Concept 005: An Interview Of Nordstrom Men’s Sam Lobban And Union Los Angeles Founder Chris Gibbs

Founded in 1989, Union’s history first started in New York’s Soho with the gracious ambition of giving a space to young, local designers on their way to recognition. The Los Angeles shop followed a few years later and strived to maintain the same principle born thirty years ago: embracing the creativity of fresh designers within the city while being inspired by trends coming from Japan and the UK. Union Los Angeles has now become one of LA’s prime destinations for men's contemporary fashion and streetwear. Earlier this month, Chris Gibbs, who used to work at the original NYC shop and is now the owner and operator behind Union LA, announced Union’s first ever collaboration with a national retailer: Nordstrom.

Concept 005: Union & Company features over 170 exclusive pieces across clothing, accessories and shoes from a roster of 13 brands curated by Chris Gibbs and Sam Lobban, Nordstrom’s vice president of men’s fashion. We had the opportunity to speak to both of them about their recent collaboration, but mostly about streetwear, its evolution, and its relationship to high fashion.

AUTRE: How did the two of you meet?

SAM LOBBAN: Chris and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and then we would bump into each other in showrooms during Fashion Week market around the world and talk shop. We always seemed to have a similar vibe on product and brands, which I for one found interesting and pretty cool given our very different professional backgrounds.

CHRIS GIBBS: Sam seems to remember us meeting in Tokyo…but I don’t remember that specifically. I just know that over the course of the men’s fashion gauntlet: Tokyo, Paris, Italy, NYC…I would often see Sam in the usual haunts, and over time, recognized that we shared a lot of sensibilities and we formed a friendship.

AUTRE: In collaboration on this concept project, what were some of the first conversations you had about what you wanted this pop-up to look like, and which brands you wanted to include?

SAM LOBBAN: From the start, the Union & Company concept was about giving Chris and the team a platform to tell the Union story to our customers. It was important to us that we convey what Union is all about, but at the same time have its own unique spin as a pop-up concept, hence the thirteen brand, 170-piece exclusive capsule collection featuring all but two brands which Union usually carries. For the additional two - Cactus Plant Flea Market and No Vacancy Inn - both Chris and I are fans of what each brand does, and thought they would add an interesting addition to the concept as a whole.

AUTRE: Were there any particular inspirations that you both found to be the driving force behind this pop-up? Whether it be a different concept store, another city, or even a style of design?

SAM LOBBAN: From my perspective the major inspirations would be the ideas behind Union and what they stand for: great product, an open and inclusive environment and representing a diverse range of brands and ideas across price points. I think it would be fair to say that the campaign and overall aesthetic feels pretty rooted in LA style too!

AUTRE: Are there any brands that you think are ushering in a new wave of streetwear design?

SAM LOBBAN: I think what Cactus Plant Flea Market is doing is super cool, along with the Camp High guys...I like their super interesting take on color, graphic and print placement & technique on jersey, sweat weights and shapes.

AUTRE: Do you think these kinds of pop-ups risk putting cult streetwear at risk of becoming too mainstream?

CHRIS GIBBS: I do think there is a narrative where that can happen… And some brands might succumb to the glitz and glamour of it all by overdoing it. But we (Union) have a thirty-year track record of ‘keeping it real’ and by that I guess I mean playing the long game and never overexposing any one brand or trend. The core of our business has, for some time now been Japanese street wear and three of the four brands we started with over fourteen years ago are still the leading brands in our store (Neighborhood, Wtaps and Visvim). My feeling has always been as long as you keep true to your brand ethos and don’t start doing things and making product that isn’t really true to the brand, then you don’t run the risk of saturation. This project is the perfect example. It’s a two-month pop up with a highly curated edit of brands and styles in only ten doors in the world. That isn’t mainstream.

AUTRE: Do you think streetwear has become less accessible to consumers due to the influx of luxury brands tailoring their aesthetics?

SAM LOBBAN: Personally I think the opposite; aside from the ambiguity of what ‘streetwear’ as a term really means - which seems to be a catchall for anything cool that’s going on in menswear at this point - I’d argue that more customers than ever can and want to buy into streetwear because of the range of price points available. At Nordstrom we have Union tees for $42 to Dior tees for $560, and everything in between.

AUTRE: Do you think streetwear has evolved along with high fashion brands as they have adapted to their collections to appeal to more trend-oriented customers?

CHRIS GIBBS: Sam kind of spoke to the “catchall-ness” of the term streetwear. So this is kind of tough to answer. My job as a curator, for lack of a better term, is to try and sift through everything and bring the best to our customers. Not to sound repetitive but again I would lean on our thirsty+ year history of being Los Angeles’s best kept secret. Correct me if I am wrong, but Autre is a LA-based magazine who has covered many brands we sell, designers we offer, artists we support and this might be the first article about us. And I kind of like that. There is something kind of cool and mysterious about what and how Union exists. Guess I digressed there, sorry. Ok, so the question was has streetwear evolved to be more trendy? Some parts of it have for sure…some of streetwear’s most respected and longstanding brands are now household names, that said, others are still wildly successful, yet still super niche and underground. Streetwear is very pluralistic in that way.

AUTRE: Has the ethos behind streetwear as a cultural concept been diminished by high fashion?

CHRIS GIBBS: I will admit, I do think high fashion brands are doing their best to use the ‘streetwear’ playbook and unlike most streetwear brands, high-fashion brands have multimillion dollar ad campaigns and marketing teams behind them. And I will go a step further and say some are doing a really good job at it. I suppose for me we have always been a niche store and have largely enjoyed support from the customer who really gets it. The guys and girls who want honest, organic and holistic take on fashion. In those people we will always have support and they aren’t as easily lured away as most. There are some high fashion brands that for sure are using streetwear’s new found popularity to keep themselves relevant, while others are working with, not against streetwear in a more collaborative way that I think is healthier.

AUTRE: Do either of you think that there is any single city that consistently ignites global streetwear trends?

SAM LOBBAN: I think by its very nature a number of major cities add their own trends to the global streetwear conversation, rather than any single one. I think there are lines which you could draw back to New York, LA, Tokyo, London and beyond.

AUTRE: Would you consider Los Angeles to be a city of a trend-starters or of trend-followers?

CHRIS GIBBS: What I would say is this, I am a firm believer that streetwear was born in NYC, but at some point during the early ought’s it seemed to migrate west or at the very least become bicoastal. So there is a very strong, very dope LA version of streetwear, which is a community that I think is really dope. The Japanese streetwear that we introduced to the US, for example was really done from LA and that is a huge part of streetwear. And for Union we wouldn’t be here today without the support and patronage of some really dope trend setters in Los Angeles.

AUTRE: How would you describe the fashion aesthetic of this generation?

CHRIS GIBBS: My wet dream. A truly free and democratic mix of all genres and subgenres of fashion - high, low, vintage, contemporary, hippie, cross dressing, you name it.

AUTRE: Do either of you have any trend forecast predictions for the near future of streetwear?

CHRIS GIBBS: As high fashion willingly blurs the lines, the pendulum can swing both ways…streetwear will start using their playbook, but through a younger more innovative lens.


The pop-up shops will be available July 11 through September 1 at select Nordstrom stores and




A Conversation With Adam Miller And Devon Oder, Co-Founders Of The Pit, About The Gallery’s History And Fifth Anniversary.

Interview By Agathe Pinard
Photographs courtesy of Adam Miller

While most newly created galleries couldn’t make it through the hard reality of the art market in Los Angeles and pass the fateful milestone of the first two years, The Pit is about to celebrate its five year anniversary this month. I met with the co-founders and artists, Adam Miller and Devon Oder, for a chat at the gallery’s location in Glendale. As they gave me a tour of the three gallery spaces that make up The Pit , Adam stopped to point out a literal pit on the ground. “Here is The Pit,” he told me. In the forty-five minute long conversation that followed, we retraced the history of The Pit, talked about the benefits of doing it yourself, and pictured LA’s forthcoming art scene.

AGATHE PINARD: Can you tell us a little bit about the artists you’re currently showing?

