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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Waiting Is Never a Good Idea

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The Selfie Aesthetic: An Interview With Kate Durbin

Kate Durbin's "HELLO, SELFIE!" Performance Project

Kate Durbin, the Los Angeles-based artist, first came to my attention when I discovered The Teen-Girl Tumblr Aesthetic. Co-authored with Alicia Elar, the article focused on the contemporary adolescent female aesthetic and experience, the adult re-appropriation of said aesthetic, and the hazy lines between IRL, URL, and performance. As a woman barely out of my teenage years, it was SO EXCITING to read a serious, critical analysis of a female-centric online aesthetic that is often ignored for being too feminine.

Recent projects like Women as Objects and Girls, Online, curated collections of female-identifying Tumblr posts, show the Teen-Girl Tumblr Aesthetic in practice as well as theory. The images she pulls from the popular microblogging site are collected to show, as Durbin writes, that “the art ‘object’ extends to the bodies of girls both on and off-line.”

In the same way she validates the lives of teenage girls, Durbin probes pop culture icons to discover their humanity. Durbin is the founder of Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga, an online journal about the "meta-pop star". She has also published two books, The Ravenous Audience and E! Entertainment, the latter of which is a meticulously transcribed and dissected examination of reality television, such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Hills.

The themes from Durbin's various works coalesced in her most recent performance piece, Hello, Selfie! The first iteration of the performance occurred in Los Angeles in July, the second in Manhattan’s Union Square in October, and the third was just performed at this year's Art Basel. Durbin’s piece consists of a group of young women who take selfies for exactly one hour. The women do not interact with their IRL audience; instead, their selfies are uploaded to various social media sites in real time.

When I called Durbin, I was at work on a larger project about Hannah Wilke, an artist who was often criticized for using her own naked body as part of her works. Selfies and other images by women, of women, are critically considered Narcissus’ reflecting pool, a slippery slope into vanity. But for Durbin and I selfies are a tool of empowerment. During our conversation, we talked about owning your own images, the ways Los Angeles is like the Internet, and the selfies we choose to see.

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Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Control My Sexual Angst?

boar baba
Transcript after the jump. READ MORE

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Charli XCX, "Break The Rules"

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Watch Charli XCX on The Today Show, you say? Don't mind if I do!!

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“We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for so long as they both may live. We have chosen each other carefully and disclosed to one another everything which could adversely affect the decision to enter this marriage. We have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage. We have read the Covenant Marriage Act, and we understand that a Covenant Marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.
"With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do hereby declare that our marriage will be bound by Louisiana law on Covenant Marriages and we promise to love, honor, and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.”

Have you ever heard of a covenant marriage? Jill Duggar has one so I assume they’re all the rage: it’s a religiously-rooted agreement that makes “hmm, I just sort of don’t want to be married to this person any more” an inadequate reason for divorce. I'm not married, so who cares what I think, but I can't decide how I feel about this. Can you? | December 17, 2014

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My No-Purchase November Adventure

lisa turtle saved by the bell
Generationally I’m at the oldest end of the millennial spectrum, or as I like to call myself, a “Geriatric Millennial.” I still remember pre-internet life, my first email was the family Compuserve account when I was 12, and I didn’t have a cell-phone until I was 19. I had one foot in each world, the old analogue one and the new burgeoning digital dimension. I thought my life trajectory would follow those of my Boomer parents: college, employment, retirement. Alas I inherited the worst parts of my millennial counterparts: financial upheaval, debt, and the refusal to become an adult.

Most people my age and younger are sort of grasping at straws when it comes to money and when it comes to money we don’t really listen to our folks much, though we’ve asked for help with rent. For much of my life, my money-conscious father would blast warnings towards me about how foolish all of my spending was: “YOU HAVE HOW MANY SHOES?” But I laughed it off – after all look at how happy all of those fabulous fashionable working women are, living the big life in New York (I curse you "Sex and the City"). Career women have to be well-dressed and well-heeled!

And so my shopping habits grew and grew, and for me, the hallmark of success tended to translate into an ability to acquire all things “fabulous.” Maybe this is myopic, but I’d argue that our generation, maybe more than any others previously, has a deep sense of immortality and denial of the future. Whether that is indicative of our technological progression or the economic landscape, it is hard to say. But I don’t hear many 20-30 year olds worrying about their retirement.

