Unearthing Embedded Knowledge: An Interview Of Rosha Yaghmai On The Occasion Of Her Exhibition At The Wattis Institute

interview by Summer Bowie
photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Walking into Rosha Yaghmai’s studio is a little bit like walking into the laboratory of a junkyard hoarder/mad scientist. There’s a distinctly pleasant organization to the vast collection of Los Angeles detritus that extends from the studio to the backlot outside. The walls are plastered with images from torn magazine pages, postcards, posters, watercolors and collage works. It’s as though you could hold a microscope to any detail in the room and discover a tiny world within. This is especially the case when viewing the centerpiece of her upcoming exhibition Miraclegrow at the Wattis Institute in San Francisco. In the center of the room sits a giant sculpture of a human hair. Pubic? Maybe. This mysterious hair sits on a floor which acts as a pedestal of giant, reflective bathroom tiles. Encapsulating this familiar scene, the walls are covered in large black tiles, effectively wall works that appear to drip with the glistening traces of warm condensation. The hair itself is a sedimentary composite of industrial materials, cleaning products, bathroom products, nail polish, and so much more. Layers and layers of genetic material soaked in personal history. I had the chance to sit down with Yaghmai just a few days before the works made their way up to San Francisco to talk about her upbringing as a tinkering, junk-collecting Angeleno, her work and its relationship to personal heritage, and how she so compellingly defines the cosmic in the microcosmic.

SUMMER BOWIE: I want to start by just talking about your beginning. I understand that you started as a photographer and then transitioned into sculpture. What kind of photography were you making, and why did you lose interest in it?

ROSHA YAGHMAI: I started off making photographs really young. In the sixth and seventh grade. I was really interested in taking photographs. Really quickly, when I went to photo school, I spent most of my time trying to use the chemicals to do things you aren’t supposed to do. So, I never was making straight photographs...I was always.... altering the image, adding weird color.... I was trying to make the photographs more like paintings, but I think I was just trying to make sculpture. I would combine Xerox’s so there was this approximation of the real that I was really interested in, which seems like a natural link between photography and sculpture. I eventually started making fake diorama-like environments with the photographs, so again, pushing into sculpture. I was at SVA in New York at the time and I ended up transferring to CalArts. As soon as I got into the desert landscape, photography was gone.... and I started making sculpture. I haven’t made photographs for a long time.

BOWIE: That is interesting because you often hear of artists coming to LA, discovering its unique light and then naturally pushing into photography.

YAGHMAI: I am also from here, so it was less about that, I just wanted to create environments when I moved here.

BOWIE: The work you presented at Made in L.A., Slide Samples (Lures, Myths) includes projected slides from photographs your father took when he first emigrated to California from Iran. Have you always wanted to work with these images, or did the urge come to you recently?

YAGHMAI: They’ve always been around our house. We had this one print, and I thought it was just an eighties photo, and I didn’t think much about it. My father was interested in photography and that’s how I got into photography. I had all his cameras. etc. and I saw those slides and started making slides, but nothing like that. They [the slides] have always been lingering for years. I finally just asked him about them. I knew he had made them in Berkeley. I knew he used abstract color, they were trying to be psychedelic because of the timing, 1969-72. When I asked him about it, just the process of his thinking, it was very similar to how I was making resin that I was calling slides. He was taking hunks of glass from the Coca Cola Company in Oakland and using different sources of light and filters (light from the television, etc.) to make reflective surfaces. I thought it was an interesting, strange way to connect with a new culture but also realizing there were some similar physical properties with my work: the resin, using lenses and different filters. I think up until the Hammer most of the work that I have made was some sort of screen or a way to alter a site and I linked it with that work once I knew he had made it.

BOWIE: You were born right around the time that the Shah of Iran was overthrown.

RY: He [my father] emigrated here in the mid-60’s and my parents got married and they moved to Iran... and I was actually conceived in Iran and we lived there...then the revolution broke out and we came back to the United States...and I was born.

BOWIE: Growing up in Los Angeles, what was it like being in the wake of these events as a first-generation Iranian-American?

YAGHMAI: I think my dad was so involved with being an American person that we never really talked about that stuff... I didn’t really understand until later but I feel like...I am realizing... how in much of my work there is a subconscious draw to that... or a feeling of wanting to traverse long distances, or different perspectives comes into the work. I am so disconnected from that part of my lineage or history and I could ask my family, read more about it, and I do; but, I feel like I am in the process of unearthing some embedded knowledge and I think the misunderstanding and not knowing is really generative for me.

BOWIE: That makes sense. Maybe your dad was seeing America through a lens that is slowly revealing itself to you.

YAGHMAI: He only went back to Iran maybe five or six years ago, maybe because it was so awful and painful. It never really came up.

BOWIE: You said once that you take pleasure in the sort-of trashiness of LA. What aspects of that trashiness appeal to you most?

YAGHMAI: I don’t know if it just being that I am a beach-desert person, and there are moments in that??? (7:53). and there’s moments in that hair that are in this zone. You know, like a piece of glittering trash like in a desert landscape. Just these little moments of collage really interest me. But in terms of trashiness, I really thrive and enjoy a casual environment. I don’t know if trashiness is the right word, but I feel like (it’s not this way anymore) the feeling of complete freedom here. But now it is not quite like that. I grew up between Alta Dena and by the beach, we would just ride our bikes out, and go to the junkyard and find weird stuff, and my grandfather was a bit of a hoarder and a handyman type. We would just be tinkering. I think that is it. Thrift store shopping and finding some weird historical gem… I also have a real interest in outsider architecture.

BOWIE: I can see the psychedelic influence of your father’s work with those weird remnants of Americana that seem to litter the streets and the junkyards that used to exist. Santa Monica and Venice were very different places back then.

YAGHMAI: It was so wild there when I was growing up and trashy. It was great! The beach towns were abandoned--it was a bunch of old people and skaters. Weird remnants. It was magical, I feel lucky I grew up here during that time.


“I am realizing how much, basically, “dusk” is my color palette. That is where the light and space of California comes into my work. It is “dusk” but it is city dusk; that moment when the sky has that color and there is the neon turning on. That in-between time...”


BOWIE: You use a lot of found materials, industrial metals, liquids, resins, do you have any favorites or least favorites?

YAGHMAI: They are all a pain (sighs). I definitely do like working with materials that are liquid to solid. In terms of favorite, detrimental to my market, I just move through and use what I want. I don’t really have the usual approach. So, this show has a completely different approach than the one at the Hammer. I do like working with transparency, like this super clear, very toxic resin. My work relates to light and space because of my history and the physical properties of the work (color and all that), but I feel like for me it is much more about collaging. So, if you have one thing that’s transparent, you're altering what you see behind it, and for me that altering and blending of sight is really important. I also really like using silicone, the type of silicone you make prosthetics out of. Platinum silicon. And that has a translucent quality too but I like using that material as an approximation or stand in for the body, clear resin and that are the two things I go back to.

BOWIE: Your work has a quality about it that invites viewers to temporarily enter a foreign world and quietly meditate there for a moment. Is this an experience you look for when viewing the work of other artists?

YAGHMAI: I think you always fantasize that you make different art. I like going into a full on crazy installation...just something that looks like a playground. So, I am not always drawn to a contemplative space... I think that in my work that kind of emerges because up until very recently I was very stubborn about (sternly, “I make objects, I want to make objects”). Yet, it is teetering on installation because these objects when in relation to one another create this sort of psychological environment and their relation to each other creates an oddity you want to linger with. I feel like this show is the first time in a while that I am making an environment. I mean each object in the show... like the floor is the pedestal for the hair and the panels are paintings and they can be separated so they are still existing as objects kind of coming together for this moment but they are not props and still are works of art, or sculptures. I really think a lot about putting things together that are a bit perplexing or strange that makes one want to linger a bit and figure it out. I think that may be the color palette. I am realizing how much, basically, “dusk” is my color palette. That is where the light and space of California comes into my work. It is “dusk” but it is city dusk; that moment when the sky has that color and there is the neon turning on. That in-between time... which I think is a very contemplative time, when you are driving around that time.

BOWIE:  Always in LA... I think you said that your color choices are kind of the most intuitive part of the process...

YAGHMAI: I made this whole series of silicones for this show in Germany and I realized they are all colors from my childhood--wetsuits that were around. It just emerges, “oh, of course, that’s why I’m doing that...”

BOWIE: In this show, you said you wanted to create an environment that takes on a spider's perspective on the floor of a bathroom. What inspired this particular perspective?

YAGHMAI: I was really torn about what to do for this show. I feel like the Hammer project was sort of the end to a couple years of thinking. So I felt a bit stuck, to be honest, and I was trying to figure out what the next step was. I knew I wanted to make an environment. I was super frustrated, came home to the studio, threw down my jumpsuit, and I noticed (I hate spiders. Sorry, I’m trying to change my perspective on that) a spider trying to crawl into it, so I snatched it away. And the spider kind of stopped, and I was just watching, and thought, “what the hell does that thing think just happened?” So, I had this moment where I thought, if I am trying to make work that alters perspective in a very physical, literal embodied way, why wouldn’t the next step be to try to empathize and project myself into something of which I could never understand what their perspective would be. In terms of psychedelic properties, I think that’s the most honest way to go about it. I just wanted to physically remake it, but in a skewed way.

BOWIE: Has it changed your feelings towards spiders at all?

YAGHMAI: My husband got me this Louise Bourgeois book, and so obviously, she has those big spider sculptures, and she talks about them as a symbol of renewal. So, I’m trying to get into a Louise Bourgeois way of thinking about it, rather than just thinking about them crawling on me at night. So, I think I can empathize with them a little bit more. How scary must it be? I just wanted to make a direct approach to the show.

BOWIE:  There are so many materials that went into that hair sculpture. It has this sort of sedimentary value to it...can you just talk for a moment about the different materials that you used in creating it?

YAGHMAI: I mean... it is the hardest sculpture I ever made, not in a physical way, but just that you’re really fighting the form. Not to be too literal, but your hair is a shedding of some kind of skin, and I knew I wanted to cast my body and incorporate it into the work. Almost like it is carved out of some kind of stone, or I wanted to make it seem like something that happened or something that is really forced. You don’t work on growing your hair, it just happens, but if you think about all the energies that go into making it... I used a lot of materials that I’ve used before, like limestone, graphite, household plastics like shampoo bottles, laundry soap, and shopping bags. I melted those down and put them in. It’s almost like coral where it absorbs anything that is in the environment...I was thinking about that with all the chemicals in the body and how they can all be traced in a single hair. And also, thinking back to my father and my parents, and just thinking about what you absorb in your DNA, what is trapped in there, trapped knowledge that I don’t know about. I wanted to have this sort of spacey, geological tone and I was looking at images of the sand dunes on Mars, which is basically the whole brochure for the show, which is a reach, but it’s cosmic level shit. You know, like you’re sitting here and now our molecules will be tangled forever. Things that are blowing my mind. For me it is kind of fake because it is cast and modified material, but I was trying to be really genuine and putting together a lot of stuff that I’m around on the regular.

BOWIE: There seems a deep desire to capture moments or feelings in your work; to encapsulate and oppose the forces of entropy. Would you agree with that interpretation?

YAGHMAI: I think so... there is so much in my work that is the familiar becoming foreign, and so there's this flip all the time of something so familiar (that maybe you take for granted) turning on you. I feel just that awkwardness-- making you aware of your existence, of your body interacting with the object.

BOWIE: You have referred to the desire to freeze time, but is that something you feel like you want to do permanently or temporarily, and if so, for how long, what is that desire to hold things in space?

YAGHMAI: I mean that’s sculpture (laughs). If I had one power, it would be to stop time.  You know when you play that game. Just slowing down the process and pointing to that one thing and using force to stop that moment or those moments and to have it on display. Not that my work is usually that figurative, but to slow it down. Having a one-on-one relationship between the object and the viewer.


Rosha Yaghmai's exhibition
Miraclegrow opens on January 15th and runs until March 30th at The Wattis Institute. 360 Kansas St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Oh, La Gaule: An Interview of French 'Gaule Wave' Band Faire

text by Agathe Pinard

photographs by Summer Bowie

FAIRE are very serious about not taking themselves seriously. Their shows are infused with a raw improvisation that makes every performance a completely unique experience. They just play with the vibe given by the audience and then do their best to push the limits of that relationship. The images from their shows speak for themselves, filled with overflowing energy and rage. Romain, Pierre and Simon make up the French trio Faire, a band emerging from the Parisian underground music scene. Self-labelled as “Gaule Wave,” the band mixes opposing sounds, from ‘80s synthesizers, to punk power chords, to the lyrical stylings of pop chanson.

We had a chance to chat with Faire just before their highly anticipated second show in Los Angeles. They play tonight at Madame Siam in Hollywood, catch them live at 10:00pm for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

AGATHE PINARD: First of all, how did you all meet?

FAIRE: We met at school, we were about 12 years old. There we were, the only guys listening to rock, wearing leather and boots. So we easily found a subject of discussion. 

PINARD: What’s your first experience with making music?

FAIRE: A basement in the center of Paris where we experimented with lots of anger, love, a few cries and lots of laughs. We took it very seriously, being musicians. We were rehearsing between class at least twice a week and started playing live shows pretty early on. 

PINARD: Have any of you ever had any ambitions outside of music?

FAIRE: Not really, except the fact that we love to customize/make clothes, and making videos, drawing, painting and writing. 

PINARD: What’s the meaning behind the name Faire? Did you have any other names you were also considering?

FAIRE: First we thought about “la GAULE” which is the old name for France and it also means to have a boner. It ended up becoming the name of our music: “Gaule Wave.” But we wanted to explore a maximum of different musical horizons. We thought that with FAIRE (meaning “to make” or “to do”), we could mix all kinds of music that we like, surfing between rock, yéyé, Eastern music, trap, techno and more. Also it’s a simple way for us to make music without thinking too much, and just go with the flow of our spontaneous ideas, like a manifestation of sorts. 

PINARD: Do you have any major musical influences?

FAIRE: Yes! We started playing music together while listening to Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf… and the Motown Records really inspired us when we were younger. Later we let go of the stigma that we had of drum machines and were really inspired by ‘80’s cold wave, and especially Martin Rev of Suicide. French Pop culture influences us too, think Michel Polnareff, or all the old ‘50s songs with those incredible lyrics. Swinging by the US, people like R. Stevie Moore just transcend us. But for real, the list is really long, we’re not even talking about all the African, Indian or South American influences!

PINARD: Are there any non-musicians who inspire your work?

FAIRE: We met the incredible Charlie Le Mindu, the French hair designer who also does exhibitions of clothes made with an infinity of hair. His work is absolutely amazing. 

PINARD: What’s your personal process of creating an album like?

FAIRE: We like to be really isolated in a countryside or on a rooftop in Mexico, as we did with “Le Tamale.” Notice that we never really put out any albums, it was only EPs that we self recorded in our computer. Now we are preparing the recording of our first album, which we want to record live with someone capable to catch our live energy, because that’s where our potency lies.

PINARD: You seem to like using old women’s names as titles, Mireille, Sisi, Christiane, Marie-Louise, is there any particular reason?

FAIRE: We just love our grandmother’s stories and the era that they lived. 

PINARD: You released a very psychedelic video clip of Noizette a month ago, what’s the story behind it?

FAIRE: Some student from l’ECAL, an art school in Switzerland, asked for a song to do a video clip, then pitched the idea and we liked it! For the first time we just let them do what they wanted and received 6 different versions. We had the luxury of choosing the one we thought was the best. This battle between our faces and the Prince was exactly the kind of trip we liked.

PINARD: Is there a show you gave that you will remember forever?

FAIRE: Wow, when we released our EP « Le Tamale » in a Parisian bar people were so excited, and it was so overcrowded that the public was making waves falling down every two minutes on the little three-by-three-meter stage that they kept us from playing long. All our machines got disconnected and fucked up at the same time (it was also because of some spilled beer.) And we had 20 kilos of confetti flying around everywhere. It was two years ago, but we still have some in our synthesizers. It was definitely the best show/non-show. 

PINARD: You’re all super wild and insanely energetic on stage, how do your rehearsals differ from your live performances? 

FAIRE: (Laugh) that’s a good question. We take it really easy and chill, the exact opposite of our live shows.

PINARD: How do your audiences affect the performances?

FAIRE: We started being crazy on stage after some shows in Mexico where people were getting totally crazy, and thanks to them we took that energy, and it morphed us into these uncontrollable beasts. Now even if the crowd is really chill we get into them with all our passion and love, and push them to dance by jumping into the pit.

PINARD: What was it like to play in LA for the first time?

FAIRE: Really great, people were really into the fact that we got the mosh pits going. They weren’t accustomed to it or prepared for it at all. So we were kind of exotic with our craziness. 

PINARD: How was your experience with the city of LA, the American culture?

FAIRE: Pretty interesting, lots of cool vibes and a beautiful mix of various world cultures over there. People were lovely with us, and we met great artists there. Also Simon’s dad is from LA so we had a good introduction to the city. 

PINARD: It’s been more than a year since the release of your last EP, C’est L’été, what are you working on at the moment? You said there is a new album in the making?

FAIRE: Absolutely, we are now preparing new songs to record our first album. It will be released next year, but the date is still a secret. 

PINARD: What are you listening to right now? What was your summer ’18 soundtrack?

FAIRE: Escape-isms, HMLTD, Lil Pump and les Charlots.


Go see Faire play tonight at 10pm @ Madame Siam in Hollywood. You won’t regret it!


Fighting For Love: An Interview Of New Media Artist, Young Polemicist And Kemetic Yogi, Tabita Rezaire

 

text by Keely Shinners

images by Tabita Rezaire

 

Tabita Rezaire could call herself many things––a Berlin-Biennale-exhibiting new media artist, a young polemicist, a Kemetic yoga teacher. Instead, Rezaire prefers to call herself a “healer-warrior.” Walking into her Yeoville flat, high on a sacred hill on the eastern side of Johannesburg, she offers me tea from her impressive apothecary of herbs, spices, and dried flowers. We sit down on her straight-from-2002 pink fuzzy love seat, chatting, listening to the new Frank Ocean album. She offers me Carmex for my chapped lips (Johannesburg is drying out my skin), and when she begins to talk about her artistic process as a process of healing, that powerful word, “healer,” lives up to the artist who utters it. Not in the exotifying sense of the "benevolent medicine woman," but clever, powerful, and without exoneration.

As we converse, Tabita is paying attention to my every word. She calls me out when I ask about “postcolonial digital space,” the flippant amnesia of such a loaded prefix. She questions why I would call her work “futuristic,” as if passing over the history and the cultural exigence that informs her art towards some vague, utopian “imagination of the future.” And she’s right. She’s a warrior. “You have to fight, fight, fight…” she insists, in order to “spread love and light.”

She says, “My work is a diagnostic.” Rezaire is in the business of identifying sicknesses we carry within us everywhere we go—our histories, our implicit and explicit prejudices, our language. She is able to see through the veils of the “free, open Internet” to its capitalist underbellies, using the very tools of the Internet to undermine it. Rezaire is calling us out on the spread of colonial viruses—on our computers, in our history books, in our words.

KEELY SHINNERS: So the info on your website says you are a “new media artist, intersectional preacher, health practitioner, tech-politics researcher, and Kemetic/Kundalini Yoga teacher. Can you tell me more about those practices and how they relate to each other?