ADAM MILLER: In the main gallery is Hilary Pecis, she’s an LA-based painter, and this is her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. In The Pit II is Dani Tull, he’s been working in Los Angeles for many years, and has exhibited internationally. He makes sculpture, installation, and paintings. Hilary’s work is more of a painter’s painter practice: depictions of still lives, snapshots from Los Angeles, moments of her daily life; whereas Dani’s work is more conceptual. A lot of his work deals with mysticism, new age philosophy, and religions. In the zine shop, we have ceramics by Jennifer King, also a Los Angeles-based artist. Finally, in the back gallery, otherwise known as “The Pit Presents,” we have a group exhibition that was organized by Left Field, a gallery from Los Osos, California.

AGATHE PINARD: I heard that before running a gallery you were a musician. Can you talk about that a little?

ADAM MILLER: I moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to get my MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena; that’s where Devon and I met. Previously, I was living in Sacramento where I was involved in the music scene. I moved there when I was eighteen and was already playing in punk bands, and then I moved more into garage and ‘60s revival music. But there was a real DIY ethos in Sacramento. Everyone ran record labels, booked their own tours, organized shows in alternative venues like laundromats, old theaters, and backyards, people made their own t-shirts, etc.. So, when I was young, that’s how life was, and when I was in bands, oftentimes, I was the person who did all that.

DEVON ODER: Of course, he did. As you’ll find out, he gets a lot done. (laughs)

ADAM MILLER: I do a lot of things. That’s basically how I learned to silkscreen. We’d make our own t-shirts in the bathroom of our apartments. During the four or five years I was living there, I helped set up my band with a record deal in Germany, and we were able to tour Europe. When I was in that band, I played the bass and I got a deal with the company, so they were sending me free bass guitars to play while on the road and things like that. So, pretty early on, I realized the benefits of doing it yourself, being super active, and not waiting for people to discover you or do things for you.

AGATHE PINARD: Were you going to school at that time?

ADAM MILLER: During that period of time, I was studying at Sacramento State University majoring in graphic design with a minor in fine art. Which also comes into play because I did a lot of the graphic design for the bands. Now, I do it here for The Pit. After two years, I switched to major in fine art and started organizing art shows at warehouses and underground venues in Sacramento. My first art show was at Kevin Seconds’ coffee shop, from legendary punk band 7 Seconds. Since I didn’t write the music, I felt like there was a shelf life to playing in the bands. I just started feeling less fulfilled playing music because I wasn’t fully expressing myself, and I had less control over it. So, I dropped out of all my bands and decided to apply to grad school. Getting into grad school was my real initiation to the fine art world. In Northern California, there was a bigger sort of graphic, street art component that related to the music scene, so I had been more involved with that.

When Devon and I were in grad school, we really wanted to figure out the LA art scene. We weren’t dating yet, but we both started working for the artist Sterling Ruby. She was the first office employee and I was the second studio assistant. So, while she was doing a lot of logistical, behind-the-scenes stuff for his exhibitions, I was doing fabrication, shipping, and installation while finishing grad school.

We finished grad school in 2008, the economy collapsed, a lot of the galleries in Los Angeles went under. So, I just kind of fell back on the way I was doing things when I was in bands. I started finding alternative spaces around Los Angeles and I would curate a group show. At that time, I’d put my own work in the show, and people were critical of that choice because hardly any artists were doing it. And every time I organized a show, I would make a zine and we would silkscreen the covers.

DEVON ODER: And it was also about extending our community. When you’re in graduate school, you’re in a super tight bubble, and then when you get out, you’re in your studio and you’re kind of twiddling your thumbs. The shows were really this great way to do a ton of studio visits and expand our world.

ADAM MILLER: Devon worked for Sterling Ruby until we opened the gallery in 2014. I worked for him until 2011, and then I decided I wanted my day job to be completely out of the art world. So, the other side of me as a person is that I’m involved in animal rights activism, so I worked for PETA in their grassroots campaigns for five years.

DEVON ODER: And he kept being like, “Let’s open our own space, let’s open our own space!” And at the time, it freaked me out.

AGATHE PINARD: So how did the idea of creating the gallery finally come together?

ADAM MILLER: It was a mix of things. We had done a lot of these shows for like five years and there weren’t many artist-run spaces still in operation in Los Angeles at the time. In 2013, Laura Owens opened 356 Mission, and that was radically inspiring. I think that’s when I was like, “I want to open a space.” I was so inspired to see an artist of her stature taking control of her own career, doing things for the community, for other artists to do things beyond just their own studio, their own practice, their own career, but to think more expansively about what an artist can do for the greater LA art community. Seeing someone just do it, and really shake off the judgment that people had about an artist showing their own work—that you shouldn’t organize your own shows— … Just get rid of these old ideas of what artists should, and shouldn’t do, and just be like, “I’m just gonna do it, and fuck it.”  I thought it was so amazing and we started to look for a space about six months later.

DEVON ODER: So, we had this building as our studios, the part that you’re in right now, and we kept on thinking, “If we open our own space, how are we going to do that with day jobs, with our studio practice, and then another lease?” All of these things were adding up. Then, we were talking to our landlord about some ideas that we had and he was like, “Well, I’ve got these garages and I’ve just had my junk in them for over twenty years. You can have them if you clean them up.”

ADAM MILLER: It took us nine months to remodel and fix up the space; it was really crazy. The building had been a cabinet maker’s business at some point. So all the walls were covered in cabinetry and pockets of storage stuff that had just been gathering dust, and there was a dropped ceiling, broken windows, molded walls. It was a big undertaking.

DEVON ODER: We were wondering if this even could turn into a nice, pretty gallery?

AGATHE PINARD: You’d have to be pretty imaginative.

ADAM MILLER: It was 2013 when we started building the gallery. Most other galleries were still in Culver City, Hollywood, and Downtown was the new place where galleries were cropping up, but no one was located as far east as us. So that was another thing; we wondered if anyone would ever even come here.

DEVON ODER: When we opened it wasn’t a commercial gallery; it was a real artist project space. We did group shows curated by us, as well as by other artists. We did that for a couple of years.

ADAM MILLER: Yeah, we were several years in before we even had any public hours. I think we did two years of appointment-only.

 AGATHE PINARD: At the beginning, in 2014, The Pit was a project space for wide-ranging group shows. Five years later, The Pit now has three galleries and a zine shop. Can you talk about the evolution of the project?

ADAM MILLER: We’ve slowly been able to take over more and more of the building.

DEVON ODER: Adam’s whole motto is if there is any available space you need to do something with it.

ADAM MILLER: What happened with The Pit II is that someone living across the street had a fancy car and just stored it in there. Every day that we would be here working he would pull it out and wash it in front of the gallery. It was a really funny scenario. This older guy would take his shirt off and wash the car, wax it, and stuff.  Anyways, eventually he sold the car and didn’t need the space anymore.

DEVON ODER: And we always said right when we met him: “if you ever want to give up that garage, we’ll take it.”

ADAM MILLER: The first Pit II show opened in February 2015, so we were a year and a half in. That was the first time we ever did a solo show. We had only done group shows up to that point. That was a big moment for us because it  really shifted the direction of the gallery. We started finding that working with one artist for a longer period of time on a solo project was so rewarding. Doing group shows was such a different experience. Group shows are really, really fun, but when you work with a friend, or someone who becomes a friend, you help them realize this vision; this big thing for their career—which is a solo show. It just feels like such a monumental thing in an artist’s life and it just feels more collaborative. Then somewhere along the line we started doing art fairs and became more commercial, started selling things, and I was able to leave my day job at a certain point.

 AGATHE PINARD: The Pit Presents, one of the exhibition spaces, hosts galleries from other cities in a series of residencies and swaps. Can you talk about the initiative behind it?

ADAM MILLER: The back gallery (The Pit Presents) was three single car garages that we took over. A laundromat was using them for storage. The landlord asked if we’d want to take another chunk of the building and we snatched them up because, in my mind, if any space is available we should do something interesting with it.

DEVON ODER: We had no plans on expanding at that point.

