Raymond Pettibon Appreciates Your Black Flag Tributes

When work takes on a life of its own.

Raymond Pettibon and Marcel Dzama: “Pussy gonna change the world,” Illegitimate President, David Zwirner.

This has been a hot, fiery season.

Feel like you’re holding your breath? I’d go into poetics, but I think Alexandria Symonds of the Times put it best:

“2020 really feels like, on the one hand, you're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop but on the other hand, you know the room you're in is already filled with shoes, each of which you previously thought was ‘the other shoe,’ and you're buried up to your neck in shoes.”

Right now, we are surrounded by an embarrassment of shoes.

So, I’ll spare the cliched “low hum of summer’s anxiety giving way to the busy of fall” spiel and simply say that if you’re feeling off-kilter, or trying to find your footing, you’re not alone.

I’d like to take a humble moment to thank you for continuing to support Slow Ghost as it travels to your inbox each month. And to new readers, your eyeballs mean the world.


A Quiet Moment with Raymond Pettibon

image © Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

Raymond Pettibon is perhaps the only living artist whose work has appeared both in the Getty and tattooed on thousands of hardcore music fans. Rising to prominence in the early 1980s SoCa punk scene for his black-and-white zines, album art and ephemera for SST Records, including the now-iconic Black Flag bars logo, he later gained fine art acclaim for his works-on-paper drawing from American pop-culture, philosophy, politics, and the anxieties of the modern era. From his New York studio, Pettibon continues to build worlds that are colorful, energizing, and humorously sardonic. He also sketches the most fantastical, undulating waves—giving us life during quaran-times.

How are you “doing”? How is life right now?

Fair to middling. New York is pretty shut down for the most part. I haven’t really left the place for any extent for the last…it’s been a number of months now. I’ve been trying to do work when I can and it’s not a huge difference to me, as much as it is to many people, I suppose. The kind of art I make is— it’s almost a self-quarantine anyway, in a sense. 

So the world is catching up to your process?

I don’t know about that (laughs). If it’s voluntary, fine, but if it’s not, that’s unfortunate. In September, I have a show at the Regen Projects, that’s the main one I’m working on. 

You recently did a skate and surf collaboration. Is this a different process than your gallery work?

Yeah, there isn’t really much separation when it comes down to it, as far as the work itself.

What are you most excited about right now?

That’s hard to answer, because I don’t get overly excited about anything nowadays, I guess. That’s more of an inner condition probably. Or a personality. A “sensibility.”

What’s your process like when you go into the studio? 

Well, there’s not so much a separation between the studio and the rest of my life and day. I can be anywhere when I’m writing. But probably my most productive times are done in transit, whether it’s on the train, or car or plane.

So just bringing a pad and pen?

Yeah, it’s something to do in that situation anyway. It’s good to have something to do.

Given that so much of your work is political, and we’re in this insane political moment, does the news influence your studio practice?

Not really. I’ve done a few shows that are more political, pointedly, but I don’t shy away from politics any more than I do anything else. So, the work is inclusive of anything, potentially, and I don’t know — things are so crazy that, if anything, it leaves me numb. And, what can we say, really? Or write? Or draw?

image © Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

So much of your work is about the exhilaration of the surf and these larger-than-life Pacific waves. Do you miss the West Coast?

I’m overlooking the East River and Brooklyn Bridge here. It is a different experience. I’ve spent most of my life near the beach, in one way or another, and...I do miss it. It’s been a while though. I’ve been here, what, 10 years or more? 

I think that makes you a New Yorker? Do you think you might ever move back?

It wasn’t my choice in the first place, and whether I go back or not— it’s contingent on factors I don’t have much control over. But New York has its good points.

I took a road trip recently and noticed two companies had, well, counterfeited? Paid homage? To your work. Primarily your earlier work. What’s it like to come across these tributes in the wild?

Well, I want to know about that. I mean, I don’t keep up with that. You mean to bootleg something? To counterfeit and put it up as my work? Or to do a parody of it? Like that Sonic Youth album cover where there’s a plethora of parodies of it? Which, I’m all for! But I don’t fully sign on work, that’s not my role. I wouldn’t want it to be. 

One was for a bike shop in Williamsburg and the other was for a hardcore band. I can’t imagine how surreal it must be to have created something that now has a life of its own?

Yeah, that doesn’t bother me at all. That’s not something I would look askance at. For one thing, I never got a cent from SST or Black Flag, not one cent. So, to worry about the economics of that doesn’t make any sense. And it did assume a life of its own — from tattoos and whatever. It’s fine with me. I’ve never had any problem with any of that. I wouldn’t say [I see it] day to day, but no, it’s not an issue with me. 

Do you think your early work still fuels you?