TABITA REZAIRE: They are just different tools to serve the same mission on different plains: emotional, mental, spiritual, historical, political and technological. My work/life/purpose is searching for technologies to help us thrive and walk towards a state of soundness. It’s about healing.

SHINNERS: So you would say you’re more of a healer than an artist?

REZAIRE: That’s the same for me (maybe not in general). Both deal with feelings as raw material: their own, those of their people and those of their times. For a healer must be able to go through the wounds, their own first, and from that place surface with the powerful knowledge of pain, and grow out of/from it, then guide others to do so. It is transforming a state of unbalance into a more sustainable place, or maybe finding balance in discomfort. Both move energy, and can be truly transformative if the person, community, and times are ready. Ready to do the work it demands. I’ve used the term “healer-warrior,” cause healing is a battle with yourself and the world, you have to fight, fight, fight, to be able to love, love, love. Love yourself unconditionally and fight all that keeps you from loving yourself.  Once you love yourself you can start loving, respecting and caring for people, for communities, for life.

SHINNERS: On the question of health, do you see art as healing? In what way? Is it therapeutic for you, the audience, or both?

REZAIRE: To be honest, it sometimes gives me more anxiety than anything else. I guess that’s because of the industry, not the practice itself. My art practice is about sharing my own healing journey, spiritually and politically; trying to figure out shit or why I feel like shit. To heal, you first need to understand where it hurts and why. How to carry what must be carried. I guess that’s what I’m interested in. As you heal yourself, you heal generations before you and generations to come.

SHINNERS: So it stems from an illness?

REZAIRE: We are all dis-eased, and rightly so, as we’re children of toxic environments.

 

 

SHINNERS: What is E-Colonialism? Colonialism is centuries, centuries old, but the Internet is a whole new realm of possibility. How do the temporalities and functions of colonialism and the Internet overlap?

REZAIRE: I don’t think it is different temporalities. If we’re not living under colonialism per se, we’re living in its legacies, which are still omnipresent. The politics and architecture of the Internet came from the same heart; it’s the same narrative of exploitation being written over and over again, with the same people being exploited and the same people benefiting from it all. There’s this quote I love from Sardar who said back in 1995 “The West desperately needs new places to conquer. When they do not actually exist, they must be created. Enter cyberspace.” That‘s so deep. It’s not a domination based on land – which still exist for all the people whose lands are still occupied and plundered – but one based on people’s dependency and conditioning through the use of digital technologies. The Internet is molding us into global subjects, which reads to me as a newly designed colonial subject.

SHINNERS: Or a capitalist subject.

REZAIRE: Same story, the colonial enterprise is a capitalist one. E-colonialism controls our minds through our consumerist desires. We don’t realize we’re being manipulated, controlled, watched, monitored and exploited. We’ve become so trustful of demonic powers. Even if we know, we don’t care - or not enough to let go of the comfort and benefits it grants us (some of us). We accept, and worse, enjoy an abusive framework they’ve created for us. It’s scary.

SHINNERS: If you could rid of those powers, the Internet as a means of communicating globally could be a useful tool. Do you see a possibility of postcolonial digital space?

REZAIRE: I’m still waiting for that postcolonial life, as postcolonial societies have integrated ‘colonial’ hierarchies into their orders. Maybe the term decolonial offers more space, it’s a different practice, one that tries to unlink and disengage from Western authority. It asks: how do you become your own center? as opposed to existing within a “minority,” “periphery,” or “3rd world” rhetoric.

Decolonial Internet? I don’t know. The Internet is built on violence, literally. I’m currently making a work on the relationship between undersea cable layouts and colonial shipping routes. The history of our connectivity is entrenched in colonial history.

SHINNERS: There’s so much entrenchment.

REZAIRE: Yeah. Under the sea, lie so many traumas. It’s like a graveyard for so much history and loss, yet water is healing. The Internet is reproducing that duality, of erasing non-Western people and histories while providing space and tools for remembrance and celebration.

SHINNERS: How does spirituality relate to your art and healing practice?

REZAIRE: Spirituality is about connection. It’s about remembering how connected we were, we are, and how connected we can be. It nurtures a connection to yourself, your spiritual beings and ancestors, to the earth and the universe and helps build connections to each other in a meaningful way. That’s what spirituality is for me. That’s why it’s related to technology. Digital technology wants to connect us, but it doesn’t do it very well, because it comes from this Western anguish. We had the powers to connect (some still do), through telepathy, communicating with plants and ancestors, and channeling information through dreams or meditation. We have access to everything that has been and everything that will be. But we just shut down because of the way we live, think and feel or have been forced to. We’re disconnected. That’s the diagnostic. That’s the contradiction we live in, disconnection in our ultra-connected world. So, I strive for connection in my spirituality.

SHINNERS: Why do you use self-portraiture in a lot of your work?

REZAIRE: That’s not what I’m doing. Yes I use myself, but I’m just a channel to communicate and share information; a messenger. I’m working on a self-portrait series though…

SHINNERS: I’m really interested in the images you use in your work, like gifs of unicorns and galaxies and shit.

REZAIRE: I never used a unicorn.

SHINNERS: [Laughs.] You’re like, “Oh no, I would never do that.” You pair these images with what I think are really abstract concepts of decolonizing digital space, reimagination new space, architectures of power. Is your aesthetic a means of making your content more accessible?

REZAIRE: These might be abstract concepts for you, but they're very real. In terms of aesthetic, popular culture is also what I consume, so it feeds my imaginary, Im also interested in its function and power. People often ask me if it’s ironic. It’s not, but humorous yes.  Well I guess I use the language of the Internet to speak about the Internet so the content led to the form somehow.

SHINNERS: Looking at your stuff online, at first glance, you think, “Oh, this looks dope.” That’s superficial, obviously, but it draws you in. Then you start reading and you’re like, “Ok, now I have to confront my whiteness, my Westerness, here we go.” I didn’t feel like it was ironic. It was pulling you in.

REZAIRE: It’s a strategy, for sure.

SHINNERS: I was introduced to your work by reading A WHITE INSTITUTION’S GUIDE. I showed it to my friend this morning and she said it was like “guerrilla girls but less stale.” It seems like you’re doing the same thing, calling out the art world on its foundation of white heteropatriarchal bullshit. I’m interested in this because you’ve seen a lot of success, being in the Berlin Biennial this year, exhibiting in solo and group shows all over the world. How do you navigate being in that space all the time? Would you call yourself a “guerilla artist,” trying to subvert the institution?

REZAIRE: It’s hard. But I’m trying to move away from that inner conflict of constantly questioning what it means for me to be a part of an industry I despise? Or that despises me even more. Am I selling out? Am I a hypocrite? Does my work become meaningless? Is my mission co-opted? All those questions. At the same time, I need and want to sustain a practice. That’s very real.

SHINNERS: You have to survive.

REZAIRE: Yes, but beyond this, what I want to do and keep doing is making work. That’s my purpose. So, it’s about finding ways to sustain my practice. How will I be able to do what I want to do? Yes, the art world can help. Yes, white-centered institutions can help. Being part of an industry that is problematic as fuck helps me making work that I believe in, that’s the contradiction. For now, it’s about making it work for me, within boundaries that work for me. I spend too much time and energy being like, “I’m not making sense”… no I am making sense, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Claudia Rankine, said something I liked about institutional recognition, although I may not fully agree with her: “it’s also for me the culture saying: We have an investment in dismantling white dominance in our culture. If you’re trying to do that, we’re going to help you. And that, to me, is encouraging.”

SHINNERS: A lot of your work seems futuristic. Is imagining a future something you’re thinking about in your work?

REZAIRE: What makes you say my work is futuristic?

SHINNERS: That’s a good question. I guess I fall into my own trap of saying that.

REZAIRE: I guess you think of the use of the Internet, but it’s super contemporary, entrenched in our everyday lives. So it’s not futuristic.

I’m working in the present for the restoration of our past, which will guide our future. My work is not about the future, I don’t believe in this type of temporal linearity anyway. The past, present and future are arbitrary; they can be remodeled, repeated, discarded.  I’m however interested in the way our past has been constructed and the effects of this construction on our collective consciousness. Similarly, what effects can the rewriting of our past have on our present and futures? The now is fundamental yet irrelevant, it’s always a negotiation between what has/might have/could have been and what could/may/will be? The now is frightening. How do you exist in the world? How can we deal now? How can we love each other now? How can we love ourselves now?

I’m definitely working for a shift that is constantly (re)occurring over and over. I’m part of a wide community of seed planters, I might not see the fruits of my work but the seeds will sprout, maybe not in this lifetime but that’s ok. Planting seeds, that’s what I’m about.  

 

Down To Flux: An Interview Of Ezra Miller's Band Sons of an Illustrious Father

text by Darren Luk

Sons Of An Illustrious Father is a three piece indie band that's very DTF. Down To Flux that is. Based in New York, the quirky members Lilah Larson, Josh Aubin and Ezra Miller (who you would perhaps recognize as an actor in films like We Need to Talk About Kevin, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or his role as The Flash) enjoy defying genre conventions and sharing center stage, alternating between instruments and vocals. They've once called their sound future folk and heavy meadow, but avoid being defined, always experimenting with their sound and making DIY video clips. Although they don't take themselves too seriously, the subject matters that they do explore within their music, continually contributes to social, cultural and political conversations that encompass racial, gender and other global issues. Having released a new album 'Revol' this year and been on tour, we thought it would be fitting to give them a call to catch up on what they've been up to, how their music comes together, issues they are concerned with right now and their favorite phone app.

DARREN LUK: Hey, how are you guys going?

LILAH: Hello! Good, how are you going?

LUK: Good, good! What's happening on your side of the world?

LILAH: I mean generally on our side of the world, it's freaky. We're not doing such a great job as a nation, but as a band in this studio, I think we're killing it.

LUK: You've had a busy year touring, playing at SXSW and released an album 'Revol'. How are you feeling as we come to the end of the year?

JOSH: It's been a roller-coaster.  It's been a wild year you know? There's been a lot of learning and feeling.

LILAH: You sound like you’re saying all the things you should say to answer that question.

JOSH: Isn't that what I'm supposed to be saying in situations like now?

LILAH: Yes Josh, yes.

LUK: How would you describe some of the best or worst things that's happened on tour?

EZRA: It's like looking for a book in a library and trying to choose one.

JOSH: …Or choosing your favorite page of a book. When you think of a book, you don't think of the individual pages but maybe a blurb of what the book was, and it's more about the essence of the book rather than the page.

LILAH: It's kind of a radical feminist speculative fiction à la Ursula K. Le Guin I would say.

JOSH: Yes, I would also agree with Ursula K. Le Guin.

LILAH: That's the book we've been living in, that we are characters of.

EZRA: It involves things like going to a park in Washington D.C. and meeting a group of circus performers and having one of them teach us about self realization.

JOSH: Did that happen?

LILAH: Yeah! Remember?

JOSH: Oh yes.

EZRA: Or wandering through a lightening storm and holding each other in fear and awe.

LUK: That sounds like a good metaphor!

LILAH: That's not a metaphor [laughs], that actually happened at SXSW.

EZRA: We are living metaphors.

LILAH: Yea, a lot of our experiences are good metaphors.

LUK: Do you have any interesting rituals you guys do like before gigs?

JOSH: Yes!

LILAH: We always hold each other and make eye contact, and sometimes sync our breath to become present.

EZRA: We give thanks. We tell each other that we love one another and that we're thankful for our time. That's the essence. There's a lot of secret rituals, layers and layers from there, but that's what we make sure to do before any show.

LUK: You are all talented multi-instrumentalists. What are your earliest memories of music and how you started?

LILAH: I grew up pretending to play instruments before I could play instruments. My earliest memory was being  around instruments and just knowing I was going to play them.

EZRA: I remember a specific drum when I was very young. Some sort of street fair, and there was a drum that could be played even by belligerent children.

LILAH: Yea, I had a tiny, very poorly executed replica of one of Elvis' guitars with his signature on it. It wasn't practically useful but I fake played it.

JOSH: My parents kept a keyboard under their bed, but I was too shy to play it when they were home. When they left the house I would sneak up into their bedroom and play the keyboard under the bed.

LILAH: I did not know that, is that real?

JOSH: Who knows.

EZRA: What was the keyboard really… in this real life metaphor? What's the keyboard beneath your parents bed?

JOSH: Well, just under the bed was a storage of space.

LILAH: Ah, a storage space.

LUK: How do you feel like the dynamic between the three of you influences the way you create your music?

EZRA: It's integral.

JOSH: It's integrated.

EZRA: [laughs] .. It's integral and then integrated.

LILAH: I think that the fact that we are so intimate with each other in our every day lives, and in our relationships in general, creates a space that allows us to be very exploratory in music. We all feel really safe to be weird and vulnerable together and I think that's crucial for whatever artistic goodness we achieve.

LUK: Within the band all three of you interchange between roles, singing and playing different instruments for different tracks. How does the music usually come together and what's the process like?

LILAH: Usually the songs either of us predominantly sing in, we have written at least the bulk of. But, increasingly there are songs that any one of us writes, some parts we feel a certain person should be singing. I think that's just another thing, knowing each other so well and being so comfortable with one another, it happens at this point quite organically. It's just a shared inner knowledge.

EZRA: It's cool because, on this work we are recording right now, there's a song that all of us sing different parts of, that two of us wrote different parts to. There's another song that was written completely collaboratively. There's an evolution, where there are songs that have completely come from a collaborative process instead of just one of us bringing a song to the band. That's always sort of our interest - to keep pushing the boundaries of that interpersonal communion further.

JOSH: We're learning to work together better.

LUK: It's an interesting evolution. In your latest album Revol, you have three songs each that you've each written separately and then worked-shopped together, but how do you choose what works more cohesively in an album?

EZRA: I think we try not to worry. The ship flies itself. We just follow the instructions and remember to work together…

LILAH, JOSH, EZRA: … As a space team.

EZRA: The real answer is that we go through funny dramatic processes to find ordering. A lot of it, is about feeling our transitions and how they give us a sequitur, psychologically or emotionally. So if one song ends like "ooo" then the next songs comes in like "eeeeeerrr."

LUK: What are some challenges you've come across being a band that seeks to defy normative standards in genre, gender and idea conventions?

LILAH: I mean, I think the first difficult thing for anyone in any context trying to defy normative standards is how much the external world wants to keep you inside those standards and maintain them. That's certainly true for us as a band. People have a lot of trouble, for one thing, with the idea that there are three singers and no one person only plays one instrument. It's mostly just about the difficulty, just like having the courage and conviction and righteous indignation, to remember despite what other's externally might impose, that we know what we're doing, we're doing it right, and that's true of person gender expression and also as band, being a weird band.

LUK: Are you guys experimenting on new sounds at the moment?

LILAH: We have a new drum called Tom Cat.

JOSH: Actually, we've kind of had two new drums, compared to the last album.

EZRA: Yea, we're working with more electronic sounds, digital and analogue. There's definitely a new sound. I don't think we've endeavored to attempt to describe or define it yet, but it's maybe we can call it…

LILAH: …Genre queer…our sound uses they, them and their pronouns (laughs).

EZRA: It's like alternative television show theme song.

LILAH: Yea, it's like if you took the instrumental from a musical theatre play and asked a moderately skilled punk band to play it (laughs).

LUK: Your music always explores and actively voices about social, cultural and political issues. What are some issues that you are particularly concerned with right now?

EZRA: Stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline in solidarity with Oceti Sakowin [Camp] and the confederation of tribes that are resisting this pipeline. It seems like it's becoming the paramount issue, one of the great fights of our lives. It's such a critical moment for Indigenous people, First Nations people drawing a line in the sand when it comes to environmental destruction, which is the brink we are on as a species and it's not a drill. I think that it seems like this pipeline becomes the living metaphor as well as the very actual dire call to arms for people interested in, even the short term future of our survival on this planet.

LUK: If you guys were the President for the day, what would you change or do?

EZRA: Enough stuff that we weren't the president anymore.

LILAH: I was going to say, just start a nation state, declare anarchy, formally disband The United States of America and renounce my imperial crown (laughs).

LUK: Ezra, being in an indie band and also working on Hollywood films as well, how do you feel, kind of walking the line between these two different worlds?

EZRA: I think that fine line is a strange way to put it, because at the end of the day we're all just trying to make good work in our various mediums. We come together as a band to be a sort of a single instrument, to have this single medium together. But that's just one of the things that really powers us. I think it's really healthy in the way that each of us express through our own channels separately outside of the band. It's like in a partnership where both people having good stuff happening in their lives.

JOSH: Something like that.

LUK: Are you working on projects separately, musically as well?

LILAH: Yeah, we're all always writing and playing in some capacity on our own. I'm releasing a solo album in January. We're always scheming and working, and scheming when we can be together as much as possible.

LUK: What would you say some of your music influences that you resonate with?

JOSH: The Muppets.

LILAH: The Muppets...let’s see…Patti Smith...

EZRA: The Band.

LILAH: Yea, I'm comfortable with that selection for the day.

LUK: Obviously you guys are tight-knit friends. What do you guys do outside of music?

JOSH: As friends or as enemies?

LUK: I guess, both!

JOSH: Laser tag is epic

LILAH: We're really into the show Daredevil. We watch it together.

EZRA: Yea, we also play Spaceteam the app game.

LILAH: We have a lot of really good meals.

EZRA: We're really into food.

LILAH: We're really good with meals.

EZRA: We do dance and we talk a lot.

LILAH: We talk so much.

JOSH: I spend a lot of time listening, and they spend a lot of time talking.

LILAH: It's not, not true.

LUK:Do you have any hobbies?

LILAH: I like to ferment things.

JOSH: I like the play games.

EZRA: I like archery.

JOSH: I like hiking

EZRA: I like hiking and camping, spending time with nature.

JOSH: Nature's a good thing to spend time with.

LUK: What's your favorite invention and why?

LILAH: I think that funnels are amazing. It's a principle for so many things. You need a funnel for making coffee. A funnel in general is a really important invention. You need them for cars, you need them for coffee.

JOSH: College parties.

LILAH: Any sort of pouring, beers, keg stands

EZRA: My favorite invention is Lilah's favorite hobby.

LILAH: Fermentation, pickling.

LUK: What's a secret talent you have?

LILAH: As far as skills, Josh has an eerie ability to name the year that a film came out.

JOSH: Try me.

LUK: Okay, hmm...how about Blade Runner?

JOSH: 1982

LUK: Let me Google this. Ok…you're right, it's 1982!

EZRA: Ohhh, that's amazing. When you test something like that and like, oh gosh is it going to work when you put this much attention on it, and it does, it's just spectacular.

LUK: What about you two?

EZRA: I'd say the edge where a secret becomes sharable for me in terms of skills sets, would be overtone singing.

LILAH: I'm really good at cutting hair.

LUK: If Sons of Illustrious we’re superheroes, what would be their power and saving people from?

EZRA: We would be a triumvirate sonic superheroes in the most basic sense, if we really analyze what's going on here, from a comic book perspective. We create this triangulation of sound capable of moving things, like the hearts of listeners anywhere.

LILAH: Through a synergistic, telepathic exertion we can heal and move the hearts of those around us.

JOSH: Sound power!

LILAH: A mix of telepathy and sound power.

EZRA, LILAH, JOSH: Working together.. as a space team.

LUK: What's this little thing about space team?

EZRA: It's the app that we told you about we play called Spaceteam.

LILAH: The great producer Howard Bilerman introduced us to this game and we are forever thankful.

LUK: And it's a multi player game?