ADAM MILLER: To be frank, at the time, we weren’t making enough sales in order to take on more overhead. So, we thought let’s just remodel it and we’ll rent it to another gallery. Then we’ll have a neighbor, and we can have shared openings and parties together. That was our initial idea. So we built it out, made it really nice, and started looking for someone to rent it. We got the space in 2017, and September 2018 was the first show. We were contacting people about renting out the gallery and we were speaking to a friend of ours who runs a gallery in Mexico City, who had an idea to run it as a collaborative. So he and four other gallerists from Latin America rented the space, and they called it Ruberta, which is the name of the street that we’re on. Each gallery got to do one show throughout the year. During that time The Getty was doing the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, which had an emphasis on Los Angeles and Latin American connections in contemporary art. They rented the space, created Ruberta, and then their exhibitions and projects were promoted through the Getty and associated with Pacific Standard Time. So, it was a really amazing thing. That was only going to be one year. It ended last summer and we were trying to think of what to do with the gallery moving forward. I’m the primary salesperson, and we don’t really have the staff or manpower to fully program and sell a third space year round. We were trying to think about what was successful with Ruberta and how to start doing something similar, but in-house. So, basically we could insure it, staff it, and have a little more control. An issue with that was that they were all out of town, and had very limited hours. People were constantly asking us to open it up and we were uncomfortable doing that because it wasn’t our space, and we couldn’t speak intelligently about all the art, all the time.

That’s when we decided to do The Pit Presents, which is almost like a residency. We invite other galleries, whom we select, they put on a show, they program it, and they sell it, in most cases.

AGATHE PINARD: The art market being what it is right now, which aspects of founding a gallery have come most naturally, and which have been the most difficult? 

ADAM MILLER: Well, the financial aspect is probably the most difficult. The best part is working with the artists and having a platform to support them. It will always be my favorite thing about owning a gallery.

DEVON ODER: The hardest part is being a business person.

ADAM MILLER: We’ve had to figure out how it worked. I think we have a different business model than most galleries. To be frank, that’s why we’re in Glendale: keep our overhead as low as we possibly can—and part of that is being outside of the normal gallery hubs. That’s why we now do so many shows at a time. We’re always trying to think outside the box. I would say that a normal gallery’s business model is to have a really nice space with fairly high overhead, and then do one show at a time of pretty expensive artworks, and depend on selling enough of that to cover everything. That’s the opposite of us.  We keep it as low as we can, and we have lots of different opportunities for sales at various price points. We also sell shirts, artist books, limited editions, and host a lot events to keep people coming back to the shows and spend time in the zine shop.

DEVON ODER: Which allows us to be able to keep doing experimental things that might be more difficult to sell.

ADAM MILLER: You have to offset those with other things and figure that out. Budgets and profit/loss reports… that’s the not fun part, but it’s an important part that you have to learn.

AGATHE PINARD: How does an artist-run gallery compete with, and cohabitate with, much larger, blue-chip galleries, and such? What’s your relationship to them?

ADAM MILLER: Our roster of represented artists focuses primarily on emerging artists, but we work with a fair amount of larger, mid-career artists. So, usually, when we work with a bigger artist, we’re trying to see how we can collaborate with their bigger galleries to make it successful for everyone. We do really well with getting press for artists; they’re able to do more experimental projects that they might not be able to do in a bigger space that has a different type of overhead.

When we work with a bigger artist that’s been showing in a bigger gallery, I almost feel like we become their PR machine. Ideally, we’ll get them a lot of press. We have done quite well with certain artists, where they’ve been showing at great galleries, but maybe things have slowed down a little bit, and then we’ve been able to do a show with them and get them press by really pushing things hard on social media and through our networks. And the year after that, we’ll see that they have two or three shows with different galleries and they’re being taken to different fairs. Not that we are exclusively responsible for that, but I think we can help re-kickstart things and get a different audience to look at the work.

DEVON ODER: And then, we get to work with some of our idols; people we admire. That’s been so exciting.

AGATHE PINARD: You just participated in the first ever Frieze Art Fair in Los Angeles earlier this year. What was the experience like?

ADAM MILLER: It was an amazing experience for us, really great. It felt like a real validating moment—being one of the artist-run spaces. We were by far one of the smallest galleries there. The reception was wonderful. We did incredibly well both in networking and sales. It was also super good exposure for the artists. From a sales point of view, this is the strongest year the gallery has ever had, and a lot of it goes back to starting the year off so strong with that fair.

DEVON ODER: For a young, small gallery like us, fairs are the trickiest thing ever because they’re so expensive to do and if they don’t work it’s hard to recover. But when it does work, it can be so beneficial. Frieze was invitational and we just felt very great being there. It had a good vibe, good energy.

ADAM MILLER: It really felt like the LA art scene was championing us a little bit, it was really nice. We felt like the underdogs who made it to the big leagues or something. As Devon was saying, for us one fair can be a quarter of the year’s overhead. So, if we take a big hit on a fair, it can completely screw us up financially for the year, so we have to be very careful.

DEVON ODER: The artists that we represent tend to be emerging, so we have to sell more pieces because the price points tend to be lower.

AGATHE PINARD: How do you envision Los Angeles’s artistic landscape in the future?

ADAM MILLER: I picture it continuing to spread out away from the hubs in Hollywood and Culver City and Downtown. Galleries will start being more independent, in terms of looking elsewhere for lower overhead, rather than clustering together. I feel like when galleries cluster together it ends up driving up the rents in those neighborhoods, and eventually they leave looking for new spaces, and in the process a number of the galleries will close because it’s expensive to get a new space and move your business. I hope that there will continue to be more artist-run spaces. There are a plethora of young artist-run spaces now, which is amazing, and I hope that more will continue to open. We need more new galleries too, not just artist-run spaces, in particular we need more smaller galleries.

DEVON ODER: What’s so exciting now is that I feel like there are so many artist-run spaces again. So many artists are doing interesting things; it feels very active. Los Angeles just feels so active and free. People are opening spaces wherever. There’s artist-run spaces opening in Alhambra, Pasadena, everywhere. That’s exciting, it creates more opportunities for artists and allows for more diverse practices to thrive.

AGATHE PINARD: I also feel like the DIY movement that Adam was talking about in Sacramento is going strong right now in LA. I have friends opening mini art galleries in their backyard shed; they just remodeled the whole thing and made a tiny gallery that can maybe fit five or ten people at the same time.

DEVON ODER: Yes, if you’ve got the space, just use it! I love apartment galleries… just utilizing the space, just getting the work seen, and having that accessibility is really great.

 AGATHE PINARD: What’s coming up next for The Pit?

DEVON ODER: Our five-year anniversary is next month, so we’re throwing a huge party. We’ll have a solo show by Benjamin Weissman in the main space, who is an artist that we’ve known and loved for years. He taught both of us at Art Center and we now represent him at The Pit. In the Pit II, Jaime Muñoz will be curating a  group show. Tyler Mako will be in The Pit Presents. In our zine shop, we will be doing a solo exhibition by Christina Tubbs which will also be a benefit for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation Art Centers. The ECF Art Centers are a series of four professional art studios located across Los Angeles County that create artistic opportunities for artists with developmental disabilities. We are very excited to be able to support this amazing non-profit and to showcase the work of one of their talented artists.

ADAM MILLER: At the party, we will have a performance by KISK, a KISS tribute band, which includes the artist Jon Pylypchuk. He is a good friend of ours and a supporter of the gallery from the beginning. 

DEVON ODER: He was in our third show here at the gallery. He’ll be performing, we’ll have food trucks, our friends will be DJing, so please come!


Growing Up In Wallace Berman's World: An Interview Of Tosh Berman


interview by Jason Schwartzman

Wallace Berman carves a mysterious, counter-cultural figure in the cave wall of Los Angeles folklore. His legend is enhanced by a tragically early death on his fiftieth birthday as a result of an automobile crash with a drunk driver in Topanga Canyon, further cementing his myth as the beatnik of the Southern California chaparrals. There was only one public exhibition of his artwork, at the legendary Ferus Gallery. After the opening, the vice squad got a tip about explicit material in the show.  He was arrested and later convicted for showing lewd and obscene works. There is an outsider quality to his jazz and bebop inspired assemblage work and a Zelig-like quality to his persona, popping up in unlikely places, like a scene in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider or the cover of The Beatles Lonely Hearts Club Band. In a new memoir, entitled Tosh, Berman’s son opens the opaque curtain on the enigmatic artist through a bildungsroman of the Beat Generation and hippie counterculture, a childhood on the frontlines of 1960s Los Angeles and San Francisco freakdom. Tosh Berman and Jason Schwartzman got together for a public conversation at Skylight Books to discuss his memoir and growing up in Wallace Berman’s world.


JASON SCHWARTZMAN: I’m gonna just start with a very simple question, but I am curious, why now did you decide to write a memoir?
TOSH BERMAN: Well, first, it took me ten years to write this book, Tosh, and, I wrote it because a gentleman by the name of Terry Lauren, from Detroit, was editing a special art journal online at the time. Terry Lauren was part of the group, or art collective, called Destroy All Monsters with Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw. He was the other power trio person. He came up to me to ask if I would write something about my father. At the time, it was sort of totally unthinkable that I would even consider writing anything about my life or my family.