I don’t see it as removed from what I do now. There’s no cut-off point. It was all done the same way. It wasn’t for commercial reasons. They were drawings. And, of course, this evolved, but it’s evolutionary. Where do you draw the line on the early work and the later work? I don’t know if that’s possible, really. But then, I’ve been doing it for so long. And I’ve probably purposefully stayed away from having an individual style. But, of course, that’s unavoidable, whether you want it or not. But I don’t like to do the same thing over and over. 

It was always fine arts. If you’re talking about the flyers and the covers, it wasn’t that punks were my audience. They weren’t. This was, how many years later? 40 years later? There’s probably more interest in the 70s and 80s punk now by some much younger people then there’s ever been. For whatever reason. But at the time that wasn’t the case.  

Left: Raymond Pettibon, No title (Homo Americanus), 2015. Courtesy: The artist and David Zwirner, Berlin. Right: Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Let's give a . . .), 2006. Courtesy: Hauser & Wirth

You started out in economics. Did that highly-ordered thinking inspire your style?

I got my degree in economics, but by that time I was involved in other things. But it does influence my work, sometimes. There’s an economic way of thinking, you can put it that way. But it’s neither a science nor a religion. 

Do you ever find yourself going back to it?

I was completely estranged from it for a while. But when I was at the Getty Institute for a fellowship, I was surrounded by scholars, conservators, critics, art historians — and then they had one economist from Duke and me. They knew that I had somewhat of an economics background at some point, in some way. So, that was the first time I went back to it. The fellowship. And that was a crash course. Since then, I do keep up with it, somewhat. For whatever reasons. Not for any fortunate or practical reasons, just out of curiosity. My background as it affects my work practices is more from literature though. Fiction, for the most part, poetry, letters.

Installation view of Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon’s Let Us Compare Mythologies at David Zwirner London

So it wasn’t such a direct inspiration.

I work more from between the lines. It can come from many different sources. Sometimes it’s borrowed or rewritten as I read it. Obvious notes and writings that I’m sure I’ll never live long enough to exhaust. But for the last couple of years or so I haven’t been working so much from my notes. It’s been on the spot. 

If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your process?

I have no problem with it. I’m for transparency if anyone’s interested, but probably not, on my working method. I mean, I could explain in detail. I don’t know if anyone would mind that, but I don’t know if there’s any reason for that. It’s like a magician sharing his secrets. There’s a pro and con to that. I’m not against revealing anything. But to who

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Green Picasso), 2019. David Zwirner

When you pick up a pen, do you have any idea where it’s going to go?

It depends. Sometimes, there’s a number of motifs that come up, pop up, every now and then. Sometimes I do the drawing first, sometimes I have an idea, or notes, and it starts there. I like to keep the tension between both. I’ve been at this a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block on the visual part of it.

Do you have anything planned for the near future?

Mid-September for the L.A. show at Regen Projects, but beyond that, I don’t even know my schedule. I don’t like working with deadlines, but sometimes it’s necessary. But I haven’t been working as much as I usually do in the last couple of years.

Thanks for chatting with us during this bizarre time.

I hope this is useful to anyone. In a way, I’m always surprised anyone has any interest in my work, and I truly appreciate it when they do. I’m not working in a vacuum. I am grateful to have any audience at all.

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]

Installation view; Frenchette, David Zwirner, Paris, 2019.


Raymond Pettibon
Pacific Ocean Pop
September 12 – October 31, 2020
Regen Projects


Read more: When 50 cent sampled the queen of Soviet pop. How to make mutual aid work sustainable. Meet the Black design collective reimagining cities. Kilo Kish on finding freedom in experimentation. A road tripper’s guide to artists’ homes across the U.S.A.

Support: Super Fund for Beirut, a multi-year fundraising plan in support of grassroots and independent NGOs on the ground in Beirut. Jacob Blake's GoFundMe. The Milwaukee Freedom Fund. Fund Enough of Trump: a campaign by Carrie Mae Weems, Ed Ruscha, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Christine Sun Kim (among others) in collaboration with People for the American Way.

Check out: MoMA Design Store’s righteous Design Innovations for Women pop-up. Miya Ando’s “Xanax for the Eyes, Zen for the Soul.” Tear through Orange Crush: The Journal of Art & Wrestling at Printed Matter. Draw your humiliation in comics with Gina Wynbrandt. Artists Band Together, featuring Hank Willis Thomas, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Barbara Kruger (among others) in partnership with eBay. The Asia Society Triennial x Mina Cheon’s new digital initiative: Eat Chocopie Together, which invites anyone, anywhere, to “extend love and peace by sharing virtual Chocopie.”

Islands in the Stream: 92nd Street Y’s 10-part series of never-before-released interviews with American fashion icons. Jenny Hval at National Sawdust. Oliver Sachs: His Own Life at Film Forum.


Slow Ghost is a newsletter covering the next wave in culture, brought to you by writer Laura FeinsteinSlow Ghost logo by Tyler Lafreniere.

