EDITOR IN CHIEF MORGAN MARTINEZ
MANAGING EDITOR RIVKA YEKER
STAFF ROSIE ACCOLA CHARLENE HAPARIMWI LORA MATHIS KEISA REYNOLDS ANNA BRUNER AUDREY JULIA GORDEN CODY CORRALL A KLASS JOE LONGO ROBI FOLI KEVIN ALLEN EILEEN MARSHALL QUINN MYERS SAVANNAH TURNER JESS MAYHEW DEBORAH KRIEGER
SPECIAL THANKS TOMMY PICO bao ngo LARA WITT MATT ALLEN SBTL CLNG
HOOLIGAN MAG ISSUE #18
getting to know story by / charlene haparimwi photos by / bao ngo
Tommy “Teebs” Pico says the last song he recently listened to was “Where is My Mind?” by the Pixies. As you read this piece, let the melodic notes of the song cascade over the words, infiltrate your mind, and open up your heart as much as Pico’s writing can and will do for you.
Teebs is not your average poet. He is quirky, he’s funny, he’s quick-witted. When he was ten he wanted to be Paula Abdul. He describes his natural world as, “trying to avoid eating chicken fingers for every meal, having crushes on everything, and the constant all-caps refrain looping in my noggin: STOP TWEETING SO MUCH TEEBS.” Teebs is obsessed with poetry and music. His latest obsession is a Brazilian soul/R&B band called Liniker e os Caramelows. “Their songs are in Portuguese so I can’t really understand them, but the lead singer, a rad black trans woman, has this voice that communicates the feeling so well you really don’t have to speak the language.” In poetry he’s recently been taken with, “Monica Youn’s beautiful book Blackacre, the hilarious Seattle-based poet Sarah Galvin, and forever and always, June Jordan.” He loves to make you laugh while also making you think. He is deeply involved in social media, yet relishes time to himself and in “real life.” He even wrote a book-length poem titled, IRL, that details his struggle between staying relevant online and being his true self in his real life. When asked how to find a balance between one’s online and real life persona, Teebs leaves it up to us to decide. “I have no freaking clue! It stresses me out. If you figure it out please let me know. The only times I really get the hush of privacy is when I’m working or reading, because the care and attention they demand requires that I be totally alone.” The American Indian (or NDN) poet has a fascinating pull to the Viejas Reservation where he grew up, and the Brooklyn urban dwelling he now calls home. He says it’s, “like any other connective tissue, it’s always there under the surface, surrounding and supporting the vital organs and such.” “I suppose it’s like growing up anywhere else in the sense that when you’re young how much of a context do you have for your situation? I remember dust swirling around from the dirt road as cars drove by and climbing fig trees with my cousins. I remember how my grandmother’s kitchen smelled. I remember a lot of other horrible shit too, like the funerals after funerals after funerals. Even then I could sense that being NDN was some powerful stuff, loaded with grit and sadness and I mean I don’t know about every nation but Kumeyaays are some funny ass ‘mfs’.” His upcoming book, Nature Poem is an exercise in both rejecting and embracing our roots. As an NDN person he wanted to avoid writing about nature because it seemed stereotypical to him. But, as he weaves a narrative that both encompasses and surpasses nature, we find where Tommy lies, between the landscape of his past, his present, and his bright future. “Honestly I’ve found myself outside of so many institutions, literature included, that I’ve come to view outsider status as a kind of blessing,” Teebs said. “I don’t have a fealty to tradition or taste for that matter. Also coming up in punk music and zine-making has taught me the value of production without the fallacy of ‘skill.’ ”
Teebs is friendly and open, and can make friends easily. He is part of the podcast Food 4 Thot with other queer writers, Fran Tirado, Dennis Norris II, and Joseph Osmundson. The queer poet very much wants people to know he is single and actively mingling. He writes with a flow of quick internet speak with words like plz, yr, and cos, along with sweeping metaphors and hilarious quips that engage modern life with stunning visuals. Teebs is starting to understand the balance between being an NDN person and battling colonialist ideals and values in the present day. His advice for other NDN people is to find the path to their identity in their own time. “I think one of the problems I had to overcome was the idea that being Indigenous and contemporary were two different things. Identity is dynamic and absorptive and adaptive,” Teebs said. “It’s like I say in the book, anything is NDN if I’m doing it because I’m NDN. Understanding that I was making the world more Kumeyaay by my presence and my art and my discourse helped me to understand the power inherent within an indigenous identity.”
"identity is dynamic and absorptive and adaptive."
