Famous Female Artist is an illustrator who straddles both sides of the iron curtain but currently lives in Glasgow. She goes by Sasha Staicu in her free time. She illustrates Balkan neo-folklore, everyday objects (made spooky) and other tender monstrosities. You can follow her @famousfemaleartist
Co-Editors: Niall Walker & Ciaran Daly | Visual Director: Megan Daly | Film Editor: Georgina Allan Poetry Editor: Matthew Magill | Environment Editor: Georgia Preece | Lit Editor: Harry Smithson THIS ISSUE WAS DESIGNED BY KATRÍN LENA THRASTARDÓTTIR | katrinth.myportfolio.com
Radical Art Review SOLITUDE Issue #7 | Winter 2020
This print edition was supported by a grant from the Metroland Cultures Fund. For further information please visit our website at radicalartreview.org. We’re always open for pitches. All editorial enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org © 2020 RAR PUBLISHING Published by Radical Art Review Publishing, 48 Harbut Rd, Battersea, London, SW11 2RB, UK. Printed in the UK on 100% recycled paper by Sharman & Co. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.
Creative Liberation at The GAP Failed Futures The Extinction Exhibition Cornwall in the Time of Clusterfuck Passing Through Estranged in Isolation Locked Up in Lockdown DIY: How to Make Anthotype Prints The Fragments Archive World Through A Windowpane Extra Terrestrial Seizing the Means Shitposting Into the Void Black Visual Frequency Stoned Apocalypse The Spoken Word Poetry of Black Lives Matter 28-29 What’s Occurring? 30-31 When Your Art is Obsolete 4-5 6 7 8-9 10 11 12-15 16-17 18-19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26-27
by Amelia Rouse
This year, we have all become familiar with self-isolation. But for too many, solitude defines existence. In this issue, we hope to platform the voices of the dissident and the excluded by sharing their art and experiences. Through it, we want to demonstrate that in a world of increasing fragmentation, we can still build meaningful connections out of the shadows of solitude. For our seventh issue - our first ever in print - we explore these themes with BAFTA award-winning director Mark Jenkin, Iceland’s reigning drag king HANS and the founders of MEANS TV, among others. Alongside them, our Locked Up in Lockdown feature brings the work of incarcerated artists to the forefront of the conversation. Trapped in a system designed to rid them of their humanity, their art is bridging the barbed wire separating us from them. We began compiling this issue just before the death of George Floyd. As protests spread from Minneapolis across the world, its demands and calls for justice have been spread by a new generation of innovative artists and writers showing that, while politicians may flounder, ordinary people are building a vision for real change. Turn to page 26 to read our full feature on some of the poets of the Black Lives Matter movement. The world may be a bit fucked right now, but that doesn’t mean we have to be. We can harness the creativity and skill of every individual in our society. From solitude, we can build solidarity. We must.
The Radical Art Review is a platform harnessing shared creative potential to build radical, progressive social change. We’re non-profit and staffed by a team of volunteers, with many copies of this newspaper being distributed for free to charities and non-profit ventures. If you enjoy this issue and want to get involved, visit radicalartreview.org or donate to us via patreon.com/radicalartreview/
4 by Megan Daly Where creativity and community flourish, The GAP is a volunteerrun cultural space dedicated to young artists and local residents in Balsall Heath, an inner-city area of Birmingham. Starting out as a youthled theatre company in 2009, this now established venue, gallery and community café is usually thriving with activity day-to-day. We caught up with Exhibitions Programmer Ella Marshall and Creative Producer Arron Gill earlier this year to discuss how they’ve adapted their programme during the pandemic, and their thoughts on the social responsibility of cultural organisations during times of crisis.
What are the aims of the cultural and creative work you do at The GAP? Arron: Our aims are rooted in education and drama, stemming from the work of the dramatist Edward Bond and his concept of ‘the gap’. Generally, when people think about ‘the gap’ in a social context, they think about ‘closing’ the gap. Closing the gender pay gap, for example. Instead, we want to ‘open’ the gap; create a space for young people and communities to step into, free from the ideologies and demands of society, to engage critically, creatively, and culturally. It’s important to locate our work in the civic context of Birmingham. Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with 40% of the population aged 25 or under, and it’s [seen] a decimation of services to young people. We don’t want to simply be an arts organisation; we
see the arts as instrumental in understanding how society works, and try to respond to the needs of our community which the state fails to meet. How have you adapted your programming and resources to support the community of Balsall Heath during the pandemic? Ella: This year our programme is called 2020 VISION, and aims to create a culture of theatre and storytelling in Balsall Heath. Though we have digitised parts of the programme, we’re reluctant to focus on digital projects because The GAP is so much about face-to-face encounters and local people passing by on the street. Not everyone has access to digital resources, so it’s not a solution to reach the communities who really need our support. Some of the programme we’ve been able to adapt, like Community Stories Research. We are gathering oral histories from local residents about their lives, forming a collection which will be used as inspiration for a group of young writers on a development programme with us. As people are more isolated and so worried about the future right now, they have enjoyed reflecting on where they’ve come from. Our colleagues Ceri and Hassan also run a programme called Food Chain, a six-week course teaching young asylum seekers how to cook. As it was during Ramadan people couldn’t come together to break fast, so this year we organised a team of volunteers to make Iftar deliveries. Arron: It’s not unusual work for us to do, and we received a lot of support. But it raises
PICTURED: Volunteer Hassan in The GAP’s kitchen
the question, what is the role of cultural organisations? Is it enough to hang some pretty art on the wall and say, ‘this is for you because we’re based on your road’, or do we have a social responsibility within our community? How have you been supporting artists across Birmingham? Arron: When we applied for the Arts Council Emergency Funding, we wanted to use it to support local artists and creatives in the city. We had the idea for 100 Stories Deep. It’s easy: we pay local artists to read aloud a short story of their choice, which we upload to our YouTube. Ella: Another participatory online project we are running is Self, Isolated. We commissioned five local young artists to create a self-portrait which reflected their experience of lockdown. Since then, we hosted a physical exhibition at The GAP with all the works together to try and shine a light on our shared experiences - within different circumstances - during this strange time.
“WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS? IS IT ENOUGH TO HANG SOME PRETTY ART ON THE WALL, OR DO WE HAVE A SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY?”
Earlier this year, The Gap commissioned five local young artists to create a self-portrait which reflected their experience of lockdown. These artworks were used as inspiration for an open call to the community to submit their own self-portraits online. As restrictions eased, these self-portraits were then brought together at The GAPâ€™s Self, Isolated exhibition, held across September and October.
