Thursday, 20 November 2014

Selfies and Suicide Notes: A Terrible Title for a Hopefully Not to so Terrible Conversation on Suicidal Ideation and Self Esteem



I think about killing myself a lot. I think about the process of suicide and the audacious process that would propel a mind to think such things. I think that I want it, and I think, why I do I want it? I think about objects and permanence. I often free write when I am suicidal, post it on tumblr and it gets notes. What a peculiar sort of currency! I think of respectability, and how suicide is tenure for some, bankruptcy for others. I think about the difference between Hamlet's soliloquies and Ophelia Pre-Raphaelite portraits. Images vs words. Masculinity and femininity, the intellectual vs the precocious. The tortured vs the shrill. I once wrote a young middle class white girl who knows death, who speaks of death, who goes through a goth phase, is applauded like a cat than can stand on two legs. A party trick. The young girl of colour who knows death, speaks of trauma, is the opposite, common as dirt. (I think about how a mean, rather racist white girl once told me I had eyes the colour of shit, what a horrible thing to say to another human!) Both girls lose. Lose their lives, their 'creative' reputations whatever you want to call it. Susan Sontag said that Diane Arbus legit status was confirmed when she killed herself. I disagree. I think it was regarded merely as another neat party trick for the grown ups, like a child who can sing all the parts in So Long Farewell from the Sound of Music.

I think of the seemingly brittle tension between academic essays and outfit posts on this here blog. I like this tension. I like that my outfits are a bit shit, my photography is a bit shit, my "modelling" is a lot shit. I appreciate that.

And I think of this crappy text post I wrote when I was really bad a few months ago, "there is a thin line between a suicide note and a creative writing exercise", why in all my nonsense, wood for the trees, I may be on to something!








Two Interviews

I talk to people...sometimes via email.


Interview One: Me talking Doll Hospital feels and continuing to remain #unimpressed by the tortured genius trope over at And So She Thinks with the wonderful Francesca Baker


Many of our greatest artists are known to have suffered from mental health problems – do you think there is a distinct relationship between the two?
Oh man! This is a subject I think about a lot, and definitely something that I, and Doll Hospital as a publication, actively pushes against. To present mental health struggles as something creative and ‘unique’ is damaging and derailing, and prevents people struggling from getting the help they need.
As a writer and artist I thought that I shouldn’t get help for my chronic depression because it would prevent me from being a ‘good’ writer. That is absolutely ridiculous! Because when I’m suicidal, or having a panic attack, I’m not casually whipping up a manuscript on the side. Nope! It’s the total opposite. When my depression is bad I can’t work at all! It was only when I got help for this stuff that my work could actually thrive.
I think to truly foster honest and accurate conversations on mental health we need to actively challenge these sterotypes of tortured geniuses and tragic muses. We can do so much better than that, and we owe it to all the amazing artists we’ve lost to mental health struggles.


Interview Two: Talking bout why I started Doll Hospital and how it's okay to not have your shit together with Amie Taylor at Female Arts 



You mentioned in your talk at Wadham college the consistently arising idea that we need to be over an issue in order to be able to talk about it. This particularly stuck in my mind, please could you elaborate a little on this?
Of course! I think this idea is rooted in respectability politics. By that I mean policing who can talk, and in what way, based on their background. For instance, I’m, pretty sure most people would rather have some respected academic with lots of letters to their name create like a super detached PowerPoint presentation on ‘mental illness’ in an Oxbridge type institution than say, listen to say a young female celebrity like Amanda Bynes who is often mocked due to her mental health troubles, go off on twitter, y’kno?
People suffering with their mental health are regarded as unreliable, unstable, and even frightening; the thing that makes us ‘qualified’ to discuss this subject (as in we have to deal with this stuff everyday) is the very thing that makes people uncomfortable about letting us speak. How can we tell our experiences accurately when we are regarded as such unreliable narrators? I think this is foolishness, all individuals are, by their nature, unreliable, and allowing people, especially women, to discuss their first hand experiences openly, without feeling like they need to provide a ton of footnotes to show it’s true, is the most powerful thing we can do to challenge mental health stigma.
This question of respectability politics also feeds into reductive notions of what recovery is, as if it is this simple, neat thing free from relapses and messiness, which is definitely not my experience! Like one day I’m going to wake up and be cured and become like a motivational speaker? Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, let’s be honest about our struggles, admit that no one 100% has their shit together, and that’s okay.