EZRA: It's a multi player game. You control a spaceship together, sort of Star Trek style.

JOSH: You kind of don't control the spaceship, the ship flies itself.

LILAH: But, you try to prevent catastrophe together. You have to turn all the dials and stuff, and give each other instructions.

EZRA: What's great is that it's not only a great way to past time, but also wonderful communication game, where you have to listen and speak up simultaneously. It's very good for bands.

LILAH: It's perfect for bands.

EZRA: And it fills those gaps of time between a sound check and your show. We highly recommend it.

LUK: Cool I'll check it out! Do you have any upcoming projects for 2017?

LILAH: Well, we're in the studio right now, working on an album.

EZRA: There's literally a track being mixed in the room behind us. Oliver Ignatius, we're at Mama Coco's Funky Kitchen which is a place very near and dear to our hearts. An amazing recording studio, and sort of centre HQ of a musical familial movement happening in Brooklyn, New York. It's great to be back here. We've worked with Oliver for a long time and feel really comfortable with our process with him. He's such a gift to that process. There's a bunch of playing shows, making videos and releasing songs coming up.

LUK: Lastly, for people who haven't heard of know Sons Of An Illustrious Father. How would you describe it three words?

LILAH: Music for you (laughs)… terrible.

EZRA: Down to flux.


Click here to download Sons Of An Illustrious Father's most recent album. text and interview by Darren Luk. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Ritualized Catharsis: An Interview of Hyon Gyon

text by Adam Lehrer

South Korean New York-based visual artist and painter Hyon Gyon’s Chinatown studio is hard to miss. Walking down Canal Street past the skateboarders that grind the rails along the bike path at the bottom of the Manhattan side of the Manhattan bridge, the markets that smell ripe of fish and assorted edible sea creatures, and the dizzyingly busy intersection of a diverse population, you finally take a right on Eldridge Street. Quite visibly from the opposite end of the block your eye catches an out-of-place looking two floor building with a massive sign that reads “Hyon Gyon.” The building looks more like a hut or a place of worship than an emerging visual artist’s studio. Considering Gyon’s aesthetic and work, that notion could feel rather deliberate on part of the artist. But talking to Gyon for any length of time quickly dispels that notion. Her studio is just an outgrowth of her practice, and her practice lacks any grand conceptual conceit. She channels energy into her art. What you see is simply what has come out of her.

Inside that studio is a visual world perhaps even more rarified and indicative of Gyon’s work than the locale’s exterior. The first floor is half work space and half gallery displaying several of Gyon’s large-scale and quite spectacular paintings that combine the markings of abstract expressionism and traditional Korean shamanistic imagery alongside Gyon’s scattered work materials. The room is accented by vibrant Korean carpets that cover almost the entirety of the floor. Upstairs, Gyon maintains a sizable collection of art and design books and has been stockpiling an assortments of garments that Gyon has taken to painting, deconstructing, and refashioning. At the center of the artifacts and tasteful junk is Gyon herself: ethereally beautiful, petite, and adorned in a sparkly pink top over a Rolling Stones t-shirt, she abstractly resembles the ideas that flow out of her in her work.

Gyon was attending university when she decided to be an artist professionally. Initially interested in fashion and having even worked at a studio that designed traditional Korean garments, Gyon’s decision to work in the fine arts was catapulted by the death of her grandmother. When Gyon’s grandmother passed, her family took part in a gut (pronounced: “goot”) ritual for her; in these ceremonies, a Korean shaman leads a series of sacrifices, physical gestures and prayers to the gods that theoretically enable a peaceful transition for the human spirit to leave the physical plane and enter into the spiritual plane. But in a more tangibly relatable manner, the gut ritual serves the purpose of allowing the deceased’s loved ones to move on. To purge negativity. To experience catharsis. That ritualized catharsis had a deep impact on Gyon, and she knew then that she had found her subject manner. “It’s hard to describe what happened to me,” says Gyon referring to her catharsis felt during the gut ritual. “Something in me had changed. I knew that I wanted people to experience emotion through my work.”

Gyon focuses on bold paintings and abstract sculptures with textile elements that use the faces and bodies of monstrous characters, or “incarnations” as she calls them, that are emblematic of specific emotions from the wide scale of human feeling. After working and developing her practice in Japan for 13 years, Gyon moved to New York in 2013 on a residency supported by her new dealers at Shin Gallery. The residency first resulted in a pop-up show entitled Hyon Gyon and The Factory that referenced Warhol and saw Gyon producing at truly Warholian (or should we say Herculean?) rates. This year, Shin included Gyon’s work alongside titans like Balthus and Salvador Dali in a group show entitled I Wanna Be Me that used its Sex Pistols aping title to celebrate utterly personal expression in a world of appropriation. But the greatest testament to Gyon’s talents at this juncture was her first eponymous Shin Gallery solo show that ran over the summer. The centerpiece of the show was the sculptural Headpiece that saw Gyon applying oil paints to pillows. Every pillow was its own face unlike any of the other faces and, according to Gyon, each represented a human emotion. The stacking of the pillows on top of one another and fashioning them to collide into one another was emblematic of any single human being’s psychology: chaotic and disorganized but still working together to create a definable whole. While so much of the conceptual art world explores the anxiety and paranoia that technology has unleashed upon the world populace, Gyon looks toward a concept that is, if not divine, than spiritual. Her work is awake and tapped into something that lives above the cacophony of daily existence. I had to talk to her.

LEHRER: What were you going through emotionally while in university that led you to transition into creating art works?

Gyon: During my first master course, I was working through my own personal experiences with my grandmother having just passed and that prompted me to focus on my work. I was enjoying making art, but really didn’t know what I wanted to make and I wasn’t sure what my subject matter would be. I was looking for something. We held a a “gut” ritual for her and that had a big impact on me.

LEHRER: Obviously having your grandmother pass away is an emotional event, but what was it about the ceremony specifically that you connected with making artwork?

Gyon: I was not very close with my grandmother.  I was not a good grandchild. I did very bad things to her. I regretted this. After she passed away, I couldn’t do anything for her. It made me so sad and I wanted to meet her again. 

LEHRER: So you felt making art somehow would connect you to your grandmother in the way that you couldn’t while she was alive?

Gyon: Yes. During the Guy Ceremony, I felt I could meet my grandmother, like I could talk to my grandmother. I had such negative emotions in my mind and after the ceremony, they were gone. Not completely gone, but my emotions changed.

LEHRER: Your artwork is obviously very emotional. I was curious, I read that as a child, you liked burning textiles and that this became a part of your process later on. For you, was that destructive act also a creative act?

Gyon: Mhmm

LEHRER: Could you explain that a little bit?

Gyon: As a kid, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to play with my friends. I just wanted to be alone. My mom had a lot of fabrics and I wanted to do something with them. Draw, paint, write. But, I used a lighter. It didn’t work. It all burned

LEHRER: I’ve read articles about the fashion designer Margiela when he was still around.

Gyon: I love him

LEHRER: When people asked why he sent ripped clothing down the runway, he said for him ripping clothes is just another creative act. It’s like you’re destroying something to create something else. 

GYON: I use that process, always. When I make a painting, I’ll destroy it, remake it, destroy it. It’s much better in the end. 

LEHRER: Your work has been broken down into these five different ideas: Incarnations, hair which I guess is a metaphor for life and how life can continue after death, the stigma of the shaman lifestyle of being ostracized or put away from your community, but called upon for important funerals and things like that, and catharsis. That sounds very specific. What sort of lead you to focus on these five ideas?

Gyon: I don’t think it’s so specific. It’s about life and death. Happy or unhappy.

LEHRER: So many contemporary artists now are dealing with the paranoia surrounding the digital age and surveillance technology. But your work is still dealing with the big themes of life, death, and spirituality. Obviously you have have a laptop and Wi-Fi, but do you feel yourself consciously disconnecting from technology to get in touch with your work?

Gyon: I’m not a huge technology person.

LEHRER: That helps

Gyon: I have to use laptop, i have to use iPhone. Instagram brought you and I together, it has a power. It’s so amazing. I use it, but I am very human.

LEHRER: Are you religious or just spiritual?

Gyon: I don’t have any religion. Shamans aren’t about religion, they are spiritual. 

LEHRER: Right, and they can be like medicine men too? Healers? 

Gyon: Yes, healers. That’s why I’m interested. I’m not very interested in religions. I mean, I used to go to church and used to go to Temple. You know, the Temple is a very interesting place in Chinatown. 

LEHRER: I was wondering, too, because your work does have elements of abstract expressionism and also some figuration to it, were you influenced at all by the conventional schools of art history? Are you trying to blend these concepts of ritual with the traditions of art history?

Gyon: Blend. Everything is hybrid. I always use juxtaposition—so high culture and low culture. I am always trying to juxtapose emotion and culture. My work does not just focus on shamanism. 

LEHRER: Yeah, because it still is in the context of contemporary art and art history and things like that. So for some of your work, Headcount for instance, when I first saw it I was amazed by the way it almost implies an explosive imagination. How do all those faces and characters appear to you? And how do they flow out of you?

Gyon: They just came out. And each piece is different, with different faces. I didn’t make them as a portrait, I just filled them in with emotions. I was transformed by other people. It just came out. 

LEHRER: Do you think that they’re all feelings? 

Gyon: Yes. I don’t know, it just came out and I can’t explain why. I made it by myself. 

LEHRER: You don’t use assistants or anything? 

Gyon: Some people helped me with the sewing and stuffing the cotton, but basically I do it by myself. 

LEHRER: That’s what’s so interesting about art criticism is that sometimes we take meaning from the work that’s so much different than what’s intended. 

Gyon: So different, yeah. And I really hate that people want to know what the meaning of the painting is, of these characters. It’s too much for me. I really don’t want to explain everything, every marking

LEHRER: One thing I did want to ask you though is you used to design traditional Korean garments? When did you notice the potential in those fabrics for other creative purposes? 

Gyon: I always loved clothing. I always loved the fabrics. I wanted to be a designer more than a painter. I don’t know why I’m a painter. That experience was really amazing. I didn’t even want to be an artist because I thought that it was impossible to live as one. I just went to the interview and had no idea how to make the clothing, I still can’t do it, but the designer hired me because I was really good with using color and good at drawing. And so that’s how I started working there. It was amazing. Amazing. I didn’t know how beautiful the traditional Korean dresses were. I’m very proud of it. It’s super inspiring. I mean, that’s why I went to Japan, because I wanted to study fashion. 


Follow Hyon Gyon on Instagram. text and interview by Adam Lehrer


New Street History: An Interview of Legendary Japanese Photographer Keizo Kitajima

You could say that Keizo Kitajima is an heir to the Provoke photography movement’s electrifying foundation and principle idea that a photographic image can be a completely new type of language. It’s a language fired from the shutter of a camera – a lexicon that can encapsulate a fraction of a moment, yet recite an epic in a single explosive image. Often blurry, out of focus and with choking contrast, the short lived movement made icons out of photographers such as Daido Moriyama. Moriyama also seemed to have the most influence, especially on Kitajima who was encouraged to carry on in the tradition of Provoke, but also expand beyond its confines – to travel the world and to see if that same language could tell a more universal story. Kitajima made his way  to New York in the early 80s – a pivotal time when the streets were alive with a new breed of bohemia and fervent creativity. His resultant images from the six months spent on the beat in Manhattan resulted in some of the best documentation of the era. In 1990, Kitajima traveled to the USSR to photograph the last glimmer of the Soviet Union – all on rich, saturated, extinct Kodochrome film. Currently, Kitajima has an exhibition of works spanning his entire career on view at Little Big Man gallery in Los Angeles. Featuring vintage and new prints, it’s a perfect glimpse into the oeuvre of a lesser-known photographer that deserves to be a legend. Autre got a chance to catch up with Kitajima to ask a few questions about his work and to discuss why he could never make a photo book about Los Angeles. 

OLIVER KUPPER: So, first off, thank you. I appreciate your time. My first question is: what are some of the greatest lessons you learned at the Workshop School?

KEIZO KITAJIMA: There was no formal class there but I was very influenced by [Daido] Moriyama. Basically, Moriyama taught me how to think and how to look. And, those lessons are still with me today.

KUPPER: Interesting. And you knew about him, breaking out of the transcript a little, but you discovered his photography earlier than the school, as a teenager right?

KITAJIMA: Yeah, at the end of my teens.

KUPPER: How did you discover his work? I mean, obviously he is a big force in Japanese photography, but what was it about his work that was so electrifying?

KITAJIMA: Moriyama is famous for his Provoke photographs, for the destructive qualities of his images. This is what attracted me. It was not just Moriyama but also photographer Takuma Nakahira who I was drawn to for his rather dangerous and challenging writing and thinking which broke down prejudices. And, Nakahira was of course also producing images that looked like Moriyama’s as well.

KUPPER: Do you feel like you were carrying on the tradition of modern Japanese photography or were you trying to break totally new ground?

KITAJIMA: Of course I was critical of modern Japanese photography. But, at the same time, even the criticism of that work could only become another kind of modernism.

KUPPER: When you’re visiting New York or USSR, do you go in with a specific approach. When you’re commissioned to do specific series do you go in with a specific plan or is it totally improvised?

KITAJIMA: No plan. I just figured it out when I got there.

KUPPER: Is that intimidating?

KITAJIMA: No, not really. It wasn’t scary.

KUPPER: Can you describe the energy you’re feeling when you’re shooting in the streets or a night club? And, are you trying to transfer that energy to the photographs you’re taking?

KITAJIMA: When I’m in a city, I respond to things on many different levels. So, I might walk down the street and say “that’s a pretty girl” or “that’s a sad looking sky” or “this is dirty” or “this is beautiful.” Taking photographs is a kind of system for synthesizing these things. Film expresses these things in many different ways. For me, photographing in a city means to expose what’s inside of me. I try to do that as specifically as I can. I don’t just have one way of looking at things and I try to make clear the many different ways of looking at things. A baby, when born, knows nothing and as the baby grows up it will eventually get taken up by various systems which is not part of its control. In other words, the subject is created by society. So, in a sense then, the society is actually the real maker of my photographs. The fact that I speak Japanese is totally out of my control, it’s just something that is imposed on me from outside.

KUPPER: So the photographic process is almost automatic in a way.

KITAJIMA: I think about these things while photographing constantly. After taking photographs every day my mind kind of became like this.

KUPPER: So, this is a less philosophical question: you have an amazing photograph of Mick Jagger, sort of iconic of that New York series. Can you talk a little bit about how that image came about?

KITAJIMA: I saw The Stones walking down the street, from their bus into a bar called St. Mark’s Grill. I just kind of wandered in there. I encountered them. For me, New York is a place where you can see Andy Warhol or some other star and on the same street meet a beggar.

KUPPER: Did you ever spend time with any of these artists at the time or was this something you were just photographing from the outside?

KITAJIMA: I took photographs at The Factory once but I wasn’t spending a lot of time with him or other artists.

KUPPER: When you’re producing the pictures of negatives, do you imagine them more in photo books or on gallery walls?

KITAJIMA: It’s changed. When I was young I wanted to make photo books. After New York I stopped; I didn’t feel I wanted to make books as much afterwards. In the past five years I’ve become more interested in making photo books again.

KUPPER: As a teacher yourself, what kind of wisdom can you impart to our generation of photographers, especially in a digital world?

KITAJIMA: If it was ten years ago maybe I would have had some advice, but now I feel that there is nothing for me to say.

KUPPER: How do you feel about the digital revolution in photography?

KITAJIMA: In Japan, everyone is talking about what is digital or what’s the difference between digital and analog but the only thing we can do is get used to digital. Let’s get used to digital. But, I’m speaking about my own generation. For question of what looks like photography or what is photographic, the answer is different for my generation or for younger generations. Old people who look at digital photographs might say “this isn’t a photograph,” or younger people who are only used to seeing digital photographs might look at an older photograph and think “this is a really weird photograph.” But that’s photography. There is no original in photography.

KUPPER: So for this show, it’s a little bit of everything. Was it difficult to curate the show or pare things down?

KITAJIMA: Well, Nick did most of it.

KUPPER: Okay. And there are also some color photographs which people don’t usually see. Do you like shooting in color, working with the embrace of color? There’s a different energy between black and white.

KITAJIMA: I’m only taking color photographs these days but I don’t use monochrome film because I’m using a digital camera now. There’s just no need to make that black and white. The difference that I see is when you’re taking a color photograph the color is also an object. In other words, that you could take a photograph of something just because it is blue. Or red! Color is on par with taking a photograph because of the object properties of it. Color is a very important question.

KUPPER: Last question, if you were to make a photo book about LA, what would it look like?

KITAJIMA: I really like the West Coast in general and Los Angeles in particular. If I was going to take photographs on the West Coast my rival would have to be Karl Watkins. I’m very interested in photographing Yosemite, where Watkins’ photographs are from but if I were to photograph LA it would be desert landscapes. LA is an artificial city built in the middle of the desert.

KUPPER: Yeah. It would the desert city of Los Angeles.

KITAJIMA: It would be really difficult to make a book in LA because I only take photographs when it’s cloudy or rainy.

KUPPER: So you can never take photographs in LA.

KITAJIMA: Yeah, it’s basically impossible.

KUPPER: There’s maybe two days a year so not much career in that. You’d have to work quickly.

KITAJIMA: Well today was a little cloudy and overcast. On Monday I’m going to Joshua Tree, it’s like being on another planet.

KUPPER: Yeah, totally, like being in outer space. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.


Keizo Kitajima's exhibition New Street History is on view now until November 27 at Little Big Man Gallery in Los Angeles. text and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Translation assistance by Dan Abbe. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Agency, Anal and Attitude: An Interview with Aiden Starr

Aiden Starr has the most magnificent rack I’ve ever come in contact with. Aside from her undeniably pronounced assets, Aiden is articulate and knowledgeable about what she does and has nothing to hide because of it. She is one of the most accomplished women in porn, exposed and giving no apologies. Straight forward and cutting; she tells it like it is and that is what I cherish about her as a friend and a colleague. She calls bullshit, she celebrates the good, she treats sex work with care and consideration. For her, porn is a humanist pursuit as she acts as a matchmaker between client and provider on all levels of the industry. I caught up with the 4’11” blonde bombshell and her sweet porn chum, Daisy Ducati, at the Beverly Center in mid-January after an Evil Angel shoot. I hung around while they shopped for their dresses for the 2016 AVNs and XBIZ awards while asking questions about her career and the porn industry at large, and learned more about her impressive roster of porn films, both as a performer and a director, past and upcoming and other untouchable arenas: agency, anal, and attitude. Some men seemed to recognize both of the girls as we walked through the mall, but I remained the invisible pervert.

Audra Wist: My interest in you has always been about you being super professional and somebody who has successfully crossed over hardcore porn and femdom and also somebody is who both a performer and a director. I am not so involved in the porn industry to know how common that is, but it doesn’t seem—

Aiden Starr: It’s not. Male performers and directors are way more common than female performer/directors.

Wist: So, was that a part of your trajectory when you started out… like you said, okay, I’m going to perform and I definitely want to get to directing eventually, this is something I’m interested in technically... or was it more or less I’m going to get into this and see how I do and play it by ear?

Starr: My first sex worker job was a phone girl in a dungeon. What a phone girl means is the girl who picks up the phone, who books the sessions for the other girls and who preps the equipment in the room and who keeps the time. And working on the magazine that the dungeon put out at the time cause this was the 90s.

Wist: And this was in New York?