The Subversive, Transfixing World of Jelly Art

More than just jiggle.

Welcome back to Slow Ghost. If you support DIY arts and culture journalism I hope you’ll consider spreading the word.

Share Slow Ghost


Since we last talked, I wrote about the bold graphics and hidden stories behind the golden age of Lebanese cinema; explored the elder design revolution for Core77; was interviewed by Stet Magazine on my attempt to be a quar bike warrior; and helped a new batch of creators launch on Kickstarter. Have a great idea? HMU lfeinstein@kickstarter.com.



There’s Always Room for (a) Jell-o (Revolution)

@hebe_konditori for @lazyoaf  Photography: @stephenson_luke props styling: @laurenlalaw

It wiggles, it wobbles, and it was likely a significant part of your childhood.

“Jelly has been a feature of our diet for the last 600 years,” explained Radha Burgess, the London-based creator of @QuiverJelly, over Instagram. The picture-sharing mega platform has recently become a hub for a new generation of artists experimenting with jelly, the edible medium used to explore gender and identity in a post-digital world. “The Stuarts made chequerboard type jellies with gold leaf and blancmange squares, while Regency jellies were the centerpieces of elaborate dining tables,” Burgess noted, contextualizing the jiggly goods in a rich tradition of food as joyful self- expression.

@quiverjelly

In the 19th century, the industrialization of England empowered the creation of affordable ceramic molds for middle-class households, giving birth to the democratization of jelly-making. In Victorian-era America, homemakers ushered in a translucent renaissance. But it was with Jell-O, first packaged in 1897, that jelly went mainstream, becoming synonymous with female domesticity.

“Starting in the 1920s, Jell-O was advertised to women as an affordable diet trick; in the 1950s, as a dinner-party dessert; in the 1970s, as a quick treat for independent women who were too busy to cook,” wrote Emma Orlow in The New York Times. Today, queer and female artists have reclaimed the Jello-O mold: turning it into a subversive and accessible art form and empowering it to blossom (literally) online. Show Me Your Aspics, a 40K strong group of jelly art lovers, posts daily everything from floral molds to jiggle-inspired ASMR videos.

@BadTaste.Biz, shot by @henry_hargreaves_photo


“I have always loved how confrontational food is,” explained artist Jen Monroe, the creator of @BadTaste.Biz. “No other art form involves as much physical interaction between the art and the consumer.” Food, she noted, is a universal language. It's utilitarian. But it can also be sculptural, fetishistic, medicinal, political, ritualistic.

Monroe, whose commercial work includes crafting marzipan and rock candy geodes for Opening Ceremony and pickled sakura raindrop cakes for Carolina Herrera’s 2019 Fashion Week celebration, explained that jelly is a great equalizer. “A lot of us had strong aesthetic connections with it during childhood, which resurfaced later as we started turning our attention towards food as a medium,” she said, noting that gelatin is not only beautiful, it’s rife with aesthetic possibilities.

Aquarium jelly, by Badtaste.biz and @beepybella, shot by @henry_hargreaves_photo

“People talk about using gelatin as a kind of reclamation,” she asserted, referencing the medium’s strong associations with oppressive, heterosexual domesticity. When used by artists in work with more queer, feminist or deliberately pornographic contexts, it becomes a way of subverting gelatin's fraught history.

@lera_and_the_cakes

The trend goes way beyond the fine art world. Search the hashtag #JellyArt on Instagram, and you’ll fall down a sugary, surreal rabbit hole. In Eastern Europe, vacation and tropical-island themed works defy gravity and capture the imagination. In parts of Southeast Asia, creating elaborate, Noah’s Ark-esque tableaus suspended in gelatin promotes a unique form of one-upmanship. These cakes are pure, uncut escapism. They harken to a simpler, lighter, and more delicious time—while also allow us to be transported into strange and often luminous worlds. They are both retro, and oddly hyper-futuristic.

@aspic_studio

“Since the beginning, we've been attracted to trans-lucid, shiny things and pale pink color,” said Nidia Juarez and Ananda Cordero of Spain’s @aspic_studio, explaining that jelly art has offered her and her partner creative freedom in their day jobs in art direction and graphic design. At the time of @aspic_studio’s creation, Nidia was working with gel, gems, crystal and quartz, while Ananda was developing a jewelry brand with epoxy resin. “So, we both decided to try something that you could eat and still have the transparent feature.”

Jelly mooncakes for the new lunar year.


Lexi Park, aka @eatnunchi, draws on her experiences in the fashion world, the day-glow color palette of her California surroundings, and her Asian heritage to create surrealist, jelly masterpieces. “I had just turned 30 and had been questioning whether or not I wanted to keep doing what I was doing,” said Park, regarding @eatnunchi. “It felt like a quarter-life crisis. I've always been a very visual person and loved to cook and wanted to put those things together. To take what I've learned in fashion, and apply that to food. So I just started playing around.”

