
favorite phrase or quotation: "You are who you think you can't be."
i'll never forget...the day I moved to Brooklyn. August 16, 2012.
i'll always...have my nose ring. I'd feel naked without it.
at her home in greenpoint, brooklyn
joy is defined as "a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated; elation." i think it's safe to say that, for anyone that knows her, joy is so far living up to her name. no small feat!
truly, i've never met anyone that is so full of life and laughter. it's easy to photograph someone with so much gusto and i couldn't have enjoyed my visit to her home more. thanks for having me!
"I have filled my room with things that make me happy. I like to call it my Tacky Nightclub. I have weird things everywhere, pink flamingos, SNL prints, a 7’ inflatable shark, a disco ball and a whole ton of color everywhere in between. You can find wigs and costume pieces under my bed just in case there is a parade outside that I need to run out and join.
It feels pretty good to wake up every morning under a disco ball. I don't want my main environment to be serious. I want to laugh and for it to feel like it’s truly me, so a jumbled mess of crazy things that somehow maybe work together. It helps me feel more creative. I like how bright it is. My mood lifts when I’m in it. My whole apartment is like that though, bright. I don't have a closet and I used to not love that all my clothes are hanging on a rack in my room, but now I love it. It’s like art, but I get to wear it everyday. My favorite thing about my place though, is the amount of people that are in it. I feel like it is a great place for friends to come and hang and laugh. I always wanted to have a place that friends want to come to and now I think I do. So come over anytime!"
where are you from? Germantown Hills, Illinois.
what do you do? Wardrobe for film/ tell dumb jokes.
style is...whatever you feel like so that you are no longer naked
i start every morning…telling myself to freakin get out of bed already Joy!!
one thing i couldn't live without...deodorant (being honest here).
3 women i admire: My mom, Tina Fey, My past professor Dr. Brunson.
i am most well-known for my...very loud voice…and laugh.
vintage is for...everything but underwear.
i like it when girls...are unafraid to tell risky jokes.
i like it when guys...laugh at those jokes.
lipstick...I start with it on, but somehow it never stays.
the best outfit i ever wore...I have one of those very large t-shirts with a bikini painted on it, whenever I wear that and roller blades, I feel pretty damn good.
everyday…I watch something that will make me laugh, most likely an SNL clip.
the best thing about greenpoint is...the amount of old polish men always drinking on their stoops.
currently reading: Yes Please by Amy Poehler.
currently listening to: Killin the Vibe by Ducktails.
favorite phrase or quotation: “Life’s short. Stunt it.” –Rod Kimble aka Hot Rod (and every other line in that movie).
i’ll never...say no to ice-cream.
i'll always...stop for ice-cream.
in greenpoint, brooklyn
tiffany: one part production coordinator, one part editor, one part creator, all parts texan. she's a fellow austin ex-pat turned new yorker, incredibly busy 24/7, and has a funny obsession with this chris isaak music video (it's fantastic, if you were wondering).
she's also the creator/editor of voyeur, a personal project that takes a look at the daily lives of people via disposable cameras, so she's no stranger to the film game. lucky us...
name: Tiffany Diane Tso
where are you from? Texas!
what do you do? I work in production for PHHHOTO and am the Features Director for LADYGUNN Magazine.
style is...better than fashion.
i start every morning...by trying to bargain with my alarm clock for more sleep.
one thing i couldn't live without...laughter.
3 women i admire: My grandmother, for raising six children of her own and still having the generosity to take two more in. My mother, for coming to this country without much and making a career for herself. Women writers.
i am most well-known for my...disgusting humor and tiny hands.
i like it when girls...are chillers.
i like it when guys...are Southern.
the best outfit i ever wore...was probably patterned.
everyday...is the worst/best.
currently reading: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
currently listening: to a lot of Wiz Khalifa.
favorite phrase or quotation: "From my rotting body, flowers will grow, and I am in them, and that is eternity." - Edvard Munch
i’ll never...smoke cigarettes.
emma is a writer & photographer currently living in new york city.
you can see more of her work here: www.emmacbanks.com or say hi on instagram, @emmacbanks.