Tommy Pico is the kind of poet that make writers want to write. He is the Editor-In-Chief of birdsong, a Brooklyn-based lit/art collective and small press. He is the author of the zine series, Hey Teebs, and co-curates the reading series, Poets With Attitude (PWA) with Morgan Parker. He makes you want to dig deep, feel whole, and think large. In terms of poets engaging with social media, our personal lives, and inner depths, Teebs somehow manages to bring it all to light. Writing isn’t just a hobby for Teebs, but a necessity. It’s more than a way to preserve the history of his NDN history, but to create a strong commentary of its importance in American history. “I suppose it could be a way of preserving history but I also want to provide the archive of a life that shouldn’t exist: with the ways in which indigenous people were hunted in this country, the ways in which the literal government tried to exterminate us, it’s a testament to the ancestors’ determination to survive. At the very least, it’s my responsibility to them, to make good on their strength and sacrifice.”
The book-length poem form is a fascinating one. Each of Teebs’ books are a continuous piece of work that navigates the reader through the journey of Teebs’ mind and experiences. The long, uninterrupted form is a beautiful one, and one that only few can do well. Pico speaks on why he chooses that form for his work. “Well, first of all, in perhaps the most unsaleable art form in America I decided to pursue perhaps the most obscure form within that. Really though, I wanted to give the audience an experience, a narrative of sorts, that you could sit with and consume in the span of 90 or so minutes—kind of like a film. I’m obsessed with the form and I can’t foresee myself ever writing short poems again. There is so much world, you know?”
Nature Poem details his draw to city life and to his natural world. “My draw to the city is simply that I crave the kind of excitement and motion and possibility that city life offers. Plus I’m pretty freaking gay and I was drawn to a place where a queer relationship was safer and more possible. It’s weird ‘cos in my 15 years in the city, “nature” has become something obscured and dangerous to me. You won’t catch me camping, you can believe that.” When asked what is the best advice he’s ever received Teebs responded, “Get out of your own way, dammit!”
Nature Poem, deemed a “thrilling punk rock epic,” by writer Alexander Chee. It comes out on May 9th, and you can follow Teebs on Tumblr and Twitter at @heyteebs.
by lora mathis
Philadelphia writer and activist Lara Witt uses her voice as a powerful tool to tear down oppressive systems. Wittâ€™s writing has appeared in Teen Vogue, Elle, and Newsworks and often explores healing, sexual violence, race, and self-care, all through an intersectional Feminist lens. Her recent activist work includes moderating a panel on being an ally in activism for the Electric Lady Series and helping set up anti-street harassment installations across the city. With unapology coursing through all that she does, Wittâ€™s work is an example of survivorship that refuses to be silent.
What initially drew you to writing?
Fortunately, I have always been a great communicator (shout out to other Geminis!) I enjoy putting my thoughts together in effective sentences so that someone else might connect to how I feel and who I am. Writing is my way of helping amplify the voices of those who have been made to feel smaller or quieter. Writing is powerful and healing; to me, it is a part of who I am.
You have a weekly self-care column in which you interview women && gender non-conforming people of color. What role does self-care play in your own life?
I grew up feeling guilty about taking care of myself, I also had the idea that self-care was something you could only do if you could afford manicures or spa dates. Shifting into my twenties and reading works by black queer feminists like Audre Lorde taught me just how wrong I was. Self-care is open to subjective interpretation, but at its core it is deeply powerful for women of color to love themselves when they have a whole world telling them not to. So, self-care to me is essential as a queer woman of color who struggles with depression and anxiety. Taking care of myself is as basic as drinking water, making sure I eat regularly and practice mindfulness. I try to carve out time once every week to do whatever I feel like doing. I’ll cancel plans, stay at home and eat food in bed while watching a movie. I’ll take a long bath with epsom salts and lavender oil and a homemade face-mask. Self-care is a reminder that the deepest, most loving relationship I can have is with myself, and that makes me happy after years of self-hate.
Thank you for your openness about trauma and healing, especially as it relates to sexual assault. What do you think is the importance of being vocal?
Being vocal helps me regain control, which is vital because the loss of control, the feeling of powerlessness, and isolation is devastating. Healing isn’t linear, nor does healing look the same for everyone. So, writing about sexaul assualt is not only for me, but it is also for others who can’t be vocal about it for their own personal and justified reasons. Silence is quite literally what abusers want, it is also what the system which protects abusers wants. Disrupting the culture of shame and silence which hangs over victims of assault is necessary in order for us to get any form of justice and if there isn’t any judicial result, then at least survivors will know that they are not alone.
"Self-care is a reminder that the deepest, most loving relationship I can have is with myself."
Tell us about Pussy Division's roots. What is the message the group seeks to get across?