5 by Bayan Moradi
by Cal Steer
by Osama Rahmani
by Haseebah Ali
by Oliver Hassell
by Ciaran Daly opened up in the past few weeks that I find deeply troubling. I’ve never had more offers of work because of a white police officer choking a black man to death. Does that make you uncomfortable? Yes, it does. I’m a dad supporting a young family so I can’t afford to turn down the work sometimes, but to be honest my style doesn’t really suit the knee-jerk reaction I’m so often called to deliver. So tell us about your new project. What happened in Japan in the 80s? Johny Pitts has had a busy couple of years. Off the back of founding Afropean.com, a platform for documenting black culture and community across Europe, his recent book, Afropean: Notes From Black Europe, is the winner of the 2020 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year. Beyond Afropean though, he is fundamentally a radical visual artist and writer challenging dominant narratives around place, belonging, and nostalgia. I caught up with Johny over WhatsApp to discuss Black Lives Matter and his new project, The Sequel To A Dream: Ghosts of 80s Japan | Photo: Tony Burns There’s been a ton of focus this year on anti-racism. Is there anything you find frustrating about the media cycle right now? Absolutely. There are so many people, including black people, who suddenly see themselves as social commentators because George Floyd’s death is good for their platform or personal brand. I don’t mean to sound cynical but some of these community spokespeople were nowhere to be seen a few months ago when black suffering wasn’t ‘on trend’ - they were busy doing commercials or taking lifestyle selfies. It’s important that people speak up in a time of crisis, [but] a weird sort of economy has
When I finished Afropean I felt a bit uncomfortable about an omission. I went to one of the ten worst performing schools in the country the year I graduated, and grew up in Firth Park, where they filmed most of the Full Monty. But one of the most amazing - and important - moments was when my dad landed a role in the Japanese production of Starlight Express in the 80s. I was lifted from a row of terrace houses in Sheffield and placed in five star hotel lobbies during what may go down as the most decadent moment of late capitalism. When I returned to Japan for the first time in 2013 there was something slightly off. All the landmarks and buildings were there but I kept waiting to feel that same sense of ‘wow, shit, I’m in the future - this is what the rest of the world will look like in twenty years’. It was only then that I realised my time in Japan was marked by something known as ‘Baburu Keiki’ - the Bubble Economy, which for a time made Japan the richest place on Earth. The bubble burst in 1991, and the subsequent period is known as ‘The Lost Decades’ - so what I was witnessing in 2013 was a past future - a future as imagined by the 80s that was never really realised. Many people still think Japan is super expensive and futuristic. In reality, you’ll now
find more of the future in Seattle. In this project, I’m trying to grapple with something that bothers me: the happiest memories of my life belong to late 80s Japan of rampant capitalism and consumerism. I used the old family camera (which imprints its original date of manufacture - 1988 - on the photos) and old film from that era to glitch my nostalgia. The camera evokes the soul of 80s family photographs, but makes any images I take look haunted. It’s like the shadow side of Japan my childhood experiences were shielded from. What sort of continuity do you see between Afropean and this new project? While the website will always be there and I will continue to engage, I really do want to wriggle free from merely being a spokesperson about black issues. I think all the work I’ll ever do will be underpinned by that struggle but I’m really keen to take it in weird, unexpected or experimental directions. At the end of the day, if I’m not willing to problematise my own sentimentality about an unhealthy moment that I personally benefited from, how can I expect, say, an upper class white person in their 60s to critique something like British Imperialism? Visit afropean.com to learn more
Photos by Johny Pitts from his forthcoming project.
Image: Rosie Ablewhite
by Lexy Foxley-Johnson by Andrew Casey I cannot read my grandmother’s lips The mask for her mouth is a mask for her words and her smile My eyes are the best spotlights in the world but it’s not enough if My ears refuse to work and if My grandmother’s mouth moves so fast and if People are dying and have way bigger problems than this As always I can guess Puzzle it out like they say We’ve got time Stay inside / don’t leave / lock the doors / open a window Play a board game or charades About the neighbour’s dog and about what groceries I need to buy So I sit down and study my grandmother’s face The laugh lines around her eyes Visible even at the mandatory one point five meter distance Yes her smile is infectious but not as much as this thing I sit and I try to figure it all out Are you scared or are you happy Peeling potatoes inside that I got from a store Not totally sure they’re the right kind And you’re scared to go because you nearly got hit in a parking lot because people are losing it Losing everything, their mouths, their ears Like us, but for them it’s all new and scary and not metaphorical enough Does she wish I had the right kind of potatoes or does she like me Wish I could hear I don’t know and I won’t until the masks go off Although I will say I think she’s content now With the peels on the floor And another thousand games of charade to go
reminds you that it is just a digital memory.
A faded mug on a windowsill, small striped insects adorn the breadth of it. They are no longer here. In history, now. The quiet without them is hollow. You search for their sounds online, play them as background noise as you used to the rain. You reach for the mug and pour your tea. It doesn’t taste quite the same but some things don’t change. It was drilled into you that routine is what your life should look like. A daily grind characterised by hot beverages, long work hours, online, always. The years have rolled by and you didn’t change anything. You watched the world warp around you, the last of a species disappeared and it was out of your hands. What is your impact, anyway? You are just one person. At least you got to see the extinction exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Each day, you log in against a vibrant, pre-lit background. Today, the screens show a lush rainforest, the image is still. You can set it to video, but it
You try to go out at least once a day. Your friends don’t understand it. There is nothing out there that you can’t get online, why would you even bother? You put on your mask, your glasses and pick up your walking stick anyway. This world is full of colour, bright, artificial light. Full of tall concrete and glass building blocks vibrantly wrapped in digital screens and projections stand out against grey, grey and grey. That sky, you remember, it used to be so big, so blue, so beautiful. You don’t remember when you last saw the stars at night. When you last saw a bird, even. You don’t remember when it started. Maybe it was after the first pandemic. The words green recovery were bandied about but the phrases ‘economy' and ‘financial resilience’ drowned them out. Buildings sprung up with a ferocity that you couldn’t keep up with. Roads were paved, ground drilled into to exhaust and further damage once rolling fields. Consumerism accelerated after people became bored during the months at home.
The carbon impact of postage and delivery became negligible in the circumstances. Reusables were tainted by lazy fear. The easier option was to purchase new things, disposable culture ever more rife. It became easier for you, too. To negate your responsibilities as a guest on this planet. You bought in, desperate for an ounce of normalcy. And you let small climate actions become another unreachable thing - someone else would fix it. It wasn’t just your problem. Things got worse and you absorbed them with apathy, with only a pang of shame. Now, you walk slowly down the metropolitan streets amongst the sound of vehicles. A sea of faces surrounds you whilst you just look desperately for the green. You feel as though you are the only one searching for it. You have never felt so alone. What is solitude but a human experience shaped by the loss of nature?
by Georgina Allan It’s been a wild year and a half for Mark Jenkin. His BAFTA award-winning film Bait premiered in Berlin in February 2019. At the time, nobody could have predicted the film would go on to achieve such universal acclaim and box office success. On the surface, Bait is a film about two Cornish fishermen who are trying to keep their traditional way of life alive in a place that’s being rebranded as a tourist destination. But as Mark himself says: “really, it’s not about that.”
