Sneak preview of work for CONHAL, ft cilia wagen, directed by me, shot by Arvida Byström, edited by aaron chan, ‘Follow for more Soft Grunge.’


I’m hosting some talks tomorrow evening at the Wayward Gallery, London, 9th Feb 7-9 GMT. The event will be streamed live for those of you that can’t/ won’t come. The following artists/speakers are billed to read/perform:

Arvida Byström
Byron Washington
Elio Escoffery
Gabby Gabby
Lucy Hardcastle
Sam Kenswill
Natalya Lobanova
Tram Nguyen
Tim Kelly 


It is not whether you really cry. It’s whether the audience thinks you are crying.
Ingrid Bergman

It’s uncomfortable to witness tears, you are implored to try and stop a person from crying, to console them, to fix them, they’re leaking, they’re broken. Why are you crying? Why are you sad?

If I understand why you’re upset then I can stop you from crying.

If I stop you from crying then I can understand why you’re upset.


The eyes lacriminal system produces tears to keep the eye moist in order to enhance vision, what is it to overproduce many tears at once, why? Crying impairs vision, makes your face hurt etc, what purpose does it serve to cry? I don’t know but I feel relief.

There’s something important about crying- whereby it is a point at which speech is rendered incapable, crying is a communication, an expression, that impedes cohesive language- to the point of tears, collapse into tears.

Tears are the silent language of grief.


Tears at times have the weight of speech.

-found poetry on brainyquote

So how do you feel about a project like webcam tears by Dora Moutot? It’s an archive of tears shed before webcams, with little to no other information provided. Contextless tears from webcam owners.

It was inspired by Laurel Nakadate’s work. Expressions of feeling to a webcam, with the desired purpose of others viewing, is this repugnant, indulgent and insincere? It’s intolerable, crying, it’s an expression of vulnerability- it’s hard to speak, it causes discomfort to witness it, on the brink of tears-the break down of cohesive language to tears is a failure to communicate? Crying is seen as an involuntary anti-participation in constructive communication, in functional living, hysteria is not en vogue, ok?

There is something wrong about the man who wants help. There is somewhere a deep defect, a want, in brief, a need, a crying need, somewhere about that man.
Herman Melville

I’m not gonna beat about the bush, excuse the pun, but crying is distinctly associated with feminine expression in visual culture. That’s a sweeping statement I guess, go on tell me I’m wrong, I’ll cry and you’ve won. haha

“False in legs, and false in thighs; / False in breast, teeth, hair, and eyes.”

Robert Herrick “Upon Some Women” as quoted in Antichrist 2009

To orchestrate crying for the purpose of recording seems problematic- tears are something relatively impromptu… But then again, one probably cries in ones room, where you keep your computer, you’re probably crying scrolling through your facebook feed, while you tweet, whatever.

My video for webcam tears was incidentally filmed a few days before I discovered the project.

I only cried one tear in it, not a lot of bang for your buck there.

What does it matter that tears are authentic though? What is so horrifying for tears to be of the crocodilian persuasion- falsely expressing weakness, crying wolf? What proof is there, what way is there to identify tears that connote true suffering and those that are not. Are tears an expression, a codified system for expression where authenticity even has a place? And why is it so important for sadness to always be remedied.

She: A crying woman is a scheming woman- Antichrist 2009 

I wanted to talk about 33Summer, in the same way I’ve mentioned Molly Soda, Deadniggastorage and Arvida Bystrom etc, they are all tumblr personalities who express and confess material that is very personal but do not assign their expressions to any system of authenticity or consistency- they evade their followings irrational inappropiate desire to coax familiarity, authenticity or truth from them- its also quite obvious that this behaviour has something to do with their masses of followers too.
33Summer may differ in the way that her level of confession, exceeds, overwhelms, overflows, you read more than you want to, TMI, TL;DR etc- there’s not any irony, very little play involved. It’s almost intolerable to read the hasty typo-riven exchanges between her and anonymous interrogators, sometimes she blows off their accusations that she’s a slut, that she deserved to be raped etc, other times short sharp concessions to their onslaughts.
Jacques Rancière provides an anecdotal example of confessing trauma in the chapter ‘The Intolerable Image’ from The Emancipated Spectator,’ the description is of an exchange between a traumatised hairdresser and the director of the documentary, as the subject is filmed recollecting trauma.