1. Pick a photo you've taken that represents you best. Why did you choose it?
That's a very tough question. I'd like to think there is one photograph that instantly gives you an idea of what all my pictures will be like, but I take such a variety of photographs, so it's difficult to pick one that truly represents me. If I had to pick one, it would be the green camper van with the red scooter in the foreground (top row, far right). The reason being that it's instantly familiar, because everyone knows a vw camper van when they see it, but it's very unfamiliar at the same time; the road, pavement and trees that frame it all look very tropical. I suppose it's a bit of a metaphor for how it feels to arrive in a new country.
2. What are the two most influential experiences you've had while taking photos?
3. What's your favourite camera? Why?
My Canon AE-1. Firstly, it looks beautiful; it has a very classy design that I love and it’s weight gives it an extremely good quality feel. It has survived quite a few drops, bumps and bashes over the last couple of years and still works perfectly. There are a number of good quality lenses available for it, which makes it really versatile, so it's always my go-to camera. On top of all that, it can make some wonderful photographs. Even the bad ones sometimes have a bit of hidden magic in them that you don't get from other cameras. Oh, and the “CHICKA” it makes when you take a photograph is very satisfying.
4. Do you find that it's easier to find different perspectives while specializing in travel photography because you're constantly immersed in unfamiliar environments?
Most definitely. It's easy to get comfortable in a familiar environment and take the features around you for granted, no matter how astonishing they may be. I live in Edinburgh, one of the most picturesque cities in the world, but I often have to remind myself to actually take photographs when I'm here. Although when I visit a generic small town, I suddenly have the urge to capture everything in my sights. The moment your brain registers something for the first time is the best time to get creative with it.
5. Some of your photography is fairly abstract. Do you have an idea of what these images are going to look like while you're shooting them or is developing the roll just sort of a pleasant surprise?
I suppose the beauty of film photography is that you never really know exactly what you're going to get, whether you're searching for the abstract or not. I will plan some of the shots to a degree and the more I experiment, the more I learn what to expect.
Some of my favourite abstract pieces were entirely accidental and I have no recollection of taking them at all.
6. Lastly, why is photography important (both to you and as a general art form)?
Photography is important to me because it gives me an opportunity to capture my own perspective and share it with others, I also appreciate other people's photography as it gives me the chance to see their unique perspective. It is endlessly interesting to me that different people can capture the exact same thing in so many different ways. That's what it all boils down to for me.
Manuel is a photographer hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland. Favouring 35mm film, he takes his camera anywhere he thinks may be interesting and is recognized for his travel photography, particularly around South East Asia and Australia. His photographs are not always clear, crisp and easy to decipher; he chases the abstract by using bizarre development and exposure techniques, and has a love for expired film.
Manuel's photographs have been featured in two recent exhibitions:
Analogue Photography Exhibition (Scottish Fashion Creative Network) July 2015 @ The Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh
Life: only happening once, February 2016 @ Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
Find Manuel on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.
Check out his photozine here!
'Is that the 1995 Final Four?’ Naw, that’s Inglorious Basterds. New rap name: fauxwoodmarcus. RNN: real nigga number. All ghetto passes should have an identifying RNN, to keep track of membership. To gather my thoughts before leaving I kick around a stool w/ my foot. The legs are silver & drop straight down curving into a 90 degree angle looping around conjoining into a blocky C. I kick it onto its side & rest my knees sorta uncomfortably on it, rocking back/forth. Sky filters everything a metallicy rapidwater blue. Can’t go down stairs slowly w/ these young ankles. I think I move pretty fluidly eeem though it borders carelessly loose. I know the way my body wants to move & I listen to it. I’m tryna get the message out to FREE HIM to the chiir’n. 2/3: I notice I always have to be holding an extremity, whether it’s each hand holding one another or my left hand grippin my lower left thigh w/ my right leg draped over. Holding my wrist or whippin the yams. Anxiety fleeing my body. Get that shit outta my house. Some IPAs taste like dirt or soap & I fw that. Thought about my relationship w/ going out. Naked in my room after getting caught in rain. It was awful until it resembled an endurance-testing obstacle course. You’re gonna have to hold some Ls either way so accept it. But I weave thoo umbrella’d people under awnings, dodge dripping streams & single self-conscious droplets under scaffolding, considering swinging from corroded beam to beam like monkey bars. My body’s not muscular or cut but if you study its gesticulations I think it proves we have a loving & affectionate relationship.