Bait has sparked conversations about tourism, Brexit, and gentrification. Mark says he’s realised through his audiences what the film represents: “it’s a story about entitlement and the tension that rises when people feel they’re entitled to something that conflicts with people who think they’re entitled to something different, especially within a very small community.” Now with a global pandemic looming overhead, discussions over the film industry, tourism and inequality has led many back to Mark and his film. He is very modest about his work, noting the current topicality of Bait down to luck rather than its universal themes and effective storytelling, and his self-sufficiency has made him able to keep shooting on film for music videos. He should have finished his new film by now, but this will have to wait till next spring after the stormy waters have passed. During lockdown, we caught up with Mark to discuss his love of limitations, the failure of the government, and the power of local communities.
The way you developed the film was in a self-imposed solitude. Do you enjoy working in isolation? Bait was the longest shoot I’ve ever done. It was really intense, with a hardworking crew who were very tired and for half the shoot we were all living away together. By the end, I was ready for it to stop and get on with the post-production but what I didn’t realise is that I really went off a cliff. I went from people around me all the time to then being in this studio with 130 rolls of film. The reality was that I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. I think most people who do anything creative fluctuate between thinking ‘this is the best thing a human has ever created’ and two seconds later, ‘this is worthless shit nobody is ever going to watch’. The thing is to try and mentally sit in the middle of both because the highs and lows are both as damaging. I think solitude is something I’m very attracted to but it was also something I probably went to my limits of. People talk as if I made the film on my own, which I didn’t, but the processing was something nobody could help with. When the 130th roll came out and every roll seemed to have decent pictures on it, I probably shed a tear of relief that period was over. Do you enjoy the limitations and the experimentation shooting on film gives? The limitations are everything for me. It’s why I don’t really engage with the digital side of shooting. Even though I shoot on film, it ends up being digital but I’m not interested in shooting digitally. It’s not because I’m a film snob or I’m necessarily against the digital aesthetic, it’s just I find it too overwhelming. The technical possibilities are endless and means I’m never thinking particularly creatively. Knowing there’s only certain things I can do technically means I then have to make my creative decisions limitless. I’m never happier than having one roll of Super 8 and a Super 8 camera. The cost of Super 8 now is crazy and it’s a two and half minute roll of film: straight away I’m not going to waste a single
frame of it. They’re huge limitations, but they’re huge practical limitations, they’re not creative limitations so that’s the purest form of filmmaking for me. The main character, Martin, is an interesting one. How did you start developing him? The first working draft I had was in 2002 and I was writing somebody my age - I was 26 at the time - so he was significantly younger than he ended up being in the film. I could only write that character as if it was me and a conduit for my thoughts and opinions. Rather than mellowing into old age, the hotheadedness of youth remained and that’s where the character became interesting. Then Ed Rowe was cast, the character gets handed over to him which is a really interesting part of the process. Ed brought a level of humour to it - because he’s a stand-up comic - and a level of tragedy, so that character became something much greater than I’d ever written because of his input. For Martin, he’s just almost entirely flaws and contradictions, like most humans are. The more you shout, rant and rage, the more you expose the contradictions of your existence. He rails against the tourist trade and his brother taking money from tourists and how undignified that is, but it’s made clear, although he’s catching a handful of fish in order to save up money to buy a boat, he goes and sells his fish at the pub. He’s just as involved in the tourist trade as his brother so there’s underlying contradictions between what he says verbally and his actions. The film is set in a small town in Cornwall but it can be representative of so many coastal towns, and it’s taken you 20 years to make. How do you see those towns changing in the next 20 years? There’s bigger things to think about in the short term, like making sure people stay alive and healthy, but recently it’s become much more relevant again and actually part of the same issue for me. I
PICTURED: Mark Jenkin
“THE MORE YOU SHOUT, RANT AND RAGE, THE MORE YOU EXPOSE THE CONTRADICTIONS OF YOUR EXISTENCE.” live in a little community in Cornwall and I think the success of dealing with things on a local level, compared with the absolute clusterfuck at national level, has made me really double down on my belief that having agency within small communities is the future. We live in an incredibly unfair society and the ones at the bottom of the pile economically are always the ones that are shat BAIT is available on Blu-ray/DVD from the BFI and on first in a time of a crisis like this. available to stream on BFI Player (subscription service) at player.bfi.org.uk How do you see the arts changing after the pandemic? I think the government don’t seem to give a flying fuck about the arts in this country. If you compare other European countries with the rescue packages they’ve given to the arts, there is a greater level of intelligence in terms of what the arts give. But we’ve got a government of utter… I would say fuckwits but it’s too simple, just people who are obsessed with money, who don’t see the value in anything unless it’s got an immediate financial return.
Still: BAIT (dir. Mark Jenkin, 2019)
I’ve got massive faith in humanity, I’ve got absolutely no confidence in the people who are running this country and maybe the whole shitshow just needs to fall down so we can start again. It’d be lovely to have a government who understands the importance of the arts, who talk about the arts in the same way they talk up other things.
Still: BAIT (dir. Mark Jenkin, 2019)
Ewan Johnston is an artist & service worker living in Wolverhampton. Painting since 2006, Ewanâ€™s art explores life in small towns and cities across Britain in all its diversity, joy, angst, and inequality.
Passing Through by Ewan Johnston
by Tabitha Carver On the 21st of March 2020, Boris Johnson claimed that it was “everyone’s strongest instinct” to visit their mother on Mother’s Day. During lockdown, Britons have been forced to undergo what has been touted by many media outlets as the greatest possible sacrifice by opting not to celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays and religious holidays with their families.
