Category Archives: thoughts

“body talk”

I saw a NYTimes article today about different summer camps that enforce a “no body-talk” rule. Meaning, no talking about how someone looks, positive or negative. Meaning, no complementing someone’s new dress or great hair, no saying that shirt looks bad on you, no talking about your own body really.

On Friday afternoon, when the campers, girls and boys from 8 to 17, are dressed in white and especially polished for the Sabbath, they refrain from complimenting one another’s appearances. Rather, they say, “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be around you” or “Your smile lights up the world,” Ms. Stadlin said. – full article here

This immediately clicked for me and put a word to a weird feeling I’ve been having. I love talking about bodies, I love talking about clothes and I love when people look good and feel good. But there’s something that I’ve noticed especially on instagram and facebook (that I’ve totally taken part in) where powerful ladies complement each other by saying “babes!” or “hottie alert!” or “you look great girl!” It’s mildly ok when my female peers say something like this to me, but when someone I hardly talk to makes a similar comment, or if the commentator is male, it automatically feels weird.

It’s basically Feminism 101 — feeling objectified and like I am only seen as my body — but what surprised me or felt new was realizing how I am so deeply entrenched in this  and am adding to it everyday. I don’t actually think that calling my amazingly beautiful friends “hotties” empowers them or makes them feel great. It’s just like a random thing to say. I feel weird being part of the system that just looks at people (because it isn’t just a female thing) as how we look. because really that’s not what i’m complementing them on anyways.

Furthermore it got me thinking about the clothes I’m making. I’ve always felt weird about making clothes — it’s why I’ve held off actually declaring that I’m making a real clothing line for so long. It feels so silly ! Clothes are for insecure fashion obsessed lame-os! Clothes aren’t going to change the world! And on top of that, many of the clothes I make are sexy in some way. I feel powerful in being sexy, in being powerful in my body, in talking about bodies, in being conscious of my body. But the context around this is what’s upsetting me.

I don’t really have a coherent conclusion or answer, it’s the start of an inquiry. I want my clothes to empower the wearer beyond having them feel sexy or good, like a nicely fitting dress or a new pair of shoes that some random stranger on the street complements as you walk by — “Oh cool shirt you look great today!” That’s nice and all, but that’s not what I’m going after.

There’s something to this “no body talk” rule and I’m going to take it on, WHILE ALSO making clothes and talking about bodies. There’s an intersection here somewhere and I think that is where I’m most excited to go — not into making custom clothing, not into making costumes for plays, not into making sewing workshops — going into a place where the clothes we wear naturally allow us to easily share our selves underneath these skins.

Your thoughts welcome.

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New Project: Weekly PowerSuit

I have been feeling stuck lately, I’ve been writing and applying and working and making lists and planning but not making anything. I am feeling restless, like there is some place to be and some way to go there and I must have missed the memo.

I have accomplished amazing things in the past year of which I am so proud. I produced a week-long intergenerational camp exploring what our Dream Job could be with a Queens Girl Scout Troop. I won Iron Chef Flux (a previously unknown Dream Job). I am being called to different residencies and opportunities in New York and beyond. I co-created a New York Fashion Week pop-up custom Boutique (including a photo in the New Yorker Magazine’s Instagram Feed, which basically means I’m famous right?) I sold quilts in a major exhibition. I taught a million kids how to sew.

But what’s next!? What’s the deal with this PowerSuit thing anyway — does it actually make a difference or change the world or make people feel awesome? Am I a workshop leader? A custom clothing designer? A kids teacher? A radical social change-er?

If I spend 8 hours a day sewing weird clothes and costume, is that any more valuable than if I spend 8 hours filling out spreadsheets (what I assume people who get paid lots more than myself do lots of their day), or if I spend 8 hours teaching sewing (what I actually get paid to do), or if I spend 8 hours cleaning my room (which will mentally sustain me), or if I spend 8 hours cooking amazing food or doing yoga (that will physically sustain me)? None of these have any real logic or sense behind their value. It doesn’t really matter.

For whatever reason, right now, I love making clothes. I love making weird costumes, wearable sculptures, objects that people put on their bodies and walk through their lives inside. I love the intimacy, the everyday-ness. I love dressing up. I love feeling like I look great. I love seeing other people dressing in a way that makes them look amazing and brings out their greatest self. I have felt like that’s dumb for a while — fashion is stupid! only vain people care what they wear! — but actually that’s BS and I know it. So I am embracing it.

Here is my new project/exercise to shake out of this funk, to start making things again, to explore whole-heartedly my own PowerSuit in a way I haven’t fully fleshed out before. I will make one PowerSuit costume a week from now until an indeterminate time. I imagine a year. But I’m going to start with a month. These costumes continue my past PowerSuit projects (Camp, Boutique, various workshops & sculptures) but are more personal, more sculptural. I want to make costumes based on whatever I’m feeling or going through that week. Like autobiographical documents of my year. I want to loosen up, make Suits out of crazy stuff, not necessarily finish everything, try out lots of new ideas. I want to express myself and be vulnerable in a new way, through costume.