we tried to video chat but connections failed us, so skype messenger it was:
[16-06-19 11:06:04 AM] msw msw: it's all frozen & staticky on my end, i can't eeeem hear you. we can just message here if that works for you.
[16-06-19 11:07:51 AM] sydney mcneill: Sure - that sounds good! Do you have a particular time of day, place, environment etc. that you find really conducive to writing?
[16-06-19 11:10:21 AM] msw msw: for me it used to be that I had to sit in my room to write in silence. recently w/ these flash-memoirs I'm actually out on the go taking notes when I'm out to really capture the moment. my recent writing is very moment based & exists as sort of a brief flashes & i wanna capture it at the time i feel it to capture it's authenticity. this has made anywhere I'm at a sort of writing environment for me, which I'm not used to but experimenting w/.
[16-06-19 11:16:49 AM] sydney mcneill: Cool! The reason I really wanted to do this interview was because I really liked the idea of the flash-memoirs. Part of the reason I wanted to start Sea Foam was to break down stern age-old genre barriers/formatting also to challenge academia in the art community, all of which can be fairly restricting. Not that there's anything wrong with academia - it's just developed this sort of… superiority complex in a lot of communities which I think could and should be challenged. The idea of this stream-of-thought lyrical documentation of everyday life is really neat and doesn't necessarily subscribe to a genre or conventional style of writing. What inspired you to start doing it?
[16-06-19 11:21:08 AM] msw msw: oddly enough I've been doing it for years. the idea first kinda spawned itself in november when i started working on this memoir of text messages. i always like texting people as practice for writing—but then i realized wait this IS your writing. it's the way i communicate, that's why there's that subtle slang, nicknames, etc. for my whole life I've been writer & for so long i tried to write conventional prose which is still cool & i like to do it's just not necessarily my style. I've never been one for convention. once i started considering this style i was working w/ & develop it it all naturally sorta fell in place. the rhythm came naturally & the whole 350 word max was just an arbitrary guideline that helps me keep it flash-like. people responded so positively that i abandoned all i'd previously been writing & work on this unnurtured voice.
i became obsessed w/ the idea of memoirs & recording your life & the realization that everything you really do in life is part of your memoir, your personal story, & i have crazy ADD a bunch & so much of this world w/ the internet revolves around getting information fast & moving on to the next shit that i thought the length & rhythm of these pieces was relevant.
[16-06-19 11:26:31 AM] sydney mcneill: It definitely is. I think a lot of people use writing as a tool for self-discovery and time preservation, which is so important to sanity sometimes. Have you submitted to many publications? Do you plan on or hope to publish a collection?
[16-06-19 11:26:50 AM] sydney mcneill: fg
[16-06-19 11:27:04 AM] sydney mcneill: The cat is typing...
[16-06-19 11:27:08 AM] sydney mcneill: She's a handful
[16-06-19 11:29:14 AM] msw msw: tell the cat i love her.
in the past I've submitted just short stories to publications. I've submitted these FMs to only a few: you, el balazo press, & I'm currently working on a lil ep of 4 FMs (like 500 words altogether) as a mini collection to spy kids review. so I'm just starting to get my feelers out here w/ these.
i am currently home for both my parents birthdays & I'm writing a collection. these early collections will be very short which I'm totally okay w/. like 3000 words altogether but again i just like how brief it is. firs the aesthetic.
a bigger collection could be down the road fa sho. i write these flash memoirs every day w/ the intent to lose them because that's how memory works in my eyes. so i'll probably have close to 200 by the end of the year. some are unpublishable & exist as just a reference of time/place/emotion & are like one phrase or a word of two. w/ the FMs I'm tryna capture the emotion of the moment most & what i was thinking instead of the actual event. i wanna be able to look back & see exactly where i was at in my head.