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Real Oxford Manner: Rambling Writing on Oxbridge Fashion


Copyright: Steve Bell
“And you found he was an Oxford man,” said Jordan helpfully.
“An Oxford man!” He was incredulous. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.”
-F. Scott, Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

All you need to know about Oxford is that you start and end at the gift shop. Buying and returning your Harry Potter gown, amongst Harry Potter movie merchandise, the I  Oxford hoodies for the tourists, the ‘born to go to Oxford’ baby bibs for the pushy parents. And it’s one week later and I’m photo shopping out the stupid out of my face and the creases from my shirt.

Now, it’s two weeks later, the weekend, time flies, and I’m sat in the dark, eating popcorn, watching sons of famous actors pretend to be Oxford students. The film is called ‘The Riot Club’. I think of a girl in my halls, Scottish, freaked out in the first week of term, “It’s like a snow globe”, she whispers theatrically, “you can’t leave, and people won’t stop taking pictures of you.” And on the morning of graduation, tourists sat on the floor to watch us go past, they take photos. I feel famous. She feels uncomfortable. Kanye wants North to go to Oxford. I realize that celebrities want to be Oxford students and Oxford students want to be celebrities. Go figure.

I was excited to go to Oxford. I even made a mood board on Pinterest. It made me feel prepared. I read articles, one by Tanya Gold, mocking the enthusiasm of the state school students, the poor kids, comprehensive school alumnis, the ones who work hard. I’m pretty sure she is referring to me. Tanya Gold went to private school, I read an extract. She tries to be funny, but comes off as cruel:

“The second tribe were the Wannabes - the state-school kids who tried, pitifully, to buy into the Brideshead fantasy. They mooched around as parodies of 1930s Oxford students. The boys wore tweed suits and spectacles and the girls wore Laura Ashley and buns. They spent all their time in the library and dining in college wearing funny black gowns, inexplicably called subfusc, a term they adored. They drank sherry and affected Celia Johnson voices. Although they usually did very well academically they seemed terribly unhappy - at Waugh with themselves. If they got 2:1s they considered suicide and, of the ones I am still in touch with, their careers have vanished into dust. They tried to plug themselves into an old boy network that didn't want them. The fantasy broke them. If you lose yourself to a fantasy at 19, it takes a long time to find yourself again.”


Tanya Gold writes for the Guardian. Got a 2:2. Writes columns about poor kids who tried harder than her. Go figure.  “I’m sick to death of poor people”, say the actors in the Riot Club movie. I sympathise. I’m sick of me too. But even if I am on the losing end of the ‘who wore it better ‘pages, I’d rather go branded than labelless. Because Oxford is a label, and much like the J W Anderson bat jumper didn’t turn me into Alexa Chung, a piece of paper isn’t going to turn me into a Nobel prize winner. (Though I can pretend it does right?) I was always a sucker for those ‘get the look’ spreads, a celebrity may own the same jumper as me, but that does not change the fact that I am short and ugly.

There’s a bit in the Alan Bennet play the History Boys, that goes like this:

Oxford and Cambridge! What for?” says the state school teacher named Hector.  

“Old, sir. Tried and tested.” replies the Oxbridge candidates.

“No!” goes Hector, “It's because other boys want to go there. It's the hot ticket, standing room only.” 

I watched that play in a theatre at Oxford. The characters weren’t played by movie stars like in the film though. They were other Oxford students. Originality is not my strong point, but who has time for taste of their own when we have league tables and hot or not fashion charts?


The Riot Club, dir: Lone Scherfig, 2014, Photograph: Blueprint Pictures/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar



The Bullingdon Club, class of 1987, featuring London Mayor Boris Johnson and British Prime Minister, David Cameron. The pair’s eventful time as members merited its own 2009 televised docu-drama, titled when ‘Dave met Boris’). Image copyright of Gillman and Soame.