Pussy Division is a small, local, Philly group which uses guerrilla activism and street art to raise awareness around various forms of oppression. I joined them last year to help with any media-related tasks so that we could amplify our work without breaking the anonymity of our members. We center our work around confronting misogyny, racism, transphobia & general anti-queer hate, but we also have created work which offers solidarity to marginalized communities. Post-election we had a series called “Dear Friend” with different messages tailored to those of us most affected by this current administration. For anti-street harassment week we put up installations which mimicked ‘warning’ tape but actually had anti-catcalling statements: “Do not comment on my body” and “Do not cross catcall crime scene’. I'm curious about the name "pussy”?? Have you considered changing the name of the group to something more trans-inclusive?
When the group was originally established in 2013, the goal was to reclaim the word “pussy,” which has been used to demonize femininity and attribute weakness as a feminine trait meant to be squashed out by hyper-masculine, toxic cis het men. But recently, cis women, cis white women in particular, have been basing a lot of their “activism” in centering cis white women and their reproductive organs with pink pussy hats and bullshit slogans like, “pussy grabs back.” So, they’ve somewhat tainted our original goal, we are indeed in the process of finding a new name because we sure as fuck aren’t TERFs.
Your articles are always so powerful and unapologetic. How has Feminism informed your voice?
Thank you! My parents always used to tell me that my lack of a filter would get me in trouble with forms of authority and that I would never be able to hold down a stable job if I kept going on the way I did. But, I refused to make myself smaller or quieter for the benefit of any source of authority or the benefit of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy. I have strong feminist morals, and intersectionality is just my lived reality, even before learning about feminism from an academic perspective. Feminism is about being empathetic, not just towards the people you are close to or the people who look like you or have similar experiences. Everything I write is for marginalized people, especially for black and brown queer women and femmes. So the way I write has to be deliberate, it has to be forceful and unapologetic. We don’t have the time to sugar coat shit just to make our realities more for palatable for others. Has your relationship with healing changed for you over the years?
I used to ignore it. I used to just absorb, internalize, and compartmentalize everything which was terrible. I just felt as if I didn’t have the time or energy to work through trauma because everything was hitting the fan at the same time. So, I just wanted to pretend everything was okay because I thought that was easier. Eventually, I realized how toxic that was for me. I started to suffer from extreme waves of depression and anxiety without seeking any therapy, which I still haven’t done. My life has gotten significantly better since my partner and have been together. He has given me a reason to be present and loving with myself. His help at home means that I have the time to come home after work and take care of myself and if I happen to be so despondent that I can’t do the basics. He cooks for me, makes sure I have water and gives me massages when my back is in knots. Right now, healing looks like me doing what I love, which is writing so that others can heal. I don’t think healing will ever be complete for me, but I know that I am loved, that my work is meaningful, and that my relationships with myself, my friends, family and my beloved are nurturing. Keep up with Lara’s work on Instagram at @femmefeministe.
RESISTING COMPLACENCY THROUGH POSITIVITY STORY BY / CHARLENE HAPARIMWI PHOTOS BY / A KLASS ASSISTED ART DIRECTION BY / MATT ALLEN
Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya isn’t like any artist you have ever heard before. Though the rapping in his new album Drool has the speed of Busta Rhymes and the experimental, boundary pushing creativity of Outkast, Ogbonnaya has a sound all his own. “I try not to sound too much like musical influences,” Ogbonnaya said. “I just think about how you can get influences from literally anything in the world. Even besides music, artists can be influenced by experiences they have; they don’t have to get the influence from other art. So, people who paint don’t have be influenced by other painters. When I think of musical influences I think mainly about experiences. I try not to be like ‘Oh I like this thing, I’m going to try to sound like that.’” Instead, Ogbonnaya finds inspiration from the freedom of artists doing the kind of music they like and putting out a message they sincerely believe in. Ogbonnaya listened to artists that always did whatever they felt. “I really liked Frank Zappa, I would say he’s one of my favorite musicians of all time. I like him mainly because of his outlook on life. His music was pretty much there for anyone, even if it wasn’t the kind of sound you liked. That’s why I like punk music too, because they do whatever they feel like doing. They’re influenced by politics and things that are happening around them. That feeling in life is the most important part of music, so I try to listen to music that supports that,” said Ogbonnaya.
He got into music because his parents played music around the house and his mom was always singing, but his love of music really started in the fifth grade when his school began recruiting students to play instruments in band. After taking a test to see which instrument would suit him best, he first landed with trumpet, but after taking it again he landed the drums and stuck with it. Ogbonnaya’s relentless work ethic has launched him into a variety of bands and projects as a drummer, bassist, and frontman. The genres of his sound range from avant-pop to jazzy rock to experimental hip-hop, and he spoke of how Drool is his first cohesive straight rap album. “I don’t think it’s anything crazy, it’s just about what’s particular about a certain structure and sound to make it one thought instead of mashing things together or trying to force thoughts to fit.” “This is the first album where I cut songs and didn’t put them on because I didn’t know if they would flow or fit well together. I’ve never done that before. I’ve always been like these are the songs I wrote, and these are all the songs that are out.”