'The tears in the hairdresser's eyes are the sign of his emotion. But this emotion is itself produced by the film maker's system and, once he films those tears and links this shot to other shots, they can no longer be regarded as the naked presence of the recollected event. They belong to a process of figuration that is a process of condensation and displacement.' 94

So what of recording your own emotional tribulations? Or reliving them through micro-blogging, well in the case of 33Summer, it invites misogynistic attacks on a daily basis. Like for webcamtears and done so much prior with Laural Nakadate and many more before- these tears are curated or created to be seen. What does it means to intentionally express suffering for a viewing public, particularly the kind of people who would have a tumblr/webcam, affluent expressive people.

I remember one day sitting at the pool and suddenly the tears were streaming down my cheeks. Why was I so unhappy? I had success. I had security. But it wasn’t enough. I was exploding inside.
Ingrid Bergman

So you’ve got it good? You have webcam access, you have the time to make videos of yourself crying for Dora’s project and the gall to make yourself part of this wailing wall? So why are you crying? Always why, always with crying there’s a need to quell it, silence it, end the hysteria/chaos, ugh.

It occured to me that an artwork I’d seen a while ago that stuck with me still is relevant to this, by artist  Phil Collins called Return of the Real that I saw in 2006. Collins orchestrated a documentary where a company he set up got former reality tv participants who had their lives ruined by their experience with reality tv to be interviewed -to coax out of them and relive those traumas for the camera again, part of this work this was presented in a gallery format where the video of the interviewer and interviewee were projected on opposite ends of a dark room very large, an intense way to view such an exchange. 

See the reception of Leave Britney Alone by Chris Crocker for examples of how drawn towards, yet riled against, viewing masses are to unbridled emotion- particularly of significance is that Chris Crocker portrays femme qualities, whether his lack of hetero-normativity contributed to the notoriety this video is unclear but it’s what most of the comments of the video discuss.

A crying person makes us question their gender, sexuality, their constitution.

How many jokes, or cringe-inducing moments in movies are there when post coitally, either one or both partners cry? He/she didn’t cry after did they? CRIIIIIIINGE… Crying isn’t sexy is it? There’s something in common between almost all the subjects I’ve mentioned so far in this essay, not all but most, that they have released/leaked nude images of themselves-Paris Hilton has her sex-tape, Nakadate is frequently nude in her work, Molly Soda has nudes you can search out with ease, DeadNiggaStorage intermittently bares his ass for kicks, Arvida has nudity as part of her practice in self portraiture, 33summer discusses her sexual assault graphically etc. 

There’s something oxymoronic about this image and there also isn’t.

Unbridled sexual and emotional confession is linked to denigration of character, see Sasha Grey’s primary school reading fiasco- a sex industry worker is not fit to educate children. See Zizek’s bizarre anti tulip rant- where he says children shouldn’t have access to tulips for the sexual veracity of the flowers will insense them cos they look like vaginas duh and we all know vaginas are detrimental to a child’s education.

Learning and education, academia even- is not the place for sexual expression it seems- it is excluded, expelled, unprofessional.

Unbridled sexual and emotional expression are also something connoted with teenage behaviour- attributed to wild hormones- dismissed for that reason. Emotional and sexual excess are attributed to teenagers- idols of excess, excess as rite of passage-teenage rebellion. Emotional and sexual excess are relegated to hormones and teenager-dom or hormonal women, it doesn’t sit right.