[16-06-19 11:32:32 AM] sydney mcneill: The cat says thank you and knocks over my coffee...
[16-06-19 11:34:35 AM] sydney mcneill: I love El Balazo and Spy Kids Review! We're in good company. That's great - a lot to be working on. How long are you home for? And where are you living currently?
[16-06-19 11:35:46 AM] msw msw: i am home in kansas city missouri for 10 days total, only halfway into my trip. i currently live in new york city
[16-06-19 11:36:57 AM] sydney mcneill: Wonderful. I write poems daily and have been for years, so can sort of relate. Sometimes they're really really awful, but it still feels good to put something down on paper that documents a moment in time that is significant to me in the now. Do you find that sometimes you look back and roll your eyes a bit at former selves?
[16-06-19 11:39:22 AM] msw msw: oh yes oooh yes. i'll look back at even something i wrote last night & think where the fuck are you at? haha. it's less of an eyeroll most of the time & is more like a deep appreciation of having grown as a person. we're all constantly changing & shit.
the significant to the me of now is an important feature w/ these so i can relate. just an honest portrait.
[16-06-19 11:42:48 AM] sydney mcneill: Absolutely. I'm almost out of questions but I have a couple more. What are you proudest of? How do you see yourself growing and improving as a writer over time?
Oh, and also, is there anything particular on your mind that you want to say? I like features to be basically whatever the person I'm interviewing wants them to be, so if there's anything writing related or otherwise that you want to share, feel free to say so.
[16-06-19 12:03:01 PM] msw msw: I am most proudest of the person I'm becoming actually. i have spent all my life working towards being the type of person who is the embodiment of empathy & helps people & is a solid friend & who people can trust & count on. the process of really getting to know myself has bettered my writing tenfold because of the confidence it brings. & that shows in my writing a lot. over time I'm not sure how i'll improve. I'm not a person who has hella long term plans (this is because i used to be very controlling of situations up until 6 or 7 years ago, related to heavy anxiety, & i let go & started to be spontaneous & therefore i like to keep the future unpredictable) but I'm excited because i'll continue to grow as a person & hopefully that'll translate. i want to just keep the skills sharp, take days as they come. something i did kinda wanna say: these flash memoirs are designed to not only be shorter & readable but overall accessible. so much of that collegiate/academic attitude as you said can be a lil constraining & obsessed w/ conventionality. i have a strained relationship w/ academia. i have no degree because i couldn't pay for school myself & get loans & all that shit & because of that, on paper at least to some, i feel like people think I'm uneducated & under-qualified & lowkey stupid. i wanna write because i have a unique voice like everyone & i shouldn't be judged for the shit i COULDN'T do as much as the shit I'm doing. i wanna let people know that there are more avenues to express yourself & if you find your own comfortable lane you should fw that. you like what you like & you is what you is. I want to just pour empathy over the world & shit essentially. I'm not sure if my writing work has gotten there yet, to that point where people are consuming sans judgement or preconceived notion, but I'm working on it. something to look forward to fa sho.
AN INTERVIEW WITH EMMA AHLQVIST
1. some of your illustrations are based on novels. we're huge bookworms, so are wondering who some of your favourite authors are and why? how does literature serve as a creative prompt for you?
I have a strong interest in literature and I love working on design and illustration projects that is inspired by fiction. When I illustrate a book I like to focus on the atmosphere or theme rather than a specific scene. One of my favourite books that inspired an illustration project a couple of years ago is White Noise by Don DeLillo. I love the humour, the dialogue and how it reflects on postmodern life. I also read a lot of Swedish books and I don’t know if many of them are even translated into English. One of the most originally beautiful books that I know is Sweetness by Torgny Lindgren. It is a story about two brothers who no longer meet or speak. They are both very ill and dying and hate the other one with a vengeance. The language is extremely considered and beautiful at the same time as it describes things that are so repulsive that you almost want to put down the book. It would be a great challenge to illustrate.