I’ve had steady jobs intermingled with the odd unemployment stint and then a couple years where I went back to school to get my writing degree (so I could deliver this fine essay here for all of you to enjoy). I certainly didn’t spend wildly when I was in those situations; I didn’t get a credit card until 2013. But whenever I came into money I almost frothed with desire to shop for new items.

Clothing, shoes, makeup and books. Those things are my coveted goods and the things that I allowed myself to have always telling myself “hey, I deserve it!” READ MORE

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The Art Of Awareness: Interview with Melody Nixon of Apogee Journal

MelodyNixon_MAIN_hsIn August, a couple friends and I decided to start a storytelling series called the “Personal Experience of Surveillance.” The purpose was to gather people who have experienced firsthand surveillance, whether by the government, employers, Internet, or friends, to share and build a better understanding of the breadth of surveillance. What we found is that both your privileges and anything that can be used against you—whether in your race, gender, sexuality, class, or even personality—are heightened significantly when you experience being surveilled. This can have consequences with your education, employment, health, personal relationships, and the way that you trust and interact with everyone.

At the storytelling series, I met Melody Nixon, editor-at-large of Apogee Journal, a literary journal specializing in art and literature that engages with issues of identity policy: race, gender, sexuality, class, and hyphenated identities. We discuss the language of activism, the privileges of writing, the different levels of being surveilled, and Melody's story of her email being monitored and phone lines tapped by a government abroad. READ MORE

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A Conversation Amongst Me, Ludacris, and Robert Louis Stevenson About Christmas

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Editor's note: The source material may appear to be this and this, but it's actually my heart.

Me: Hey you guys!!! Thanks for making it over during this busy holiday season. RLS, was that you I saw at the Gawker holiday party last weekend!? So crazy!!! Anyway, I just wanted to nab you two really quickly, and admit something to you: I don't really like Christmas. I don't really like any holiday, but this is the one we're celebrating right now, so it's the most I don't like the most right now. I just hate the forced sentimentality and the smiling and the emptiness of it all, you know? It's just so fake! But I DO love the presents. I'm so mixed up!! Maybe I need some inspiration. Can you tell me about your best Christmases?

Robert Louis Stevenson, gruffly: The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand. The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand. READ MORE

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A Brief History of Pubic Hair in Art

While most of art history looks askance at female pubic hair, Marilyn Minter invites you to get all up in these hairy snatches. Just as she’d previously done in her glossy, liquid photos of women’s lipstick-loved mouths, bedazzled high-heels in mud, gilded tongues, and glittered eyes, Minter simultaneously deconstructs and glamorizes her subject in Plush.

Really into Chelsea G. Summer's review of Marilyn Minter's latest book, Plush; I'm really into anything that combines women doing what they want with their bodies, women controlling representations of said bodies, and jokes about what a loser John Ruskin was. Read the whole review here.

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The Hottest Take Of All

firestarter
"How's this for a hot take?" were words I almost considered typing before I realized doing so would get me banned from the internet forever.

"Flame has always inspired wonder," goes James Gorman's voiceover for this video at the New York Times, and you know, he's not wrong. Fire has so many practical, day to day uses, whether it's destroying all evidence of your past life, or lighting candles to be used in a seance to contact the ghost of Zsa Zsa Gabor before realizing that whoops, Zsa Zsa Gabor is actually very much still alive and now you have to try and play it off like you knew that all along.

This video is the result of a trio of researchers from Stanford University filming the two-second long process of a match being lit with a high speed camera, using a lighting process called schlieren imaging (previously seen at the Times here). Slowed down, the result is, well, something mesmerizing.

I am now sitting at my desk in my apartment with a pack of matches, staring at them completely hypnotized as I light them one by one before dropping them into the scented candle jar I have on my desk just for show, forcing my roommates to reconsider why they every moved in with me.

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That Girl Is Poison: A Brief, Incomplete History of Female Poisoners

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The idea that “poison is a woman’s weapon” is an old, made-up sawhorse. The concept has been invoked in works like Game of Thrones and Sherlock Holmes (not the Cumberbatch version, you didn’t miss anything), and bolstered by popular fiction: the terrifying grandmother from Flowers in the Attic, the adorable little old ladies from Arsenic and Old Lace, very nearly Marie from Breaking Bad, and the evil queen/gnarled old witch from Snow White. It’s a classic conceit: the femme fatale slipping a mickey into a glass of rye, the psychotic nana sprinkling arsenic on her grandchildren’s donuts, the jealous older woman offing her young competitionr, the cherubic nurse who is secretly an angel of death. But as Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, points out: 60.5% of poisoners are dudes, leaving only 39.5% of poisonings to the ladies.