the isolation felt by these individuals during lockdown is the pain of an emboldened attitude towards the importance of family, and the added pressure to reconcile in these times of crisis. Many estranged individuals will have considered potential family illness or death in the future, and must now for the first time decide how to act beyond a hypothetical. This pressure to reconcile has the capacity to actively retrigger the trauma that many feel they must gently What do these largely unchallenged media narratives tell subdue in every-day life. us? They underline the widely accepted opinion that family is inalienable, unbreakable and supremely precious above Importantly, we must remember that the all other relationships. But they also represent a general needs of estranged individuals are ignorance towards the thousands of individuals who are affected by greater societal issues. We routinely forced to opt out of family gatherings to protect must continue to be mindful of how themselves. estrangement intersects with race, religion, migrant and economic Around 1 in 5 families in the UK are touched by family status, gender identity and estrangement. These figures cannot be trusted to be sexuality. accurate due to the stigma in sharing such information, as well as the difficulty in collecting data. They do, however, Tight friendship groups, as offer some insight into how important the subject of family well as religious, activist estrangement is, considering that the prevailing conservative and community networks notions of family seem only to have strengthened as a show us how we can form result of the global crisis. Research conducted by leading new ‘families’. estrangement charity Stand Alone and Cambridge University suggests that lockdown has compounded the stigma, often Ones which exist beyond laying bare the fractured support networks of estranged the normative family individuals. model, rooted in collective consciousness. These The reasons for estrangement are manifold, ranging from support structures will be emotional and physical abuse, neglect and differences the most valuable asset for of opinion on ways of life that fall outside of the societal estranged individuals during norm. Individuals left behind face stigma, shame and COVID-19. isolation. Dealing with estrangement is a trauma not often acknowledged in popular discourse, making it even harder for The experiences of estranged individuals to connect with others in similar circumstances. individuals during the pandemic and If it is addressed, there is an unspoken expectation that beyond can help us shift focus from reunion is imminent, that no wedge large enough could force and become more active in unpicking a family apart for good. often damaging values attached to the notion of family. This is important not only for Coming to terms with the trauma and lack of understanding those that are estranged, but those with strained is a continuous process that an estranged individual must familial relationships, and those forced to confront learn to adapt to throughout their life. What is unique about these head on as a result of COVID-19.
The more restrictions ease, the more people will be inundated with imagery of family reunions they are likely never to experience. It is our job to remain critical of a onesided presentation of family life, which excludes so many who continue to suffer in isolation | Image: Megan Daly
LOCKED UP IN LOCKDOWN
by Niall Walker
The pandemic has devastated the prison community. Death, suffering and endless isolation mark the lives of millions incarcerated across the world. With visits from loved ones suspended and inmates forced to isolate for hours on end, art is one of the few means left to communicate their thoughts and experiences. This issue, weâ€™re featuring three organisations that platform the work of incarcerated artists - Koestler Arts, Minutes Before Six and The Justice Arts Coalition. Covid may have limited their contact with the artists, but it is now more than ever that the inspiration and awareness which this art conveys needs to be felt. In their cells, these artists inscribe a counter-narrative to a system which looks to punish rather than recuperate. It is a system built on profit and injustice, and which needs to be taken down. But in the meantime, we must do all we can to amplify their voices.
Koestler Arts facilitates the creative expression of people within the criminal justice system throughout the UK. They run art classes, public performances, and exhibitions by incarcerated artists. The Koestler Awards run every year with over 50 categories, from music and crafts to writing and painting. Visit
The Test, from HMP Greenock
Disclaimer: for security and privacy reasons Koestler Arts could not share the names of their artists.
koestlerarts.org.uk to find out more
Buster Boy, from Bracton Centre
Nitruonites, by Anon
LOCKED UP IN LOCKDOWN
“Just like many artists in prison, I love getting art supplies to work with, but they are not necessary. I will draw in the dirt, I will smear toothpaste on cardboard and I will make paint out of instant coffee. And I will also bribe paint crews for whatever I can get. My desire is that some of my work will end up in someone’s home, on someone’s wall and that a person I touch through my art will want to live with it.”
The Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) is a network connecting incarcerated artists, justice activists and programme facilitators across North America. Founded in 2008, the Coalition is made up of more than 300 separate programmes. To see more of the Justice Arts Coalition’s work, find out about their online events, or donate, head to thejusticeartscoalition.org
Untitled, by William B Livingston III
“Who is Mark Andreason? The question has been coming up a lot lately. I enjoy creating art, but I know that I am more than my work. I create art to escape from this life I have been leading behind bars. It has been a horrible experience, and I would not wish it upon anyone, but I recognize that I am on a path of self-discovery since taking this leap of faith and that my art will take me anywhere but here.”
I’m Tired, by Mark Andreason
Blind Faith, by Gregory Bolden
“You can expect me to continue to create art that expresses my identity and to introduce Black themes into American modernism. I am emboldened to emerge from the ashes of ignorance, poverty, crime and desecration that once choked my existence, into a vital force that will contribute to art, change and the uplifting of humanity.”
LOCKED UP IN LOCKDOWN
Minutes Before Six is a blog set up in 2007 by Thomas Whitaker, a prisoner who served 12 years on death row in Texas before being granted clemency in 2018. Now serving a life sentence, Thomas achieved both an undergraduate and masterâ€™s degree behind bars and more than 150 pieces of his writing have been published on Minutes Before Six. There are 2603 Americans on Death Row, and a further 206, 000 facing life behind bars. Today, the website hosts hundreds of artistic and written contributions from inmates across the US.
by Miguel Angel Paredes who was executed by the State of Texas on October 28, 2014. by Arnold Prieto Jr who was executed by the State of Texas on January 21, 2015.
LOCKED UP IN LOCKDOWN
“Hello, my name is Mark Kirk #445339. I am the 445,339th person that the Michigan Department of Corrections has decided to warehouse in their state holding tanks, like those little lobsters you see in the grocery store, just milling about aimlessly. But I have decided to reach out to the world, and to share my thoughts, and my imagination. I am a self-taught artist and poet. I have been incarcerated since March 2005.”
by Mark Kirk
Ronald C Clark Jr has endured almost thirty years of solitary confinement on Florida’s death row, where he became a poet, artist and prison advocate who fights against capital punishment, and for prison reform. It is his goal to leave the world a better place.
“No one who has actually faced someone with a sword has believed, in that moment, that the pen is a worthy weapon of combat,” Thomas says. “But it is a weapon, a small one, and it doesn’t ever leave my mind that while the prison may be inscribing its codes on me, I am doing the same to it each time one of these essays makes its way past the razor wire and onto your neurons. There’s a tiny victory there. It’s nothing so dramatic as getting slammed to the floor by 1300 pounds of redneck flesh, but it’s just enough to keep you sane, to have any chance at telling yourself from day to day that you are still human.”