Starr: Yeah, New York. And also working on the website, updating. But most of what I did and what I was really good at was managing the clients. I really liked submissive girls - that’s why I started working there. My buddy was a bottom and we played together and she started working there and she asked me to work there with her because she wanted me to work on her shifts, be the phone girl, and book all of her sessions. Get her guys that she liked and make good matches for her. So, my initial interest in the adult industry was making good matches between clients and providers to make the job enjoyable - to make the experience enjoyable for not only the clients, but also for the providers. Not only was a monetary exchange, but an exchange of a good time and a good energy.

Wist: Right, that’s what it’s about.

Starr: I didn’t start working in that kind of adult film until I was working in the dungeon for a couple of years and then I only did it with women who were my lovers in real life. Before I graduated high school, I thought about applying to Tisch [School of the Arts, at NYU] and had prepared an application, so I was familiar with video medium and had directed stuff before. In fact, the very first thing I directed, I was a twelve-year old and I directed a mockumentary on date rape.

Wist: Really? That’s great! Wait, so did you-

Starr: It was a dramatization. It was a girl and a guy going back and forth, talking about their experiences, like a he said/she said reenactment of it with a party scene: people drinking too much and the concept of date rape. She didn’t know why they were going into the bedroom because she’s young and didn’t have the experience... and he didn’t understand that she didn’t know why they were going into the bedroom because why would she go into the bedroom if she didn’t want to be there? That kind of scene. I wrote these scripts out for my friends, who were twelve, and I made them do it.

Wist: [laughs] Oh, you “made” them do it - that is your career in a nutshell.

Starr: And it was also kind of a porn, a soft-core porn. Now, my version of this was them getting under the covers and moving under the sheets because when you’re twelve you think that’s what sex is. You just pull the sheets over your head and move around.

Wist: That is so funny.

Starr: But that, theoretically, is a soft core porn. So, I guess if you look back early enough, I was always going to end up where I ended up but that’s not what initially sparked my wanting to be a sex worker. It’s like a spa, going to see a provider. It’s beautiful and it’s fantasy and it’s like watching one of those movies from the 80s like Legend or Labyrinth where everybody is amazing and is in a castle and there’s a princess. And to me, it was helping people with their castle fantasy.

Wist: You see a smattering of people in the adult industry, or maybe this is any industry, but you have people who are the real deal and people who are eh, what are you doing here.

Starr: Tourists.

Wist: Right, tourists. And I feel so much of what’s going on, all this shit about sex positivity and feminism, it’s all just internet chatter and no real showing up. Show up and do something. For you, it’s like here I am: a director for a huge porn company. Here I am: performing in porn. Here I am: a mainstay in porn and have been for a long time. What do you think about all the stuff that’s being thrown around on the internet online… I’m trying to think of an example…

Starr: Oh, you can think of an example. Just try real hard.

Wist: What are you thinking of?

Starr: The James Deen thing.

Wist: Oh, yes! Of course. I honestly did not even think of that when I was thinking of these questions but that is perfect. We should talk about that.

Starr: That’s a great example of sex workers espousing feminism in social media. The fact that, to these women, you always take the side of a woman whenever she claims to have been raped, that is part of their perceived definition of feminism. Which is interesting, because for me rape is not a gender-based issue. I know just as many men, or trans, or otherwise gendered people, who are sexually assaulted as I do women. So, I don’t see rape culture as a feminist issue. I see it as a humanist issue. And it’s interesting because it’s being ascribed to a feminist issue. People claiming “women get raped, women get raped, women get raped.” People get raped. Human beings get raped. And I think that’s kind of getting lost while people are espousing the idea of rape culture and the knowledge that this does exist. A man was trying to convince me the other day that rape culture doesn’t exist and I said “God bless you that you don’t know that that exists.”

Wist: Damn.

Starr: Seriously, bless your existence and that you don’t act that way towards people. Bless your parents for not fucking you up the way that a lot of other people are fucked up. It’s a thing, it’s a real thing. But I don’t think that it has to be under the feminist banner and I think that it is being ascribed to the feminist banner by sex workers or sex positive people in social media. It’s interesting to see the dynamic of where feminism was in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today. Today it’s all about preventing victimization and I feel like many many years ago it was about empowerment and equality. I’m not sure how that happened.

Wist: Preventing of victimization. So, do you think that there’s an alternative to that view? Not that this is a say-all-end-all my-little-constitution of feminism or whatever, but is there anything we can do? Or is it just being somebody who is doing the work and not being “I’m gonna go on the internet and say what I think about this thing that I have no first-hand knowledge of whatsoever!”

Starr: I think for me feminism, at it’s core, is about equality. It’s about people being equal to people. You obviously could go into the history of it and it’s present-day application and the issue, be they American, Central American, South American, African, European, Australian, Asian, whatever pocket of the world, and how feminism plays out in certain area, but for me, it’s about everybody being equal to each other.

Wist: Straight forward, straight up.

Starr: That’s kind of how I’ve always seen it. Everybody deserves common human rights.

Wist: Yeah, there was a gal [Laurie Penny] who wrote a piece for TIME and it was this call to arms, like we have to do something about this, isn’t this horrible and I thought yes, of course rape is horrible—

Starr: Yes! No one is arguing that! No one has ever been like this is totally fucking fine. Only the idiots are saying “she asked for it” and no one listens to them. They’re idiots and we all know they are idiots. Feminism has definitely become more anti-male. Feminism looks closer to female supremacy than it does feminism.

Wist: Right, it does! I wrote down one time “I am a female supremacist but I don’t devalue men,” and I could not for the life of me figure out what that meant. But now, hearing you say that, maybe I was trying to ascribe to a particular brand of contemporary feminism while wanting to break away or find some alternative that felt right. I looked at that sentence a lot. Do you think that that’s why there’s been a rise in femdom porn? I don’t know the numbers, but do you think there’s been a significant spike?

Starr: Why there’s been a rise in femdom porn is such an interesting fucking question. It’s one of my favorite subjects to talk about. When I talk to clients about porn and why they watch it, I always pick their brains and it’s so interesting to see that side where subs have no control and they like having no control. Whereas, if you play with a girl and it’s a girl/girl situation, the girls like “you can do this to me, you can do that to me, but I don’t like that and I don’t like this, period.” Whereas, guys just want to be this rock bottom. It’s so different between the two genders and their perception of being submissive. It’s fascinating! I have no fucking idea why except that money is so important in today’s society that I’m sure it has something to do with the burden that men are supposed to be the primary breadwinners.

Wist: Yes, I was thinking the same thing. It has something to do with money as it’s so closely related to power.

Starr: Yeah, findom [financial domination] is huge.

Wist: I think it’s also that because of money, people acquiring large sums of it, people are too comfortable and they really seriously do not know what to do with all of it. And then it gets mixed in with desire or their dick or—

Starr: It’s burning a hole in their pocket.

Wist: Right.

Starr: I think men also feel like the pressure is on them in social situations to engage women and do they like the sexually aggressive archetype because it takes the pressure off of them. So, why I think that any kind of porn rises, any kind of art rises, any kind of entertainment rises, at all in any medium, is culture. The pervasive language of the culture directly affects femdom. What that language is is debatable but definitely male responsibility and that they feel burdened by society in some way, shape, or form to still be the sexual aggressor or monetary provider affects femdom. And going back to feminism, maybe that’s why all these girls are angry on the internet because their realities are not pleasing to them.


"IT'S LIKE A SPA, GOING TO SEE A PROVIDER. IT'S BEAUTIFUL AND IT'S FANTASY AND IT'S LIKE WATCHING ONE OF THOSE MOVIES FROM THE 80s, LIKE LEGEND OR LABYRINTH, WHERE EVERYBODY IS AMAZING AND IS IN A CASTLE AND THERE'S A PRINCESS. AND TO ME, IT WAS HELPING PEOPLE WITH THEIR CASTLE FANTASY."


Wist: Yeah, this is the whole put a ribbon on your car situation, right? Support our troops? Did that. I bought my ribbon and put it on my car. Done. It’s a whitewashing culture. Maybe something that folds into that too… I was really into your Marshmallow Girls series for Evil Angel. I remember thinking damn, this is in the fucking mainstream! This is so crazy and why not? And to put it out there under those circumstances and to really capitalize on a previously thought of as “niche” market is bold! With that and femdom porn too, I think we really have to acknowledge and reckon with the fact that people want different things and have different needs. And look - you put it out there and people buy it. That’s the best part.

Starr: They buy it! People buy the shit out of my porn. I make money and I can pay you. Yeah, people buy the shit out of my weird crap.

Wist: I’m wondering about the back end of that, too. Does porn still dictate what’s on the cusp of happening in technology? Is the porn industry experiencing the same thing that magazines and the print media are right now then?

Starr: Yeah, obsolescence. Our medium is experiencing a trend towards obsolescence because of the drop in capital because of all of the free porn on the internet. It’s fucking us super badly.

Wist: What do you do to counteract that?

Starr: What you have to do is make something that they would pay for even if they could get it for free. You have to make the air smell so good that people will come over to your post to sniff the air even though there’s air everywhere for free. It’s really fucking hard. Selling something for free is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is possible, but you just have to think about it. When I make movies, all of my cast is hand-picked. The movie we just shot Lesbian Anal Sex Slaves Volume 2—

Wist: Repeat the name for me?

Starr: Lesbian Anal Sex Slaves Volume 2. Daisy [Ducati] and I were doing a shot together, fleshing out ideas of how we were already interacting and then figured out as other characters, figuring out our dynamics, props. It’s a more complicated process now. You can’t just put anal porn on the internet now and expect to make money.

Wist: Do you guys storyboard?

Starr: I don’t storyboard… we were talking about it during sex. We were inspired by each other. I talked to her, proposed an idea afterward. She’s in a lot of my stuff anyway and I like picking performers who like to be involved in the creative process or are blank canvases. Typically, I like to pair those types together in a scene. Daisy has been in a lot of my stuff and she is a part of the creative process and then I pick a blank canvas, or two, and give them to her and it goes from there. Does that make sense? I just compared it to painting.

Wist: Makes sense to me.

Starr: I have active participants in a scene and passive participants. And I participate only if the passive participants are unable to complete the tasks at hands. So, today for example, the girl was having trouble with anal. I saw her having trouble with anal so I told her to get on her back and have the other gal lick her butthole. I had to change the situation because she was not comfortable. Otherwise, I would’ve just let them do what they were going to do. I only interject if I feel like I need to as a director.

Wist: Does that happen that often that people [directors] step in and say okay, you are clearly having trouble with your butthole today—

Starr: You just do something else. It’s okay! For me, it’s about the happiness and safety of all the performers. No one has to die. I don’t make snuff movies.

Wist: What’s that like for you to work with fresh eighteen year-olds in the industry? Do you feel like you’re mama bear?

Starr: I don’t usually hire young girls.

Wist: You don’t?

Starr: I don’t. I’m 36 and I’m not really attracted to people half my age. It’s just not a thing for me. This girl was special. She has a special energy and I wanted her to have good experiences with us doing rough stuff. She had fun today. And because of it, she’s going to be a more comfortable sex worker because of it.

Wist: Right, she didn’t feel bad about it and that’s so important! So many people have bad one-off experiences.

Starr: You can really give yourself serious psychological damage with bad experiences.

Wist: Yeah, I think about this with clients. They have these bad first experiences with dommes, and these are grown men, and they are traumatized. And I feel bad. That fucking blows. They paid to have a traumatic experience.

Starr: It’s intense. A lot of pro dommes are really bad. Really bad where I’m like what the fuck am I looking at right now?

Wist: Well, I have my own are-you-for-real bullshit detector thing that I do or observe, but do you have that too?

Starr: Yes, absolutely. If you are a pro domme and I see you do a scene with no aftercare, you suck. Period. If you are too fucking cool to get them a glass of water… if you are too fucking good to realize that you’re playing with a human being, I don’t like you. We’re not cut from the same fabric.

Wist: Yep. And it’s all too common.

Starr: And you know what it is? It stems from insecurity because cruelty stems from insecurity and that’s what that is. That’s not BDSM, that’s cruelty. It’s true, man. And girls think it makes them look like a badass.

Wist: It’s a bummer. So, you guys are preparing for the awards show this week?

Starr: Yeah, I’ve been working my balls off. XBIZ awards are this week and then the AVNs are the following week.

Wist : Did you ever read David Foster Wallace’s essay on his experience at the AVNs?

Starr: No.

Wist: He opens it up with this horrendous story about men jerking off so much, so furiously, that they just can’t handle it anymore and they chop that shit right off.

Starr: Sweet, wow. Wait a minute… first of all, the AVNs are not that much fun. Okay, if Satan were involved, I would be much more excited about not being able to work the entire time while being there. I would be much more excited if anybody even just masturbated until their dick fell off much less cut off! If there was any masturbation at all, that would be amazing. There’s really nothing. We get dressed up, sign shit, talk to people, they stare at us, we do radio shows—

Wist: What’s that like, getting the mesmerizing stare? What are their faces like?

Starr: Here’s the weirdest shit the world: everybody knows your name and you don’t know any of their names. And you don’t know who they are… or if you do. I just try to be nice to everybody. That’s my plan for AVNs.

Wist: Do they say weird shit to you during a meet and greet?

Starr: Sometimes. Like, “Every time I masturbate, I cry,” and shit like that. I love that though. I want people to scare the other girls standing around — that’s how weird I want it to be. If it’s not weird, it’s just like, “Hi, nice to meet you, goodbye.” I like weird shit. One dude during an independent signing at a store, he came in and said, “You have really big breasts.” and I’m like, “yeeeeep!” and he goes, “I bet your mother had really big breasts, too.” and I said, “She does.” and then he comes back with, “I bet your grandmother has big breasts.” and I’m like, “As a matter of fact, she does.” And he was older; he started asking what my grandmother looked like...

Wist: Oh, god.

Starr: And at the end of the conversation he asked me if I would tell my grandmother that he said hello and I was like, “Sure will, buddy.”

Wist: Shit. [laughs] By the way, I do have to say, your tits are amazing. That was one of the things I had wrote down to say. It’s not a question, but I needed to say it.

Starr: Then you’re going to love the dress I’m wearing to AVN. It’s red latex over the boobies, over the cleavage and it’s really not my size, total smashville.

Wist: Another question I had for you because I still haven’t figured this out for myself, was about negotiating yourself into your work. I struggle with this. So, you have your government self and then you have this performer you’ve created, another part of you, which is still very much you and not something false. I was also thinking about David Bowie since he passed the other day, and I thought wow, porn is like David Bowie. Is there a relationship there?

Starr: Porn is like David Bowie but porn is more like football.

Wist: Porn is like football? Explain.

Starr: So, you’re a football player, right? You eat well, you’re in shape, you work out and train, you look good, you’re a football player. But then, when you put on your uniform, you tackle people. You wouldn’t tackle people in real life, but you do when you’re in uniform because it’s your job and it’s okay. So, porn is like football.

Wist: Ohhhh, I see. So, porn is like football and not like David Bowie?

Starr: Porn is like David Bowie because David Bowie was majestic and sexual and fantastic. And tight shiny clothing and shoes you can’t really walk in. David Bowie is like porn because of the sexuality that is so raw and potent that it makes people nervous. The most popular comment on all of the stories on my Facebook feed about David Bowie on Facebook were “speechless.” He renders people speechless. Porn renders people speechless. When guys come up to us at AVN, they often cannot articulate themselves. You’re activating the part of your brain that does not recognize language as a form of communication, the animal or primal part of your brain that is activated by symbolism, colors, tarot cards, crosses, shit like that. That is how porn is like David Bowie.

Wist: You knocked it out of the park.


You can follow Aiden Starr on Twitter here. Text and interview by Audra Wist. Photographs by . Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


V Presents: Graham Fink

V presents...An Interview with Ad Agency Creative Director and Multi-media Artist Graham Fink

I first met Graham Fink in London in 2006. At the time, I was looking for a new job and my recruitment agency wouldn't send me on this interview: assistant to the Creative Director at M&C Saatchi. It sounded exciting, so since the agency was being so unhelpful, I set out to directly contact said creative director myself. Easy task. I made sure to point out in my email that the recruitment agency didn't want to send me to see him. Within 30 minutes, we had set up a meeting for the very next day, late afternoon. I met Graham at his offices on Golden Square... I had no idea what to expect, and he was everything I shouldn't have expected. I remember being pretty gauche in my interview and dropped the word 'creative' way too many times for the 'admin position'. I didn't get the job, but I kept in touch with Graham over the years. He has never stopped being a great source of inspiration for me. He currently holds the position of Chief Creative Director of Ogilvy in Shanghai.

It has been so exciting to see him make the natural but sometimes difficult transition: from "Ad' agency Creative Director" to "Multimedia Artist". Really it is all the same, only the title changes. Graham's new solo photographic show entitled "Ballads of Shanghai" opened at Riflemaker in Soho, in London on February 1st. I took this opportunity to interview him for Autre Magazine.

VIRGINIE PICOT: You have been based in Shanghai for 5 years. What impact has your move to Shanghai had on your work?

GRAHAM FINK: Moving to China had a huge impact on me from day one. The sheer scale of the country and the different way the Chinese look at things. Both visually and philosophically. It also taught me that everything I knew, was of no use to me whatsoever.

PICOT: China has gone through and is still going through a big transformation culturally, economically and socially. Your show is about the rapidly changing landscape of Urban China. How has this transformation affected you as an artist during those 5 years?

FINK: China changes herself faster than David Bowie’s characters. But like Bowie, the country is on a voyage of self-discovery. After the Cultural Revolution, China was so far behind the West that it had to catch up fast. And I think that’s why there is so much copying going on here, because that’s the fastest way to catch up. But now, many creative people in China - artists especially - are going back to their deep roots. Finding the latent creativity in their DNA. Their true voice. What they really stand for. For me, as an artist from overseas, I am working with the unfamiliar. I like to get out of my comfort zone and see new things around me that I don’t understand. Yet. But I am also confident in my own DNA and instinctively trust it in my work to mash East and West cultures together.

PICOT: Can you tell us more about this show? Talk us through the original idea through to the process and execution.

FINK: Well, as a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by derelict buildings, empty shells, rubbish dumps and so on. My parents lived on a farm with thousands of acres all around us and everyday I went exploring. I came across all sorts of ‘secret places’ and found things that I'd never seen before. So I’m probably at my happiest when scrambling around similar places today. And now I have a camera, it allows me to capture the things I see. It’s a bit like discovering treasure. As with the ‘faces’ I have taken thousands of images. But it’s when they are seen together that powerful stories emerge. For this exhibition I have used recycled wood to make the frames. So even that has a different past. I wanted a kind of new and old feeling to the prints. So after much experimenting, I printed them onto a beautiful matte art paper and then painted certain areas of the photographs in a high gloss varnish. So as you walk past them, they catch the light and they change.

PICOT: Faces are a common denominator in your work. In your print on marbles "Nomads" series as well as your "Drawing with my Eyes" series, what is behind this fascination, or perhaps obsession with faces, and how do they fit in this show? 

FINK: I’m a Pareidoliaist. I see faces in everything. Cracks in walls, mud splattered cars, flaking paint on doorways. These apparitions continue to grow and the spirits seem to follow me everywhere. In this show the faces take a back seat, but they are still there if you look for them. It has become an obsession and over the years I’ve taken thousands of these "ghosts." Paul Verlaine said best: “L’image poétique devrait être plus vague et plus soluble dans l’air.”