She is also inspired by Los Angeles’ queer dance night scene and global food markets. “I'll go through every aisle of every market to see if anything catches my eye,” said Park. Recently, she created a fantastical jelly fruit cake with coconut lychee spheres and citrus caviar for a friend’s baby shower, aesthetically recalling traditional Chinese food art—the kind now celebrated on Instagram accounts like @chinese_plating.

Park, like many other socially-conscious jelly art creators, has moved away from traditional gelatin, which uses animal cells, in favor of an alternative made from agar agar extracted from seaweed and red algae.

One of the medium’s most influential artists, Vancouver-based sculptor Sharona Franklin, aka @paid.technologies, has embraced gelatin’s primal origins. A disability rights activist, Franklin incorporates medicinal herbs, 70s erotica aesthetics, and an almost Kate Bush-level of feminine yearning into her work, using gelatin as a rebuff to “one-size-fits-all wellness culture” and highlighting the healing power of stem cell-derived medication. Franklin also writes about bioethics and promotes disability awareness and personal connection through multiple Instagram accounts. “When I started making art I wanted to show the more human aspects of living, and less this facade of design or aesthetics,” Franklin has said of her work. “I really wanted to start talking about disability, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals—a lot of my gelatin work is a shrine to cellular use of animals.”

These are all heady concepts for a medium once relegated to an after-dinner treat but point to the limitless possibilities of creating with jelly. The work is also hella fun. Regardless of how you may feel, taste-wise, about the wiggly foodstuff, it seems—at least in the design world—there really is always room for Jell-O.


Read on: The many second lives of seaweed. The scent of our lives. Rockwell Group reimagines the restaurant. Grabbing Nick Cave’s “cave things” wallpaper.


Slow Ghost is a newsletter covering the next wave in culture, brought to you by writer and producer Laura FeinsteinSlow Ghost logo by Tyler Lafreniere.

Tabitha Soren's Second Act

On building something new and changing how you engage with the world.

SURFACE TENSION, Orth Contemporary


A protester draped in the American flag, a cresting red wave, a pregnant woman chased by an unseen force — these are the subjects of Tabitha Soren’s work, which radiate urgency, anxiety and intense empathy.

Long before her numerous solo shows, works on collection at The Getty and the Harvard Art Museums, and selects in California Sunday Magazine, Soren held the world’s attention in a different way. As a journalist at MTV in the 90s, her accessible interview style, engaging everyone from Axl Rose to Bill Clinton, defined MTV’s golden era and gave rise to the youth-driven media of today. She is perhaps the only journalist with both a Peabody Award and a cameo in a Beastie Boys video — all before 30. Now, having evolved as both a storyteller and a creator, she’s turned her critical lens onto the fine art world.

Soren’s mixed media and abstract work, intimate and vivid, recall the grit and glamour of Marilyn Minter. At the same time, her ability to capture the loneliness of an existence in front of the camera, and the swirl of life as it happens around us, belong in the vein of Alex Prager. In her recent collection, Surface Tension, she highlights the messiness and unpredictability of our era through smudged and painted photographs, shooting iPad screens under a raking light to reveal the human trail we leave behind, her fingerprints transforming and transposing reality.


“I might as well do what I want”

PANIC BEACH, Equinom Gallery

What is new with your work?

I have a solo show opening whenever Mills College reopens as part of the Feminist Arts Coalition. Surface Tension is about the isolation of the virtual world and has always had a very large section about resistance, police brutality and politics of equality. It would seem that the work has only become more relevant during this American moment. All schedules are up in the air – same goes for the Surface Tension book and a couple of other book projects I’ve been working on. For me, it’s hard to stay focused without firm deadlines. I'm looking on Instagram, seeing the artists who are showing images of themselves making art during "studio time" — and thinking those people must not have kids.

Instagram is all a lie. I find, now, people can only sustain maybe 10-15 minutes of concentration at a time.

It makes me feel guilty! It's all I can do to post some throwback picture. I have nothing new. I think journalists are a bit different. News gives you a narrow focus that allows you to motor ahead, as with any deadline. But this is a time when you learn who your real community is. Everyone is figuring those things out. 

SURFACE TENSION, Orth Contemporary

You come from a high-profile, news-driven background. Was the art world an adjustment? 

It mostly just puzzles people. My TV agent, only half- jokingly, says, "you're the most downwardly mobile client I have! Why are you doing this to me?" She’s given up on luring me back, I think. Other people, mostly Americans, message me over Instagram, and will often say, "why in the world would you ever give up being on TV?" It feels like they are questioning my American identity. I guess we're supposed to want to be making our mark on the world in this specific way, and fame is "the point." But I was pretty uncomfortable with that kind of spotlight on me. It wasn’t a good fit. There is a downside to being in the public eye. Look at all these reality TV stars. No good comes of that life. At all. And yet, there's still a line out the door to be on these shows. It's very perplexing to me.