Sophie Convey’s zine cam girls- where girls modelled their own clothes/posed for their webcam in their own styles was a perfect play on words that fits in with this idea of false sexual advertising online. 'Cam girls' is a zine of self expression in this limited webcam format- but to an outsider it may instantly make one think of something seedy, maybe ‘cam-whoring’ a cute term obviously, for anyone who seeks attention through some indeterminate yet excessive presence on camera- most likely through titillation as whoring suggests.

There’s something about adverts like this, where you’re meant to be fooled into an instant chat in your periphery, where your dream girl is reaching out to you thorugh a familiar social networking IM, with a seductive default image, imploring you to validate her with response. Sonya is no ghost, just a shell. Sonya fooled you into clicking this pop-up with her flagrantly inauthentic attempt to communicate, damn that Sonya.

Sonya why can’t I quit you? ;__;

'She: “False in legs, and false in thighs; / False in breast, teeth, hair, and eyes.” ' Antichrist 2009

What happens when you falsely express oneself sexually or emotionally, crocodile tears, cry wolf, cry rape online? You discredit yourself.
You’re making monuments with your social networking profiles, you’re creating data with the minutiae you communicate, of thoughts and utterances about your everyday life that would be otherwise unexpressed and dormant without these portals- tumblr/twitter/facebook yada/yada/yada.
How much of this is emotional and sexual, how authentically do you express, do you repress your emotional and sexual expressions which are naturally part of your constitution? What is more inauthentic- including your emotional sexual thoughts along with others, or never pertaining to your sexuality and emotions online to avoid conflict/embarassment, do you keep it professional?

Did you start out branding yourself as a teen online, did you have a myspace, a livejournal, did you cringe at yourself when facebook timelines were introduced? Putting up emotional pleas, meaningful lyrics, videos of yourself dancing in your underwear, vlogging about inane stuff, crying even, on any of these platforms? How do you build on this? Do you try and sweep it under the rug as you ‘grow up’, do you destroy your former avatars, or do you build upon them, subsume and own them? Did someone leak your n00dz, or did you do it? Did you become a suicide girl so you could leak ur n00dz first?

The conflict between personal and professional online presence isn’t a fresh subject. Public figures are always fumbling tweets and putting up statuses that they shouldn’t, have their email hacked and their durrdy affairs leaked and we’re doing it to each other, spiteful post break-up stalking or hacking of our nearest and dearest- ‘fraping’ etc.

What is to come of this, what’s the point of crying over crying over spilt milk? I suppose I want to draw some obvious conclusions: shit son, we’re quite emotionally and sexually repressed in our everyday lives and when it comes to stuff online things are kinda different but also not…

And shit son, we’re quite sexually and emotionally repressed in our professional and academic lives too so makes sense that when we have fun online we might partake in seemingly dubious sexual and emotional expression. Which funnily enough, as our professional and academic lives become inextricably linked with our online presences, is going to present problematics that might shift the way people continue to express themselves- and I guess I also wanna add in that, the yoof, particularly teens on the tumblr which is my usual subject, are experimenting with this and resisting this by creating these avatars that discomfort us with their tears, their sexual discovery and inconsistency.

It seems silly to draw mainly from tumblr as a resource but check how endlessly this lot toil in the tumblr mines to extract pseudo-teen ore for their own ends. Tumblr trends and behaviour exceed their context, which brings another sense of validity to thinking about this stuff but also this weird sense of critical mass:

So what’s beyond all this excess though? If it could be seen as at critical mass. Maybe it’s something for the next diatribe, which will express more about resisting that excessive expression and some of the other problematics involved with this subject, perhaps the hang over from perma-teen excess is happening somewhere… the sobering up and growing up of tumblr teen excess. And if it exists as a single topic body of work tumblr, it might look a little something like Fran Malthouse’s work. Check it out and thanks for reading.

aww look it’s the sunrise the morning after the tumblr hangover <3

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Revolting Girls Revolting!