PICOT: You have worked across various media, won countless awards... How do you keep your ideas fresh and how do you keep inspired?

FINK: For me, it's important to stay fresh by experiencing new things, going to new places. Some people want to be cool, well, I think that being ‘cool’ stops you from finding new things. If you’re ‘cool’, you may not listen to a particular type of music, or you wouldn’t be seen dead in certain places. That’s when you get stale. When I came to China, most of my friends thought I was mad. And it certainly was a massive culture shock. But it’s amazing how fast your brain normalizes everything. Luckily, China is a big place with many subcultures. I see things everyday that leave indelible markings on my mind.

PICOT: Who has the biggest influence on you as an artist?

FINK: That’s impossible to answer as there are so many, I mentioned one earlier, and now that I’m in China, I discover many new ones that I’ve never heard of before. But every time I see Frank Auerbach’s work, I get excited. And of course no one could be more obsessive than him.

PICOT: How is your work as Chief Creative Director for Ogilvy China feeding into your work as an artist, and vice versa?

FINK: It’s funny, but I often get asked that question. As I see it, both Art and Advertising require acts of creativity. I never say, well today I am doing advertising so I’ll put my advertising head on, or the next day, now where did I leave my artist head. I think it’s more about you as a human being. How you approach something. The art I do is very conceptual, and so is working on an ad campaign. It always starts with an idea.

PICOT: What art do you most identify with and why?

FINK: I love art that looks free. Where you're not aware of the hand of the artist. In China there are 5 main styles of calligraphy, but my favourite is the cursive style. Often the brush never leaves the paper, and so the characters merge into one another. It’s not particularly legible to the average person, but you can feel it more than you need to read it.

PICOT: Art on social media vs. social media art... Are social media platforms the best modern advertising space for art or does the art get diluted in that space? Do you have a social media strategy?

FINK: The best social media art isn’t necessarily made for social media. I was intrigued by Richard Prince's exhibition of Instagram images complete with Likes. They were hanging in a gallery, but were also going crazy on social media. This gave it a kind of double meaning, which of course I’m sure he intended. The most interesting art has always been talked about and shared, either by a tweet or word of mouth. And word of mouth has always been the best advertising. As for my own social media strategy, I think it’s important to embrace what is out there and experiment. This interview has been another experiment.


Ballads of Shanghai runs until February 14, 2016 at Riflemaker, 79 Beak St, London W1F 9SU. See more of Graham Fink's work here, and follow his Instagram to keep up with the experiment. Text and interview by Virginie Picot. This is the first in a series of interviews V will conduct with individuals in the creative fields. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


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Brigette In Bloom: An Interview with Brigette Bloom

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With her trusty sidekick Leo (her beloved dog), Bridgette Bloom is a child of the wilderness. With a feral spirit and the abandon of a forest sprite, Bloom follows in the great tradition of American wanderers – documenting with her camera all along the way. Bloom's photographs are like a beautiful dream in someone else's afterlife – a cinematic elysium that explodes in cloudbursts of life altering reminders to never waste even a single moment. 

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PAS UN AUTRE: When did you first discover photography?

BRIGETTE BLOOM: I've loved pictures my whole life. sometimes i'd find strangers old family photos on the street when i'd walk home from school and was so fascinated by the things other people took pictures of. I love the idea of photography; how you can hold a moment in your hand, it's like time traveling!

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

BLOOM: The first photo i took was probably of a slug, or my eye or something, but the first one I can remember is when I was very little, I lined up all my trolls on the table and took a polaroid of them, I loved it so much. I took it with me to school in my backpack and would look at it throughout the day. Another early one is one I took of my old hamster, cotton ball, right after she bit my brother on the arm.

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AUTRE: You seem like a pretty fervent traveler - where are you now?

BLOOM:  I moved to Portland a few months ago from Alaska, but now that spring is here I feel the need to get up and leave again. I always like to be on the move, passing through, getting my feet dirty. I've had so many beautiful, growing experiences through traveling, I see myself doing it forever.

AUTRE: Who is Leo?

BLOOM: My heart, my gentle but very strong willed dog.

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AUTRE: What are some of your biggest influences or inspirations?

BLOOM: I'm deeply inspired by animals. Everything about them is so mysterious and honest, I feel like an animal myself. But really, I am inspired by almost anything- looking into a strangers eyes, drinking fog, listening to the coyotes howl as I fall asleep, silence, intuition, eating good food, finding dog hair stuck to my shirt, courage, the seed of a peach, dripping honey, smile lines, blood, dreamers, cracked lips, whats natural and wild, how the body heals itself, raw feelings, the heart of the sun, self love, feeling connected to everything around you, i'm just in love with life.

AUTRE: Whats next?

BLOOM: I feel that I haven't even touched the surface of my photography yet, there is so much more to be created! Right now i'm just enjoying each day and we'll see what happens when it comes....

Follow Brigette Bloom's journey on her tumblr. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

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Light as Air: An Interview with Gregory Aune

Gregory Aune is a photographer and collagist based in New York whose images are both dreamy and classical. There is also a unique confidence in Aune's vision throughout his ouvra making his photographs seem both effortless and light as air.  I caught up with Aune to ask him a few questions about his technique and inspiration behind his work. 

PAS UN AUTRE: When did you first know you wanted to become a photographer?

GREGORY AUNE: I grew up in a small desert town in southern California. I was always drawing as a kid and actually wanted to be a illustrator when I grew up. So I always had a love for the visual arts I tried all aspects but the one I couldn't shake was photography, It was just something I fell in love with and just made the choice to grow within that, and will be growing until I die.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

AUNE: I wish, I do however have my first roll of film that I developed myself. Its a collection of out of focus flowers.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the viewfinder?

AUNE: Trying to place myself within the picture not trying to be a voyeur or hide behind the camera. I rather feel Im there with the subject, not just within the frame but the world that it lives in.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest inspirations or influences?

AUNE: There is quite a lot ranging from music, film, art, dance, close friends, lovers, broken hearts, nature and of course photography. It can be from the simplest things to the most damaging of things. I couldn't really pin point one person. I guess with in a commercial aspect I would say people like Paolo Roversi, Sarah Moon, Deborah Turberville purely because there artistry was translated and used in a commercial world...

AUTRE: What is your ideal subject to photograph?

AUNE: I have my list of people through out time that I would have loved to photograph but I always enjoy a nice roam in a forest or along the coast.

AUTRE: You are also a collagist – can you describe the aesthetic and inspiration behind some of your collages?

AUNE: I enjoy collage a great deal. With a lot of contemporary collagist not saying all but there all compiled on the computer which it doesn't feel right to me. I enjoy the hands on approach and rather cut things out with scissors and paste with glue. I guess my aesthetic would be loosely based on the principles of photography that your capturing a moment. I enjoy extremely surreal collagist or others that use shapes and textures to mold into each other, but with my own work I just want to add a little more to everyday situations. For example I did a whole series of birds fly over structures or landscapes, theirs not much to it but the idea of what it would be like to travel the way they do and see the things they see. As far as inspiration it comes from everywhere could be a broken heart or based on a drawing I saw and my interpretation of it...Inspiration comes from everywhere.

AUTRE: Analog or digital?

AUNE: The great question. I learned on film, was kind of the last generation of students to completely learn on film so it will always be a part of me. Also with anything it’s the hands on feeling, its romantic and exciting. Digital however, is great in its own right…the turn around in a work environment is quick but I feel lacks that excitement, also at times everything is realized in post. I like both for different reasons and Ill hold on to film as long as I can but wont be fighting digital either.

AUTRE: Whats next?

AUNE: I just plan to keep creating and keep moving forward. Growth within myself and my work.

See more of Gregory Aune's photography on his website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre

Preschool Tintoretto: An Interview With Adam Green

Adam Green is standing under the fluorescent pink glow of the Veniero’s Pasticceria sign on East 11th Street. Lanky, shaggy-haired and clad in olive green corduroy pants, a red paisley 70’s Western shirt and a somewhat ironically ostentatious two-toned fur coat to fend off the icy December air, he could almost pass as another twenty-something traipsing about the East Village—yet I immediately recognize him as the anti-folk wunderkind. Most know Green as one half of the Moldy Peaches, the quirky indie duo that achieved sleeper mainstream success via the Grammy-winning soundtrack of Diablo Cody’s Juno (2007). Green met Kimya Dawson, the other half of the Moldy Peaches, in the 90s in Mount Kisco, NY, where they both grew up. “She worked at the record store, and I worked at the pizzeria, so I would come to her on lunch break and I’d bring my guitar,” he recalls. At seventeen, Green moved from Westchester to Manhattan and began following the path of the New York troubadour, playing his guitar and singing on the street and in subway stations. “For a time I almost became one of the kids that’s just sort of like at Astor Place near the cube,” he laughs. Green has come a long way since then—between releasing seven solo albums in just eight years, exhibiting his paintings and drawings both in the U.S. and abroad, and releasing his first feature film, which was shot entirely on his iPhone—the “screwball tragedy” The Wrong Ferrari, which he wrote, directed, produced, and acted in (along with Macaulay Culkin, Devendra Banhart, BP Fallon, Alia Shawkat and Sky Ferreira. In just a few weeks, Green’s duet album with Binki Shapiro (of Little Joy) will be released. The album, which Green describes as “a nighttime album,” is sweetly melancholic, a fluid indie-pop mélange of the two singers’ styles.

Green, who describes himself as “basically an adult who likes to draw with crayons,” is pensive, focused and effervescent. As he talks, sipping peppermint tea and twisting the various silver rings on his fingers, he radiates enthusiasm and passion. He possesses an endearingly neurotic, Woody Allen-esque demeanor and an offbeat, deadpan sense of humor. He shows me a photo on his iPhone of the engagement ring he designed for his fiancée, using one of his own cartoonish color-block paintings as inspiration. Later on, at his covetable Gramercy Park studio, strewn with oil pastels, tubes of paint, guitars, books, records, paintings and playful set pieces from The Wrong Ferrari, he shows me a framed drawing that Pete Doherty did of him, using, of course, his own blood as ink. What’s next for the charmingly unpredictable Adam Green? Anything is possible. “My next venture is to make my own [film] version of Aladdin,” he says. I’m going to play Aladdin… I already have the lamp.”

ANNABEL GRAHAM: My first question is about 3 Men and a Baby.

ADAM GREEN: 3MB. [laughs]

GRAHAM: 3MB. Can you tell me a bit about that, how it started, what your most recent projects have been?

GREEN: Yeah. It was an extension of The Wrong Ferrari. I made this movie, The Wrong Ferrari, and it’s an iPhone movie, and it stars Macaulay Culkin. And Toby Goodshank, who I used to play in The Moldy Peaches with, he was the cameraman on The Wrong Ferrari, and he helped me to build the sets of the movie. So I guess me and him and Mac were working pretty closely at that time, and I think as an extension of that, we began to treat his house as an art studio. At first it was because some of the sets of The Wrong Ferrari were in his house—for example, in the corner of the room—and they would become like an installation, kind of. I remember we were shooting a scene from The Wrong Ferrari around the time of Halloween a couple of years ago, so the set from that scene sort of became a part of a Halloween party. And I think that he liked that, he liked the idea of having art in his house, and installations… so it grew from there. Mac does a party at Le Poisson Rouge called “Macaulay Culkin’s iPod,” so he has a relationship with that club. So they asked him if he’d like to do an art show, hearing that he was doing paintings, and he said that he would, and that became the reason why we did that show. Because they asked him to. I think it’s kind of funny, I guess almost in a way… you know, people would do lots of stuff, but it’s just that no one ever asked them to.

GRAHAM: So you’ve been painting for a while.

GREEN: I was always really interested in art history. When I was young, I read art history books. Even when I only did music, I would still continue to read art history, and I was a frequenter of museums and exhibits. But for some reason I just hadn’t really had the confidence to make my own artwork. It was actually a weird situation where I got divorced, and I returned back to my old house and found a huge stack of paper, and so I started to paint on the paper, and I kind of made the house really messy, I think I wanted to… mess up the house, and make it my own again, or something… so I think that’s how I started doing artwork. I’d always sort of done drawings, I’d even had an exhibit of drawings at a Swedish gallery called Loyal, back in 2005. Also, I guess I could say when I was a kid I did comic books; I was interested in comic book art and cartoons.

GRAHAM: Your prints are reminiscent of comic book imagery.

GREEN: I was interested in it, but I started to take it more seriously, and I think definitely making a movie, which was largely… the sets were made out of papier mâché, and they were sort of my own visual aesthetic… I think that was my introduction to really doing visual art, and then I guess I really concentrated on it for a few years, probably the last three years, I did mostly visual art, except I did the duets album with Binki [Shapiro]. But besides that, I mostly painted. I made so many paintings… I had three art shows.

GRAHAM: Making music, making films, painting… do you feel that you get something different from each of those forms of expression?

GREEN: I like painting because I almost attribute it to having a social element… I like to just listen to music and hang out with friends and paint at the same time. I like that I can sort of zone out and do it. I think painting, for me, is in the category of something I’ve been doing the longest. I’ve probably been drawing pictures since I was five or something, so I feel really comfortable… it’s relaxing to me. But I guess I was looking for a way to connect all of those different things. I’m obviously always looking for a way to paint the way that my songs are, to sing how my paintings are… I want to all sound like part of the same universe, and I think The Wrong Ferrari was a good attempt to fuse those worlds. It’s written in a half-poetic style, almost like song lyrics, and the script is much in the same pool of writing that I’d write my songs out of. The difference is that songwriting for me is special, because it’s very soothing for me. It’s almost like a meditation, I can kind of walk around and… I just sort of, I guess maybe at my core I think of myself as a singing man, maybe like if there was a circus attraction, or something, I’d be the “singing man” in the tent. I guess I grew up wanting to be a folk singer, and now that I have so many different songs… this is my ninth album, so I guess I’m more of a folk singer now than I was when I was a kid, and I was just thinking of it more as just a style or something. I do think that my songs are kind of like cartoons. I also feel like maybe my artwork is a little bit like a preschool Tintoretto. [laughs]

GRAHAM: A preschool Tintoretto. That’s great.

GREEN: I guess ultimately you just look for fulfillment in any creative area. My next venture is to make a film, my own version of Aladdin. I’m going to play Aladdin. In doing that I think I can write the music and combine my music with the film.

GRAHAM: Would you shoot it yourself as well?

GREEN: I don’t know if I’d shoot it, but I want to direct it, I want to have it look like my paintings, to have my music in it… it’s a cool chance, to have the wishes and stuff. I already have the lamp, so…

GRAHAM: Oh, wow. Where’d you get it?

GREEN: Antique store.

GRAHAM: Have you tried rubbing it?

GREEN: I haven’t rubbed it in a while. [pause] So, the unifying theory of art, music, writing… I think I’m pretty close to being able to do it. Sometimes I think when I’m at my best is when I’m tracing exactly what’s in my head and just making it real. I feel like there’s a world inside of me and I’m just pushing it out through my skin. So I’m taking an inside world and pushing it into the outside. And that’s a good feeling.

GRAHAM: Where can we see The Wrong Ferrari?

GREEN: It was released in a weird way. I wanted it to come out with a bang, and I guess I wasn’t even really sure about the protocol of how to release a film, because my background is in music… and I thought it’d be cool to do it over the internet, and to release it as a free movie. Even though it’s really long, it’s 72 minutes, so it’s a feature-length film. I decided to have the premiere at Anthology Film Archives on 2nd and 2nd, and I decided to release it on the internet the following morning. So I got to have the premiere, and then they released it to the whole world at the same time. And that actually worked pretty well, I think the movie got 300,000 downloads in entirety, which is really cool. So actually a lot of people have that file of The Wrong Ferrari. At the time it was up on thewrongferrari.com, but I took it down because it was really expensive to host it, and now if you go to the film section of my website, there’s a link to download it. You can stream it. But anyway, as it was, the movie got… I don’t know how I feel about the way it was released. I went to Italy and did a screening of it, and I played it in Mexico City, and I played it in LA. But aside from that, I didn’t get to do as much traveling as I wanted to do to promote it. Because of the method that I chose to release it, it was ineligible for any film festivals. So basically, I released it, and a bunch of people downloaded it, and that’s what it is. My intention wasn’t to make it an internet movie at all. I didn’t want people to watch it on their computers, I want people to put it on their TVs and watch it in groups, or to watch it in a movie theater. I think it’s an unnerving and tense movie that I think is interesting to watch in groups. The plot is… we take Ketamine and turn into pets… and I think that’s well-suited for a midnight movie demographic. On a broader spectrum… I really thought that the whole point of the movie was that, you know… the movies we see in movie theaters, like romantic comedies, are so old-fashioned. I thought that all movies in the future would be things that people would make on their phones. I’m surprised that now we go and there’s a new 40-Year-Old-Virgin type movie in the theaters right now. I thought that was over… I don’t understand why the world always stays the same. Have you ever had a friend who was in a bad relationship, but they stay in it for like five years? That’s like our culture with movies.

GRAHAM: So you grew up in New York?

GREEN: I grew up in Mount Kisco, which is a small town about an hour away, in Westchester. It was nice. My parents lived in the city and they moved to Westchester to raise kids, which I think is really noble. I think it’s really good to grow up around trees, parks, fields, fresh air… I think that’s nice. I just got in an argument with this lady who was like “It’s perfectly great to raise kids in Manhattan.” I was like, “Yeah, you’re saying that ‘cause you have some nanny or something…” I think my parents made the right decision, they were pretty selfless in doing that. I think my parents were pretty good. I’ve got a high opinion of them.

GRAHAM: When did you move to Manhattan?

GREEN: Well, my parents moved back when my brother and I grew up. When I was about seventeen, they moved back here, and I just kind of started wandering around. I became a folk singer.

GRAHAM: Did you ever play in the subway?

GREEN: Definitely. I played in the subway, on the N R train, on the 8th Street stop, quite often. Sometimes by myself and sometimes with Turner Cody, who’s a really great singer. We would alternate. I also played on the street. I guess for a time I almost became one of the kids that’s just sort of like at Astor Place near the cube. For a little while I was kind of a cube kid. But then I also found my way to the Sidewalk Café, which is a folk club, and I started performing there. I think I was a decent subway singer, and I played mostly original material… I think that was cool. I don’t know why, when I get on the train, I don’t see as many people doing it. Maybe they’ve cracked down or something. I definitely think I wrote some pretty barbed lyrics to get the attention of people walking by. It was cool, because I met the local peers of mine in the subway… they were my first friends.

GRAHAM: Is that when you realized you wanted to make music a career?

GREEN: I really, really didn’t want to work at McDonald’s or something, and I didn’t have any training to do anything but fine arts, so I knew I had to do music or something like that… and I guess I got cracking really young, I was just everywhere. I was always on the street, and I always had a bunch of CDs and flyers, I was just on a mission. Maybe also because I think my parents didn’t really want me to be a singer, so that helped to motivate me. I feel like for years, my dad really couldn’t look me in the eye because he thought I was delusional.

GRAHAM: Doesn’t it feel good now to prove him wrong?

GREEN: Sometimes, and then sometimes I feel like they were right. [laughs]

GRAHAM: How did your first album come about?

GREEN: Well, I recorded a set of songs around the same time as The Moldy Peaches album came out. The Moldy Peaches is a collection of different home recordings that are mashed up together. I think the main difference between my first album and The Moldy Peaches is that it’s just songs that Kimya [Dawson] didn’t sing on. I think I’d probably offered or showed

GRAHAM: How did you and Kimya Dawson meet?