RUNNING, Equinom

What was the transition like from in front to behind the camera?

I took pictures during my first career out of habit. As a child, I was an avid recorder of my environment, taking snapshots with my pocket-sized Kodak Ektralite 10. My dad was in the air force and my family moved frequently around the USA, Germany and the Philippines. Besides my immediate family, every person in my life changed every three years. I learned over time that if I took pictures of my friends, I could take them with me. None of the pictures are deliberately artistic….archival images of the blue shag rug in my bedroom or my pink canopy bed. I was always doing this but didn't have grander artistic ambitions. I did not grow up going to museums. I did not know other artists. I didn't take drawing classes. In fact, I'm just learning how to paint now, and it's terribly evident. But what I've found is that despite this, I have something to say — and it's humbling to have your hands, and not your head, in control. In my first career, I started finding myself in situations where other people were taking pictures of me doing my job, at the Women's March with Gloria Steinem, or in the Oval Office, and eventually I thought, "it might be more fun if I was taking the pictures?" 

One of the highlights of my 15 mins was spending a day with the legendary Mary Ellen Mark shooting me for US Magazine

Was your career switch a moment of epiphany or small steps?

It was, in many ways, deciding to change the way that I was communicating with the world. There wasn't much nuance left in television. The more successful I got, the shorter the pieces became — and the wider the audience. But there was less room for any grey area. It had to be "who, what, when, where, why." The natural answer to this was documentaries. So, I spent time as a Knight Fellow at Stanford. At MTV, the shows I did had 80 million viewers for something as short as 22 minutes. The more time I spent with the filmmakers at Stanford, or other local filmmakers, I realized much of their time is running around ginning up funds, and then if they're lucky, they get to show it to a film festival audience. I felt that if I were going to do something smaller and more nuanced for a select audience, I'd rather have it be pure art. Instead of doing 30 frames a second, I decided to do one at a time — and that's why I started with photography. 

RUNNING, Equinom.

How did it feel to try a new medium after established success?

I admire artists like Hank Willis Thomas and others who can float between mediums, and nobody wags their finger at them and says, "stay in your lane." It requires a lot of risk-taking. I have mainly focused on photography, but the work that I'm interested in making now is outside those realms too. It's a way to keep me interested and not do the same thing over and over again, even though it's a much slower way to have a career. I'm at a weird age. The art world is not as excited about middle-aged women as those at the very end of their life span or a young MFA. So, I might as well do what I want.

Does this work feel more rewarding to you?

It does feel more internally rewarding. I think there's certain temperaments that are more designed to be in the public eye. I am much more comfortable — well, comfortable is not the right word, art doesn't make me feel comfortable — I don't think I was built to be in front of the camera and have people form opinions about me when they've never met me. I was very comfortable doing work when I was a local reporter in Vermont and worked at Long Island News 12 and NBC, where the story was not me doing the story. The story was just the news itself. But when people were interested in my work with MTV, the focus became on me personally. And that was not expected or pleasant. 

Really!

There were certainly fun advantages to being a young, single woman in my 20s — my social life was a lot of fun — but there is a downside that inevitably comes with that minuscule amount of fame. When you start looking at yourself like a fly on the wall? That's just a dead zone. And I certainly can't make art if I'm thinking about what the audience thinks. So I've come to realize that expressing what I have to say and not worrying about a giant audience is something I enjoy much more. It was nice to have the immediate feedback and response, mostly on balance positive, to what I was doing. That's fortifying for anybody! 

RUNNING, Equinom.

I imagine it was hard to be under the spotlight that intensely.

I wouldn't say I miss it. But I certainly appreciate it when people show up to my artist talks or a museum acquires my work. I'm not immune to that sort of outside validation. But it's a whole different ball game than having people point at you in a cafe and chase you down a street. I had a stalker. I had the equivalent of trolls. There's no good that comes of that attention. It's hard to talk about because in no way was it anything like what Madonna or U2 or Monica Lewinsky dealt with. It was small, but it was unsettling enough. I tried to concentrate on the perks of my job since I was in my 20s. When I wanted to expand my life to include a husband and children, or just…deliberate personal happiness, I needed to do was change gears. I was looking for a quieter, more nuanced life. Starting over in a different field has been a struggle but it’s been worth the freedom to have my work be emotional, political and allow more grey area than I was able to within the objective world of journalism. 

What was the college experience like after so much fame?

When I went to Stanford as a Knight Fellow, we were supposed to learn to be better and more important journalists. Everyone else was having lunch with Condi Rice and networking their way to better positions at their media outlet, and I was just hanging out in the darkroom. I was in there so often they gave me my own key. I spent all my time with Professors like Art Historian Alex Nemerov and Feminist Studies Professor Diane Middlebrook. I felt so lucky to be in their graduate seminars. I got a chance to fall in love with something new. I feel blessed by that experience.