Thomas Bartlett Whitaker
Please consider following these organisations to help give incarcerated artists a voice or donate to prisoners’ books charity Haven at havendistribution.org.uk
by Ronald C Clark Jr
At the start of the UK’s lockdown, a letter of guidance was posted to vulnerable individuals identified by the NHS as ‘at risk’. This government letter stated the safest course of action for these individuals was: ‘To stay at home at all times and avoid all face-face contact for at least twelve weeks from today.’ Fragments is a digital platform created for these individuals to respond to the letter, bringing together oral history and digital archiving through audio-visual recording. Artist Hannah Taylor filmed herself reading the original letter, before uploading it online for others shielding in her local area to record themselves listening to and then recalling what information they could remember. This video began passing from person to person, and so a chain of communication based on listening and recollection was created. The participants unconsciously formed new responses and recalled different elements of the letter based on their own experiences. Graphic designer Corin S then responded to each participant’s story and experience by redesigning the letter. Fragments presents a way for isolated people to connect, and explores how information becomes compressed and glitched as it passes from person to person online. It is portrait of disparate bodies connecting virtually. | fragmentsarchive.co.uk
Graphics: Corin S
by Nicholas Kouhi As artists, how do we portray the world within the four walls of our room? The internationally revered Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has posed varying iterations of this question with a quartet of formally daring, often painfully personal films. All of these have been clandestinely made under a 20-year ban on filmmaking issued by the government in 2010. Two of them, the documentary This Is Not a Film (2011) and drama Closed Curtain (2013), most vividly confront the challenge of creating in imposed solitude, providing no easy answers in their attempts to exorcize the psychic trauma of confinement and repression.
film he intended to make before his arrest in March 2010. Closed Curtain is in many ways a repurposing of that intended film, a claustrophobic chamber drama about a screenwriter (Kambuzia Partovi) hiding out with a bright-eyed stray dog he names ‘Boy’. The spectre of persecution is echoed in the fact that dogs are deemed ‘najes’, or unclean, under fundamentalist Islamist doctrine (dog-walking was even banned in Tehran in 2019). Yet the film complicates its allegorical trappings by having Panahi himself enter the story halfway through.
Far from solipsistic navel-gazing, it is this oscillation between a constructed narrative This is Not a Film serves as a form of direct and an impressionistic confessional which address for Panahi, the flint meant to spark informs the poignancy of these films. his rapidly dwindling creativity as he faces Within the limited scope of their settings, mounting pressure from his impending necessitated by governmental restrictions, trial. On the floor of his apartment, he lays Panahi poses a complex question in simple out for us in exacting detail the set of a terms: can art be produced when an artist is
in the throes of emotional turmoil, clouded including Panahi’s peer Mohammoud Rasoulof, whose film There Is No Evil (2020) by despair and rage? nabbed him the top prize at this year’s Berlin Indeed, in nations whose systemic inequities Film Festival and, subsequently, a onehave been laid bare by the pandemic, that year prison sentence in March (one which mixture of emotions has informed the Rasoulof refused to comply with for his own pervading feeling of powerlessness so many health and safety). of us share as we sit in our rooms, watching the numbers of infected or dead continue to I’ve found a gentle strain of catharsis in Panahi’s films, primarily because of their rise. directness and raw vulnerability. As portraits Iran was one of the countries most badly of freedom, confinement, and malaise, they impacted by COVID-19 in the early months are universally resonant whilst never losing of the year. This was in part due to the sight of their precise socio-political setting. government urging medical professionals Panahi’s work forces him to see the world and the media not to report on cases before anew if he, as an artist and as an individual, the February 21st Legislative Elections, is to survive. For both viewers and creators, in the belief that a lower turnout would there’s a lot we can gain from these films in support political figures they deemed this uneasy moment. With generous swathes ‘counterrevolutionaries’. However, the of empathy, they reinforce the oft-forgotten government’s incarceration practices still truth that we are all lonely in isolation, but threaten perceived dissidents of the state, we are not alone.
“WE ARE ALL LONELY IN ISOLATION, BUT WE ARE NOT ALONE.” Still: ‘This is Not a Film’ (dir. Jafar Panahi, 2013)
by the Kirkwood Brothers
The Kirkwood Brothers, Jonny and Jordon, are Glasgow-based artists whose work often frankly discusses neurodiversity and mental health in an effort to dispel related stereotypes. Working collaboratively, Jonny and Jordon create art through conversation, re-capturing the popular culture from their shared childhood.
by Matthew Magill Ocasio-Cortez from outlier to political celebrity. Following its success, they later purchased Sara June’s YouTube channel (the creator of Nyan Cat) and started advertising their non-profit streaming service MeansTV: an anti-profit, anticapitalist alternative to services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
PICTURED: Means TV co-founders Naomi Burton (left) and Nick Haynes
When were you radicalised? Was it at school, when studying for your history exams or talking to the resident punk between classes? Was it at home, in the early hours of some forgotten night, watching a questionable action film? Was it over that one family dinner, when an older relative talked down to you, saying that money made the world go round and why are you still asking questions about it and have you got enough gravy?
It’s worker-owned by both its employees and its filmmakers, and utilises a co-operative decision making structure - rather than a top-down model of network executives and boardrooms. Their programmes champion ideas from independent and politically astute creatives that more conservative outlets wouldn’t normally give the light of day, and gives them a voice. With its recent expansion into Means Interactive and its release of the videogame Tonight We Riot, MeansTV is quickly transitioning into fully-fledged platform media. A radio streaming service is on the cards, and there are even rumours of a reality show further down the line.
Even a quick glance through the Means TV catalogue will show that the majority of work has a clear political dimension. Nick says they keep programming simple, with two key criteria in mind: “First, is it entertaining?” and, secondly, For Nick Haynes, co-founder of Means TV, he was if the message is “punching up or punching watching the 2016 election results on television, down”. waiting for Hillary to make her speech. Nick explains how that moment started his journey The themes of dismantling power structures towards Marxism and ultimately how it led to and ‘punching up’ through their programming creating Means of Production with co-founder is clear - from alternative current affairs show Naomi Burton. Means Morning News to the children’s animation Wrinkles & Sprinkles about two Marxist cats. A video production company, Means of Production entered the spotlight in 2018 with a Nick recommends new viewers check out The viral campaign video that launched Alexandria Rankin File and Sarasota Half in Dream, and
claims Good White People made him, “cry every time.” Despite this impressive content, some have questioned the company about the pricing of their service.
Visit Means.TV for more info
Although an ironic question for “the world’s first worker-owned, post-capitalist streaming service”, the $10 (£8.08) monthly subscription is high. In comparison, an Amazon Prime or Netflix (Basic only) subscription is £5.99.
On the flipside, the money for MeansTV goes directly into the product. There are no ads and no big corporate supporters. For just over an additional £2 per month, Nick really sells the service as not only having “twenty-two feature length films that you can’t get anywhere else” and access to the regular Means Morning News, but providing you with the chance to, “open your brain to non-toxic content”. How did they get here? Following the success of the AOC campaign, Nick explains, they simply “lucked the fuck out”. His and Naomi’s specific combination of experience, connections, and “know-how”, aligned with their apparent good luck, is why they are where they are today. Ultimately, they want to create an organisation in line with the values of their content: one that can reward people for their creative visions.
Still: ‘Art House Politics’
DON’T MISS: 7-part doc series Laughter Against The Machine follows comedians W. Kamau Bell, Nato Green, and Janine Vrito as they journey across the U.S. in 2011 before and after Occupy protests rock the nation.
by Ciaran Daly One of the first successes to come out of Means TV was Art House Politics. Beginning as a series of Facebook videos, Art House Politics went viral with a video identifying the political leanings of Mario Kart characters. It quickly got picked up by Means TV. This surrealist variety show comprises frequently bonkers sketches, animations, and video essays which poke at the absurdity of our cruel, illogical capitalist world. We caught up with creator Ben Tally to talk about memes, Mario Kart, liberalism, and humanity’s accelerating sense of dread. How did you get started with Art House Politics?