Drool is an eclectic mixture of explosive fun, colorful vibes, and positive energy. “I try not to separate music or be too critical of music. I find myself getting down this path where I’m thinking why do I like this track or artist? But at a certain point you just have to realize that it doesn’t have to be super intriguing; it can just be fun. You can just have fun with music.” Ogbonnaya explained.
"I want to convey to people to do the most good whenever you can, wherever you can, however you can."
The 2017 album is fast-paced and wildly energetic, leaving you refreshed and ready to hit play again and again. Ogbonnaya’s favorite song off of Drool right now is a tie between “NOTICE” and “Me 4 Me” because they were the last songs he wrote that are still fresh in his mind. The name Drool comes from Ogbonnaya’s observations of people being too comfortable with where they are and never pushing themselves forward. “I’m not the type of person to ever just be like ‘Alright, I’ve done enough. I’m just going to relaaaax.’ I’ve been like that for a long time; I always want to do more than I actually can. Sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming, I’m trying to learn to balance it so I don’t go crazy. I always want to do more, and if you’re that type of person and surround yourself with people who are just like ‘Eh, it’s chill,’ or people that talk about things but never actually do them, you start to feel down and you have to break away and surround yourself with people who are like-minded and are trying to move forward in order to not go insane. I think that’s a lot of what Drool is about: trying to get out of that mindset and surrounding myself with people that are positive.”
Those positive people are a staple to the community that Ogbonnaya has built around himself and his music. The features on the album, creative minds behind his music videos, and business partners in the record label he co-founded, Sooper Records, all consist of close friends of his. “I’m not really interested in doing features with anyone that I can’t hang out with. If I couldn’t go eat lunch with you then I’m probably not going to feature you,” Ogbonnaya said. “They’re all just wonderful people, I would say that all the people that I work with are nice, forward-thinking people. They listen, and I think listening is a very important part for a musician, to be able to listen and bounce ideas off of each other. I think Morimoto Sen [featured on “Cindy OsO” ] is one of the best musicians of all time. The first time I saw him perform I was like ‘Yeah, this is a legendary human being.’ I only hang out with legends [laughs]. JD and I [featured on “dOn’t turn me Off”] have been making music for a long time, I’ve known Molly [featured on “hOney On the lOw”] since middle school so it’s always people that are close friends.”
Ogbonnaya gravitates towards positive people who work just as hard as him, and it shows in the work that he does and the amount of effort he puts into his projects. “I think when you start thinking in a [positive] way, people are kind of drawn to that process and can feel it. I’m all about vibes, I can tell if I’m going to want to work with someone within a couple of minutes. I’ve been very lucky to work with very positive, forward-thinkers. Not to say that everyone is just happy all the time, but they’re all people that want to do this. If that spark is already there, you just have to figure out how to do it. I like to surround myself with musicians who think that way. Chicago’s a good place for that; it’s a good place for community.” That community helped make the video for the hype single, “let gO Of my egO.” The smooth single-shot cinematography, vibrant animations, and carefree joy are all reminders of early music videos by Ludacris and Missy Elliot. Ogbonnaya says that his friends play a vital role in spicing up his ideas and music videos. None of what he does could happen without them.
“There’s three people who helped film, and one person that helped with set design. My friend Jake Carlson, we call Wizzy because he’s a wizard at everything he does, has been making videos for me for quite a while. Most of them I don’t do myself, and every video he does gets better and better. I’ve been sticking with him and watching him grow and he’s being doing the same with me. My friend Bailey helped with the animations towards the end, and she also helped with set design, so it was definitely friends helping each other.” The Chicago-based music video was filmed behind behind ‘Vintage Quest’, an antique store located on California Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood. Ogbonnaya’s friend Nick Fisher works and lives above ‘Vintage Quest.’ He also did the art and painting for the music video. “If you see what the place actually looks like without all the stuff there it looks a lot different. It was awesome to have Nick help with set design. If you go up and down California and Milwaukee you’ll see Nick’s art on awnings and different buildings, like a smoke shop in Logan Square. It’s a very particular type of art that you’ll just see every few buildings.” Working with creative friends has been a huge staple to Ogbonnaya’s musical career. He co-founded Sooper Records with his friend Glenn Curran, who he describes as hard-working, supportive, and possibly even more music-loving than Ogbonnaya himself. “I always wanted to start a record label, and I tried to do two things that kind of failed. It’s something I wanted to do and I wanted this one to be exactly the way the other ones should’ve been. The person that approached me was my friend Glenn who was like, ‘We should do this, we should start this, but I really want to start this with you, I think it’s a good idea.’ If anyone else would’ve asked me I would’ve said no.
