Intro GIRL, BOY; BLACK, WHITE; YES, NO.
In our day-to-day lives and interactions, we face different questions that seek to identify us. There always appears to be two boxes we continue to have to choose between. The illusion of choice is ever present as you seemingly have the option to decide between a fixed amount of options. However, societyâ€™s obsession with the binary not only excludes a plethora of identities but ultimately is boring. This zine is an exploration of identity through interviews.
1/ PERSONA â€œjessica simpSâ€?
2/ Sorta kinda maybe yeah
3/ emilie + ogden
A Performance of Gender an interview with ‘Jessica Simps’
VoteForNudes got a lot of press, what is next for your online performance? It’s funny because right now I’m trying to figure out what’s next in this persona work. I basically invited sexual harassment by asking people to DM me asking for nudes, now I’m still overwhelmed by these kinds of messages. ‘Hey do you cam?’ ‘Wanna fuck?’ etc… I’m trying to negotiate the boundaries of my persona work and my own life. I don’t feel like the general public was in on the joke, you know? It wasn’t clear enough. Right now I’m using [what was the VoteForNudes] account to further assert the aspect of play and performance. As well as queering the performance of the hyper-feminine while still retaining that Jessica Simps is a performance of the approachable bimbo.
Jessica Simps is a Montréal-based performance artist, painter and all around rad chick. This persona work is part of her continuous performance exploring the contructs of gender through social media. She recently garnered a lot of attention for the VoteForNudes online political movement. VoteForNudes also known as SlutsAgainstHarper was an instagram account that gained a lot of momentum leading up to Canada’s most recent federal election. It incited all people of legal voting age to vote - ideally against Harper. In the days leading up to the election, the account gained thousands upon thousands of followers who would DM the group proof of having voted to receive a nudie pic back. The account asked for people to submit nudes, specifically from “cuties of all races / gender / bodies etc…” This inclusivity and deployment of the body exemplifies the agency us cuties have!
What does performance art mean to you, how do you define it? So this whole online [performance] was trying to assert my feminism without the pushback of people not wanting to hear a woman talk about feminism. I had to find a way to make it palatable. That’s where I realized I was performing and in order to be heard, I had to find a way to make it funny and engaging. Slip in [feminism] under something else, so people didn’t feel like they were being preached to. That’s how I came to understand my own role in performance; I needed a veil in order to say what I wanted to say. That’s the thing about performance is that it’s bigger than you. When we say that gender is performance, then we can bend it and make it an intentional performance. It then hyperbolizes the role that women perform everyday without knowing it. I think when you perform it willingly, you can’t help but throw the gaze back.
Thoughts on the binary? As a person who identifies as queer and honestly gender queer as well, no matter if I change my name or alter my body I’m still read as a woman because I refuse to deny my femininity at the same time. I refuse to shame my femininity to embrace my masculinity and it’s frustrating that that is still invisible. I think in my persona work, a lot of that frustration comes out.
i S w
orta Kinda Maybe Yeah or simply SKMY is a female collective which has a unique DIY, guerrilla style approach to filmmaking. The founders state their collective was founded in an attempt to tackle how male-dominated the film industry currently is. Their collective aims at creating a supportive environment for other females looking to create content while gaining experience and skills.
I first met Laura Kirwan-Ashman, one of the co-founders of SKMY, while I was working in London. Her idgaf attitude, confidence and intellect are qualities that I found especially striking when first meeting her back in 2012. These qualities continue to shine through, now in the material her and the SKMY collective produce.
Their first project Procrasturbation (2015) is a to the point one-minute film. The comical short begins with Laura preparing to masturbate with a toothbrush. Her flatmate knocks at the door and for the rest of the short the two are simply providing euphemisms for masturbating back and forth. This female-written tongue in cheek humour is refreshing and witty. In mainstream media, female masturbation is something often swept under the proverbial meat curtains. This short underlines the ordinariness of the act and simultaneously does not sexualize the women on screen.
This female collective reminds us how vital it is to have women creating content. More importantly Procrasturbation (2015) serves as a shining example of the importance of women writing roles for other women. The advent of the selfmade web-series has given us series such as Broad City, High Maintenance and now Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah. With multiple projects and a series of episodes in the works, it will be interesting to see what comes next.
“ ” You know, playing some Clitar Hero - Procrasturbation (2015)
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Thoughts on the term ‘feminism’ being used as a trending topic? “We are of course all feminists and are aware that the content we create will be viewed as feminist. The fact that a political standpoint that affects over half of the world’s population is seen as ‘a trend’ and something that comes and goes is pretty disturbing. Anything that turns women – in particular younger girls – onto feminism is a positive. The more it’s talked about, the more the myths and negative stereotypes surrounding it will hopefully be done away with.”
What are other topics or experiences can we expect from the webseries? ”From the beginning it has always been important to us that we have realistic, diverse portrayals of women. The three of us who write, direct, produce as well as play the three main characters are fairly diverse in terms of ethnicity and sexuality. Both Aya and Laura are mixed-race and grew up not really seeing people who looked like [them] in mainstream media so we know how important it is to have that representation. However, we also recognise that we are all cisgender, able-bodied, middle-class people with similar upbringings in terms of education. It’s very important to us that we tell our stories and explore things that speak to our experiences, in the hopes that other people can relate. [Making it] equally as important that we recognise our own privilege, as well as the London bubble we live in, and we try to do that in a tongue-in-cheek way, y’know #firstworldproblems kind of thing.”
What are you guys watching lately? “Catherine. High Maintenance. Broad City. The Slope. Chewing Gum. The Leftovers. The Returned. Fargo. Scream Queens. Gilmore Girls.”