(Click here for easier reading)

Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a stock character in films. Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005), describes the MPDG as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” MPDGs are said to help their men without pursuing their own happiness, and such characters never grow up, thus their men never grow up.

I cringed. I know you will. Following the first link you will see a list of films which seem applicable and many more in your own mind perhaps too. 

Kate Winslet's character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is notable for acknowledging and rejecting this label, in a remark to Jim Carrey's Joel character: “Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours.”

For my own reasons I do not necessarily agree with the conditions that make Clementine’s comment a valid rejection because of circumstance of the scene- taking place as a memory in  Joel’s head, after which the conversation becomes decidedly less idealistic and more… contradictory and mushy… However I am not entirely concerned with denigrating Clem’s place as objector to such a vile trope that has been cited spanning almost a century of cinema.
I am more concerned or delighted to see how this trope has been translated recycled and unintentionally subverted by the feminine online personalities that I often write about.
While uncited, the wikipedia article also states this:

MPDGs are usually static characters who have eccentric personality quirks and are unabashedly girlish.

Popular feminist-leaning tumblr bloggers are usually static characters who have eccentric personality quirks and are unabashedly girlish.

(Of course if you say something on tumblr you gotta be prepared for me to screen grab it and talk about it, especially if you intend to be contentious, which most people on tumblr attempt to in order to gain abstract reward of attention that satisfies a libidinal lack…)
However in this case, koolthing hits the nail on the head, it does make you feel a bit ‘…ugh.' Many people on tumblr try and shame this girliness. But why? This is probably, in part, down to damages done to girlishness and femininity through the impotence of the MPDG how she is only useful or worth being expressed in cinema and tv to teach broodingly (self-centered) soulful (moping) young (naive/impetuous) men to embrace life!

The allusion in the moniker MPDG to Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys is also of great significance as an entity that guides growing boys away from the imperative of sexual maturity but still alludes to it. There are connotations of ‘never growing up’ in the words ‘pixie’ and ‘dream’ and ‘girl’ and the qualities of eccentricity (synonymous with manic dream and pixie) and girlishness exclusive to one of the most desired and taboo sexual objects in contemporary culture: the pre/pubescent girl or virgin…
Mania is antonym of tame, the tame is of the meek, docile, domicile and passive- as I begrudgingly will put is feminine. So mania- synonymous with fury and rage can be considered a masculine attribute, depending on your own connotations. And pixies are ancient mythologies, exotic and synonymous with fairies and other little feminine creatures that are wild mischievous and fantastical. The MPDG in need of taming and in doing so the man can quell or cope with her hysteria(mania) and rectify his formerly passive ‘lost’ position and reassert activity in the world, as is his masculine duty, thus all equilibrium will be restored according to the trope these bullshit writers have constructed …sigh.

My own vitriol aside, I really believe that the online identities I often talk about all relate to this trope. If not only for the fact that tumblr is quite taken with cinema. A lot of the content, which is a commonality between all these identities is that they all post cinematic icons- film taste is something quite contentious on tumblr. I find this group often circulate imagery from John Waters films like Pink Flamingos, late 80s/90s films which celebrate or parody ‘shallowness’ and ‘bubbliness’ like Heathers, Clueless and kids tv shows and pop stars from that era that exude these qualities too.  

A while ago Molly Soda was featured in Vice Magazine, I consider her a manic pixie dream girl with feminist interests.

  • Manic- she is manic and frenzied in her videos- exaggerated miming and dancing to pop songs, at times drunk. More than her own mania, people become frenzied by her, angered by her image alone.
  • Pixie- she has a great sense of humour, people who make ignorant sweeping criticisms of her via her ask box are victims of this sharp wit much to my and many others amusement.
  • Dream- she is quite unattainable in that Molly Soda is widely understood as an avatar and that a lot of her performance art is tied in with this identity. She is not concerned with clairfying this either. She remains enigmatic and mysterious, like a dream.
  • Girl- she is decidedly girlie, and cute and feminine in her self portraits, sexuality and appearance- via clothing and make up, the female icons she posts on her blog too indicate that she embraces femininity.