It gave you insight into how to be thoughtful and what makes a creative life fulfilling. 

That’s right. At the time, I felt like Northern California was better at a multi-dimensional idea of happiness. The people I got to know here first were not limiting themselves to only a good career, or to only making lots of money. That was one of the key factors for me staying in California. I chose Berkeley because it seemed intellectually rigorous. People were trying to find and define what made them personally happy, and it was a wide array of different answers, whereas I felt in L.A. it was how famous you were, or how many degrees of fame from the most famous person in the town, that was success. In New York, it felt all about money. But I was in the position of having made money, never having had time to spend it because I was always working.

Probably because of my military background, my work ethic was already super-developed. When I was first working at MTV, I was one of the few people who knew the names of the Viacom night security guards, because I was always editing and rewriting after hours. I didn't have to be there, nobody was making me be there, but I wanted it to be the best thing it could be. I’ve never been easy to please.

What is the best part of your life now?

One of the best things is having my studio at the end of my driveway, so if I can't sleep, I can come here at 2 AM. I can be very productive in the middle of the night. Even when I was an intern at CNN, I was never checking the clock. I just wanted to learn as much as I possibly could. 

SURFACE TENSION, Orth Contemporary

What inspires your work?

I'm interested in how technology is distilling the culture and what effect it is having on us. But sometimes it comes from a very humble place that is more quotidian. I'm supposed to say it comes from a place like a fucked-up childhood, but often my work stems from an argument with my kids or the stranger I met at the gym. I don't understand why your actual life is not supposed to influence your work. That attitude in the art world seems very gendered. For me, creativity comes from the difficult twists and turns of everyday living. I don’t wait for a muse. Sometimes it's just life as it's happening in front of me and it can be very emotional. There are other influences, yes: the panic attacks I had after my third child, or my sister dying of anorexia. Those are the things that influence the anxiety and pain and consistently dark, anxious part of my work. But sometimes it's just life going on around you, and trying your best to document and interpret it. It's all you can do.

SURFACE TENSION, Orth Contemporary

Support:
The Anti-Racism Photography Fundraiser.
Mrs. and Fire Island Artist Residency’s sponsorship of thirteen new, unique works by Damien Davis. Proceeds go to a selection of thirteen organizations committed to the amplification of Black voices within art, design, culture and social justice.

Read On:
The New Republic asks, “What Was the Dive Bar?” Jia Tolentino’s discipline of hope.
On making anti-capitalist art. Why LinkinPark is big in China. Should we love or loathe the “15 Minute City.” The zines that launched late Soviet feminist. A visual history of tarot.

See:
PS1’s Summer School is in session. Peruse SVA’s COVID Collection.
This “nanotech” chocolate looks like a rainbow keyboard. Cindy Sherman gets a solo show. A literal feast for the eyes.

Islands in the Stream:
Antigone in Ferguson: A performance of Sophocles’ Antigone conceived of in the wake of Michael Brown, Jr.’s death in 2014, through a collaboration between Theater of War Productions and community members from Ferguson, MO.
The best online photography classes. A virtual preview of CHANGE, the first-ever “permanent ship-based polar art exhibition” aboard the National Geographic Endurance.
Learn stop motion animation. Clockshop x Hammer Museum’s livestream of Carmen Argote’s Last Light: a meditation on walking and memory in Los Angeles. 


Slow Ghost is a weekly newsletter covering the next wave in culture, brought to you by writer and producer Laura Feinstein. She is also the Design & Tech Editor at Kickstarter. Slow Ghost logo by Tyler Lafreniere.

Mood Board: Socially Distanced Summer

The essence of July 2020.

Roe Ethridge, Oslo Grace at Willets Point, 2019 © Roe Ethridge (Gagosian Quarterly)

July 2020 has a melancholy, wistful feeling. A sense of not knowing where to look or what to feel next.

Summer travel now means a modified form of sheltering in place. Maybe a regional road trip. A nice outdoor pool. If you’re lucky, an escape into the mountains for the day.

Over the last few months, without thinking, I’ve been collecting images that remind me of adventure in this particular, fraught moment. In a former life as a travel editor, I spent hours looking at pixelated visions of beautiful, far-flung places, selecting images that would make the reader click and stay on the page. These digital mirages could make you forget it was 95 degrees outside, that the F train had stalled again, and that you are on the 28th+ floor of a corporate tower and not a beach on Mallorca. Influencers know this voyeuristic feeling is the key to success: make them see a tiny peek into a different world. Make them think that this unbothered life is possible. But the “aspirational” feels trite and inconsequential when it’s hard enough to get fresh groceries.

So what do travel and adventure mean in 2020? It’s something between a Zoom chat, a long stretch of highway, and a cool body of water. It’s feeling grateful for togetherness, just six feet apart.