Tosh Berman: Because I was sort of taught by my father not to write about the family, really, in a certain aspect. And it wasn’t like a law type of thing but just something that was not encouraged to share with, um…with you. So, when you leave, don’t tell anybody.


SCHWARTZMAN: The memories and the stories in the book, were they all there (snaps fingers) in your head? You’d just been waiting to write them? Or was it a process?
BERMAN: I believe so. I mean, in a sense, my childhood is the most vivid part of my life, so far. It stands out more than anything else in my adulthood, for instance. Though, definitely, as an adult, I find great importance in enjoyment and etcetera, etcetera. But definitely, my childhood had such a vivid stamp on my memory—on who I am—that I still, to this day, feel like a child. I’m very fortunate to have been photographed by my father at a certain age, from a certain time, so when people see me, they think of me at that age. I think the identity of Tosh is very much me as a teenager or as a child.

SCHWARTZMAN: In the book, you're taken out and you're just a part of your parents’ lives in a way that I think is great. But did you feel like a child when you were a child?
BERMAN: Yes. For instance, I would be taken to an event and I would sit on my mom’s lap. I have very little memory of going to childhood events, or children’s parties. All my thoughts are exclusively about going to gallery openings, or going to, you know, Marcel Duchamp’s opening at the Pasadena Museum.

SCHWARTZMAN: I am just so curious about what you were aware of at the time. You know, like you met Marcel Duchamp.
BERMAN: This is my relationship to Marcel Duchamp. I went to his opening and everybody was dressed really nicely. It was kind of a formal affair. When Duchamp, or Marcel, was in a room, his presence was so strong that all the people in that room had their focus on the presence of Marcel Duchamp. At the time, he was still like an underground, cultish figure. But, Marcel Duchamp was such an incredible presence for other artists at the time, not for the general audience, you know.

BERMAN: But, to me, I knew he was French. And that made a big impression on me because he was a foreigner. I also knew he was an artist, and he made a sculpture with a bicycle wheel. As a child, the bicycle wheel was so common for any child. I mean, I didn’t ride a bike at all, but I knew people had bicycles, and I’d seen bicycles in comic strips and books, you know. So, seeing the bicycle wheel on the stool meant a lot to me because I totally understood the piece. It’s a bicycle wheel! I didn’t think about it as, “Is this art? Not art?” or an ironic piece of work, or a ready-made. I just knew that it was a bicycle wheel, and I loved that it was a bicycle wheel.

SCHWARTZMAN: Have you ever been star-struck?
BERMAN: That’s a good question. Yes. I’ve been star-struck in a sense. One of my oldest friends is Billy Gray, who was in a show called Father Knows Best. It was a huge show in the ‘50s and early ‘60s and he played Bud. So, when I watched TV, I realized that’s Billy, our friend, and I could not really distinguish between Bud and Billy, at all.

SCHWARTZMAN: What you do in the book, though, you have an admiration, almost, for things that have an artifice...
BERMAN: Yeah, what’s the artifice and what’s true? The one time I was star-struck as a child was with the Rolling Stones. And then eventually, I met Mick Jagger at the T.A.M.I. Show.

SCHWARTZMAN: At the run-through of the T.A.M.I. Show?

SCHWARTZMAN: What’s more amazing is that it wasn’t the actual T.A.M.I. Show.
BERMAN: It was a dress rehearsal.

SCHWARTZMAN: You were, like, one of the four people.
BERMAN: My father went to the dress rehearsal. We were invited to stay at the T.A.M.I. Show, but my dad didn’t want to stay for the show, which was fine.

BERMAN: For some reason, he was not interested in seeing the whole show, I don't know why. Oddly enough, and this is going to go into my dad’s work, he always had an 8mm camera with him, and he was shooting whatever he found interesting. He had the camera at the rehearsals, and this was before copyright, you know, he just shot anything he wanted. And it wasn’t until the T.A.M.I. movie — the T.A.M.I. Show was a rock & roll variety show in the early ‘60s. It was taped at the Santa Monica Pacific, and it was, like, the Supremes, the Stones, James Brown did a famous, incredible performance.

BERMAN: Beach Boys.

SCHWARTZMAN: All in one day.
BERMAN: All in one day. One time. When the movie came out in the movie theater, we saw it and my dad filmed it from the movie screen. So, it’s interesting that back then, he could’ve filmed it there, in person, but he actually preferred the distance of that world, like a filter.

SCHWARTZMAN: But this relationship to fakeness and Los Angeles, because to me, the book really is—I’m from LA, and you’re from LA—
BERMAN: I’m from Los Angeles.

SCHWARTZMAN: But there’s Los Angeles, San Francisco, London—
BERMAN: Larkspur.

SCHWARTZMAN: I love when we walk around and you say, “That used to be that, that used to be that,” but when I was reading the book, I realized that you were a kid in Los Angeles, but you were in Topanga Canyon and it was forty minutes to get to—
BERMAN: Thirty to forty minutes to get out of the Canyon. It was basically two lanes going in and out of the Canyon, so you’re between Malibu, Santa Monica, and then you have the San Fernando Valley on the other side. Canyon areas are very interesting to me because it’s a very restricted area, you know. You’re, sort of trapped between two worlds. I never felt like Topanga, or any canyon, is the world, it’s a bridge between two cultures or two societies. And, as a teenager, I did not like Topanga.

BERMAN: It was dusty. To tell you the truth, it’s a secluded culture. The whole hippie thing was exploding, and I think the whole hippie culture-world was at its strongest and its greatest for a few months. And then, afterwards, it became a fad people with deep problems are attached to that culture, and Topanga to me conveyed the sour side of the ‘60s. You know, there’s people like Charles Manson in Topanga and stuff like that as well.

 SCHWARTZMAN: You were put off in a way by the hippies. What I love in the beginning of the book is when you talk about your father and music being so important to him. Then, towards the end of the book, it’s all about you becoming a teenager and how much music meant to you. You escaped musically.
BERMAN: Music has always been my escape or my portal to another world, not a better life, but a more interesting life.

SCHWARTZMAN: Growing up, art was a major nutrient. As you, then, became a teenager, were you extra snobby? I don’t know how to say this. You are the most excited and adventurous person that I know. You’re always looking for more new music and new books. You’re always onto something.
BERMAN: I’m really hungry.

SCHWARTZMAN: I often wonder, as a person who was treated like a kid but with all the adults and who was welcome in a lot of exclusive spaces, how you still remain interested in things, and you’re still open to things. A lot of people would be like, “I don’t know. Uh, I saw that in real life, ‘the wheel.’”
BERMAN: Yeah. For example, I had certain taste as a child and as a teenager, but my father had really great taste. He had a great antenna. For instance, he brought in the first Velvet Underground album to the household, and to me that was like weird stuff. There was a song called “Heroin.”

SCHWARTZMAN: You talk in the book, too, about someone, injecting heroin in front of you?
BERMAN: Well, that’s different.

SCHWARTZMAN: But did you ever feel scared?
BERMAN: I felt very secure, very safe. My family is very structured; there was a mom, there was a father, had grandparents, when a lot of people in Topanga were, you know...some of the moms had a biker boyfriend or drug dealer. So, there was a sort of, wilderness. Among all these ruffians, I felt like I was Oscar Wilde.

SCHWARTZMAN: And then, when you got your car, had the music, you would drive people around. Were you always a sharer? Were you always into curating a moment in a way?
BERMAN: Yeah, ‘til this very moment, I am still a sharer. One thing I liked about school—the only thing I liked about school—was “show and tell,” where I think in the first grade or in kindergarten you take something from home and you show it to the public or to your fellow students. I loved that. I loved bringing a record, book, picture, whatever it was at that time, and to this day, you know, I started this press called TamTam Books and really, it’s nothing more than show and tell.

SCHWARTZMAN: There’s a story in the book that I don't fully understand. The Limited Edition story. Can you just talk about that for one sec?
BERMAN: As a child, I had a comic book collection, not as serious as other people’s collections but it nevertheless was my collection. It was Marvel comics that I was into. It was probably when I was like twelve or thirteen, fourteen, something like that. So, I became, sort of, obsessed, like, if I’m gonna get one, of course I have to have issue number two, and of course number three, and even though number four, sort of sucked, I had to complete it. So, I had a good inventory of comics, but not crazy, insane, amount, but a good, honorable collection.