GREEN: She’s from Mount Kisco… from a neighboring town, Bedford Hills. She worked at the record store, and I worked at the pizzeria, so I would come to her on lunch break and I’d bring my guitar. I met her at a poetry reading at the art center in Mount Kisco. She’s a lot older than me, and I think at the time everyone thought we were really an odd couple. She was like 21 and I was like 14… She’d come over to my house, and my parents would think, like, “Who’s your older friend…?” But that seems to be in keeping with me. I’ve always been friends with whoever I thought to be friends with, and I never really cared if people thought they were the “right” friends that I should have.

GRAHAM: Can you tell me about your collaboration with Binki Shapiro? Your album’s going to be released next month, right?

GREEN: It was my idea to make a duets album with her, just because I thought she was really talented, and I really liked listening to her sing. I thought it’d be fun to try to write with her, and work with her, and we’d known each other as friends for a bunch of years. I’d toured with Little Joy in Brazil; I was a supporting act. Little Joy is really popular in Brazil. I think [Binki and I] had kind of bonded on that tour, and then a couple of years later the idea popped into my head… it wasn’t like there were a bunch of other people I wanted to work with, she was really my first choice. So I just went with it. I think I also wanted to write with somebody because I’d just done something like six or seven solo albums that followed The Moldy Peaches. That’s like a decade of having no one ever give their opinion about anything I did artistically. So it was pretty fun to work with her creatively, because I hadn’t let anyone in for a long time. GRAHAM: I read about it being a breakup album of sorts… can you elaborate?

GREEN: I definitely think it’s a nighttime album. I would encourage people to get the vinyl and listen to it like that. It’s far from a collection of pop singles, it’s much more of an album –album. It’s not very long, only about ten songs. I think in my head I can sort of piece together a narrative about a dysfunctional relationship inside of the track listing. The track listing was one thing that Binki and I really agreed on, so we must see some sort of picture of the album as a whole that we share. But I don’t know, we both were going through different kinds of weird relationship stuff during the writing of the album. I think when we both started writing, she just came over to my house… we drank a bottle of wine, we were writing a bit, we went out and got Chinese food… maybe it was our third writing session that we started to realize that we were in some really messed up relationships. We didn’t even really talk about it, but during the course of writing the record, we found that our relationships fell apart. So we were using each other as confidantes in the writing process, and it was great to be making these composite situations, sort of Frankenstein-ing together different things… also putting ourselves in the head space of each other, so that we could know or at least propose things for each other to sing, which was interesting, and I liked the result of it. We did a lot of articles and interviews on it, and really now we’re just waiting for it to come out. I just feel like… are the people that are reading the article ever going to hear the thing? So that’ll be cool, when it comes out. I feel like it’s a bit like Groundhog Day, it’s like every day of the year I wake up and think, “Oh, this album’s not out yet?” It’s been pushed back quite a bit. We recorded it without knowing what was going to happen, we just made it to make it. And then we both had to change management during the course of it, so it slowed everything down, which was kind of annoying. But I’m really proud of it, and excited for everyone to hear it. And honestly, people have been so kind about it. I think most of my things have a punk element to them that is distasteful to many… People brush off a lot of my stuff immediately, but people seem to be acting kinder about this album. Maybe they’re able to hear it because they think I’m not trying to be a punk about it. I guess my natural inclination’s always been to punish the world until they learn to love me for who I am.

GRAHAM: Do you think you’ll stay in New York forever?

GREEN: I’m certainly not tempted to spend any more time in LA if I can help it. When I was there, I found myself to be really isolated, because I don’t drive, so I was kind of at the mercy of anyone who had a car. I think I’ll probably stay here, but you know, you have fantasies, touring around… But this is how I know that they’re fantasies, essentially that whenever you tour anywhere vaguely vacation-y, like Italy or Spain or something, I think to myself, “Oh, it’d be so nice to live here,” but I probably need the hustle and bustle of New York to feel good. I spend almost every weekend at the Met, or somewhere, and it would be really disappointing for me to not have access to the things in New York that I like. It’s also the only place I know how to get around. I don’t have a good sense of direction, and I’m actually starting to feel confident that I know how to get around everywhere in Manhattan.

GRAHAM: What inspires you?

GREEN: Probably the same things that inspire everybody… definitely love, sex, anything romantic… seeing visual art, anyone that’s interested in analysis, I love critical thinking. I hate when people are like, “Oh, you’re overthinking that,” that’s the worst thing you could say to me. I love when someone wants to go straight in, really deep on something. In art, I love when something’s so mind-blowing that you don’t even have to question how amazing it is. Something like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Holy Mountain.” I really, really like him. When you see something that is unquestionably so amazing. I think I’m basically an adult who likes to draw with crayons, I guess I’ve accepted that I’m sort of charmingly a man-child. I think I’m basically a naughty boy who’s grown into a man.

GRAHAM: Who are some of your favorite artists and musicians?

GREEN: I like visual artists like Georges Rouault and Erich Heckel. I like Jodorowsky a lot. I like that new Dirty Projectors album, Swing Lo Magellan. I’ve been listening to that a lot. I’ve been listening to George Jones, Nick Cave… I really like that album Let Love In, I’ve been listening to that a lot lately. Shirley Collins, just because I think she has a really natural voice, I love that album Oar by Skip Spence. Eddie Martinez… and George Condo.

You can purchase limited edition artwork prints by Adam Green by going to Exhibition A. Adam Green and Binki Shapiro's album will be officially available on January 29, but you can preorder here. All photos and text by Annabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

BEAUTIFUL NIGHTMARE: AN Interview with T KIRA MADDEN

“I really enjoy the horrible,” muses T Kira Madden, wedged neatly into the corner of a worn crimson leather couch at Milk & Roses, a snug book-lined café in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that could quite accurately be called her second home. “I don’t really feel things when I read about a sunny day and a mimosa.” These words seem almost laughably incongruous coming out of Madden’s mouth at first—her soft-spoken, tranquil outward demeanor belies her fascination with the dark and twisted. The hands folded in her lap are adorned with various rings and probably the most original manicure I’ve ever laid eyes on, complete with gold leaf, paisleys and raised polka dots. Carefully placed tattoos, ranging from a meticulous sketch of Billie Holiday’s face to the French phrase le mot juste, wind up her arms. Despite her penchant for personal decoration and her ever-changing hair color (this month she sports a rich magenta hue), nothing about Madden’s appearance is garish. She is utterly poised, with a delicate and even slightly guarded nature.

When she first began publishing her short fiction, Madden used the pseudonym of Vesper T. Woods to write about the kind of “terrible, uncomfortable” matter that “makes people want to throw [the book] across the room,” but for now she is “just me, but [Vesper and I] still hang out.” At the moment, the dark wooden walls of Milk & Roses are hung with a series of Madden’s own black-and-white photographs, left over from her recent photo show and fiction reading. Madden toys with double exposures and mirror images, often using expired film or intentionally stressing her negatives to achieve raw, haunting images that capture the truth of their subjects.

Madden, who dabbles in magic and owns eighteen typewriters, aims “…to give people a nightmare. Hopefully a nightmare in which you laugh. I want to be Hitchcock meets Beckett, just absurd and terrifying but with some humor, because I feel like that is what life is.”

GRAHAM: Can you tell me a bit about your beginnings in the fashion world?

TKM: I wanted to do fashion, and I loved it, and I think it’s unfortunate that people don’t take it as seriously as a medium, especially in the literary world. I think that fashion is seen as this kind of ditzy thing and people completely disregard the craft of it. And it is such a craft; I have the highest respect for it in the world. I’m starting this journal called No Tokens, I think I told you about it—but it’s a literary magazine and it’s going to have fashion in it. I think it’s so important for people to respect fashion as a craft, because we all use it, we all appreciate it, obviously, and it’s really a shame, I think. Everybody uses it; you don’t see people walking around naked. When you talk about self-expression, you have expression in literature and art and film and photography, and the number one form of expression is the way we dress ourselves every day. That’s how we enter the world every day. That’s why I think it’s bullshit when people kind of throw it away.

GRAHAM: So how did you make the transition from wanting to be a fashion designer to wanting to be a fiction writer?

TKM: I was interested in self-expression, and I still am—and the human condition; how we come off to the world, how we are to ourselves, and I fell in love with the craft, I think it’s beautiful, I think it takes so much skill, and I worked with the most incredible people—I worked with Zac Posen, who is the greatest artist in the world. It was just the business aspect of it that was really hard for me. My family is in the fashion business, and I’ve been around it my whole life, and I realized that this wasn’t the world for me. I would be more interested in just making things all day and handing them out to people than having to do the PR and marketing of it. I just didn’t fit into the business world of fashion. There’s a narrative of fashion that I was really interested in. From head to toe, there’s a narrative that’s being told, whether it’s by a seam or a collar or a silhouette—and I just took the theme of narrative and wondered how else I could apply it in my life. I feel like fashion and writing, especially, are so closely linked in the narrative of human condition, of human nature.

GRAHAM: When did you start writing?

TKM: I was always writing, but I wasn’t very good. I wrote weird stories when I was a kid, and I wrote in a journal, but I didn’t take it seriously. And I do, in many ways, think that writing in a journal is very different for me than my actual writing, than fiction—I don’t think it’s the same at all. I always wrote in journals.

GRAHAM: Do you keep a journal now?

TKM: Not really. I have little notebooks, and I’ll write down notes, but it’s all really for my fiction, I’m not that interested in “the self” anymore, especially with writing. I think journaling is completely different from fiction, and I don’t want my own journaling or my own life to have anything to do with my fiction at all. It wasn’t until about six years ago that I started taking a class at Gotham, when I was in fashion school at Parsons, and I fell in love with the craft, I fell in love with the stories, I didn’t know that short story form was really possible until I started reading it. I had the greatest teacher, Anne-E. Wood, and my whole world kind of blew open. Then I petitioned at Parsons to study Russian Literature, and so I began studying Russian Literature at Eugene Lang, doing a double major. Then I petitioned to do a thesis on literature, and it slowly became my life. Hemingway has a quote… It’s essentially that there’s no going back, that once the reading and writing devour you, there’s no going back to any other life. I fell so deeply with writing and the challenge of it, and then I applied to graduate school on a whim, and I got in, and I told my family I would no longer be taking over their company, and I went to graduate school for fiction. And that’s all I’ve been doing since.

GRAHAM: How did your family take it?

TKM: They were supportive. It doesn’t sound good to say, you know, I’m going to give up this million-dollar dream of fashion that I’ve been doing my entire life to become a novelist, or to teach in a jail, but… they thought I was a little crazy, but they realized how happy I was. You know, I was really good at fashion, but because I was so good at it, I thought it was what I was supposed to be doing—which was not true, because I was just bored. Writing is so difficult for me, and sometimes I’m so depressed, because I think it will never get easier, and I really don’t think it will ever get easier. But that’s what keeps me interested and what keeps me coming back every day. Maybe that’s why so many of us [writers] kill ourselves. It never really gets easier. Every time I go back to the page, I just wonder if that thing will be there again.

GRAHAM: What thing?

TKM: The magical thing that makes us write. It’s not like you’re rehearsing lines and then you put them down on a piece of paper, it’s these thoughts and these sentences and these pulses and rhythms just happen. It’s like a meditation for me, it’s hard to pick up where it comes from or how you got to a certain place, but every time you wonder if it’s ever going to be there again, if you’ll ever be able to write again—and every time I feel like it’s the first time writing. It doesn’t get easier, no matter how many years I’m in classes, no matter how many years I teach, or workshop, or am published, it’s still… every story is a new challenge and new voices.

GRAHAM: Do you write every day?

TKM: No.

GRAHAM: How often do you write?

TKM: I like to write in long sittings. So I feel like when I have a good day of writing, I can sit from six to ten hours writing nonstop. But then I’ll go two weeks without writing a word. I do best in long sittings, and they’re sporadic. I try to at least write down a few observations every day in a notebook, or at least a few observations that come to me when I’m brushing my teeth, or just on the subway, or I’ll overhear things… I’m working on a story right now based on things I overheard on a subway ride from Harlem to Williamsburg. Just the way the conversations shift through the commute from Upper Harlem to Brooklyn, how different people will talk about the same subjects in very, very kind of horrifyingly different ways. So it’s just been an exercise in listening. I’m always trying to listen and write down things I hear, because I only have one voice that is my own, so I have to listen to other people’s voices to use them in fiction, or they’re all going to sound like me, and no one wants to read that, so… I think listening is the most important part of me. I would give up my eyesight before I would give up my ears.

GRAHAM: What was your experience like teaching in jail?

TKM: I taught in jail for two years, and it was one of the greatest, greatest… it’s hard to put into words how special that was for me. I met some of the greatest people of my whole life, they taught me so much about the world and myself, and life… and they are so talented, more talented than most people in the world. They have so much to say, and they’ve just never been allowed to say those things. I don’t feel like I was a teacher, I feel like I just gave them reading, I gave them texts and exercises to help them open up to what it was they wanted to say and how they wanted to say it. And I think I was successful in that, because their drawings and their stories and their recordings and poems were so amazing—and it’s a shame I couldn’t photograph them in jail, because sometimes I forget what their faces look like… but I can still hear all of them. There are so many wonderful faces… tattoos… hands… same with the homeless shelter, some of the most beautiful and the saddest faces. I wish I could photograph everyone in the jail and the homeless shelter; that would be my dream. Jail was great; security could be difficult… Correctional officers can be very difficult… they’ll probably fine me for saying that… but once we got into class and got our rhythm going, it was just a blast. I wish we had more time for it, but… I miss them very much. I wish I could talk to them every day, but we’re not allowed to keep in touch. I wonder about them every day, and their kids… the first year I did a program where we had mothers record their voices reading bedtime stories or stories they had written for their children, and we would send the recordings and the text to their children in foster care, or outside. It’s really cool to feel like you’re helping the mother with their literacy as well as children learning to read and write, hearing your mother’s voice telling a story… I can’t imagine not having that growing up.

GRAHAM: You’re a writer and a photographer. What do you get from each medium, and how are they different for you?

TKM: I enjoy photography much more, but it’s not as important to me as writing. Writing is everything to me, far more important and meaningful to me… I feel like it’s my life, but it’s not enjoyable at all. It’s complete torture, it’s like you’re going through a slaughter every day, to sit in really ugly pajamas and be tortured by voices in your head and situations that no human actually wants to go through. I have the freedom in writing to make mistakes that I don’t make in real life, or to act on impulses that I don’t act on in real life. So I go through situations that are really uncomfortable and not fun, and I think that a lot of my stories make people uncomfortable reading them—and I feel like if they do, I’m successful in them. That is the aim, to give people a nightmare, I guess. Hopefully a nightmare in which you laugh. I want to be Hitchcock meets Beckett, just absurd and terrifying but with some humor, because I feel like that is what life is. But going through these situations and meeting the people in my stories that I don’t necessarily want to engage with is complete torture, and very hard, and it becomes real when you’re experiencing it through writing it. With photography, I just like to have fun. I think it’s my subjects that don’t have fun, but I have a lot of fun. Because they’re people that I love.

GRAHAM: Do you only photograph people that you know?

TKM: Yes, I do. I’m thinking of trying something new, but as of now I only take portraits of people that I know very well, because right now at least, my photography is about getting the true person. And I don’t feel like I can get a true person of someone that I don’t know, someone I’ve just met. The people that I know well, I can say, “Here’s what I see when I look at you.” And if I can get someone else to see that too, then I’ve been successful with it. Or if the subject can look at the photograph and say, “You got me, even if I don’t look beautiful, or if I’m wearing an ugly outfit, or if I’m not wearing makeup, or if I’m naked, you got something about me, whether it’s an insecurity or a look or a moment that’s true to myself.”

GRAHAM: So you’re trying to capture a reality in your photography—a vision or portrait of these actual people, whereas it seems as if your writing veers towards the opposite end of the spectrum, being more fantastical. Do you draw from real-life experiences in your writing, or do you try to remove it from all reality?

TKM: I play with fantastic story elements in writing, and I play with the fantastic in the form itself. I think all art is a version of yourself, I don’t think anything is really true to my life but everything is actually true to my life in a way, because they’re voices that I’ve experienced, or a look that I’ve experienced, or people… I do not have a Kira Madden character, I would not be interested in something like that, but in a way they all are; they’re all imprints of some aspect of me, the ugly and the beautiful. But yeah, I add a fantastic element here and there, which is really fun for me, because I don’t think we should be constrained to just write about… dinner. You know, you have the minimalists; Carver and Hemingway and everyone who can just write about dinner and it’s so striking it’ll bring you to tears, but I can’t do that, so I like writing about fantastic worlds and real people in them, and how they navigate their way through fantastic challenges and seascapes and… anything. I just try to put my characters through hell and see what they do, see what’s at the bone of them, because if they’re having a good time at the shopping mall, it’s not going to be so fun for anyone, it’s just going to be boring. So I like to put them through the wringer, which again puts myself through the wringer, trying to think about what humans do, but I throw some obstacles at them, and then I see what the truth is to how they will behave or misbehave; what they’ll say.

GRAHAM: How do you get your ideas for stories?

TKM: Mostly things are overheard, and I really like using news articles, because again I’m into the voiceless. That’s why I like teaching the voiceless. In news articles, you get a very flat version of a story, and you never get to hear those people talk, they never get to explain themselves. So I’m interested in taking something like that and saying, well, what’s the motive behind that? What would they say, how would they explain themselves? I feel like everyone should have an opportunity to speak for themselves, and that’s why I like taking a flat news article and exploring why and who and what and when.

GRAHAM: Do you draw characters from news articles?

TKM: Oh, yeah. I try to think about the voice behind it, I try to think about what happened before it, what happened after the event. The novel I’m working on now is from a news article about two children living on an abandoned bus in Splendora, Texas. And I chose not to read much about it, because I wanted to come up with my conclusions and own story behind it. Their mother was in jail, I think their father was too, and they had this mysterious aunt who I guess was feeding them at night, but not taking the children in or doing anything about it. I kept thinking, what is that aunt’s story, why would she not take care of these children? I can’t say that this person is evil, because I don’t know them—so I just kept thinking, “Who is she?” And that’s when I started writing. That was the catalyst: Who is this aunt; who are these children; who is the mother; who is the bus, really? The bus has been fun to write as a character. I used a town that I know well; Seven Devils, North Carolina, which is very mysterious and strange to me. I spent a lot of time growing up there, when I used to ride horses, and I know it well, but it’s got a very mysterious history. So my version of the story takes place there, and it all comes from questions of who, really, are the seven devils of this town—because there are lots of myths and stories about it—and how do those people filter into the children in the school bus; how did they end up there and why. I think all stories should start out with questions.

GRAHAM: Is this the first novel you’ve written?

TKM: No. No, it’s my third or fourth attempt at a novel. I spent all of last year writing a novel that I’ve now put on ice for a while. I’m not ready to write that novel. I love the characters and I’ve had some really good stories come out of it, and I still think about them and I miss them, but that novel from before was following classic sonata form in music—I was trying to write so that the text would be true to sonata form in sheet music. I realized that I could not become an expert on sonata form in a year and do it any justice. So until I have the time to do that, I’m not ready to write that novel.

GRAHAM: You use a lot of double exposures and mirror images in your photographs. What interests you about the double image?