“OUR POLITICS ARE HIGH-BROW, NUANCED, SUBTLE, INSPIRED, ENLIGHTENED EVEN. TO US, POLITICS IS AN ARTFORM. OUR POLITICS BELONG HANGING IN MUSEUMS. OUR POLITICS ARE BEAUTIFUL, MISUNDERSTOOD IN THEIR TIME.”
I was in my final year of undergrad and I’d been fed up with politics for a few years. More than that, I was disenchanted by the school I was in. We’d have war criminals come and do speeches, and I was in a pretty pissed off mood. I didn’t have a platform to do anything serious so I started making funny videos that were pretty low-stakes so I didn’t have to care, but were kinda cathartic to just talk shit about things. The first thing I put on Facebook was a video of me playing Super Smash Bros talking shit about the Democratic Party so I guess it was a way for me to shout into the void. Why *is* politics so absurd? Things need to be absurd to justify a system that’s contradictory. I think liberal democracy is kind of being stretched to its limit. Everybody has realised that all the ideas that are holding
this up and everything we’re supposed to have faith in isn’t working and people are too scared to come up with an alternative. So you have absurd things happening and people will make absurd justifications and the problems of reactionary propagandising rightwing media companies are brought to their natural conclusion and things just keep getting more absurd and accelerating until they hit a breaking point. I think things have always been absurd - but I think the veil is being stretched thin right now. Are there any viable alternatives for generating impactful new ideas, or are we all just shouting into the void and making memes because the alternative is too depressing? I struggle between those two poles in terms of what I believe in. That’s maybe why every Art House Politics video is different. Some slide from a very modernist, pro-political
action angle, and others are more nihilistic in their affect. I think Means TV is a really good experiment - why else would I be a part of it but at the same time it’s limited in what it can do because our whole information system is controlled by six media conglomerates solely within the parameters of acceptable thought of for liberalism. I can’t pretend to know if anything is going to work, but I do think that even making memes just to entertain ourselves or speculate about alternatives is worthwhile. I don’t think it should replace political organising, but equally, it’s not too helpful to capitalism. Memes don’t produce anything, they’re just these low-stakes things that entertain us which nobody is buying or selling. Just doing stuff that’s unproductive probably can’t hurt, unless it’s replacing proper political organising. To watch Art House Politics, hit up Means TV or YouTube.
by Georgina Allan
The starting point of the film is the term ‘black You talk about the need ‘to mass, to materialise, visual frequency’. How would you describe your to become present’ and ‘the seeker finding Nadeem Din-Gabisi is a visual interpretation of that term? home within herself and within her people’. How do you associate the work with solitude? artist, filmmaker and poet. His Cynthia Silveira introduced the author Tina short film MASS was influenced Camdt and the term to me. I began to pull it The seeker is solitary and there is a solitude in by the term ‘black visual apart, to look at the idea of black, not just in finding peace within oneself even if you are frequency’ and imagines a young relationship to people of African descent but with groups of people. I think solitude is quite black as the totality of all colour rather than the necessary and important to reach balance and woman, ‘the seeker’, entering a absence of it. understanding. At the same time, one should futuristic sanctuary inhabited also balance that solitude with togetherness. With frequency, I started to look up radio waves, by two parental figures. She connectivity, transmission, to be frequent and The seeker is the only person that exists in this then wanders through a bleak to frequent a place. It’s also about how to create reality, the man and woman are representative cityscape, recognising radio a narrative that clearly represents all of those forces of the duality of masculine, feminine antennas and their frequencies. things, that lived and worked in harmony with principles that exist within nature. The film is one another. largely symbolic and the seeker represents us The film examines space, place and it’s that journey of finding sanctuary within and the signals that identify the Black Lives Matter protests have dominated oneself. I think I’ve always enjoyed writing in that contemporary black experience. this year, and on Instagram you referenced this way, where there’s clear representation of our movement, saying ‘let us not devalue the quiet lived reality but at the heart it’s a parable-esque We talked to Nadeem about struggle’ which seems to link to ideas in the tale that is almost like a guide to how I would like the film’s themes, the current film... to live.
climate and his future projects.
Still: MASS (dir. Nadeem dinGabisi, 2020)
There is a struggle representative in the film whereby the seeker is trying to find ways to sustain herself. I often think that the human issues we face are down to the fact there hasn’t been a quiet. If one says, we have to start valuing ourselves more, how does it look? It doesn’t look a specific way because of the different environments we live in. The way someone in a rainforest will be careful and kind to themselves is very different to how someone in central London will be, but it’s still necessary for both. The film [is about] how cities and capitalism operate and it’s only until the seeker uses the tools in a way that connects with her that she begins to find solutions and consistent growth.
Still: MASS (dir. Nadeem dinGabisi, 2020)
With your current project POOL, how would you define it and how is it progressing in lockdown? It’s a conversation starter about how mental health issues within Afro-Caribbean diasporic communities affect lives. It’s bigger than what I first thought because I’ve been thinking about migration, generational change of land and the emotions that come with that. It’s really about sustaining oneself in one’s community, being in an environment that often wants to drown you and you have to know how to swim to survive. Lockdown was so unexpected that the trajectory of what I wanted to do has shifted so I’m now focusing mainly on the sonics of the project. I’m doing that with Momoko, her artist name is MettaShiba. I’m also working on a project with Momoko called An Alien Called Harmony. MASS (2020) by Nadeem Din-Gabisi was commissioned for Frequencies, a curatorial project initiated by Cynthia Silveira.
“YOU CAN COUNT THE DAYS OF AN EMPIRE BY HOW QUICKLY ITS MONUMENTS FALL.”