Diana @MARKOSIAN for National Geographic.
Chrysanne Stathacos, True Patriot Love, 2011, Installation, flowers, maquettes of marine plywood.
“Fireworks explode from the top of the Empire State Building on July 4th, 2020.” EVAN AGOSTINI/ INVISION/ AP/ SHUTTERSTOCK
@compilerzone from the 5th Ural Industrial Biennale in Yekaterinburg
The Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet in Le Brassus, Switzerland.
J Balvin at home in Colombia.
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Let me say,), 2012. Ink and gouache on paper, 45 x 93 inches. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
Photo: Lowrider Builder and Child by Liz Cohen, 2012, chromogenic print, 50 x 60 inches. Via Creative Capital.
Rachel Maclean, Feed Me, 2015. 1-hour digital video. © Rachel Maclean.
Tavares Strachan, You Belong Here (Blue #1), 2019. Compound Commission. Photo Credit: Laure Joilet

Read on: The delightful asides and existential visions of Walter Scott’s Wendy, Master of Art. Capturing the queer experience in China on film. The unexpected Divine X Diane Arbus connection. BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group’s The Plus brings mass sustainability to the Norwegian forest. The work of Jiha Moon and Stephanie H. Shih is “both aesthetic and political, a commentary on assimilation as a process in which one’s national origin is not forgotten or erased.” LA gets its first fruit share. Meet me at the “I do” drive-through. “Who even knows what is real anymore?

See: The friendly robots of immersive art and entertainment complex AREA15. The Five Senses Festival’s safari experience. Designer Megan Tagliaferri’s Compound, a new space for art and wellness. ARTECHOUSE x United Nations Foundation’s Voice Our Future extended reality experience inspired by the UN75 initiative. Dig into "Trash dolls" by Aurel Schmidt. The DS & Durga FUME TRUCK, serving up “ice-cold perfumes” in NYC from July 9- end of September (locations TBA).

Support: The Black School, an experimental art school teaching Black/PoC students and allies to become agents of change through workshops and public art projects. Harvard GDS students’ design yard sale for racial justice.

Islands in the Stream: Ai Weiwei’s ‘Yours Truly.’ The Istanbul Biennale’s film selection. Welcoming the Unwelcome. A 10-year time-lapse of the sun, care of NASA. Palestinian protest radio. The Shed’s “Radical joy and defiance on a digital dance floor.”


Marcel Dzama Moving on, 2020 © Marcel Dzama Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. Blue Moon of Morocco.

Slow Ghost is a weekly newsletter covering the next wave in culture, brought to you by writer, editor, and producer Laura FeinsteinSlow Ghost logo by Tyler Lafreniere.


There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

Luzinterruptus takes it to the streets.

Hi everyone, and apologies for the break. I wanted to take a moment to allow for other voices.

Support:

See In Black—images from some of the best Black photographers today, with proceeds going to charity.

A new public fundraiser to benefit open education for BIPOC communities, taught by a dynamite roster of writers, artists and entrepreneurs.

Creative Ecosystems and Funds that support Black people.

Buy a shirt to fund National Bail Out, a collective of Black organizers, lawyers and communicators committed to ending pretrial detention and mass incarceration.

~ ~ ~

In personal news, I’ve started a new role as the Tech & Design Editor at Kickstarter. If you’ve got a fantastic idea, or want to chat, HMU at lfeinstein@kickstarter.com.


Laura Xx


Anonymous Spanish arts collective Luzinterruptus creates urgent, illuminated guerrilla installations under cover of night. The faceless cabal has set the streets on fire with a carpet of glowing nipples outside Madrid's Facebook offices in protest of censorship and highlighted consumer glut with Christmas trees made of glowing plastic bags. In my favorite work, Luz installed a series of toilet seats framing the Spanish Constitution, implying that “the government doesn't give a shit".

Their work sometimes appears for just hours before removal by the local authorities. It’s ephemeral, like city fireflies—unexpected but always welcomed.

Who is Luzinterruptus?

Luzinterruptus is an anonymous collective that has a variable composition depending on the work that we are carrying out. We are usually three fixed components (all women). For larger productions, we always have professionals we hire to help us. When we go out to the streets to make our guerrilla pieces, we also summon friends who are happy to help us set up.

Who are you when you are not Luzinterruptus? Artists, engineers, teachers?

Of course, we have other jobs besides Luzinterruptus. It is important for us to have economic stability that does not make us depend exclusively on the collective. We do not want money, or better, the lack of it, to influence our philosophy and strict way of working. We are also: a jewelry designer, graphic designer and photographer. The rest of our collaborators have work related to art, activism or teaching.

What would you like people to know about your work?

We are a group that arose from the interest of bringing light to the streets, in order to claim issues that interest us, concern us, and that we want to denounce. Or, subjects that simply seem worthy that we would like to put our ‘light of attention’ on. We have always considered ourselves urban artists and like to work in guerrilla actions for which we do not ask for permission.