TKM: I can be proven wrong; I think I have been, but I think it’s really difficult to get the truth of a person or of the self in one frame, and I think it’s probably impossible to get it in two or four or six or eight frames, but I feel like I’m closer the more images that I get, the more facial expressions and positions I can get, and I’m able to play with duality in a different way when I can use two frames. I can have someone who’s just woken up and then have them in full makeup at night, and that is true to that person—in some ways Marissa Lee is a little girl, and in other ways she is a fully vivacious party animal. So I just think about the person, and if it works, if there are two distinct versions of them that I can identify, that I want to capture, I’ll use the double exposure. And I also just love the physicality of it; having someone’s hands resting on their own shoulders, or having someone pushing themselves off a balcony, or to have someone, you know, in bed and then rising from it, I can do some things with time that I wouldn’t be able to do with just one frame. I can get the motion and the action, the actual movement or time of it, which feels true to some people. And it’s just really fun to see the results, to see these ghost images of people, to see if I got it or if I didn’t. I have one of you that I haven’t shown you yet where it looks like you’re looking up your own skirt.

GRAHAM: [LAUGHS] Really? I want to see it!

TKM: Yeah, I always feel like I get to play tricks on people when I do it, because I’m framing it in a specific way that they can’t see, and then it comes out and it looks like they’re doing naughty things. It’s fun trying to make people laugh too, because I just give them an absurd demand, like “Do a jumping jack and put your fist in your mouth.” Which I don’t want, but they just stop and laugh really hard, so that’s how I get the laugh. Because you can’t just tell people to laugh. “Stick both fingers up your nose. You’ll look beautiful.” Or I tell people, “Show me your tonsils.” And they start laughing, because it makes them so uncomfortable.

GRAHAM: What would you most like to capture in your photographs?

TKM: Just a better understanding of the people, whether it’s more viewers understanding that person, or the actual person understanding themselves, which has happened a few times, where people say, “Wow, that’s a side of me that I didn’t know, or that I haven’t seen.” I really like when the actual subject is pleased of it, again, even if they look ugly. I find that when I take nudes, I tend to get less posed results, I get them looking scared or uncomfortable, and I don’t think they’re sexy, I don’t think they’re gorgeous, I just like for the people to feel good about themselves, or see something in themselves. And for people I don’t know, viewers, to understand these wonderful people more. Because I love them all, I love the people I photograph. It’s like fiction. I want to bring these people to life so that others will appreciate them.

GRAHAM: What would you most like to capture in writing?

TKM: To bring people to life, to… for everyone to see a part of themselves in the writing. Writing is almost like a portrait for everyone. I hope every person can see a version of themselves in a piece of literature or writing, because I certainly do—the good writing. All writing should be almost a portrait of everyone… that sounds a little broad, but you should see yourself. It’s much more difficult, because you have to cover a lot of ground there. To get the familiar, to get people feeling really uncomfortable is always a goal… to devastate, to make people want to throw it across the room. I just never really want to write a joy ride. I really enjoy the horrible. Because those are the things we ignore in life. We do our best to ignore the things we feel shameful of, the things that are horrible and terrible, the fucked-up dreams we might have, that we would never admit to anyone. We ignore it, we don’t talk about it, we ignore things that we’ve done. Terrible things we’ve done as children, in many cases… people are so cruel when they’re children. We ignore those things, and we don’t talk about them, and I’d like to expose all of us in writing, because that’s what gets me, when I read and I feel, “Oh, I’ve done that,” or “I’ve felt that way, and I’ve never called myself out on it, and now someone else is, and they’re pointing their finger directly at me through the pages.” That’s what makes me want to throw a book, and that’s what makes me feel something. I don’t really feel things when I read about a sunny day and a mimosa.

GRAHAM: Who is Vesper T. Woods?

TKM: I feel like I should just change this answer every time. Vesper T. Woods and I are trying to work things out, but he’s a real jerk sometimes. He was a love letter. Vesper T. Woods was a love letter for someone I cared deeply about. “Vesper” translates to “evening” in Latin, and I used to only write at night, so evening was accurate for this other person that would take over and start writing these terrible things. The “T” is for myself, and that’s all I’ll say. It became this other place to go, and this alter ego… this pain-in-the-ass self that would antagonize me, that I found fun. I’m so interested in identity, I think it’s fun to try to balance two different identities. At first it was for security… I didn’t want people knowing who I was when I first published, because my family was in the news a lot at the time, and I didn’t want any more attention. It became this alter ego and a very strong love/hate relationship. I don’t know, we play together, we do magic together sometimes. Now I’m just me, but we still hang out.

GRAHAM: What inspires you?

TKM: The thing that inspires me the most of any art form is film, and that’s eventually what I want to do, because it’s the perfect combination of my love for visual art—photography and fashion—and storytelling. I think it’s the only way I’ll ever be happy, because I always feel like I’m not getting enough of the other. So film is probably my favorite. I usually find myself thinking about Hitchcock and Beckett more than anyone else. And Harold Houdini. I love magic. I’m a magician myself. I took magic classes for a very long time, and I love magic. But the art of escape—I mean, I love Harold Houdini. And Hitchcock. Talk about nightmares. Peter Sellers. I want to be Peter Sellers. No one knew who Peter Sellers was; no one cared. He was everyone, and everything was a performance, every interview he ever did. That’s dedication. And he was really damn good at it. I love watching Peter Sellers, I could watch him forever. Nabokov is one of my favorite writers, because he has that really horrible humor too. That’s also why I love all the Russians. And, um… stracciatella. Stracciatella and burrata. Good food is the closest I have to a spiritual experience. I like Kubrick… but I think mainly at this point in my life I find myself thinking about Hitchcock and Beckett, wanting that. All of that. They had it going on, they really just got it. Beckett really understands humans; he’s really painful for me to read. Even the mime work, in Act Without Words, it breaks my heart. When the mimes can’t get the box, it’s really sad. Krapp’s Last Tape is my favorite piece of writing in the whole world. I’ve been on a Hitchcock bender where I’ve been trying to watch every single one of his films lately. Cecil B. DeMille. And Rita Hayworth’s face.

Visit T Kira Madden's website for more. Text and photography byAnnabel Graham for Pas Un Autre

Something Season-Less: An Interview with Fanny and Jessy

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Fanny & Jessy met in their first class at the London College of Fashion. For the past few years they have been making a name for themselves on the London indie fashion circuit with their incredibly unique label that mixes luxury sportswear with a fine twist of tomboy attitude. With collections entitled I Hope You Die Soon and Sea Foam In Your Eyes Fanny and Jessy embrace the ethos of rebelliousness and almost seem blasé about all the hullabaloo that is the business of fashion. I recently got a mass email invite to a party celebrating the launch of their new online store that started off with, “Dear...Blah blah blah….” You’d think they were being cheeky if Fanny & Jessy weren’t more concerned with making great, wearable clothes that hold a distinct element of individualism that stays true to the boundary breaking aesthetics of the designers themselves. Always forward thinking, Fanny & Jessy are expanding with their brand online with the recent introduction of an e-shop and they just released a string of short videos, one for each day of London Fashion Week, directed by filmmaker Danny Sangra for their new 2013 “something season-less” collection entitled Welcome to Uscopia. We recently caught up with Fanny & Jessy to discuss their new collection and what kind of plans they have in store for the future. Read interview and see more photos fromt their current collection after the jump. 

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polly_brown_rory_dcs_london_fanny_and_jessy_welcome_to_uscopia

PAS UN AUTRE: Who is Fanny & Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: Two girls from Somerset that met at London College of Fashion and started a fashion label.

AUTRE: How would you describe the aesthetic of Fanny & Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: Sexed up tomboy-ish luxury sportswear.

AUTRE: What are some of your major inspirations?

FANNY & JESSY: Our inspiration changes each season along with our own tastes and interests but we are always hugely influenced by the idea of escapism and with the natural world.

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AUTRE: Can you talk a little bit about the new collection?

FANNY & JESSY: It's a very natural progression from AW12, which we felt was the collection that best reflected us most as a brand. For SS13 we added in a few more feminine pieces; dresses and skirts, but still sticking to our original tomboy aesthetic. The inspiration was derived from magnifying earth scopes and unusual terrain, and the print was manipulated by our psychedelic print master friend Leif Podhajsky.

AUTRE: What is the best part about fashion?

FANNY AND JESSY: Fashion gives everyone a way to express the way they would like to portray themselves to the rest of society. You can read a lot about someone by what they wear, it is one of of our best communication tools we have so it's exciting to be able to contribute to that. For us having a fashion label also gives us a great sense of independence as designers, we get to work for ourselves and have the freedom to explore creatively.

AUTRE: Who is the one person you've always wanted to spot wearing Fanny and Jessy?

FANNY & JESSY: We would love to see the 1960's Jane Birkin in Fanny and Jessy but we would be happy to settle with her daughter Lou Doillon or model's Freja Beha Erichsen or Abbey Lee Kershaw. They are all women with natural, effortless style that we adhere to.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FANNY & JESSY: We had a party last week which was the launch of our E-Commerce Store - so we are very excited about embracing the digital side of Fashion, we want to get closer to our customers and the Fanny & Jessy audience and there are so many ways now which allow you to connect more widely online. To start us off we released 5 film stings with film-maker Danny Sangra for each day of London Fashion Week - this is the beginning of many projects that we have lined up to support our new direction! Keep your eyes peeled.

You can visit Fanny & Jessy's online shop or website to see more. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

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polly_brown_rory_dcs_london_fanny_and_jessy_welcome_to_uscopia_3_georgia_frost

Season In Hell: An Interview With Liza Thorn of Starred

I first learned of the band Starred after visiting Yves Saint Laurent’s website. After Hedi Slimane took over the iconic brand he did a top to bottom makeover of YSL’s entire image. This included a new website and in its place, up until yesterday, the day of Slimane’s first runway show for YSL during Paris Fashion Week, there was simply a splash page with some imagery of leopard print fabric and a song sung in a haunting melodic echo accompanied by an equally melancholic guitar. It’s the kind of song you hear and don’t know if it’s old or new. It’s the kind of song you endure tireless research to find out who its by. The guitar turned out to be Matthew Koshack’s and the voice Liza Thorn who together makes up the band Starred. Everyone who knows of Hedi Slimane (progenitor of the skinny jean look for men when he was at the helm of Dior Homme) knows of his romance with youth and rock n’ roll. It all started to come together. I remember seeing photographs of Thorn on Slimane’s website – a photographic diary which in itself is a hard edged, black and white love story to youth and rock n’ roll. Slimane also shot Christopher Owens of the band Girls and who was briefly a collaborator and friend to Thorn. Previous to the band Girls (which recently broke up), when Thorn was based in San Francisco, she had a band with Owens called Curls. Owens is now the face of Yves Saint Laurent’s new marketing campaign – all shot in Slimane’s signature monochromatic and tonal broodiness. From San Francisco, Thorn moved to Los Angeles where she met Slimane and where she met Matthew Koshak and started the band Starred – they are now based in New York City. The song I heard on the website was Call From Paris, from their first album (named after Arthur Rimbauds poem) entitled Season In Hell; the song will also be featured on their upcoming full-length album, entitled Prison to Prison via Pendu Sound, which is due out this Halloween on Itunes. You could liken Thorn’s voice to a whole host of references from Mazzy Star to Marianne Faithfull, but together with Koshak’s ruminating guitar riffs there is something entirely unique and refreshing. Immediately after I learned whom the song was by I tracked down Liza Thorn to ask her a few questions. Read the following interview below and see video for Call From Paris directed by Grant Singer....

PAS UN AUTRE: Who is Starred – how did the band come together?

LIZA THORN: Starred began in Los Angeles, California . I moved to LA from San Francisco to go to the Cass McCombs school of song writing. After graduating I  found Matthew Koshak and Starred was formed....born.

AUTRE: Where are you currently based?

THORN: New York City, baby...

AUTRE: As of right now, your song Call From Paris is currently playing on Yves Saint Laurent's splash page. Did you have a previous connection to Hedi Slimane?

THORN: I met Hedi because he shot me for a magazine - he came over to where I was living in LA and we became friends.

AUTRE: Can you describe that song Call From Paris?

THORN: Some one I loved was gone for too long and traveling the world and I couldn't reach him and it was written out of that frustration of trying to reach someone and not being able to when you love them so much.

AUTRE: What or who are some your major inspirations?

THORN: Leonard cohen, Neil Young, Jennifer Herrema, Lou Reed, Genesis P Orridge, George Harrison, The Doors (I just went and laid in Jim Morrison's grave.)

AUTRE: Whats next?

THORN: Our EP Prison to Prison comes out on Pendu Sound, two 7inches, and more videos, and a world tour.

Starred'sPrison to Prison is due out October 31st on Itunes and everywhere else on November 20, via Pendu Sound. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photography by Hedi Slimane

Father Strangelove: An Interview with Father John Misty

Josh Tillman's (Father John Misty/ J. Tillman / Fleet Foxes) new album, Fear Fun begs many questions and alternatives. To open the door or burn it down? Is there a battle between Good and Evil for which humanity is the fulcrum, or is it all a grey comedy on the stage of Life? Just as importantly, how does one make the most of their situation with such questions looming over their head? In the Book of Revelation, 'Babylon' represents a city containing every evil in the world. In his song Fun Times in Babylon, Josh refers to his newly-adopted home as a strange land to be conquered with revelry: "I would like to abuse my lungs/Smoke everything in sight with every girl I've ever loved/Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee-deep in blood/Look out Hollywood, here I come." I met with Josh in Los Angeles to talk about his album and how to survive as an artist in the pre-apocalocyptic world. Read interview by Marielle Stobie for Pas Un Autre. 

MARIELLE STOBIE: What would you say are the benefits of playing solo?

JOSH TILLMAN: The creative process in general isn't closely related to 'benefit'. I was pretty sure that when I made the decision to stop what I was doing before [Fleet Foxes], one of the chief understandings that I had was it may not be a beneficial decision. Those are usually the most liberating decisions creatively. I really kind of felt like the end of [the Stanley Kubrick film] Dr. Strangelove, like the cowboy on the nuclear bomb. It felt more like a reckless decision than a rational one. I will say that what I was looking for out of the decision I think I've achieved.

MARIELLE: So it was worth the risk…

JOSH: It still would have been what I had to do. And it still may go down… Even my first decision when I was 20 or something, to disconnect from the world of 'benefit' or rational decision-making or anything was all this one big decision that happened a long time ago and now benefit, or worth, or whatever, was disestablished a long time ago. I didn't really have any doubt as to whether or not it would be of more benefit to me. Whether it's successful or not is still to be determined. It was something that I had to do.

MARIELLE: You went on a road trip to write this new album, right?

JOSH: Well, no. I went on a road trip to stop playing music entirely. It barely even classified as a 'road trip'. It was closer to me like 'running and screaming' out of town. I did not foresee any of this [Father John Misty] at that time. At that time, I just needed to get as far from the distortions I had created around myself creatively. At that point it's like, the sound of an acoustic guitar made me nauseous. I just had to disassociate with myself. One of the by-products of that, for one reason or another, was writing this novel and under the process of writing that, I accessed my conversational voice creatively and was actually having fun writing the novel… Which begged a certain question: why had you never had fun in the creative pursuit before and what relationship does 'fun' have to the creative process? The music [I was playing] was so romantic at the time. I wasn't me, really. Whatever romantic singer-songwriter alter-ego I cultivated just didn't work. It was powerless to address my actual concerns or interests.

MARIELLE: Could you briefly address what the novel is about?

JOSH: The book itself is literally in the album. There are two posters with the {album}. It is in type six font.

MARIELLE: So you need a magnifying glass to read it.

JOSH: Just post-magnifying glass. The book is more or less a surrealistic trans memoir attempt at looking at the trajectory of humanity as a thing.There are two end points: One is a transcendence into whatever next plane of human consciousness we're in store for and the other is just apocalypse, self-destruction and how more or less every human life…collectively, is on a speed trial towards one of those options.This really ridiculous book about bed bugs, jet packs, sea otters, and shit…

MARIELLE: In a past interview, you mentioned that you were not a strong student growing up. Today, however, you come across as not only charismatic, but eloquently spoken. When did this transition develop?

JOSH: I think I wrote my first poem in fourth grade. I don't know if what I'd call what I have 'intelligence' so much as 'rigorous thoughtfulness'. Intelligence, as a metric, is determined by a culture. Being able to operate and flourish within the cultures' paradigm is (a lot of the time) determined as 'intelligence'… The reason I didn't do well in school was that I hated it. I hated everything about it. I didn't perform well.

MARIELLE: Before you became a musician, your career path was painted as one of a pastor. That has obviously changed…

JOSH: Has it, though? To describe what a performer does, or an artist, and to describe what a pastor does, but leave out all of the signifying language, it is very difficult to discern one from the other. The way I grew up, you don't decide what you're going to become as an adult or at the age of accountability. You are "called" to do something. For certain kids like me who are very loud and talkative and charismatic, whatever, these kids, they're 'called' to be a pastor or a used car salesman… I wasn't good at music as a kid, so that was the demand proposed onto me by weird adults in my life.

MARIELLE: So this is the "Father John Misty traveling road show of 'reality as you know it'"… Correct me if I'm wrong.

JOSH: I think that quantifying reality is the work of other people. I am really interested in truth. But truth, a lot of the time, doesn't always look like reality. Humans' ability to perceive is not determined by their idea of 'truth'. That's the trap door of any ideology and we live in a very ideologic culture. There's an innate trap door for exceptions to make it pragmatic for living. My version of reality is way bleaker than the music I'm playing.

Fear Fun by Father John Misty is available in stores and online. Text by Marielle Stobie for Pas Un Autre.

Billy Kidd Shot Heather Huey: An Interview with Billy Kidd

In the annals of art history there have been a slew of great romantic collaborations – from Salvador Dali and Gala, Frida and Rivera, Lee Miller and Man Ray and more. Something about art and love brings out the muse. Now, Brooklyn based photographer Billy Kidd and his girlfriend haute milliner Heather Huey have joined forces for a collaborative photographic project called Billy Kidd Shot Heather Huey, which will see its premier at Clic Gallery in New York as part of Fashion Night Out. The series features a series of deep, erotically imbued black and white photographs by Kidd of Huey in some of her creations which include body cages, hats, and other accessories. In the following interview I got a chance to ask Billy and Heather a few questions about art, their relationship, and the their current project. See interview and more photos after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: Billy, you kind of grew up on the road right? When did you first discover photography?

BILLY KIDD: I didn't find photography until I was much older, around 27 years of age. It had nothing to do with moving so much as it had to do with my obsession with lines and symmetry.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first image you ever took?

KIDD: My first image wasn't too long ago. It was horrible.

AUTRE: Heather, what brought you to millinery?

HEATHER HEUY: I've been an avid collector of vintage hats for years, but it was nothing more than a hobby. I never would have considered it a career option if my sister (a sophomore at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the time) hadn't suggested I take millinery classes and learn how to make my own hats.

AUTRE: Can you describe the craziest piece you ever made?

HUEY: That's hard to say, but I would say any of my wire body cages would qualify.

AUTRE: Can you tell us the story of how you two met?

HUEY: We heard about each other through mutual stylists. And after several months we finally met in person. Several months after that meeting, we started dating after Billy hounded me via email to get drinks with him. And we've been together for 2 years now.

AUTRE: In the description of the current collaboration it says you are "lovers and creative partners" – sounds complicated - do creative differences ever get in the way?

HUEY: Yes, of course. Even though we share a similar aesthetics, we knew we wouldn't agree on everything. But we respected each other enough to talk it through until we were both comfortable and that made our project that much stronger.