If we don’t know something, let’s say digital distribution or something involving the label that we want to do, he’ll spend time, like hours, just learning about it until he has a general idea of how it works. He’s just nice and loves music -- probably more than me. He’s been very supportive of my music since we met. It’s a very good combination, I love him, and he’s great.” Ogbonnaya feels that now that he’s older he’s not as, “dumb and out of place.” He says he’s pretty stubborn and stuck in his ways. He knows what he wants, who he needs to talk to, and how to progress. That determination landed him a spot on the label Father/Daughter Records, and a slot on tour with the queer punk duo, PWR BTTM. “I had finished the album [Drool] and Glenn and I had already paid for the vinyl, so we were just going to put it out on Sooper. But then I talked to PWR BTTM just randomly on Twitter. I messaged them because they liked a video of mine a long time ago. I was going to use that as an in to talk to them. They’re awesome and I was like, ‘Hey you probably don’t know much about me, but you liked this video. I just want to say I love your music and if you ever want to work together just hit me up.’ I thought they were never going to respond but in the span of like three minutes they responded ‘YASSS. Send me whatever you’re working on right now!’ I told them I just finished this album and I’m getting it pressed. I sent it to them and they were like, ‘Omg I have the perfect person for you.’ Basically, the next day that Jessie [Frick] from Father/Daughter Records called me and was like, ‘I love this album, let me help put it out.’ I didn’t know if I should at first because I didn’t know her. Before I said yes to having her help, I talked to Vagabon, who was an artist whose work she helped distribute. So just hearing everyone who’s worked with Jessie say that they loved her was great, no one had anything bad to say about her. I was like wow, this lady is a magic person. So I told her ‘yes, everyone loves you, the bands on your label are kick ass, and you seem to know everything about how the music game works.’ She hopped on in the middle and has been very crucial to anyone noticing this album. I feel like if I had put it out myself not a lot of people would’ve seen it. She gave it that boost and she’s just super supportive and amazing. I would love to work with Father/Daughter for as long as I can, that’s why I hang out with Jessie all the time.”
Ogbonnaya is a serious musician, but he enjoys listening to other artists and venturing into other artistic endeavors. He is very excited for the new Kendrick Lamar album, DAMN, His favorite tracks on the record are “LOVE” and “GOD.” He loves watching comedian John Mulaney’s stand-up specials, comparing him to a ‘real-life walking Simpsons character.’ Ogbonnaya works to relax, making music videos and improving his animation skills for other bands in his spare time. He’s aiming to have three projects out by the end of the year. He is touring almost every month with artists like So Much Light, PWR BTTM, among others. Ogbonnaya wants Drool’s message to elicit positivity in its listeners. “I want to convey to people to do the most good whenever you can, wherever you can, however you can. I feel like that is a great way to live, trying to spread love and positivity wherever you go. Even if I write songs that are depressing, I want people to realize that it’s not the end all -- it’s not the period to the sentence. There’s always an ellipses, always a dot dot dot. You can make things better. I just try to be positive and encourage other people to do that as well.”
Keep up with Nnamdi on Twitter at @ NnamdiOgbonnaya and Instagram at @nnamdiog.
SBTL CLNG BY LORA MATHIS
Los Angeles based SBTL CLNG (aka Carolina Hicks)’ self-analytical work is a diving into uncomfortability. It is a mourning. An honoring of grief. An unlearning of negative patterns and taught beliefs that is spread between text, illustrations, zines, and music. It is highly vulnerable and presents healing as an intentional, non-linear process. SBTL CLNG’s exploration of personal disconnection reveals patterns of what separates us from others and nature at large. I’ve loved the powerful healing aspects of your work since I encountered it. The first piece of yours I ever saw was writing which mentioned “emitting healing frequencies.””What does healing look like for you?
The daunting reality of healing is that once you start you can’t really turn it back. Once you realize how much you deserve to heal, you nervously just start little by little. You make microscopic progress, and celebrate private victories. You trip up —a relapse, a triggering confrontation, a self-sabotage trap you set up for yourself. Sometimes those bad moments turn into a bad month, and it can feel like you’re constantly starting at square one (or negative one). That’s the intense truth. Healing is this constant, never-ending process; it’s very multidimensional. It takes a lot of stamina, recovery, reassurance, and self-validation. A big aspect of it for me has been figuring out what forgiveness actually means — not so much towards the forces and people that have hurt me but the constant, everyday process of forgiving myself (and I have to do this all the time). I would never treat anyone the way I’ve treated myself in my own head. I hold a lot of anger, frustration, guilt, remorse, regret towards the past and myself. But I’m learning that it’s going to be an uphill battle and constant wrestling match with myself if I don’t work on the forgiveness aspect. Much easier said than done, of course. But practice certainly helps.