2. we see you have a graphic novel coming out in 2016. can you tell us a bit about it?
The title of this book is still to be confirmed, but it is a story about a girl who has recently finished school and still lives at home with her dad and sister in a small town in the middle of the forest. She spends a lot of time writing on her blog and dreaming of being discovered by someone. She wants nothing more than moving away to a big city. It is about mundane, everyday life, and how we all think we need to grow up to become something special. I didn’t actually know what a blog was when I was the same age as the character but I guess it is still inspired by my own experiences growing up in a small village in the south of Sweden. I am self-publishing the book and I will start selling it at ELCAF in London on the 10th of June as well as on my website. Keep your eyes peeled.
3. you're also a photographer - what is your favourite camera? what sorts of objects/subjects catch your eye?
I love to document places and environments, focusing on the unexpected details. I think I often photograph things that are overlooked or considered ugly by most people. I am currently working on a photo book about Sweden where I am juxtaposing idyllic nature scenes with photographs of industrial areas. I have also recently started to get into food photography and I even started a food blog because I love cooking, eating and photographing food.
I mainly use old school 35mm film and currently my go to camera is an Olympus om20.
4. there is a spectacular illustration called "wild trump" on your website. what are your thoughts on donald?
That illustration was too easy to draw because he is a real life caricature! Donald is terrifying, and he’s just going wild in politics. He is not following the rules and unfortunately it is working for him. When he started his political campaign a lot of people were laughing at him and thinking of him as a joke. Now we’ve all started to get a bit scared, I think that he is so dangerous because he knows that he can do and say anything and the people that vote for him will not care, he will still have their votes.
5. let's speculate. you can create anything for anyone. what is your dream project and why?
That is a very difficult question. The first thing I though of was that I would just like to create my own graphic stories. As a designer I often work for or collaborate with other people. It is really fun to be part of a team and it pays the bills but in between that I want to work on my own projects where I’m the boss. Saying that, there are loads of jobs I dream of, such as working as a graphic designer for film. I love the work that Graphic Designer Annie Atkins did for The Grand Budapest Hotel and getting a project like that would be absolutely amazing.
something we love about this section of your site is how natural the images look. it's been said that professional artist or band shots can sometimes be awkward in that they can feel stiff or staged. how do you manage to take such candid photographs that still look like they belong in a music editorial?
i think there are many factors that play into candidness of my photographs. the first one being that everyone is excited that i use film and there's something that clicks in them that helps them loosen up a bit. i'm also fairly gentle with my approach. i let everyone do what feels comfortable and i give little to no direction. a friend of mine told me to pretend i've been friends with everyone and that has helped me not get too anxious before a shoot. keeping that in mind, i try to crack bad jokes about the weather and i believe everyone plays off that energy.
self portraits / self reflections
as a feminist publication, we are deeply moved by your self portraits, so excuse us while we take a moment to thank you for sharing your magnificent skin with the world. we want to leave this one pretty open ended - can you tell us a bit about any inner monologues reflected in these photographs and their process?
i am an extroverted introvert and i'm constantly having moments where i'm overwhelmed with my own existence. a professor in college instructed me to find the one thing that terrifies me and to photograph that because at the time, i was playing it safe with my work. i mean, i still kind of am because i'm constantly evolving and trying to figure out what it is i want my work to be, but i'm a little less afraid now. everything i do is intentional from the clothing i'm wearing to how i am looking at the camera.
each photograph is like a diary entry. "i took one of the best showers today." "wouldn't it be funny if i took a photograph of my butt during our private seminar at the getty?"
where are your favourite places and what are your favourite circumstances to shoot portraits of others in?
i love photographing people in their homes. in cars. in open spaces. mid-speech. slightly posed. not posed. i let my subjects (my friends) do whatever they want, really. it's just as much their photograph as it is my own. i studied photojournalism before transferring to an art school and i still carry that storytelling with me. the "capture what you see and don't move anything" mantra echoes in the back of my head whenever i'm photographing my friends. i try my best to keep everything simple.