Photo by Connor Newsom
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by Milton Goosby Catch feelings in the dawn, crying silently in my athome work space. Fabricating an illusion of stability while navigating corporate culture, codeswitching to get by. Walking the neighborhood, where masks and gloves huddle in the gutter, as America, sloughed off fear of a pandemic, runs headlong into the age old arms of Reckoning. We meet in the field, get familiar with old ways, this knowing, this desire to topple the altars that have stood guard over American history. Like a sword forged by ancient hands is this kinetic energy we are channeling. In an effort, we steer our destiny towards (r)evolution. During the height of the first wave of a global pandemic we shared resources, amplified voices and promoted community to keep one another aware and alive. Affirmations and pathways are being woven into the narrative. All our years of organizing become a powerful counterpoint to the brutal law and order policy of the White House. As normalization was pressed, the exertion of state control over our autonomy exploded. A series of public murders by state forces. Not to mention the vacuum of silence surrounding over 100,000 Covid-19 attributed deaths in the US. Despite grief, hunger, poverty, our youth chose to do battle against the state, while online communities provided support and logistics. Instantaneous communication, shaped by the organic desire to escape the bonds of economy, stabilizing a center through which our social currency is realized. A global spotlight now shines on the persistent anti-blackness that is interwoven with capitalism, state violence against black bodies via police/ social/health services). In doing so many black people have also had to isolate themselves further. This violence, in its many manifestations, police, healthcare, legislation, economy, apologies from peers (begging you to be patient) - has ignited a
global awakening which this country hasn’t seen since Reconstruction. The Minneapolis uprisings prove that agitation and persistent push back against the police state is immensely effective. Isolation and introspection on our personhood have allowed the world to see beyond grinding consumerism and blind nationalism. However, black fatigue and frustration is amplified right now. Many of us have stood at the gates for better or worse, through exile, suffering, displacement, knowing that we may never see white supremacy brought down. So we become further divided from what could be, forced to keep repeating that concessions won’t cover the debt we are owed. The burning is necessary, an extension of collective dissent, the heated voice of the people, rising. Self isolation has allowed me to reshape what it means to grieve for my brother, my cousin. Countless other black and brown, queer, trans, disabled and neuro-diverse people who’ve died or were murdered as a direct result of systemic racism. Relearning my own center, which is a difficult task on the tail end of almost dying, emergence delirium, not knowing whether the knot had finally been severed.... Reclaiming peace with my online community as we use our network for direct action, aid and solidarity. Working together to make sure that everyone left in the margins has a support system. I also walk the shadows, always familiar seeming, substantial. My ankles are wet from the swamp water, soles cracked, oozing as the light pushes me forward. You can count the days of an empire by how quickly its monuments fall. You can create songs about how the people are gathering, fed up, in the streets.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
by Sally Nolan
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Sean Reed among countless others have sparked protests against racial injustice around the globe. As this historic struggle plays out, poets from across the UK have been stirred into giving voice to their experiences. Sally Nolan explores their words of resistance, anger and solidarity.
If I wasn’t brown — Would life have been easier? Would my dreams have been closer? Would the streets have been safer? Would I have been judged on my merit And not on my brown skin? Would my son walk without fear? My pigment is skin deep but their hatred is deeper, If I wasn’t brown — Perhaps oxygen would have been cheaper. Perhaps death wouldn’t always have to be murder. If I wasn’t brown perhaps I would matter.
You leave us in destitute areas, poor housing, no jobs, lack of education and you beat Rodney up live on TV. I can’t breathe. I Can’t Breathe by John Devey, 39 “The overwhelming feeling of hurt, frustration and simply ‘not again’ came to mind, and that’s what I wanted to come across.” explained John, who lives in Preston. “I’ve realised that by using our voices, people listen. Now is no longer the time to stay silent.”
If I Wasn’t Brown by Tania Caan, 27 Tania is a 27-year-old South Asian single mum from London. Poetry has always been a way for her to express herself and heal through times of trouble. “Poetry is incredibly therapeutic for both the reader and the writer,” she says. “It penetrates the soul and heals. Black people have gone through an enormous amount of suffering and we as a society owe a great debt to them.” “My heart is perpetually shattered by the frequency of these heinous crimes against humanity. You don’t have to be black or even a person of color to support a movement that in its core is about something as simple as human rights.”
For the black boy who trained all his life to be an athlete, But never realised that he should have been training to outrun a bullet. For the black woman who will either mourn or be mourned, But cannot live independent of a graveyard. For my kin We will never rest We will never stop fighting ‘Til this war is won. Inherited Caskets and Wars by Zhay Valentine-Whensu, 19 Zhay is a freelance writer and content creator from Manchester.
We arrive in this foreign land you make us work. I’m now owned by someone and my name is not my own. I can’t breathe. Fast-forward, I’m in America the land of the free. I can’t breathe. We march from Selma to Montgomery. I can’t breathe. You kill Martin you kill Malcolm. I can’t breathe.
“I couldn’t go out to the protests cause I am high risk and I really wanted to do my part in inspiring those who were going out and protesting, so that’s why I wrote the poem. Poetry has always been the way I felt like I had any impact on my immediate environment.” “At the end of the day, we all need to do whatever we can to bring this age old giant down. So I used what I have always known, poetry.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER Photos by Connor Newsom
CULTURE CLICK Harlesden Town Garden, London | crisis.org.uk Until 31 December 2020 A photography-based project led by the homeless charity Crisis Skylight Brent, Culture Click is a beautiful outdoor exhibit of original photography by homeless and vulnerable residents in Brent. In an effort to ensure all local residents were able to participate in the 2020 Borough of Culture initiative, the photographers were given cameras and trained by Crisis to go out and document life on the streets. The exhibit is tucked away behind a COVID-19 testing site in a community-run garden - tickets are free but must be pre-booked.
PICTURED: The ‘Culture Click’ exhibit at Harlesden Town Garden
TOWNER ART GALLERY Eastbourne, Sussex | townereastbourne.org.uk Open year-round Towner is one of the best galleries in Sussex - and the whole UK after winning Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2020. It’s the perfect place whether you want to see great contemporary art for free, attend film screenings or community events. Give it a visit if only to see the modern exterior painted in vivid rainbow geometry by Lothar Götz (til 2021) which brightens up Eastbourne seafront. CULTIVATE LINCOLN Lincoln, Lincolnshire | cultivatelincoln.co.uk Open year-round A community wellness space, herbal apothecary, and hub for local arts and crafts, Cultivate is a fantastic hub bang in the middle of Lincoln city centre. They’re a community interest company engaged in fundraising, activism, and put on a ton of brilliant workshops and events.
OVERHEAR theoverhear.app As another lockdown sweeps over us just in time for winter, getting some fresh air and sunlight is becoming more important for our mental health than ever. If you struggle with making the hardest step, which is out the front door, download the Overheard app for iPhone or Android. It assigns audio recordings of poetry to physical locations on a map. Once you go to one of these locations, you can unlock the recording and listen to it at any time. A little reward for getting out of the house. GAMING IN THE WILD link.tree/gaminginthewild Journalist and author John Rogers sold all of his consoles to move to Reykjavik, Iceland over a decade ago. This year, he began gaming again, and he started a podcast to document his catchup play. Gaming In The Wild is a supremely chill ASMR gaming podcast focusing on the independent, artistic, and creative side of video games. Even if you’re not a gamer, John’s eye for virtual worlds is delicate, precise, and curious. Hit up our website where we share new episodes every week.