It’s now 20 minutes into ‘The Riot Club’ movie, and it’s playing out like a music video, Wild Boys by Duran Duran plays as they trash the new members room. One of the actors sits in a Louis Vuitton suitcase. I appreciate this touch. “Debauchery raised to an art” is a direct quote. The film itself is the high street knock off of the play ‘Posh’. Itself a rip off of the Oxford drinking and dining society The Bullingdon Society. Their uniforms cost. They even have their own colour scheme: sky blue and ivory. Their tailcoats are special made, Ede and Ravenscroft. Monogrammed buttons. Lapels (silk). I’d probably have joined if they’d asked me. Their group photos read like editorials, famous people in a clothing spread. Vogue and Glamour both featured The Riot Club heavily in their autumn spreads. “It’s not sweat on their palms, it’s envy”, is a quote from the movie (you know, the peasants are revolting and what not). “They all the look the same” is another. They being the Oxford elite of course. The same in a good way I assume, with their matching outfits (“it’s a vintage night” lies one boy to a suspicious landlord) and great bone structure.


Vogue UK, August 2014

Oxford is for nerds though. As much as I could pull a postmodern and start comparing aristocracy oil painting to a filter heavy selfies, latin to bad text speak, it’s not going to happen. Oxford is for boys that wear ‘carpe that fucking diem’ t-shirts, ‘I am the after party’ t-shirts. Bops are like school discos. The theme for the summer one was ‘Communism’. I went as a McCarthyite. The balls, colonial children’s birthday parties. (Complete with coconut shy and magician). Developing countries are popular themes. Oxford is for geeks. Oxford was never cool. “Don’t you realise they’re laughing at you?” says one Riot Club member to another. He explodes.

A nickname for Oxford is the Dreaming Spires, but I don’t need dreams when an alumni list (with embedded wiki links) is available online. Oxford was always more gowns and big buildings, than radical discourse and critical practice. I mean that intellectual stuff is cool, but you can’t put in on the cover of a prospectus (the cover of Vogue) can you? Because Oxford is needy. It needs to be seen, it needs attention, needs the tourists, needs the movie adaptations, the fashion spreads. It may be old but it is immature. Money and indigestion: “the Oxford manner” as James Joyce once said.

I iron my gown and put it next to my J.W. Anderson. The Oxford manner indeed. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

KIM K. K?

content warning for blood, plastic surgery and general body horror vibez

“I wanted to swallow myself by opening my mouth very wide and turning it over my head so that it would take in my whole body, and then the Universe, until all that would remain of me would be a ball of eaten thing which little by little would be annihilated: that is how I see the end of the world.”

-Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers











Various Kim Kardashian photos, Andy Warhol, Cindy Jackson, Conair Impressions (1980), Infographic by Connect Theory for Beverley Hills Plastic Surgery, The Simpson





Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Movie Montage Moments: Notes on Showgirls

[tw: rape]

Okay so y'kno how everyone is like 'this is the worst film ever', well it's a different kind of bad than I was expecting?! A pornographic neon nightmare, exploitative, and awful, featuring a really, really horrific rape scene that would be enough to black list the film in and of itself?

I have no idea why anyone made this film (and I don't want to) but the aesthetics match its heart of darkness and for that it is notable. There is definite David Lynch vibes (in its Americana theatrics, Mullholland Drive identity feels, and the always welcome presence of 90s Kyle Maclachlan) and, in its ambiguity in terms of agency, as well as it's pulpy aesthetics, it really had a Faster Pussycat Kill Kill kind of vibe (Tura Santana 5eva). 

Oh and the use of make up merits a PHD film theory thesis?! 

I mean this may be a 'bad' film but it is not one to be taken lightly, like there is so much going on here!

So yeah, this is a fucked up film I would probably not recommend to anyone ever but I took a ton of screenshots (of the non-horrific bits) so you don't have to. Because whilst you probably won't enjoy the film necessarily (it's also really long?!) I think you'd like all the pretty, pulp-y stills ❤ ❤