i'm currently working on an ongoing series titled invite me into your life where i photograph people in their bedrooms. it first started as a project on my classmates between the ages of 18 and 25, but i've since let go of the age restrictions simply due to the fact that at any age, our bedrooms best reflect us. i will more than likely release a small zine of my work in progress sometime this year.
you also have a great eye for objects and spaces most of us might not take a second glance at. is this a skill you feel you've trained yourself in or a natural talent? additionally, some of the photos in this section of your site invoke significant emotion, despite being inanimate objects. do you find the objects that catch your photographic eye reflect your inner mood?
i think photographing spaces came naturally to me. i mean, i'm a half self-taught photographer and half-art school graduate (meaning i could have easily gone without going to school for photography but i wanted to learn more theory and work in a darkroom so i enrolled). i've always been interested in the absence of a person in a space that's used frequently.
my mood when i photograph is usually on the calmer side. i'm introspective and when i'm not talking a million miles an hour, i'm observing. my photographs of spaces and objects is usually because the light hit something in a way i needed to remember. along with my self-reflections, my still life photographs are acting as an entry to my visual diary. without giving away too much– because i want the viewer to engage with the photographs in a way that resonates with them without my guidance– i make a mental note of how i'm feeling and take a quick photograph to remember how the light hit something. it's the details, the little things, that interest me.
we love the combination of text and photography that makes this digital space feel like a peek into a diary. we felt as if we experienced the world from your eyes. if you're comfortable, can you share with us any moments from this section of photos that stand out in your heart or mind and why?
one of my favorite projects in the second section is .twentythree.
when i was 15 i had a crush on the new kid in school. after a few months he transferred out of our high school and we lost touch. while he was at school, he'd tell me about new bands to listen to and i credit him as the first person to show me interpol.
we reconnected years later and after many failed attempts, we met up at my favorite cafe for the first time in 8 years. everything was friendly at first and i half-jokingly told him he should visit me in portland and he spent part of my spring break with me. it was unspoken, but we started dating and i unknowingly started documenting our time together. i half knew it wouldn't last after the summer because i still had a few months left in college, but part of me wanted it to. it's probably weird to have a favorite ex, but he is mine simply because throughout it all- the beginning, spring break, our summer, the time after it all ended- he was gentle and kind and understanding and did his absolute best to let me know he meant everything. it was also a mutual thing. we both knew we were better off as friends, but i still think it hurt me more than it hurt him.
another favorite section is my series momma. i wasn't nice to my family growing up, especially my mom. she's been sick since i was in my mid-teens and i started photographing her at the end of 2007 when i purchased my first film camera. it was my way of trying to spend time with her without actually saying i wanted to spend time with her.
i spent two weeks in georgia with my mom and her side of the family. we spent an afternoon in her hometown of albany with her cousin sandy. i vaguely remember the home from the last time we were there when there was a big flood in albany in the mid '90s. my mom is my queen and this photograph was the first one i've made of her that she's proud of. i mean, she loves all my photographs, but this is the one she used on every social media site.
i was born and raised in the san fernando valley in a city called sylmar, but instead of giving people a geography lesson, i simply tell everyone i'm from los angeles. my love language is film and my work is heavily influenced by my longstanding obsession with the word "home." i graduated from pacific northwest college of art with my b.f.a in photography in 2013 and i've been trying to make sense of it all ever since. on the first tuesday of every month you can catch me at the echoplex in the photo booth in between screaming along to my favorite pop punk and emo songs at taking back tuesday.
invite me into your life, let's talk about our favorite bands. (mine is brand new)
The Sober and Alone EP is haunting, melodic, relatable and seems profoundly personal, as music should be. Can you share a bit about what the creation process was like?