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Hold me accountable world! I am looking forward to sharing these creations and my year with you.

Aliya

p.s. what is a PowerSuit?

clothes forp.p.s. i whole-heartedly believe in the power of repetition and over-internet-sharing silly projects as the ideal way to get out of a funk. see installation a day and daily flags for past iterations.

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Performance Score

late at night
alone in a really hot and humid room, preferably with almost no air flow.

 

1. Take out all the projects you’re working on. All of them. stack them in neat piles.

2. Try to decide what is the best project to start first.

3. Make a list of all your projects. try to prioritize them. remember some random email you forgot to write and add that to the list (but maybe in a different column)

4. decide to start many new columns. grocery list, tomorrow’s to do list, what you should eat for breakfast, what you’re going to wear tomorrow. another email you forgot from last week. someone you really should have contacted two weeks ago and it’s almost not worth it at this point. that other errand you should have done. add it to the list.

5. start getting really overwhelmed. and worried. maybe none of these projects are worth anything. they’re all probably pretty stupid. who cares. why are you doing this?

6. start going through list again and evaluating each project based on its stupidity and lack of meaning or impact on the world in any way.

7. contemplate sending emo tweets.

8. decide to just start something, who cares.

9. take out all your supplies – ribbons, glues, glitters, papers, threads, scissors. Oh that other thing you saved, find that too.

10. get overwhelmed by the mess you’ve just made in such a hot little room.

11. sit down and wonder if this is really what you should be doing with your time anyways. it’s still all a bunch of stupid projects.

12. scan the internet for other more accomplished peers and get worried and anxious about your own work in comparison. look at their CVs just to make it sting more.

end performance.

stop thinking. go to sleep.

it doesn’t mean anything.

it’s all made up anyway.

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this was #worthcelebrating

the twitter / real life performance was just lovely. I loved loved loved interacting with people in real life — collecting their stories and celebrations and whatever they were celebrating that day (including both moving to NYC, and also finally figuring out when he will be moving out of NYC). I also loved getting the additional layer of input and story contribution from the amazing online audience — friends, family, and everyone else contributing their stories in little twitter poems.

read the full (mostly full — open up those private twitter accounts in order for me to include your tweets in there next time!!!) story of the performance here.

thank you to man bartlett for documentation, assistance, and for making sure I got some dinner. thank you to curators jean barberis and elizabeth larison who let me throw together a performance in short notice!

in-progress flag photoshoot by alison nguyen!

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MY BRAIN, lately

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BUSINESSLADIEZ in the comics

My friend Elizabeth sent this to me recently and it is AMAZING. encompasses everything a BusinessLady aspires to be. sorta.

from Hark! A Vagrant webcomic

1980’s Businesswoman Comics

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Let’s Talk about BUSINESS: Shannon Finnegan

MONEY/TIME/VALUE/BUSINESS. BUSINESSLADYTIME(TM)INC.
An ongoing series of interviews and discussions about art and business. How do they balance out? How do we make this stuff real?

Shannon Finnegan

Shannon makes work that explores “working” and jobs; what tasks and actions have value? In her 8-Hour Performance series, she will do one repetitive task — such as vertical mark-making, or writing out a series of sentences repeatedly — for an eight-hour period, starting the performance by clocking in, keeping track of her bathroom breaks, and clocking out when the eight hours are completed.

Shannon’s conceptually ideal daily schedule would include going into work, execute an eight-hour drawing, and then clock ing-out. She would then leave her studio and be “off work”, not doing any other drawings in the evenings or weekends. After considering this for a moment, we discussed Shannon’s more practical ideal schedule that would include time for engaging with others: she would still spend a majority of her working days executing eight-hour drawings, but would also schedule days for meetings with assistants and project partners, gallery owners and performance collaborators.

At this point in the interview, Shannon discussed how she’s just recently fallen into a schedule that balances being an artist and making an income in a way that actually is working for her: working for income four days week, making artwork three days a week. “That third weekend day is crucial,” she said.

We talked about how consistency is crucial. If she has to spend some of her non-working days “hustling” for more work, than that eats into her art-making time — and more importantly it eats into her head space. Worrying about income leaves no space for creative thinking.

This is all of the interview I managed to record.

Shannon currently lives in New York City and is working as a personal assistant, nanny, non-profit arts organization summer festival director, and probably more jobs I don’t remember.

Shannon holds a BA from Carleton College.

She will be exhibiting an 8-hour performance at the Invisible Dog Gallery on Saturday June 9th from 11am-7pm with a reception and Q&A from 6pm-8pm.

Follow-up notes:

READ THIS: Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, Edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle, June 2011

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