The article about her was in a slightly mocking yet reverent tone, as Vice does. While Molly did make public a relationship with online personae hotsugar. Her manic pixie dream girl qualities which include being bubbly and a shallowness- perhaps garnered through her self portraiture, alluding to narcissism (but then again who isnt a narcissist in some way that has a blog/microblogs). Ahem, however for all her bubbly shallow demeanour Molly is, aswell as this, acutely witty and sharply intellectual, when prodded. She has been featured in a numerous magazines and online articles for her online presence.

It is not so much that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is what she pretends to be but that she encompasses that trope and so much more without the reason for this being existing to help men on their way to achieving their potential, how frustrating for them, eh? The frustration is clear over the years from all the hate and criticisms over her appearance that may in part come from frustrated admirers. 

Arvida Bystrom was in another Vice article which loosely speculated about and gave an overview of her and other bloggers with feminist stances. Also Meadham Kirchhoff featured Arvida Bystrom as a key muse, name dropping her as significant influence in their a collection from earlier this year, even naming a dress after her. 

  • Manic Arvida could be considered manic in her virrulent internet presence.
  • Pixie her pixie quality is almost definitely communicated through the mischievously sexual nature of her self portraiture, her practice which dabbles in all kinds of ‘naughty’ subjects- eroticizing her body hair, presenting herself androgynously etc
  • Dream she is dream like in the sense that she is also relatively inaccessible through her blog but also in her self portraiture she seems in repose often, and placidly calm and otherworldly.
  • Girl she is incredibly girlie and endearing, stylistically she is as much androgynous as she revels in pink, pastel vibrant, floral celebratory feminine aspects of her identity.

Arvida is an artist and this is marvellous exposure for her that I do not want to belittle. I have to admit I hold her online persona and that which trickles through her photography and self portraiture with a reverence too. There is an odd serenity about this hyperfemme, that pulls my gaze from the noise of the rest of tumblr imagery and settles me silent on her, she is an otherness, alien, someone I cannot lie I sort of worship with the time I spend admiring and pondering over. There’s an overt but not overstated sexuality about her too, she placcidly regards the camera in portraits. Something that Mirdham Kirchhoff picked up on is the place of the male gaze in Arvida’s images. They described her as a centrefold which has obvious connotations of sexual anticipation, women as commodity, idolotry etc.

She is not so much manic in retrospect but her Pixie Dream Girl qualities definitely mean she suits the more positive feminine aspects of this trope, the wonderfully mutated trope, where being eccentric bubbly and shallow, at times, does not devalue you. Girliness does not devalue or define Arvida- she exists in this state without the narrative or goal, as cinematic motif has mistakenly asserted, to rectify wayward men.

(A side note on hairy armpits), For some of these and other avatars I follow, through anonymous messages, or comments on images there is chatter over their unshorn armptis- (but Vice assures us hairy armpits are in, so no need to panic!) No matter how informative the blogs/links/projects/work of these people might be on feminism and body positivity, they are tirelessly criticised for their appearance. These girls continue to endure such criticisms because the discussion can always be held with a view to enlightening or empowering someone else. These women are not martyrs though, their body hair is something they are neither ashamed or proud of to any great extent but more so something they must continue to express and promote to highlight that it is sheer insanity to police someone else’s body.

Hairy armpits, despite the perspective some of us have, are still a taboo choice. Shaving in some senses affirms damaging patriarchal traditions that try and diminish women into hairless homogenous drones for the consumption of the male gaze. Choosing to grow out natural body hair challenges that mainstream idea but is also understood as a mainstay of established subcultures.