BERMAN: And I had piles. So, I looked at the top of the pile and I noticed on the cover was a stamp, “Collector’s Item,” not from the magazine itself. It was actually stamped.

SCHWARTZMAN: Collector’s Item.
BERMAN: The one below that: Collector’s Item. And, then below that: Collector’s Item. And then, I went to the very bottom, like number one—stamped: Collector’s Item. And then I looked in the drawer—I had a secret stash, unclassified comics that I hadn’t even put in inventory yet—Collector’s Item. So, I’m getting kind of creeped out. I realized every comic book was stamped “Collector’s Item.”

SCHWARTZMAN: You were scared.
BERMAN: So, my dad was home—my dad was always home—looking at the newspaper or whatever, and I said, “Dad, I have to talk to you about something really serious right now.” So, I tapped his shoulder to get his attention, and he looked over and said, “What?” and on his forehead was “Collector’s Item.”

SCHWARTZMAN: And then what was the moment after that?
BERMAN: I didn’t have a magazine collection anymore. I sold it or—I traded all my comic books.

BERMAN: Because, I felt at the time, like it didn’t really ruin my collection. It just brought out how ridiculous it is to have a collection of something. Possession—it’s terrible. To possess something, like, collecting comic books is meaningless and stupid.

SCHWARTZMAN: Was that what it was? Do you feel like it was a lesson?
BERMAN: To me, that comic book collection was very important. But, I totally took the opinion that this is all pointless, you know? Though, it struck me as funny, because he did these really strong, crazy, practical jokes.

SCHWARTZMAN: You never sat down and talked about much. Ever?
BERMAN: Well, not in that sense, no.

BERMAN: We never discussed why he did that. Like, was it funny? Was he trying to teach me something? And that duality is something I sort of lived with, and sort of, had to understand to not understand. I didn’t have a comic book collection afterwards. When you read the whole book, you’ll find pathways and roads. As a teenager, my dad had a collection of View Magazine. View Magazine was the official Surrealist publication in English from Surrealists who moved to New York during the war years. My dad had a complete View Magazine collection and his mother threw it out. I know he was totally upset about it. I think my comic book collection was a similar situation to him, but not like, “I lost my View magazines, therefore, I’m gonna destroy my son’s comic book collection.”

SCHWARTZMAN: You told me a story once, I had left something in a wrapper for a long period of time, and I said, “I’m afraid to ruin it, but then once it gets ruined, I kind of love it.” But then, you said something that really affected my life, where you talked about the mudslide in your home, and things being taken away.
BERMAN: Yes. We had a mudslide in our home, when I was like, ten—two days after Christmas. So, we had a mudslide that destroyed everything. I had nothing. The only thing I had was what I was wearing, and what was in my pocket at the time. So, I did suffer a great deal of physical loss, yes.

SCHWARTZMAN: Can I ask one really silly question? I hope it’s not too personal, while we’re talking about your memoir.

SCHWARTZMAN: Nowadays, when I’m with my wife and children, if we have a disagreement or something, there’s an effort to, you know, “let’s not talk about this now.” In a house, in that situation, how much were you aware of your parents’ relationship?
BERMAN: That’s a good question. Tell you the truth, in our small house I didn’t really notice anything, like, tension. They worked perfectly well together. I mean, to me it seemed like it. There may have been arguments and stuff. When you’re arguing it’s always upsetting for a child, but usually the next day, you won’t remember.

SCHWARTZMAN: Was he [Wallace] regimented? Just because his workspace was at your home, it gets blurry, the lines between when you’re working and not working.
BERMAN: He seemed to be always working.

BERMAN: Yeah. I mean, it’s not like a 10-to-5 type of situation, but he always did work. He was always working.

SCHWARTZMAN: But you always could talk?
BERMAN: Yeah, but sometimes I’d talk and I would just sit there and watch him do his work, and sometimes I’d help him hold the frame. I’d put the records on. One thing he would do is play music over and over again. Like, he played forty-five singles, but I think he liked that format because it’s the perfect song, you know, ‘A Side,’ it had to be perfect. So, what I would do is play something like “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” not once, or twice, but we’re talking like thirty times in a row. I would play Nat King Cole’s “Who’s Next in Line?” over and over and over again.

SCHWARTZMAN: Can you look at the art and separate it from the music or no?
BERMAN: Well, for him, I think it’s a way for him to focus on the artwork. He loved working with music. He also played Paul Bowles’ recordings of Moroccan musicians, which are very chanty, very hypnotic. So, I think a Phil Spector record used in the same format, you know, it was very hypnotic.

SCHWARTZMAN: When you would talk about art or music, could you guys disagree with each other?
BERMAN: No, because we never had discussions like that.

 SCHWARTZMAN: I have one last question for you. What are you reading now, or listening to now, that you’d like to share with everyone now as a recommendation?
BERMAN: Vic Damone’s Greatest Hits. I find it the missing link between Scott Walker and Jack Jones. And, Stravinsky’s very minor work that nobody knows—he did a disco record. (grins)

BERMAN: Well, it’s for the Ballets Russes, so it’s a very early disco record that he and Picasso put together. I’m the only one who has a copy of this. It’s very expensive.


The Power & Vitality Of The Image: An Interview Of Controversial Artist Darja Bajagic

We are both among the first rain drops which indicate that there is a massive purifying storm approaching (2018)

We are both among the first rain drops which indicate that there is a massive purifying storm approaching (2018)

interview by Adam Lehrer

photographs courtesy of Darja Bajagić

Where the political left was once the clear bastion of free speech and expression in the U.S., it could be argued that the new left silences thought and speech perceived as antithetical or offensive to its values almost as much as the right wing does, or did. This is a problem for culture, and evidently, for art. “Political correctness,” says Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek, “is a desperate attempt by the public norms to tell you what is decent, what is not.” What Žižek suggests here is that political correctness can be harmful in its ability to obscure the truth and dilute public discourse; by sanitizing rhetoric we sanitize cultural meaning. This climate of over-the-top, politically correct theatrics has infiltrated the art world; art’s job is ultimately to push back on societal taboos and interrogate prevailing norms. Good art is almost always offensive to someone.

I first came across Montenegro-born, Chicago-based artist Darja Bajagić at the Independent Art Fair in 2017. Bajagić uses (mostly) monochromatic acrylic painted backgrounds to transform images found within the dark corners of the internet and other non-web sources. Screen-printed atop her canvases are symbols of evil or complex/dual meanings, pornographic images, and pretty girls and boys. Subsequent research reveals these girls and boys to be victims and/or perpetrators of abductions or murders. Bajagić also refuses to over-explain her work, nor does she seek to moralize it (responding to a reporter about her use of a Greek meander motif in recent works was met with Bajagić’s claim that her work is about “the banality of evil”). Her stance has led to her work being misread and mischaracterized. While Bajagić was attending Yale’s Painting and Printmaking program, the Dean suggested she seek professional help. Years later she found herself being censored when her piece Bucharest Molly was removed from an exhibition at Galeria Nicodim.

The cancelation of a duo show between Bajagić and industrial music pioneer, writer, and artist Boyd Rice at Greenspon Gallery reveals the toxicity of political correctness in the art world. Stemming from revelations of numerous events in Rice’s background, such as his usage of fascist imagery in “Non” (an industrial music project), these “revelations” caused an artist-resource listserv entitled “Invisible Dole” to ultimately threaten the gallery’s owner, Amy Greenspon (though it remained installed and was shown privately to those that wanted to see it.) The animus towards Rice was eventually transferred to Darja as well. What they don’t understand about Bajagić is her belief in art’s ability to create conflict, to provoke thought, and to deal with the complexities of the world with nuance and clarity.

If the art world keeps presenting this utopian, groupthink version of the world, art itself is going to collapse. Artists like Darja Bajagić make us look at what we might find ugly, distasteful, and upsetting. I want to be upset. Please offend me. When you offend me, you are forcing me to think for myself. Being offended is healthy. Darja and I corresponded over the Internet to discuss this fiasco as well as her work at large.

“German Madeleine McCann” (2019)

“German Madeleine McCann” (2019)

ADAM LEHRER: I assume you knew that showing alongside Boyd Rice at Greenspon might ruffle some feathers, but did you anticipate at all that the show would be so offensive to others that it might actually get cancelled?