"I feel perpetually homesick for a place that doesnâ€™t exist, so for me, art is the home I get to live in (somewhere in my mind and heart, connected via tunnels)."
Last fall,,you began an MFA and this summer, your thesis may have you coming to the east coast to explore. "creating art amongst psychic / ecological / racist //misogynist xenophobic violence of the new so& ciological landscape." How is your work affected by this pervading, multi-layered violence?
I fell into one of many existential crises after the election. I was frozen by how scary (and ridiculous) it felt to have entered such an enormous amount of financial and emotional debt starting an MFA while the world entered this new multi-layered nightmare. But what has started to sink in since November is that this new era is not so new; everything that’s been festering, colonizing, oppressing, and killing for hundreds of years is now just inescapably present and exposed for the world to see. This experience of graduate school has been a huge self-check of my privileges and the socio-political responsibilities/ethics that I’m responsible for as an artist. I know it sounds grandiose, but I feel whole-heartedly that there’s no more room to make apolitical art — it’s way too late to be neutral, about anything. This unpredictable landscape affects my work in direct and indirect ways. I have very real privileges that, so far, keep me from experiencing the immediate, life-threatening violences of the unraveling shit show. And that’s meant that I now have even more responsibility to use my access and positioning to maximize my use of resources, in order to create as much work as possible—to reach and affect as wide an audience as needs me. I’m becoming much more sentient of the ways that this landscape is affecting the very notion of home/place, planet, and the concept of dwelling for human and non-human life. That’s been a bigger shift in my work, more eco-feminist research and socio-ecological awareness. I don’t think art for art’s sake is very helpful right now. I’ve started to notice that despite whatever form or packaging you give a work, if you have no generative content, the art is just taking up space and I don’t want to make art just to take up space.
Much of your work sorts through mourning, loss, nostalgia, and growth. What are the relationships between these things?
Being a person is so intense! We carry everything that’s ever happened to us within us. This question reminds me of something one of my favorite artists Wizard Apprentice (Tierney Carter) talks about: there is so much pain/sadness in the world and for hyper-sensitive people, it’s nearly impossible to forget about it or pretend like it’s not happening. I think that’s why mourning is so prevalent in my practice, because I see that there’s so much to constantly mourn —so much is being lost, violently erased, and threatened without end. Misogyny kills and it’s enraging and horrible to watch it happen on so many scales. You start to feel a nostalgia for a version of the earth we’ll never see again because of the irreversible damage that’s being inflicted upon it. As a first generation Colombian person, I think a lot about nostalgia for a place I’ll never really know—never really from here, never really from there. Yet, despite all this internal and external mess, you find yourself still opening your eyes in the morning. You’re still breathing and it kind of hits you that you will just have to keep growing because as long as you’re still alive, you still have a chance to add something good to the world, despite the grief of it all.
Do you believe growth is a loss?
Definitely, but the loss is crucial–without it you’d run out of space to grow. You lose parts of yourself that you’ve known for years and years. You let go of the patterns and habits you’ve gotten so used to navigating your reality with. I picture it like a video game terrain in your mind that you grow accustomed to, like muscle memory. Your life’s experience and traumas create a map and you learn your video game’s grid —all the guilt hallways, regret corners, self-hate goblins, self-sabotage vortexes. When you start to grow, you realize those virtual maps are just your own patterns shaped by trauma(s), misogyny, really toxic socialization —you keep them because they’re all you know and all you have to cope with. But something I learned this past year (via a studio visit with Karen Rose, herbalist/healer) is that coping isn’t healing. Once that truly sinks in, you realize that you have to scrap those virtual maps and make entirely new ones and starting from scratch is always really scary! But once you start this loss/undoing, you realize like “wait, I can’t go back anymore and even though that makes me sad (and it’s normal to get sad about growth), I know I don’t ever want to.” You've recently begun incorporating music into your work. How has this new medium expanded your work?