Alongside these examples, my friend Sarah Deetz runs a blog where her identity and style, which are very malleable, function as a catalyst to discuss a whole host of topics, from cinema, to existential topics and criticism of visual culture. I find Sarah’s photography and styling quite self conscious and carefully crafted, she has a sharp wit and is very informative on feminist topics off guard, which conveys her analytical skills that she employs when studying a film degree. Sarah also has a notably bubbly demeanour- no doubt down to our mutual addiction: full-fat coca-cola.

  • Manic Sarah whom I’ve met in person, is decidedly manic, if not for the permanent caffeine high she is prevalent on twitter, blogspot and tumblr, or which she has a few anyhow, she manically expresses herself if you will.
  • Pixie Sarah is a similar height to me, a small girl who is also cheeky, witty, sexy and cunning.
  • Dream Sarah presents her identity often in an ironic way, speaking in 90s colloquialisms on her twitter, often verbosely on her blogspot, and sharply cuts down poor attempts at criticism on tumblr. Her avatar is hard to put down to singular person, she is otherworldly in that sense.
  • Girl Sarah is excessively, wonderfully girlie, in particular her habit of wearing publicly lacey vintage underwear layered over each other, alongside, glittery accessories and pastel hair colours, she herself exudes femininity.

As of late Sarah has been pre-occupied with all things post millennial, silvery and powder pink/blue tones. I met her a few months ago, with newly shorn off hair- on a whim, which we then dyed a lilacy colour, she buys delicate vintage underwear and teams this with contrasting fabrics and tailoring and is generally endlessly delightful and above all else, girly. 

There is an errant girliness to the women that are admired on tumblr in this community and also in the people who are producing a lot of feminist artwork/zines. I encounter more than ever now a congruence between female empowerment and girly qualities, amongst my peers.

Not long ago, a past, misogynyst boss of mine accused me of using my ‘girly’ and ‘feminine’ charms to get my way. Whether or not I did, I think this is a case of the fault being in the eye of the beholder. Trying to impose guilt on me, as my fault, because he associated my femininity with his will to please me, at the time I felt this to be a disgusting subtextual sexual contract. I didn’t work there long.

On a sidenote, I feel a bit iffy over referring to these groups as girls- increasingly, on tumblr, I am engaging with people who refuse to align themselves with common binary understanding of gender. I do want to speak of girlness as something exclusive to women but something people of any gender could adopt and enact in a positive, reclamation, if I may. The kind of general criticism these tumblr personalities receive for having indeterminate/fluid sex, gender or beauty preferences often arises from a need in the antagonizer to distance themselves from identities that intimidate or stimulate their own, in a way they can’t make sense of. By demonising or attacking these figures that challenge their own identity, that they find abject, they can reaffirm their own and pressure others into the same through ignorant vague shaming.

In my hackneyed Manic Pixie Dream Girl summaries, I may also have noted identities such as transgenderchild and rotting whom I am not so familiar with (especially as to their feminist/ queer theory leanings) but they encompass these qualities without adhering the cinematic trope entirely, they echo, rehash and transform the trope in the narratives they construct about their avatars with their blogs.  

Another quality that links all these girls is that they all engage in abject activities, abject in that they repulse and horrify some of the people who view their work, self portraiture/identities. If it isn’t their androgyny, or non hetero-normativity, body hair, sexual expression it is their most disgusting aspect that causes controversy, their errant feminist principles, whether that be mass feminism or an individualist version or any other of the many forms.

Girlieness is often seen at odds with feminism, culturally because of other stereotypes that paint them as butch, asexual, archaic or desexualized. Also because girlie refers both to girlie magazines- of scantily clad women for male gaze consumption, and girlieness as of femininity through pink dresses and cuteness and junk. It is also important to note that imitating or aspiring to be these girls, as is often berated on tumblr by bored naysayers, is possibly one of the more wise, if stylistically risky, choices for impressionable teenagers and I am glad that they sicken the more conservative users because it only makes them more powerful icons. girlie 

Eleven from heaven.












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