Well, first of all, I’m flattered! I have an insufferable tendency to downplay everything I do and create so that’s really nice to hear. These songs were written over a period of time—some of them are a year old, some of them were written while I was recording. Two of them were written while I was living abroad and having existential crises. I tend to write when I’m left with nothing else to distract myself from my feelings. Like most people, my creativity arrives in waves—sometimes they’re far apart. Lately, the waves have been rolling in strong and hard. I came home from a trip to Europe and was stuck in a serious depression. I am an introvert at heart but this time, I didn’t want to see ANYONE—and I didn’t for about a month. I’ve had “record a solo album” on my list of things to do for the last few years and I’m not sure exactly what made me do it, but I dove in. I spent a month barely sleeping, and being painfully depressed. I put all of that pain and hurt and confusion into recording; it was my outlet. I showed my mom the album and it made her cry. I guess the pain shows—haha.
Additionally, creating and sharing art are two vastly different experiences. What was it like to release this EP?
I’ve never recorded solo music (well, maybe a few songs here and there) and I’ve only been playing guitar for about a year-and-a-half so it was intimidating. The last band I was in was the first time I even wrote songs. I’ve played in lots and lots of bands but always as “the bass player” who played other people’s music. Anyway, it’s terrifying to spend so much time on something and then send it out into the world for everyone, busy with their lives, to listen to and judge. I honestly couldn’t tell if it was garbage or not—I was trapped in my room at all hours of the night (cliché, I know) recording and listening and mixing and I can’t tell if it made me feel more insane or... I finally sent a few songs to a friend and she said they were good so I felt some relief. Anyway, like I said earlier, I lack self-confidence so it was scary to share the album, but also, I created the music and the recordings for myself so whether people like it or not is an afterthought. It was more about, “Ok, Kye, time to do that thing you always talked about but always found a reason not to do.”
'The Gender Binary is a Jail Cell' is a great song title, ringing vastly true. We see on your Bandcamp that your pronouns are they/them. Has it been liberating to detach yourself from harmful gender stereotypes?
I should preface this answer by explaining some words and concepts I use—because not everyone knows or thinks about these things. Whereas gender is socially and culturally constructed, sex is biological—chromosomes, genitals, etc. The best way to put it is, sex is what’s between your legs and gender is what’s between your ears. Sex does not determine gender. They’re completely separate. Gender does not determine sexual orientation. Cis-gender (pronounced ‘sis’) is a term for someone who identifies their gender with the sex they were assigned at birth. A cis-male is someone who was born male, who identifies as male—and likewise for females. The ‘gender binary’ is basically the idea that there is ONLY male or female within the gender spectrum: it’s static and set in stone. What I mean to say is it’s completely bullshit because people are never one or the other (in my opinion).
The most liberating thing I’ve ever done was admit to myself, and the world, that I don’t fit in the gender binary. It’s very confusing to people and almost everyone I encounter uses the wrong pronouns. It’s really just an “okay, they don’t mean it maliciously” thing and also, I have to pick my battles. I get it. I look male. I can’t help that. I’ve always struggled with my sexual orientation and my gender because of the rules set in place by society about what I can and cannot do (because of my genitals). At first it was bisexual and then queer and then “maybe I’m gay, oh, but sometimes I like women too” and then finally I realised, “oh, right, I’m not one or the other, I’m all of it and none of it: I’m genderqueer and gender non-conforming [which generally falls into the ‘transgender’ spectrum].” When I first admitted it, I thought I needed to transform myself into a ‘woman’ (because I often feel more female) but soon realised that was playing into the binary as well. To me, there is nothing more toxic than Male/Female. Gender is fluid. Sometimes I dress more male. Sometimes I dress more female. Why does it matter? Why is one outfit ‘masculine’ and the other ‘feminine’? What I wear doesn’t change who I am inside. My genitals don’t determine who I am or how I express myself or who I’m attracted to.
Genderqueer people are sometimes asked to justify their identities, which is highly intrusive and is not expected of cisgender people. Do you find that you are sometimes asked to explain who you are because you don't identify with traditional gender roles? If so, how does this affect you and how do you hope to see society's understanding of gender identity progress?