I’ve been thinking a lot about misogyny and the ways in which it’s become internalized within my own body. As someone that came of age in the punk/DIY scene where I grew up, I can trace that “community” as the place where my friends and I experienced some of our most humiliating and scarring experiences with what we thought was intimacy, validation, and support—experiences that warped our sense of selfworth and stunted so much internal growth. Fast forward to a decade’s worth of unlearning, and here I am, sad at how long it took me to realize my own agency and snap out of the stupor that had me convinced music-making and validation was to be found in “talented” men with disproportionate amounts of social capital. No one told me I could play the instruments, I could book and/or play the shows, that I should or could make my own sounds. I’m so relieved and at home now in my developing music practice. It’s become an extension of my writing and visual work, because I often incorporate all elements into my song-making and live performances. My music is intentional; when I play, I am creating sonic waves to combat my internalized misogyny and inferiority complex that a Boys Club world has instilled in me—a type of sonic mourning/grieving/cleansing. It feels so healing and exciting to create the songs my body wants to make, to create work that is deeply instinctual and non-technical. My music is part fuck you to toxic/mediocre cis man-music and damage but mostly a sonic prayer for the Earth and all its wounded. As someone who publicly shares highly vulnerable, self-analytical work, how do you carve out personal space for yourself?
As an empath, I really appreciate this question because I think about it often. Energy is very alive and real to me, so creating spaces of recovery/retreat for myself is critical. I often forget how open and exposed I make myself through my own content, but I’ve been feeling its effects much more lately. Intentionally or not, people in the contemporary moment become very entitled to your energy and emotional labor —a lot has to do with the Internet and instantaneous accessibility to the work, so I suppose it “comes with the territory” but it gets quickly draining and dangerous if you aren’t careful. Energy vampires are real and they’re really tricky/manipulative! Creating boundaries has been crucial (and relatively new for me). It’s scary to be forthcoming and clear about not only setting boundaries, but actually following through with them. Intentionally protecting my energy/emotional labor/time and anticipating my needs has become increasingly more important to me. In doing so, my practice has actually strengthened because you naturally become more disciplined and selective about how you spend your time and psychic resources.
There is so much power in the self-awareness and deep self-reflection in your work. It’s poignant honesty on trauma, mental illness and self-destructive tendencies has helped me sort through my own experiences. How does art become a tool for learning forgive& ness in a body which has hurt itself and been hurt by others?
Something I’ve been learning through my own visual work and writing is that my subconscious is actually my most honest sounding board. A tactic for the patriarchy to perpetuate itself is to atrophy the feminine and the unlearned wisdom within ourselves (I’m directly referencing Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of the Erotic” essay —a foundational text to my practice). We are forced to mistrust and silence our own desires and instincts. After years of doing so, it’s no wonder we feel like such strangers in our own bodies. That estrangement from ourselves is how we end up so lost and far from our own power. But I think deep down, despite how loud our self-loathing may get, we really want to be advocates for ourselves—my own art practice has taught me this. Art has helped me understand a lot about my own behavior and through that, I’ve learned how to safely hold empathy for others and myself. Art helps me better navigate reality when it often feels completely unnavigable. Art opens up portals: a source to access lost, ancestral knowledge and support; a well to receive psychic nutrition and relief; a space to unpack all the things; a refuge to cry/scream into when the sadness feels unbearable; a quiet space to learn how to forgive others, and most importantly yourself. I feel perpetually homesick for a place that doesn’t exist, so for me, art is the home I get to live in (somewhere in my mind and heart —connected via tunnels).
Keep up with SBTL CLNG’s work on Instagram at @sbtl_clng and on Tumblr at subtleceiling.tumblr.com
One Side Of Someone Else's Phone Conversation OR; The Cyclical Nature of Chicago Winters
for Chicago and Los Angeles and everywhere since by Carly Hubbard
He asked how long I’d been here; I said about two years. We practice deferring winter by not wearing coats on the ‘L’ platform. Remember when the snow melts into Los Angeles, and the train tracks shrink and molt their scales and let us forget them in their perfect uselessness. The desert mauls the surf and scrubs salt at its skin, buffing away the thought that there had ever been a lake reaching for Michigan.
I’m really looking forward to being in the same place, We do not have forty years, but we do cross rivers. We cast carved stone and count falling precepts like salt grains sliding against tongues to make way for burn and citrus and balter.
at the same desk, One day we shiver and wrap wool around limbs like lead, like there are eyes that know colors of skin the sun cannot imagine. There are yeses and roads and lines of chalk we can cross and cross and fog over in salt coated boots like Januarys so gray that buildings constructing the horizon lose their heads to this sky gray, this powder sugar dusted mist.
looking out the same window. And then the line sheds its ghost, scouring the wine of us from the snowed carpet, brushing us away to right back here; scattering us always to this saline berth.
by Nico Shreibak We used to make a Venn diagram out of our bodies. Checked our math, memorized the exact angle our spines must arch, our legs must bend, to believe in what feels like God. But we stopped trying to count these moments of peace long ago.