DARJA BAJAGIĆ: I did not expect any feathers to be ruffled. Only two years ago, in fact, Boyd took part in a group show at Mitchell Algus Gallery. So, I definitely did not foresee the show’s cancellation. The show itself did not cause offense; what generated offense was a series of falsities spread on a “private” listserv by a number of terribly misinformed “art world” persons. As a result of subsequent harassment directed at the gallerist by a select number of those aforementioned persons, including threats to the gallerist’s well-being as well as the gallery’s, the show’s opening was cancelled. Nevertheless, it was installed, and viewable by appointment.

LEHRER: How did you come into contact with Boyd Rice? Had you been a fan of his music and writing? What was it about showing work alongside of him that you thought would be interesting?

BAJAGIĆ: Chris Viaggio, the curator of our two-person, approached me with the idea in January of 2018. It goes without my saying it that Boyd is a pioneering artist.  I’ve always appreciated the ambiguousness of his output. Rather than providing any answer(s) to what he re-presents, he functions as a big question mark—forcing the [concerned] individual to answer their own question(s). They must answer it. This modus operandi is now, more than ever, relevant and necessary in the face of the rising, violent insistence to identify and [over-]define to the point of infantilism.

LEHRER: Your work has often been misread and mischaracterized. Are you finding that it’s getting increasingly difficult to show work that is challenging and at the same time not in line with the typical “art friendly” topics of the day, such as identity or inclusivity?

BAJAGIĆ: Yes. First, They Came for the Art. What’s remarkable is that, this time, it’s coming from within [the “art world”]. Artists are fighting to censor other artists. It’s truly absurd. They are executing what they claim to be fighting against, and using Gestapo tactics. Their democracy is, in reality, totalitarianism. They are cowards, essentially. They fear the unknown (we have come back to the violent insistence to identify and [over-]define). What they fail to understand, time after time, is that the subject of art is not the artist. On top of this, it must be acknowledged that, today, the motive of profit outweighs the pursuit of art, in its truest sense. Opportunism is a widespread disease. Complexity is unfashionable, especially if it risks affecting [your] financial stability; an added incentive to degrade [the status of art]—as have we, so has art become reduced. Vapid ornament.

LEHRER: No longer can people seem to grapple with the fact that a depiction is not an endorsement. Obviously, when Pasolini made Salo he wasn’t saying “I like fascism and child abuse,” but he was using the extreme violence as a way to show how power destroys both the victim and victimizer. You, like Pasolini, don’t take a moral stance on the work, which further complicates readings of it. Do you ever fear that if the art world keeps moving in this direction there just won’t be any room for work like yours anymore?

BAJAGIĆ: It is evident that there is a pathetic tendency towards greedy mediocrity. There is an inability or unwillingness to deal in any depth with complexity. Now, when it is needed most, complex systems of aesthetics, or even provocations, are suppressed. That certain things are uncertain or unknown is simply an impossibility and certainly not permissible; you see, Google has all of the answers—as one listserv member wrote, “With one quick google [sic] of Darja and a look at her instagram [sic] I found some pretty questionable stuff.” This included my following the account of Neue Slowenische Kunst  on Instagram—clearly they are pitifully unenlightened. They go on to say, “To be clear: I have never met her, have nothing against her and know little about her work. That said, fuck Nazis, White Supremacists and Nationalists. Why is she using this imagery with seemingly no indication that it is not in support of it?”. And there you have it. They admit to knowing “little” about my practice but are nevertheless put-out due to my lack of [an indication of] support towards my artwork’s content, which they are only capable of superficially labeling as “Nazi, White Supremacist(s) and Nationalist(s)” imagery. Symptoms of a myopic perspective. This mania for a sterile, essentially dead, art is detestable. Art should not exist within a zone of safety—this would effectively eliminate its true efficacy and potentiality. Censorship occurs when this true efficacy and potentiality threatens the ruling ideology. What the censors fail to see, however, is that, paradoxically, censorship is like pruning: it gives new strength to what it cuts down.

LEHRER: Your work deals directly with “the banality of evil” as you describe it. What is it about the art world, do you think, that makes it so adverse to this subject matter? Certainly depictions of evil, violence, power, and destruction still exist in cinema (Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, David Lynch, Catherine Breillat), literature (Brian Evenson, Ryu Murukami, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy), and music (noise music, black metal, even hip hop). And the art world, to outsiders anyways, seems like the most radical of all these industries, but perhaps ironically is the most sterilized in its thematic content. Where is this irony coming from?

BAJAGIĆ: Sterilizing art is a way to defuse its power. Fear and the fear of generating offense is one excuse in the defense of sterilization. Offensiveness is subjective and relative. What a person chooses to be offended by is a matter of personal opinion. Hypersensitivity is a[nother] widespread disease. So widespread has it become that it is now a tyrannical force. Everyone is catching it. And, as the Greenspon cancellation attests to, “even” the “art world” is forfeiting whatever semblance of [its support of] liberty it feigned—bigots and hypocrites, welcome. In regards to depictions of violence, violent images matter. We must force ourselves to see. We are not bloodless. Violent images are not dangerous, but what is is the overwhelming effort to sanitize, delete our access to an unvarnished reality.

LEHRER: You keep a fairly low public profile when compared against the endless self promotion of many artists in the digital age. This has me thinking of “cancel culture,” which I find to be inherently childish and a bit faux, which happens on both sides of the political isle (the left canceling Kanye, the right canceling Nike). By you taking a back seat from self promotion and controlling distribution of your image, are you hoping to at least somewhat emphasize the importance of divorcing your work from your persona?

BAJAGIĆ: For sheeple, innuendo trumps truth. Provincialism is rampant. Even opinions that diverge from those held by [these] mentally incapacitated persons spur onset extinguishing—this is a dangerous intolerance; it, in fact, calls for extinguishing as it eradicates the possibility or potentiality of anything other than itself to exist. Furthermore, yes, it is troubling, the death of the “marketplace of ideas”. Everyone deserves the right to express, discuss, their views. However, we have, instead, in place an obsessive preoccupation with victimhood, and it triggers a furious and compulsive cleansing—a moral panic. And, always, the threat takes on a symbolic form, as in the examples you list. It is an irrational one, as is the subsequent response [of the public]. Society’s hissy fit. As to my emphasizing my art over myself—I find the tendency to focus upon the artist reductive. The subject of art is not the artist. Art is impersonal and external, not in the sense of detachment [between artist and artwork], rather in that it is the process of a truth which is external to the artist but to which the artist is committed. It is addressed to everyone. All interpretations are correct.

LEHRER: You have said that those who get offended by your work are victims of hypersensitivity, but also that you are sympathetic to that hypersensitivity. But also, the work probably wouldn’t be as powerful if it didn’t offend at least some, correct?

BAJAGIĆ: I do not regard my art as offensive. What you are referring to was an answer to a question regarding “negative reactions to the subject matter of [my artworks].” And I followed by saying that What is in fact obscene, offensive, and oppressive is this hypersensitivity, imposing morality. With that said, I am definitely out to make trouble for people who like things to be simple. Because they are not. Things are incredibly complex, subtle, and nuanced.

LEHRER: One thing I am drawn to in your work is that it necessitates engagement beyond one dimensional looking. For instance, if there is an image of a young, pretty girl, the aesthetics of the work might trigger a subtle uneasy feeling but it is only through the extra step of research will the viewer find out that this young girl was the victim of an abduction and only then the art work’s full meaning is attained. Is this a conscious goal of yours, or am I reading too much into it?

BAJAGIĆ: Yes.  There is no single definition or “essential nature” of images, and different meanings and use can overlap. The meaning of a word is its use in the language. This is a fact, and it inexhaustibly excites me. Instances of this in my most recent artworks are Beate—helpful, kind, nice, obliging, primitive, subliminally aggressive and vulgar and “German Madeleine McCann,” two paintings that were a part of the Greenspon show. They feature the Greek meander—one of the most important symbols in ancient Greece, and, still today, one of the most common decorative elements. It’s on everything, from architecture to Versace thongs and bikinis designed by Instagram “celebrities,” as well on the flag of the Golden Dawn, a political party in Greece that is ultranationalist and far-right. It is thought to symbolize infinity and unity; to the Golden Dawn, they see it as representing bravery and eternal struggle. So, does this make Versace a supporter of ultranationalist and far-right policies? Of course not. The meaning of a word is its use in the language. However, judging by, say, the logic of the attitudes of the persons who forced the shut-down of the Greenspon show, Versace is unequivocally a supporter of ultranationalist and far-right policies due to their continuous use of the Greek meander in their designs, a symbol now notoriously tied to ultranationalist and far-right policies.