Why a webseries? ”The great thing about an internet-based medium is the freedom it allows you. When you have no budget and limitations on time/equipment/crew etc, you have no choice but to think outside the box. You have to be able to improvise, problem-solve and keep that meltdown at bay. We had one shoot where an actress [bailed] in the morning so we desperately had to do shout outs on social media to find someone to fill in. [Later] when filming outside it started to rain, which was NOT in the forecast. We basically had to work that into the script. Ultimately, it’s been a vertical learning curve where you make a ton of mistakes but you learn from them very quickly.”
One amazing quality about the web-series is its ability to highlight certain intersectionalities of its characters without reducing the character to that single trait. How do you feel this is accomplished? “It was always our intention to present stuff as normally as possible because that’s our experience. For example, we didn’t want Laura’s bisexuality to be like a big, sensationalised issue; we just wanted things that are usually treated as ‘ISSUES’ to be [seen] as an everyday part of life. Female masturbation, body hair, bisexuality aren’t taboo, radical or political to us, they are normal aspects of our own and our friends’ lives and identities.”
What is the dynamic of SKMY like? How do people join your projects? ”The dynamic between the three of us has evolved in a really interesting way because our working relationships in terms of SKMY has grown parallel to our friendship. So we’ve been figuring out how to collaborate on the SKMY stuff at the same time as getting to know each other. It’s been very intense but a really amazing whirlwind since we started this whole journey in April. We have a zero-budget, DIY approach where there are no stupid questions and we want to provide opportunities for women of all experiences to get involved and all learn from [one another]. The web series is our very first project and that’s what we’ve been focusing on so far, but we are totally open to other women approaching us with an idea or a script and seeing how we can help make it a reality - we want to create an umbrella network for other women’s projects.”
And finally, is masturbating with a toothbrush a thing? ”We say, whatever works for you!”
Holiday Gift Guide How to tell if a gift is for boys or girls
Harmonic Curve Emilie & Ogden’s magical melodies makes its listeners question why the instrument the harp isn’t used more in contemporary music. Emilie and her harp Ogden, have recently released their first full-length album 10,000. Before the album’s release, they got a lot of buzz after Time Magazine shared their cover of Taylor Swift’s hit “Style”. This resulted in Swift re-tweeting and sharing the post with millions of her followers.
Emilie admits that she often gets asked about what genre Emilie & Ogden fall under. “I like ‘Alternative Folk’” she says but urges people to listen and decide for themselves. “I think humans just like to define things and label things”. She begins recalling a recent show where the poster advertised for a ‘folk, rock, jazz evening”. Another topic often raised is her choice of instrument. “Whenever I do interviews it’s always like ‘harp, harp, harp, harp, omg the harp.” She acknowledges the unique instrument choice and continues on about how she found the connection. Always having been attracted towards singer / songwriter music, she started out playing the piano and took guitar lessons as well. Eventually, she found the harp and sought out lessons on Craigslist. Playing such a classical instrument in contemporary music allows for a lot of freedom. “It’s nice not a lot of people play the harp because it’s [liberating] to play it any way I want”. Adding,
“I can do weird things that aren’t ‘correct’ and people don’t really know so I can do my own thing.” This summer Emilie & Ogden went on their first European tour accompanying the band Half Moon Run. Quick to point out the positive experiences there were also negative ones as well. “Europe was rough sometimes. When you live in this bubble and don’t have a lot of money and you end up staying at a lot of shitty hotels or insane travelling with [equipment]”. Switching again to the positives and reminiscing about her travels. “I got to go to Iceland which was the time of my life and spent a bunch of time in London where I had never been before. It’s crazy to realize like ‘Oh, shit, I’m playing for people across an ocean.’ It’s really exciting”.
“ ” Whenever I do interviews it’s always like ‘harp, harp, harp, harp omg the harp’
When describing what performing live feels like, she laughs and simply says it’s the best feeling ever. Recalling her earlier shows as a teenager and how it felt almost narcissistic to perform as if to think ‘oh, I’m so cool, I’m a singer’. The more shows she performed, and the more she developed her unique voice as a singer, songwriter Emilie realized the importance of performing live. “When I started doing bigger shows, people [started] writing after the shows saying ‘your performance touched me’ or ‘it made me feel this way’
Stills from the music video What Happened (2015)
and this makes you realize [the music] is so important to people.” She adds, “That’s what’s really cool about performing. Is this person doesn’t know [anyone] but is completely naked and vulnerable. That’s what’s special.” Emilie is a Montréal-native who speaks both English and French. The title for the album was intentionally language-less. The album title is named after one of the songs on the album and in written numerically. “Right now I have the biggest following in Québec. After having played Europe and coming back home to sold out shows is amazing. The idea behind the album’s name was that anyone could understand it.” Emilie & Ogden’s first music video “What happened”, is an eerily beautiful visual compilation. Emilie wanted the video to be compelling and memorable as it acts as an introduction to the general public. The video is an undeniable success, having been directed by Pierre Alexandre Girard. The dreamy visuals are accomplished by speeding up the back track while filming. Emilie admits she always shares this story at her shows. “[On set] the backtrack is playing in this little chipmunk voice and I had to be playing the harp at three times the speed while lip-syncing. But because it was sped up, what I’m playing on the harp isn’t in the same key as what I’m singing because of the speed so it was a total mindfuck!” In the end she had to do it 50 times during the 12 hour shoot, change clothes, change makeup then do it again. She laughs saying “It was pretty hilarious”.