by Allison McFarland Low tones strung through nights; the click of paper wings against eardrums, a pressure rises from my soles. I stay bent into myself. Gouge my orifices and peel back sun stung skin with nails brittle from cold.
by Doe Parker in mom & dad’s room we watch movies like the one where the kids are left on the cold mountain. we watch the other movie where the woman is left at the altar & stays in a chair for years in a hall with her rotting wedding cake in her white dress & then burns to death after her son rips open the curtains & runs away. when i need to go somewhere in the morning i wake up dad & hand him a mug of coffee so he groans out of bed. his bedside table drawer is full of nicotine gum & when he drives in one of the 3 pickups he’s owned through my life, 98.1 plays on the radio & sometimes we point out a lumber store or a farmers market but mostly we don’t talk & the air conditioner is broken but his arm rests hairy, big & safe on the edge of the window even on dirt roads.
I Love You, But I Am Sad
by Molly Lasker april has made me tired and i have eaten too much for dinner je tâ€™aime mais je suis triste i want death or a croissant for breakfast avec coffee et jam i wish you would bear the weight of my world with me my shoulders are tired and weary
by Veronica Dimitrov melting into ground i cannot identify what is gravel and what is post-pubescent pimpled skin a mere puddle, i slowly slither towards an un-shoed foot something that would have been disgusting in my pre-puddle form now, it only looks like home in an attempt to regain a human form i slink around each toe being careful as to not let the victim know i have melted and i am desperate to re-solidify i fear i have been cursed by a warlock dripping with rich golds and rubies anger entices nasty thoughts too unbearable to write i spit in your memory forgiven although unforgotten i fear it will always be unforgotten
by Lissa McFarland on the good days, the sun is sheltered in my chest and I am golden radiance some days the sunrise never comes to fill me with soft pinks and purples and oranges and instead I am the hollow blue of almost dawn almost but not quite, not enough, not yet days like this, I keep my mouth closed, crushed flower petals held by the back of my teeth so I can at least feel there is something lovely in me my skin is too loose or too tight and I can never tell which but I know it isn’t right stretched too thin over the mountain ranges of my hips and pooling like a lake in the valley of my stomach my hands weren’t made to softly hold and I feel like I’ll tear my skin if I push too hard on the spaces between my ribs one day I’ll learn to love myself on the darkest nights when not even the stars will make a home in me
The Old Stage
by Letti K-Ewing He Left He left. And now he’s happier, you are sadder. One day, you’ll come back and I like to hurt so hurt me again. Wrap the tracks up with gauze. Please notice, please look. Oh, nobody saw. I feel like I’m standing up when I’m sitting down. How can I be so tired? In the end, our bodies so rarely intertwined. I miss you more because of that. Your new haircut makes you look like a foreigner to my heart. I like that.
by Kelsey Grace comparing being alone to being on a journey to find something archaic beautiful lost lost in conversation muddied by relationship and exchange and impressions soiled by shifting into things other people care to see unlearning how to rely on acceptance and validation sharpening my tongue replace complacent with fires and torch the masses the ones who over stay their welcome who come and won’t leave even after you said its getting late i knew that if i could just break free of my body i would blossom water exploding out of broken vase not a bouquet not here to be pretty conditioned to be nice agreeable quiet to serve and never be served every “no, you’re fine babe” involuntary like breath in my lungs being small is second nature my skin is peach peeled away invisible self glistens glowing apricot but i want to be charcoal aching the kind away crying because i no longer know how to say no my feelings the inconvenient self fulfilling prophecy always missing the honey of absence always trying to forget the filled spaces
by Alyssa Gould There are things they don’t tell you on the welcome wagons a handful of mantras to ease and expand, rain slipping horizontal across the windows of buildings you don’t remember entering. There is warmth here if you look hard enough, they don’t tell you how easy it is to be discouraged, how careful the dismantling process is, stripping essentials until bones are bare and full of rot. Your eyelids, heavy, drop closed while your mouth continues to move and you summon these things before you—they can see you, and you, them—layered underneath wool and salt and leaves crisp but still green with more life than anything you’ve nurtured. These things cannot be left alone, a menace to their creator, kicking up the dirt you packed down into your blood, the lunch you brought with you.
by Whitney Bard hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese? amniotic rotations fill full rushing deep choking gravity what goes down must come up rinsing relics releasing flesh the water is where we live with our grief it lives there, we keep it there an inhalation and an exhalation of the us and ours for the theys that they became I donâ€™t want to be, and so I canâ€™t be the cup that holds you the mouth that drinks you the rain that bathes you
Featuring Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Tommy Pico, Lara Witt, SBTL CLNG, and more.