I don’t feel like I have to justify myself to people because the whole process is in their heads. They can use the right pronouns and still see me as male. That’s not my battle. All I can do is be myself and explain who I am as best I can. The rest is for them to decide. If they don’t accept that people can live outside of the binary, that’s their business—but I’m doing it and it’s wonderful. I can’t control how someone labels me or categorizes me or judges me. That being said, when it comes to sexual relationships, it’s very confusing because I think most people still see me as a man, no matter what they say—which makes me feel shitty. Because of that, I don’t really ‘date’ anymore—haha.
I think the cis-male is stuck in a “THIS IS WHAT MEN DO” mindset (as conditioned from birth) yet “tranny porn” (I don’t like that word) is consumed by straight-males (not that anyone is admitting it) on a massive scale. It doesn’t line up. I just want to scream, “it’s okay to want to do ‘weird’ stuff, men of the world!” So, when men stare me down like I’m a monster, I’m never sure if they want to fuck me or kill me or both. It can be a bit much, but I guess I like that my appearance alone challenges some people. In my perfect world, gender wouldn’t exist and we could all be whomever we want to be regardless of genitalia. I should add that ‘female’ can be just as constricting and restricting of an idea, it’s not just ‘men’ who are trapped. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just strange.
But, really, people seem to always have a problem with “they/them” pronouns because it’s not “proper grammar”. But, really, what is grammar? It’s a bunch of rules created over time—but it changes. It slowly changes. Grammar and language aren’t set in stone. Everything is adaptable. We can accommodate human beings of all sorts into our dialect; it’s just a matter of rethinking how we communicate. Long story short, most people don’t get it and think people like me are mentally ill or are looking for attention. Yes, I’m mentally ill but that has nothing to do with my lack of gender. I’m not looking for attention—most of the time I want to go unnoticed. I would give anything to live in a world without a gender-binary. Yet, here I am, doing the best I can with where and when I live.
Sometimes, when listening to music, there are those, for lack of a better term, "fuck yeah!" moments where the lyrics hit the listener hard. I had a lot of these on my way through the Sober and Alone EP. Obviously all of the lyrics are important to you, but are there any that are especially meaningful and why?
“Deep inside, she longs for love, but all she feels is her pain” is the lyric that comes to mind. It’s something I’ve struggled with all of my life: loving myself. I’m a self-loathing expert; I’ve perfected the craft. This last year I’ve been really working on loving and accepting myself, but it’s so hard. Being gentle and kind to myself does not come naturally. Often I think, “it’d be much easier if someone could just come and love me because then I don’t have to love myself” but that doesn’t address the real issue. Someone else isn’t going to save me from myself.
What are you doing when you aren't playing music?
I’m compulsive and obsessive so when I get in a routine, I milk it for all it’s worth—but also I change my mind constantly so those routines are always fluctuating. What I mean to say is that last year at this time I was meditating and practicing yoga and running and hiking every single day. Two years ago at this time I was probably drunk or hungover in a pit of self-destruction and despair. Right now, I’m in a “I’m going to chain smoke and nap every afternoon and record a lot of music” phase. With all things that come and go in my life, the constants are music, photography, motorcycles, gardening, and reading. Of course, dealing with my mental health is a daily practice. Like creativity, my depression comes in waves and it’s something I’ve come to accept rather than try to deny. Also, I eat very healthy (so healthy I can’t even eat at restaurants) and I’m sober so I’m a real HOOT to be around.
What makes you smile?
Riding my motorcycle will, without fail, bring a smile to my face. It’s my go-to whenever I’m feeling down. A therapist once asked, “are you sure you should be doing such a dangerous activity when you’re feeling that low?” She was probably onto something, but it works every time, so… Also, my mom makes me smile a lot because she’s just about the cutest person I’ve ever seen.
What does your perfect day look like?
Every straight-male is wearing a dress and makeup and they’re all kissing each other on the cheek and talking about their feelings and crying and professing their love and realizing that masculinity (and femininity for that matter—the gender binary) is a prison but everyone holds the key to escape.