We work in larger pieces for events and festivals related to art, culture, ecology or social issues. We never associate with private companies that can use our messages to wash their image or advertise. Only public, social and cultural entities can contract us.

We choose very carefully who we are linked to, despite the fact that this entails a lower volume of work than would be ideal to live well on. But we prefer not to give up our ideas and demands to get more contracts and earn more money. It does not seem ethical to us to work for those who are part of the problems that we criticize so much.

Death by Plastic / Muertos por plástico

What are some of your favorite projects?

What we like to do the most, that gives us the most satisfaction, is to carry out guerrilla actions with friends, at night, and without permission. These pieces are always self-financed, so we don't have to meet any kind of goal. We have total freedom.

This is how we have worked for more than 12 years, and always look forward to going out again with our lights. But many large format pieces have also given us great satisfaction. They allow us to travel and meet locals to work collaboratively.

What are the most critical issues for you right now? [Note: this was asked in April]

Well, just at this moment, the Coronavirus has superseded many of the great problems of humanity. A virus that spreads exponentially, and in a short time, has made us so afraid that we do not want to leave the house until we are ordered.

In quarantine, the virus has made even the most basic human rights that we have achieved throughout history disappear, leaving in its wake social and economic chaos that will make us defenseless and easily manipulated. Like puppets in the hands of the powerful, who will take advantage of our fears and profit from our weaknesses.

How can people learn more about Luzinterruptus?

Our works are easy to understand, as we have always intended. When working on the street and often illegally, we cannot attach an instruction manual. Let it be seen and understood without further ado. It is one of our premises when working.

It is also important for us to use basic materials that people easily identify with and which, thanks to the light, take on a much more interesting and mysterious appearance.

In this new world order, issues such as the destruction of the planet, the overexploitation of natural resources, the alarming consumption of plastics, the burned forests, lack of water, increase in temperatures, the ozone layer, the equality of women, gender violence, corruption ... and so many other vital issues are relegated until the governments of the world decide that everything returns to normal. This will take a long time, and logically it will be preceded by a great economic crisis from which we will be slow to emerge, especially artists.

Hybrid ballot box/cash machine spewing Greek drachma

Since our interview last spring, Luzinterruptus has sketched out two new installations:

“It’s time to get back to the world, although we still are in a whirlwind of emotions and aren’t yet ready to artistically shape what we are experiencing. However, we certainly think we need to go back to issues we left off that were themselves quite concerning and are still current, unfortunately. We are, of course, talking about plastic consumption.

Drawing the Drought / Dibujando la sequía

Its consumption has, alarmingly, gone up during these months of lockdown due to the sanitary demand for protection material, the packaging of food, the massive online shopping… together with a widespread lack of recycling awareness.

The idea for Plastic Stuck in the Landscape isn’t new. It came to us while we were traveling and visited those marginal places that form the blurry limits between the country and the city, home to vast amounts of waste trapped and abandoned. It is mostly light plastic material, carried by the wind until it gets stuck in something and stays there forever.

The effect is beautiful, sad, and alarming above all. One cannot escape its motion and sound although it is an unhealthy, unnatural scene that evinces the damage this plastic waste causes any environment. It makes scared animals flee, leaving the flora to wither as there are no insects to pollinate.”

Luzinterruptus also unveiled another idea for an installation to launch awareness of the massive “burn of trees” that took place a few months ago—most likely caused by climate change and “the greediness and lack of scruples of politicians, companies and private individuals.” For more info, visit luzinterruptus.com.

Literature vs Traffic

Read on: Sun Ra’s Full Lecture & Reading List From His 1971 UC Berkeley Course, “The Black Man in the Cosmos.” Support your local Astro-witch. Relax with the world’s most beautiful fountains. Try on the micro-gravity gear of the future. Is this the end of tourism? It’s certainly changing. Be a global citizen, and educate yourself on escape routes and artifacts. Have we reached peak Girlboss? The world’s largest digital art center opens in a WWII submarine base. Peruse the COVID Art Museum. The smell of outer space. Faith Ringgold on art and activism. Meet toppledmonumentsarchive.org, an artist-run digital archive of dethroned colonialist, imperialist, racist and Confederate monuments. Grab a Nan Goldin. Get distracted by Dachas. Peep a low-key Frida Kahlo.

Islands in the Stream: Stay frosty with the Icelandic Oscar contender. CAMERA-Centro Italiano per la Fotografia x ICP is offering an Online Intensive Course in Visual Storytelling. Tune in to DJ sets from The Whitney. Explore the best apps & sites to learn music.

Want to be featured in Slow Ghost? Drop a line.


Slow Ghost is a weekly newsletter covering the next wave in culture, brought to you by writer, editor, and producer Laura Feinstein. Slow Ghost logo by Tyler Lafreniere.

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