AUTRE: Heather, how would you describe your creations?

HUEY: Minimal and impactful.

AUTRE: What brought you two to this current collaboration?

KIDD: We had always admired each other's work so when we started dating it was a natural progression to want to create something together and the project slowly evolved over the last year as we became more involved.

AUTRE: Billy and Heather, what are some your major inspirations behind this project?

KIDD: My biggest inspiration is the female body.

HUEY: My cages have been around for several years now and been fortunate enough to be photographed by people like Steven Meisel, Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Mariano Vivanco, and Ellen von Unwerth. But this project gave me the unique opportunity for my cages to be photographed as a collective by someone I love in a truly collaborative way. I also had the opportunity to inhabit my work rather than just be the creator of it. That was a very enlightening experience.

AUTRE: Whats next?

KIDD: Portraits of dead flowers.

HUEY: Continuing to experiment with shapes and materials.

Billy Kidd and Heather Huey's exhibition Billy Kidd Shot Heather Huey opens tonight and will run until September 30, at Clic Gallery, 255 Centre Street, NY. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Southern Gothic: An Interview with Brian Green

In the photography of Brian Green, there is a certain raw, unrestrained and immediate intimacy balanced with a straight to the heart mundaneness that is reminiscent of William Eggleston's bland, yet brilliant portraits of the American South.  And there is a parralel between Green and Eggleston - both are Southerners – Green is based in South Carolina. Just like all great Southern Gothic novels, Green's lanscape is rife with latent horrors and an effluvious aura of murder and erotica, like freeze frames from the dreams of a ghost with blurry and rough hewn images of skies, roads, grass and signage.  There is also a strict dichotomy between Green's landscapes and haunting portraits of tattooed women who lay about languorous in twilit and crepuscular Southern skies. See interview and more images after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: Do you remember the first time you got into photography?

BRIAN GREEN: I remember on one of our family vacations my mom giving me a little disposable camera to play with.

AUTRE: Do you remember the first image you ever took?

GREEN: I wish I did, I'm sure it was a Polaroid playing around with a camera my mom had but no clue about the images.

AUTRE: Whats it like being a photographer in the South?

GREEN: It's interesting to be honest, especially when it comes to nude work because some people understand the direction and then some people read to much into It, but I've never really been one for letting what people think sway me from creating the work I want.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind as you look through the viewfinder?

GREEN: I usually have my mind made up after I decide what Im going to take a photo of so I focus and click the shutter.

AUTRE: Your portfolio seems to consist of a lot of nudity or erotica and landscapes - what is the dichotomy?

GREEN: I feel the lines of the body and landscape share similarities with the lines flow and I've always enjoyed displaying the two together. I do have more work but have been a little slacking keeping up with scanning, but I'm catching up.

AUTRE: What are your major influences, inspirations?

GREEN: I take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings and feed a lot from what is going on while I'm shooting.

AUTRE: Whats next?

GREEN: Hoping to keep finding ladies to work with and travel and shoot more of the country, a mixture of those two.

To see more photography visit Brian Green's website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Art And Ecstasy: An Interview With Artist Sara Falli

The artworks of Florence based Sara Falli are both mythic and phantasmagorical. They tell visual stories with simple, but complex devices a chaotic, dark, and beautiful world of strange creatures, women seemingly contorted with desire, and the veins of stained water color that conjure blood and ritual. Falli is telling us secrets with her brushstrokes, but keeps them deeply hidden in a labyrinth of multidimensionality. Falli has also published an autobiography, entitled Vita di Saragaia, which hints at a dysfunctional past which adds yet another layer.   

PAS UN AUTRE: When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

SARA FALLI: I began to think of myself as an artist in a very hazy way when I was 10. I noticed that art made me feel good and this happened before I even started to become aware of things... I really began without making a decision and it has become a need I cannot help but satisfy, otherwise I think I'd be a very sad person. However I started using the word "artist" to definemy status only ten years ago when I owned my first studio, after finishing my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts.

AUTRE: When did you start drawing in your current style?

FALLI: My style now is really just a stage that I am exploring, I do not know where it will take me, but I love to experiment and give myself new goals. I am very different when I work on canvas than when I work on paper, because as materials and type of paints change, I am very much guided by the impact of color now.

AUTRE: How would you describe your artworks?

FALLI: My works are anchors of an underground work that is within me. Those that I have been able to do are perhaps a thousandth part of what I would like to do; my job is to keep on trying to make visible to myself and others my underground world.

AUTRE: What are some of your inspirations/influences?

FALLI: I am inspired by everything that moves me and captures my interest. I place these feelings aside for a long time, then one day the whole or a part reaches out, always transformed by my use of color, for me the mediation through the matter is crucial, the ink pigments mixed with water, the smudge of graphite ... I do not know if I would be able to be a conceptual artist and never get my hands dirty, but one day it could be stimulating to try there too.

AUTRE: What do you think about when you are making art?

FALLI: When I create art I am either intractable or in ecstasy, almost "I can't draw a single line" or "I will do it, I am invincible". It takes me a while to find the right dimension, I need good music, space and time to "lose".

FALLI: In 2007 I wrote an autobiographical novel that was published by a major Italian publishing house. I had a very "offbeat" infancy, to use an euphemism, and I wanted to tell it. On the cover of the book there are 4 of my oil paintings; in that period I was painting people's objects, and those were my objects. Now besides painting I'm writing short stories.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FALLI: Then, for the future, I can only say that I will always be doing, never trying to reach a finality. I am terrified of finding myself at the finish, but the goal is not so much the finish, it is nothing but a mirage, you can see it only while walking.

You can find Sara Falli's book Vita di Saragaia here. You can also follow her on flickr to see new works.  Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.

Joie de Vivre: An Interview With Photographer Josh Farria

Josh Farria's photograph is a candid diary of his life in San Francisco. His images include a plethora of beautiful women smoking weed, hanging out in laundry mats, eating cupcakes on the toilet, and teasing the camera. There is a certain amount of joie de vivre in Farria's subjects as they interact with their surroundings that range from urban landscapes to intimate interiors. I got a chance to ask Farriah a few questions about his photography, art, and inspirations. Read interview after the jump.

PAS UN AUTRE: Why did you want to become a photographer?

JOSH FARRIA: Im not sure.. I never had any plans on taking photos at all. It wasn't until I moved San Francisco at about 23. I just really fell in love with the medium, I had a few friends that were taking photos and I decided to try it. As time progressed I wanted to learn more about it.. Especially by me being a film shooter, it takes patience and lots of trial and error. Before I started taking photos I would draw portraits. Looking back at my drawings, now I can see why I was so interested in learning photography. It makes lot's of sense.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first photograph you ever took?

FARRIA: Fuck.. I wish.

AUTRE: Who are some of the subjects in your photographs?

FARRIA: Most of the girls in the photographs are my friends. Some are models, and some are not. I like the balance of both.

AUTRE: What is your favorite thing to photograph?

FARRIA: Women and moments.

AUTRE: Who are some of your major inspirations?

FARRIA: As of right now I would have to say Hawthorne Headhunters, Charmaine Olivia, Metronomy, and Darlene Farria my moms.

AUTRE: What goes through your mind when you look through the viewfinder?

FARRIA: A million things! Usually im thinking about how many exposures I have left. That's a probably a boring answer but it's true.

AUTRE: Whats next?

FARRIA: My first book, im aiming to release it before the end of 2012.

Follow Josh Farria on his tumblr diary. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre. 

Lucia Cuba on Gender, Strength and Politics

Can fashion be used as a medium for social change? If fashion is an artform and one of art's inherent powers is to change people minds then the answer is yes.  From 1990 to late 2000 the former president of Peru Alberto Fujimori was engaged in an alarming series of human rights abuses including the forced sterilizations of men and women as part of a family planning campaign called Contraceptive Voluntary Surgery.  As a result nearly 300,000, mostly indigenous, women were coercively or forcefully sterilized during these years. Medical procedures where executed without consent, using fake signatures and untranslated "agreements", and under unsanitary conditions. In most cases no post-operatory information and treatments were provided. This caused secondary effects related to the surgery, terrible complications that in some cases lead to the death of patients. Fujimori is currently serving a 25 year prison term for his involvement in the kidnappings and mass killings carried out by an established paramilitary group called the Grupo Colina death squad which was supported by Fujimori and former head of Peru's intelligence service Vladimiro Montesinos. But will justice be served for the victims of the forced sterilizations? In 2001, a brave group of 12 women from the town of Anta, in Cusco, Peru denounced the violation of their rights and after 15 years of protest the public prosecutor's office has reopened the case, but there is a risk it may be dismissed.  Peruvian social activist and designer Lucia Cuba, who recently graduated from Parson's in New York, has started Articulo 6, named after the statute in Peru's general health law that all persons should have the right to choose their own contraceptive method, as a way to give greater visibility to the case and to open a dialogue about issues of human rights, gender and justice. I got in touch with Cuba to learn more about the Articulo 6 and how she is using fashion design to broaden awareness.  

PAS UN AUTRE: You are both a social scientist and a fashion designer – what brought you to these two seemingly disparate paths?

LUCIA CUBA: I was brought up in a household that is very concerned with social issues, and highly motivated by the arts and sciences. As a child, this environment nurtured all sorts of creative impulses, and I remember making some of my own clothes from an early age. While in college I became interested in the social sciences and decided to study psychology. To my surprise in 2004 a group of people who knew I sometimes created clothes invited me to participate in an experimental runway show. At this time, I was beginning to focus on my practice as a social psychologist in human development and public health, however this re-encounter with design opened a parallel world I finally decided to fully explore. During this time, independent fashion and design in Peru were growing exponentially and the context was also very stimulating.

In 2005 I created an independent brand called LUCCO, while I kept on working as a consultant and coordinator in different projects related to the social sciences. I had the need to explore how both practices could connect, and how they could grow together, as one; I started to realize that if I could not find clear connections between them, I needed to develop my own. Everything that came after, took place in a very natural way.

Today I feel that both “sides” of my work have merged in a symbiotic, dialectical and very productive relationship. I can’t think of another way of approaching my practice, but from the understanding of social sciences as a foundation for fashion and design.

AUTRE: You just graduated from Parsons for fashion design – what are some of the differences between the world of fashion in the US versus Peru?

CUBA: Aside from the fact that fashion systems in the US are more internationally established and recognized, I would dare to say both worlds behave in similar ways: They are both fundamentally powered by the idea of fashion as a commercial project, object and experience, one that basically responds to in-depth research on consumer trends. Their foundation does not grow through critical thinking and social analysis, for example. They both urgently need a strong educational reform in the field so as to develop local understandings of fashion, advance theoretical research, and broaden the way we understand and accept different fashion systems.

AUTRE: You had an internship at Kenzo in Paris - can you talk a little bit about what kind of impact that made?

CUBA: My experience in Paris came right after I won a local “young designers” contest and when I had just started a PhD in Public Health. Until that point I was totally attracted to my new practice as a designer, but I was also very involved in my practice as a social scientist. With the award came Paris, and with Paris came experiencing the reality of something that had been, until then, an ideal of what I had heard fashion “was supposed to be”. This experience included a short stage at Kenzo and classes in a local fashion school. This was my first experience in a “formal” environment of the fashion industry. Until then I had been working as an emerging independent fashion designer in Peru.

Two special things happened to me during this time. I started my practice as an active speaker and researcher on fashion—analyzing emergent fashion systems in Peru—and I confirmed that, whatever I was looking for as a designer, I wasn’t going to find it in a formal, traditional or conventional fashion environment.

AUTRE: It seems like the first big socio-political project that bridged the world of art and design was Project Gamarra - what was the project about and what is the Gamarra Commercial Emporium?

CUBA: The Gamarra Commercial Emporium is one of the main clusters of micro and small firms in the country, a key regional actor in trade, production and development of the Latin American textile and garment industry. Gamarra is located in the district of La Victoria, in Lima, and is also a conglomerate of histories of entrepreneurship marked by important migratory processes that began in the 1960s, due to increasing economic and social crises that forced people to migrate to the capital city. Today, over 20,000 firms are located in Gamarra, spreading through 34 city blocks and employing 70,000 people. It receives over 60,000 daily visitors and reaches 800 million dollars in annual sales.

Project Gamarrais an activist-design project that aims to raise awareness about the importance of understanding the Gamarra Commercial Emporium not only as an industrial cluster, but also as an urban ecology—a site of creativity and a space of confluence of diverse peoples and cultural identities. This project also aims to promote open dialogues among designers, students, business owners, neighbors, politicians and consumers in an attempt to promote self-reflection, the strengthening of social cohesion and sustainable practices in this urban context. The idea is to re-think of Gamarra as a creative and sustainable space.

The project creates a number of small but highly visible projects created by designers, photographers, filmmakers, artists, etc., in conjunction with local firms and exhibited in public spaces inside and outside Gamarra, aiming to give these preoccupations great visibility among consumers, decision-makers and the local media. It’s main objective is to promote the commitment of local firms and authorities towards the advancement of creativity, cultural diversity and sustainable practices within Gamarra.

AUTRE: I'd like to discuss the Articulo 6 project - how did you first hear about the forced sterilizations and what was your initial reaction?

CUBA: The first time I heard about the case was in 2002. I remember reading about it on the newspapers, but also reading about other cases of human rights abuses that took place during Alberto Fujimori’s first and second term as President of Peru.

The second time I connected to the case was almost six years later, during my PhD studies in Public Health, and while having group discussions about the “social determinants of health”. My classmates and I decided to follow the case closely and chose it as a case study for the course. During this time I got to interview former congresswoman Hilaria Supa, and Maria Esther Mogollón, a journalist and activist on gender rights. They have both supported the victims of this case for more than 14 years, empowering them and helping them to pursue justice and reparation.

However, It wasn’t until the past presidential campaign in Peru in 2011 that the case returned to the public eye. The case acquired a lot of visibility and was strategically used as a key issue against Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, who was – ironically – running for president. I became convinced that I could take action, and use my work to give this case and the issue it brings forth, greater visibility. While I was geographically far away, I felt emotionally committed and connected to a case that exemplifies the situation indigenous women face in contemporary Peru.

I started to draft the project while processing the incredible amount of information that exists on the case, and connecting with people involved in documenting, researching and actively promoting justice for women and men affected by the sterilizations. I traveled back to Lima and Cusco that year to conduct research, and I had the opportunity to interview two very inspiring women engaged in a permanent search for justice. They shared with me very personal and horrifying accounts of their experiences. These and other testimonies have been essential materials for my work.

The name of the project Articulo 6 is chosen in ironic reaction to the General Health Law of Peru which sustains in its Sixth Article that “all persons have the right to choose freely the contraceptive method they prefer, prior to the prescription or administration of any contraceptive method, appropriate information on the methods available, their risks, contraindications, precautions, warnings, and the physical, physiological, or psychological effects that might be caused by their use”, and that “the application of any contraceptive method shall require the prior consent of the patient”. These are regulations that were completely ignored when the massive sterilization campaigns took place.

AUTRE: After 15 years, why did the prosecutor finally open the case? What is the status of the case currently?

CUBA: The case was conveniently “archived” in two different occasions, and attracted renewed attention in 2011 when it became a key issue during the electoral debates. Even though Ollanta Humala, Peru’s current president stood up for the victims during his campaign and even though he spoke loudly and clearly about the need for justice, the case has not being solved yet.

On March of 2012 the case was re-opened for a third time. The Association of Forcefully Sterilized Women (AMAEF) from Anta (Cusco), accompanied by activists, intellectuals, journalists and politicians approached the Attorney General, to yet again present over 2,000 testimonies and other pieces of evidence that have existed for years. However, all this evidence appears to be “invisible” in terms of the legal aspect of the case. At this point in time, the case appears to have lost its political importance, and we are afraid that it will be archived yet again.

AUTRE: Will the women who had to undergo these sterilizations finally have justice - in what form?

CUBA: As abstract as it may sound, I believe that justice is the least they deserve; yet perhaps the last thing they will receive, if things continue to move as they have in the past.

They know that the sterilizations are permanent, that they where subjected to harmful and inhuman conditions. They were disrespected and hurt. They have mourned and, as one of the women I interviewed told me, they have cried so much that even their tears are now gone. Another women told me that “they just want to be untied”, liberated from a kind of binding condition of injustice. It makes you rethink in what form should justice come. There is no amount of money that can compensate for their loss. Can one put a price on fertility? However, they do demand medical and psychological attention, but more importantly they are demanding to be treated with respect by health and government officials, to have the State officially recognize their loss and the violence they were subjected to. If this does happen, I believe a very symbolic and crucial healing process may begin to take place.

I strongly believe that justice should also come from all of us. All Peruvian citizens need to know that this happened, and they also need to remember it. We need to finally accept that this happened to all of us, and that the responsible one is not a single person, but a complex logic of vertical power and racist ideologies that unfortunately do not only stem from the State. Peru is a country defined by inequality and discrimination. We need to feel responsible, related, and act upon this.

AUTRE:Articulo 6 has a very important message – how will a fashion collection get the message out - could you produce this collection for stores or boutiques across the world?

CUBA: As a fashion designer and social researcher I will always struggle, trying not to let one of my sides win over the other. In this project I am very aware of the highly social and political issues I am raising in the form of garments, and that garments—as I conceive of them—can transform into bodies that advance and open debates as well as new understandings. One of the foundations of the project is to use fashion platforms to talk about the case, but also to discuss the narratives that can be touched upon while presenting it: issues of gender, strength and politics.

I understand garments to have agency, and that when they interact with people and things while performing themselves (in a runway, a photo shoot, a video, a conference, etc.) they may generate emotions, raise questions, foster divergent thought, and challenge established memories. If I know that the garments I created can make at least one person more familiar with the case, if I can move them towards it and prompt a reaction, a feeling and perhaps even an action, I will be satisfied. I strongly believe that we are all capable of letting people know more about this case, and to explore the ways in which we can all take part and change things.

The next part of the project does actually include the development of new pieces inspired in the initial garments and their trajectories as migrate and transform into more “public and commercial garments” that spread the message of the piece in numerous ways. I am aware that this project won’t solve the case. But it can definitely give it greater visibility. It can also let people know that we are all capable of talking out loud not only about ourselves.

AUTRE: Do you think fashion should be more of a medium for social change?

CUBA: I believe that it already is. However, it appears to suffer some sort of blindness towards its own powerful agency and the potential impact it could have if conceived as a device and a medium to transform and change things. In order to so we need to see fashion less in terms of material objects for consumption. We need more fashion that acts, critiques and reacts. We need design and actions for transformation, stronger activism and less narcissism.

AUTRE: Whats next?

CUBA: I am preparing to present Articulo 6 in Peru in August (in Lima and in Anta, Cusco). The idea is to engage in an open discussion about the case and its current situation, and not only about the project. In September I will be presenting the first collection of Articulo 6 in the New York Fashion Week. This experience in itself will constitute another “action” of the project. Later on I will develop at least 10 more actions that stem this work, and I am currently looking for funds to develop them. A total of 12 actions will be performed as part of Articulo 6. I want them to represent the 12 of Anta: the group of brave women that made the first formal accusations and that became a symbol for the case.

To find more about the project, its actions, and the case, and to pledge your support visit the Articulo 6 website. Photography by  Erasmo Wong Seoane, Model  Carla Rincón for IceBerg, styling by  Lucia Cuba & Yasmin Dajes, assistant production Joy Rosenbrum, hair by Olga Sonco. Text for this article by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.