Another instance, in this same body, is Beate Zschäpe in Lonsdale, shrouded in intrigue. In it, Zschäpe is pictured in a Lonsdale top. Lonsdale is a long-running (ca 1960), hugely-popular UK-based brand of sporting clothes. In the late 1990s and through the early 2000s, neo-Nazis co-opted the brand as a means to bypass laws outlawing the public display of Nazi symbols, as by cunningly concealing the first and last two letters with a jacket, only the letters NSDA were left visible, one letter short of NSDAP, the acronym for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Lonsdale reacted to this trend by marketing initiatives promoting multiculturalism and sponsoring anti-racist campaigns (“Lonsdale Loves All Colours” and “Lonsdale London Against Racism & Hate”). Notwithstanding, the trend (coined Lonsdale youth) was too widespread and took on a life of its own. It was subsequently selectively banned in schools across Germany and the Netherlands. Still, does this make every Lonsdale wearer a neo-Nazi or a member of the NSDAP? Of course not. The meaning of a word is its use in the language. We have to engage with things as they are and not as they appear to us.

LEHRER: One thing I find interesting, if a bit overemphasized, in your work is the critical focus on your use of pornographic images. The porn in the work is usually softcore, especially in comparison with what people see all the time on pornhub and its affiliate sites. But, by divorcing the porn from its source material and placing it into a fine art context, you are able to amplify its meaning to subversive effect. It’s like you are giving an image its power back after that power has been weakened by the sheer amount of images that surround it on the internet. Is this idea something of interest to you?

BAJAGIĆ: Sure. Art prompts the viewer to see and then re-see, and, in this, the power and vitality of the image [in an artwork] is less likely to go unnoticed. It applies to a pornographic image or another—it could be an image of a potato. Reanimating it, in the context of art, often impels suspicious engagement as it recalls its illusionary status. It reminds us that images are not to be taken at face value. They are symbolic constructions, between us and reality. Therein is their power.

NOTE: Neue Slowenische Kunst, or NSK, is a political art collective formed in Slovenia in 1984 that appropriates some fascist symbols into their output, sometimes juxtaposing symbols from totally opposing ideologies, and their musical wing is the successful industrial/avant-garde band Laibach

Screenshot at 13:49/15:02 of the NSU’s “Pink Panther” confession video (2018)

Screenshot at 13:49/15:02 of the NSU’s “Pink Panther” confession video (2018)

The Anarchy and the Ecstasy: An Interview of Dean Valentine & Mills Moràn Preceding the Inaugural Felix Art Fair


interview by Summer Bowie

photographs by Oliver Kupper

For anyone who’s seen Velvet Buzzsaw, there were a number of glaring inaccuracies about the look and feel of an art fair, most notably is probably the fact that they’re usually filled with hundreds of slack-jawed visitors under harsh halogen lights who look like they just stepped off a Southwest flight…or a parade float, depending on which day you go. This scene is depicted far more accurately in Mark Flood’s Art Fair Fever, a biting, feature-length parody about the dark misgivings of the art world’s collectors and dealers. So, how does one go about reformatting the art fair formula? How do you pull it out of the white cubicles that we’ve all grown to abhor? For Dean Valentine, Mills and Al Moràn, the answer was to start with the location. Building out a fair in a convention center, throwing up some drywall dividers and pumping the AC may be the path to least resistance when it comes to such an ambitious endeavor. However, the humble team of three decided to use the historic Hollywood Roosevelt with its one-of-a-kind hotel rooms, cabanas and banquet halls to create a mis-en-scène that transcends the typical art fair experience. I had the chance to sit down for coffee with Mills and Dean to talk about their inspiration in starting an art fair, the obsession that art necessitates, and the future of the Los Angeles art scene.

SUMMER BOWIE: I want to talk about the inspirations for the Felix Art Fair, because the main inspiration seems to be the Gramercy Art Fair.  

DEAN VALENTINE: During the time of the Gramercy Art Fair in New York, the art world was completely devastated by the [stock market] crash. I mean ‘89, ‘90 there was just nothing. And so, there were a group of dealers, Pat Hearn and Colin de Land who started the Gramercy International Art Fair. It was downtown, sort of low cost, and eventually that migrated over to Los Angeles. When it came to Los Angeles it became the Chateau Marmont Fair because it was the same idea kind of a hipster-y, old hotel, and that’s where I was at the time. I had just begun collecting and the whole LA art world was actually tiny. It all fit into the hotel, pretty much at one time. Marian Goodman had Tom Schütte sculptures. Jay Jopling had early Damien Hurst dot paintings and Tracy Emin quilts. Just, amazing work. So, people would just wander around, and wander to a booth, and look at art and talk to the dealer and talk to each other. 

BOWIE: Casual. 

VALENTINE: A casual, fun way to engage. 

MORAN: Really communal.  

VALENTINE: I just feel like art fairs over the past few years have become so profoundly over-commercialized. Much closer to a shopping experience rather than an art experience. You know when they first started it was a bit different. You’d go to an art fair and it was become you could see art from all over the world in one place and that was pretty cool, but now there’s like 150 art fairs. 

MORAN: They also used to find things. You know, now, there’s so much pressure on the galleries, coming from the galleries’ side; you have to get your PDF ready two weeks in advance. Most people will buy what they want early on and that’s a wrap. So, by the time you get to the fair, you don't really want to be there.   

BOWIE: Yeah, the element of discovery is gone.  

MORAN: The element of discovery is totally gone. So, as much as the Gramercy and the Chateau were reacting to a different time, to a market that had been decimated a couple years earlier. We’re responding, I think, in a different way; not so much because the market’s been hurt, but also because I think people are looking for something different: to engage with the art, and engage with the community. 

BOWIE: Yeah. I also want to talk about the inspirations for the name of the fair. So, I’ve read that it’s Felix the Cat, the Latin word for happy, and then also Félix Fénéon, the dandy anarchist and critical genius, and I was curious if the curation of the galleries was in any way driven by these disparate, sort of, influences. 

VALENTINE: We were all trying to come up with a good name for it. We kept coming up with these names that just sounded so…art fair-y.  

MORAN: Quirky.  

VALENTINE: Yeah, quirky.   

MORAN: There was no fun to it.  

VALENTINE: We first thought, Alta. One name after another, we kept saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s okay, we should do that,” and then none of us were really— 

MORAN: Nothing hit.  

VALENTINE: I guess it was all three of those things simultaneously, I believe.   

MORAN: It’s not too corporate-y, and it’s not totally whimsical at the same time.  

BOWIE: Yeah. It’s not too pretentious and yet that Fénéon influence grounds it a little bit.  

VALENTINE: I mean, I thought Fénéon and his anarchism touched on the fact that we take art very seriously, but the lightheartedness of Felix the Cat, and the felicitousness of the word seemed to touch all of the bases in the right way.  

BOWIE: Any anarchist sentiments between any of you guys?  

MORAN: Not currently, no. 

VALENTINE: Not yet.  

BOWIE: What aspects were you guys looking for in the curation, in terms of representation?  

VALENTINE: You mean, in terms of the galleries? 

BOWIE: Well, I assume that the galleries are applying based on the artists they plan to represent. 

MORAN: So, it was invitation-only. There was no application process.   

BOWIE: I see.   

MORAN: We looked at a range. We just wanted to get a good range of people, internationally, domestically. I don't think there was ever any one thing we were looking for.  

VALENTINE: Part of the fair was born at a dinner with Anton Kern and Tanya Leighton. It was at that dinner that we decided to go ahead and try to do this. These are people, I think, if you look at all the gallerists, what they all have in common is the fact that there’s an actual person, or people, that are running them. People that are profoundly engaged with artists and what artists make and care about.   

MORAN: Right, it could’ve been top heavy, could’ve been project space heavy. Part of the attractiveness for the galleries is the price point. It’s something that’s just very affordable for everybody. It shouldn’t be tough for people to turn a profit or at least get themselves out there and show their artists. We didn’t want to just have twenty big galleries. We wanted to get that range of some small spaces that we really respect, but then also have the anchor with certain gallerists like Anton or Tanya, that have really robust programs as well.  