The photographs on this page have been produced by Members of Crisis Skylight Brent via a series of workshops at Harlesden Town Garden. Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. Crisis helps people directly out of homelessness and campaigns for the changes needed to solve it altogether. Please consider donating via crisis.org.uk
THE FEMINIST BOOKSHOP Brighton, Sussex | thefeministbookshop.com Open year-round The relatively new Feminist Bookshop in Brighton is now one of the only remaining independent bookshops in the city and in the small space is able to provide an array of feminist literature as well as food. They regularly hold events and workshops and have some great merch to carry your radical books in. DOPE MAGAZINE Dog Section Press | dogsection.org Quarterly Our friends over at Dog Section Press are a continual source of inspiration, not least for their brilliant publishing output. They’re currently making waves across the UK with DOPE Magazine, which is distributed free of charge to homeless vendors who keep all profits. Check out our review of their latest release, Great Anarchists, on our website. GLASGOW ZINE LIBRARY Glasgow, Scotland | glasgowzinelibrary.com Open year-round The wonderful Glasgow Zine Library is a community archive and zine library based in Glasgow which aims to support, supply and promote a wealth of zines - currently, more than 1000! The organisation also holds regular writing, film and community events and they are currently working on an online catalogue. Go and be inspired by the many different zines available in their library in Govanhill as well as look at their lovely merch on their online shop.
THE MEDIA FUND | themediafund.org The Media Fund is a cooperative built with one key mission: to create a network of independent media outlets to fight back against the corporate and billionaire-dominated media landscape in the UK. Donations go directly to their accredited media partners and to support the organisation’s mission of becoming an effective lobbying group for the independent media. Outlets include Politics Theory Other, Alt Africa, Bristol Radical Film Festival, New Socialist, New Internationalist, STRIKE! Magazine, and many more. CINEMA FOR ALL | cinemaforall.org.uk Cinema for All is a national organisation which supports community-led cinema across the UK. Members receive a wealth of information, equipment hire, and all-round support for setting up film screenings or community cinemas. The organisation is supported by the BFI, and ICO and also has a great podcast where colleagues where Jaq and Abi talk new releases, grassroots cinema communities and programming. THE WHITE PUBE | thewhitepube.co.uk We’re perpetually in awe of the The White Pube, the collaborative platform by Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad. They’ve built an incredible following on the back of a fantastic website featuring regular resident artists as well as invaluable resources for artists - chief among them being their grant application guide and library. They’re challenging the major art institutions, getting stuck-in with protests and pickets, and tackling the elite art world head-on.
30 LAST WORDS
by HANS The reigning Drag King of Iceland, HANS (@unofficialhans) is a multi-disciplinary drag artist, performer, poet, and musician that explores the ugly, the disgusting, the angry, and the powerful in the new millennium.
HANS (b. 2017) is currently working on art which explores YouTube-specific genre work like mukbangs, role-play ASMR and Fanon conspiracy theories.
We all pretend that there are no empirical requirements to identifying as an artist. That’s GAT3K33P1NG, we tell ourselves, and as woke 2020 snowflakes (can we reclaim that word?) we don’t subscribe to any such pretension. But - quietly, secretly, and with extreme selfsatisfaction - all of us do judge those dreamy hopeless talkers at afterparties who tell you enthusiastically that they are up-and-coming musicians despite having made no music. They’re not, we tell ourselves as we nod along and pretend to act impressed, “musicians.” We know (and they do too, probs) that they haven’t done the work and thus don’t deserve the title of “artist”—just “consumers-who-want-to-beconsumed.” So if I accept said criterium as I always have,
can I, HANS—the current reigning Drag King of Iceland—even call myself a “drag performer” anymore? Since March, I’ve gotten into full drag maybe three times. For reference, in 2019, I averaged two times a week—a whopping 104 instances of HANS. But here I am, in 2020, with but a collection of wigs that never get worn and eyebrows that are slowly regrowing. Without a medium, can I really say I’m an artist? Drag, fundamentally, requires a consumer. At its basis, it demands an audience, and traditionally, an in-person one. You get in front of people, do some shit, serve the crowd a fantasy, and they hopefully react with applause and money. You feel good, because you, as a drag performer, want validation but you’re so insecure that you couldn’t possibly imagine getting such attention without the accoutrements. Perhaps that’s not fair, but drag, as my dear friend Gógó Starr put it, is, “broken art for broken people.” And trust me, no one has more drive than people who feel they constantly need to prove themselves. Drag performers are jack-ofall-trades. We need to learn make-up, wigmaking, crafting, styling, sewing, dancing, choreographing, singing, hosting, comedy, music editing, art direction, and general spectacle-making, and we need to know all of this well. Most of us dedicate our lives to this. Now it means nothing. We are the last of an obsolete art form. So my friend, we have arrived at the precipice: Can drag be done alone? Without documentation? With reciprocation?
Photos by Oddný Svava Steinarsdóttir & HANS
And if so—what would that even look like? Sitting alone in your room with glued-down eyebrows and white pomade, lip syncing along to a party banger. Thinking about whether David died on Celebrity Brother UK while trying to find enough room to do a split? That’s so fucking weird. Imagine if you had an aneurysm
and that’s how the ambulance found you. Eeck. So no, I don’t think it can. As our money dries up along with the clown white, a worldwide community of big-hearted freaks now must re-form their art in a way that the majority really have no interest in. Drag, as we know it, is gone, but our desire to inhabit our characters has not. HANS cannot die. I need them. What are the practical solutions? Online shows are an idea, although making a good drag video is almost prohibitively time-consuming. I suppose you could go the Influencer route and try to get a lot of teenage-girl followers on Instagram to admire your Facetune. YouTube is another option if you’re particularly entertaining or good at make-up. Maybe TikTok? Is that banned yet? I spent February reworking my aesthetic for #Hans2020. I imagined the new version to be a friendless mid-2000s LiveJournal-addict mixed with a bad-but-ambitious SoundCloud rapper who low key jams out to ICP on their black iPod nano while sexting girls they’ll never meet. But I don’t want social media to be the only place I exist. It’s not what I entered this medium to do. None of us did and I fucking hate it. If I wanted to be an Influencer, I would have pursued that. I know that people are dying and I’m complaining that I can’t dance onstage, but I don’t see a future where HANS will exist in the same capacity they did and that was my whole artistic life. That was what kept me whole. What tf do I do now? So I suppose all I can ask you to do is please follow my Instagram account @unofficialhans and sub to my YouTube channel and hit the bell button for notifications. Maybe if you’re lucky, you can catch me on live masturbating to Rupaul. Don’t worry, I’ll wear a mask.
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Three years in the making, SOLITUDE is our first print issue. There's 32 pages jam-packed with exclusive art tutorials, poetry, interviews,...
Published on Nov 27, 2020
Three years in the making, SOLITUDE is our first print issue. There's 32 pages jam-packed with exclusive art tutorials, poetry, interviews,...