Still, compared to other methods for murder, 39.5% of poisoners being female is fairly high – from 2006 to 2010, women represented 21% of arson cases, and only 7.9% of gun murders. There are still many more female arsonists and shooters because those are more popular crimes—in the sample years there were only 49 poisonings total—but it’s still notable. Basically, if someone was poisoned, it’s not particularly likely that the murder was committed by a woman—but if a woman murders someone, it’s somewhat likely it was by poison.

The myth persists, in part, because it makes so much sense. Poison is uniquely available to and administerable by women. Ladies have long been tasked with cooking, cleaning, and nursing, and poison can be drizzled into coffee, applied to the inside of freshly laundered shirts, or administered as an “accidental” overdose. As a recent Vice article showed, even grandmothers can do it; in Japan, a woman is accused of collecting about $8 million from poisoning six boyfriends and one husband. Poison is a hands-off, elegant means to someone’s end; it’s not showy or vainglorious, like stabbing or shooting. It doesn’t require muscle like, say, beating a human to death. Poison is a weapon for people who just need a job done. It’s very practical that way—practical and cold-blooded. So who were some of the heartless, real life ladies who have helped cement this idea in the popular imagination?

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Gene Kelly's butt. Who knew?!

Image via Gene Kelly's Butt tumblr. | December 16, 2014

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The Almost Girl: An Interview with Chelsea Hodson

inventory

For 656 consecutive days, Chelsea Hodson photographed and wrote about one object she owned until all 656 of her material possessions have been accounted for on her blog. Originally conceived as a way to structure an essay, Chelsea’s Inventory had grown into an unexpected and insightful collection of anecdotes, lyrical poetry, aphorisms, and notes from her reading—in sum, an autobiography in objects. If capitalism is religion, her impeccable self-portraits and seductively economical prose have the aura of a modern Madonna.

In collaboration with the Marina Abramovic Institute, Chelsea also performed the catalog in its entirety in one seven-hour marathon reading session. (She fainted after ninety minutes of standing and resumed sitting for the rest.) To conclude Inventory this way was not at all surprising—how much can the body endure? is a question that Chelsea probes over and over in her work, and this was another endurance test for her to pass. The complete effect of Chelsea’s deceptively unruffled reading is mesmerizing: You might wish you can walk away from Inventory like you can walk away from a painting, but if you really pay attention, you won’t want to.

Chelsea and I met to chat about Inventory three days after the performance. In the rain one evening, the glass-walled library at The Oracle Club in Long Island City glowed at street level like a human habitat display box in the Museum of Natural History. At one of the desks built into the antique shelves, Chelsea sat working with giant headphones, perfectly poised facing the wall. I didn’t know why I thought whispering her name in slow exaggeration on the other side of the glass pane would break the spell, but that was the kind of black magic Chelsea would inspire. Over tea we talked about the surprises in performing, why autobiographical writing is the most compelling writing, and her fascination with the trials and failures of what one body can do.
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When Your Ex-Boyfriend Is Kale

kaaaale People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, BuzzFeed News sportswriter Lindsey Adler tells us more about what it’s like to really love Kale.

Lindsey! So what happened here?

My first love was a man named Kale, and he broke up with me in the middle of the night one August a few years ago. He just kind of looked at me and said, “I can’t do this anymore,” and I reacted poorly. Breakups are painful, followed by periods of uncertainty, denial, and adjustments. Reminders of what was and will never again be should be avoided at all costs, but for me, it wasn’t that simple: The name of the man who broke my dang heart was plastered all over menus and the NYT Style pages. It took me an unreasonable amount of time (two years) to begin eating kale salads, despite all my hippie-ass, pseudo-vegan inclinations. The word still seems foreign when referencing leafy greens, like I’ve taken a relic from a much different time in my life and applied it in a new way. It’s no longer painful, of course, but it makes for a quick, funny story to be told over brunch. READ MORE