BOWIE: Are the gallerists also staying in the hotel? 

MORAN: That’s up to every gallerist, but some people are staying in their own rooms, some people are getting an extra room, that depends on the staff they have. There are a number of people staying in their rooms, which I think is the spirit of the fair.  

BOWIE: That sounds like a lot of fun.  

MORAN: Yeah.  

BOWIE: What made the three of you decide to team up and start a fair?  

MORAN: That’s a good question. I mean, we’ve been good friends for ten years or so, and after that dinner, we walked into the gallery and just started firing off ideas. My brother and I are pretty entrepreneurial, and Dean has a great history. We’ve always respected working with him. Al is really close friends with one of the owners of the hotel, so we brought up the idea of doing it at the Roosevelt, and there was never any other option.  

BOWIE: This hotel has such a rich history. I mean, it was the first location of the Academy Awards— 

MORAN: Yeah, we knew that, and in terms of grounding Hollywood in the last hundred years, this was a special place. We thought, if we could bring that type of energy back to this place, it would be really special.  

VALENTINE: Yeah, the hotel itself has become more of a character in our sort of fair drama since it began. It’s such an interesting place. It has so many nooks and crannies. It has its own life, you know? We were really very fond of the place and its history and its design. I just can’t imagine doing it anywhere else. 

MORAN: We’ve seen every nook and cranny, and every special room, every ballroom, every banquet hall. You’d be shocked at how many things are possible in this hotel.   


BOWIE: Which aspects of organizing the fair have come most naturally and which have been the most difficult?  

MORAN: I mean, really, getting the galleries was the most natural part. He’s been talking to a lot of these galleries for years, a lot of them are friends of mine. The hardest part was limiting it to the number of galleries we have. We had a lot more people who wanted to be in this fair, but that to me, was a good sign. 

VALENTINE: The hardest part has been the logistics. 

MORAN: The devil’s always in the details.  

VALENTINE: Yeah, it’s the details. All of a sudden, it turns out that in certain rooms there’s a headboard that occupies an entire wall and it’s screwed into the walls. So, that’s a wall that a gallerist would otherwise have to show art, and so it was like, “What do we do about that?”  

MORAN: And that’s a big difference from the ‘90s fairs. You cannot touch the Gramercy Hotel. You couldn’t take a thing out of it, you couldn’t hang onto the wall; you couldn’t do a thing. We’ve been blessed with good partners at the hotel— 

VALENTINE: —They’ve been amazing.  

MORAN: They’re allowing us to drill into the walls, we’re building walls in the cabanas because they need an art wall, we’re moving beds. It’s all kind of wide open.  

BOWIE: Really? 

MORAN: (laughs) But it all makes things a lot more complicated. 

BOWIE: I’m sure it’s a logistical nightmare.  

VALENTINE: Yeah, each of the forty-two galleries has their own room. Because it’s an old hotel—it’s not like the Sheraton, where every room is the same—each room is different.  Every floor is different. The cabanas are pretty much the same. But each person has their own demands for what they want in their room.   

BOWIE: It’s well known that Dean, you come from a background in television. You were a media executive, turned prominent art collector, and you’ve also served on the boards of the Hammer and MOCA. And then, Mills, you and Al have said that have no formal art education or training, so what would you say led the three of you guys to being such notable purveyors of art?  

MORAN: From my standpoint—it’s always been the relationship with artists that has driven my career, and early on, before we formed the gallery, we befriended artists. We knew artists and that drove everything. So, as a gallery, we’re very artist-centric. Very rarely will I go into a studio and edit somebody’s show, and that relationship, to me, has been able to transcend and build the gallery and the career we’ve grown into. This business is the most relationship-business I can think of. You have to be there for the openings, you have to be there for the dinners, you have to be there for your artists at all times, and I think that’s always driven us. So, once you have those relationships in place, everything else sort of cascades down. But, you gotta have the passion for it. To me, the passion is with the art and the artists and the relationships, and that’s how I’ve grown my career.  

BOWIE: It’s an experience-based practice.  

VALENTINE: Yeah, I mean, I think for me, I was a journalist for twelve years before I was a television executive and I’ve always been around writers and artists, and that’s been the core of my professional life. Even as a TV executive, there were writers, there were designers, there were directors. So, I’ve always been around creative people. I mean, art, specifically, was a revelation to me. At some point I came on the idea that it was a different way of understanding the world through these material metaphors. That it wasn’t just this thing that hung on a wall; it was a language and a way of looking at things, and I became obsessed by it. Once I got obsessed, I guess I had the means to acquire it, but, for me, it wasn’t just about the object, it was always about being part of the art world. Engaging with artists and gallerists. I don’t have an art education, obviously, but my graduate school was working with art dealers. Stuart Regen at Regen Projects, Tom Soloman, Andrea Rose, and Lisa Spellman, those are the people that taught me about contemporary art. So, I value that.  

BOWIE: It’s an ongoing discourse.  

MORAN: Yeah, and I think, obsession is the right word. It’s almost impossible to be successful in this industry without that obsession. You can’t do it halfway. People smell it from a mile away, if you’re not passionate about it. I think that’s the one thing that ties the two of us together, and Al as well.  

BOWIE: Yeah, if you think that it’s going to be a fun way to make money...  

MORAN: (laughs) It’s certainly not. (laughs)  

BOWIE: What would you say are the hallmarks of an emerging artist with enduring potential? 

MORAN: Well, I mean, the way that everything’s been moving in the last ten, fifteen, twenty years, is you have to go to a good school. It’s hard to just appear on the scene without having an education. Whether that’s good or bad, I have no idea, but it’s certainly good for the art schools and some of the art programs. You know, people used to say, “You need to be identifiable, people need to recognize your work,” I don't know if that’s true anymore. I think you need to have a voice, and you need to be unique. You need to bring your own genuine language into the conversation.  

VALENTINE: As with anything else, you want somebody that has talent, that has a point of view. 

MORAN: Most artists will have downs. All of them. It’s how you manage through it. It’s the things you do during that down time that speaks a lot more than when you’re having success. I tell all my artists, “I want to be able to sell your work now and fifty years from now as easily as we can now.” That’s a goal that someone should try and achieve; to have that kind of longevity in their career.   

BOWIE: Yeah, I think that back in the midcentury there was this accepted notion that being an artist wasn’t a career choice, it was an identity.  

MORAN: There’s so much more awareness now about artists, especially with people that would’ve normally never paid attention to what an artist was doing. So, that could be dangerous, and to fall into trends, or to fall into market forces, or to fall into what people expect you to make or expect you to say. That, to me, is a pitfall that any artist needs to try and avoid.   

BOWIE:  We’re seeing the arrival of Felix, and of course, Frieze LA, Spring Break, etc. Do you guys think that February in Los Angeles is going to turn into December in Miami? 

VALENTINE: Well, we hope so. I mean Miami’s actually a pretty small town, and it doesn’t take a lot to get its boosters together to keep interest going in this kind of thing. LA’s not a small town. It’s a very big town. It has a lot of other stuff going on and people do all sorts of other stuff. I mean, you’re competing with the Lakers, the beach, the mountains, and all that stuff. It’s hard to focus people’s attention, you know? It’s always been hard to focus people’s attention on anything. There’s just so much happening. So, whether the market’s reached a critical mass is still an open question.  

MORAN: I also think the key is, in some way, baby steps. Like, we could have had eighty galleries in our fair.  


MORAN: Frieze could have done two hundred galleries in their fair.  

VALENTINE: But they’re both small. 

MORAN: They’re both manageable. 

VALENTINE: And, also, it’s probably right that it’s relative to the size of the art market here. I mean, New York is vast, but there’s also a vast market there - journalists and galleries and collectors. LA is vast in terms of the number of artists. In terms of the infrastructure, it’s still relatively small and developing. So, I think Frieze is doing seventy galleries; that’s perfect. We’ll do forty-two galleries.  

MORAN: The key is to provide an experience for everyone. I think that will really help the notion of this process.  

The first edition of Felix LA will take place from February 14-17, 2019 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Click here to learn more. Follow @felixartfair on Instagram.

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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 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 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, 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’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 Kealan Shilling

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, Raphael, 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, 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.


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


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. 


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.


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.


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. 


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, 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

Something Season-Less: An Interview with Fanny and Jessy


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. 


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.


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. 


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.

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.