Edie Fake: I think a couple of things happen in a couple of different ways. First off, drawing a tattoo for someone is sort of like finding the perfect gift for someone you barely know. Part of a perfect gift is that it is entirely wanted and sort of surprising and I think it also has to have a little personal flair, some indication of who the giver is and why they would choose to give such a thing. So just the drawing/planning itself is already a lot more collaborative than just thinking about what you’d draw on your own. Then, you start tattooing someone and it’s a whole other thing. It’s a blood ritual and it’s craftsmanship and it’s fun and painful and casual too. I was only tattooing for a couple of years, but when I was working on someone there was this whole new process of understanding each line drawn, and also an understanding of why this tattoo was going to fit the person getting it. I think I was looking at the stuff I was tattooing like it was different sorts of heraldry. The person wearing the tattoo is a huge part of what the drawing becomes, both physically and energetically. That’s the biggest difference throughout the process. With drawings on paper I usually am pushing out a drawing with my own vision, and then it can have a really singular presentation. Tattoos temper your own version of how things should be with someone else’s ideas and I really love it because it can really push the way you draw into some strange places trying to figure out the common ground where “what someone wants” meets “what you want to give to them.” I’m not tattooing now, but I miss it a lot and I miss the way it pushed my drawings. I’m starting to casually put my feelers out for another apprenticeship here in Chicago.
EF: I’m not sure if my thoughts are organized enough to bring up anything worthy of being a philosophy! I do identify as a transsexual and I do think a lot about the expansiveness of language, the importance of self-definition and how that all relates to complicating gender and sexuality. Collapsing and expanding meaning of words and images can work towards a wild and playful vision of sex positivity as well; that’s what I strive for in drawings.
Multiple meanings are critical – I really think that’s what keeps visual, verbal and physical language alive, the way that new interpretations will always be added to the heap. I make a lot of work based on innuendo and word play. Coded meanings and visual decadence can provide a place where drawings can snap into something that complicates gender and implies new systems. For me, it’s impossible to articulate queerness in a direct and definitive way because it doesn’t exist like that – it’s much better pieced together through a drawing with many things happening, the interplay of different codes, sly language tricks, a collision of symbols, because all these things together gets more toward the idea of a border-less, boundless queer gestalt.
CP: Do you believe in a Utopia? (not necessarily something to implement, but something to work towards?)
EF: I don’t believe in some true, universal, obtainable utopia, or any kind of unified vision for a utopia, at all. However, I have experienced periods in my life I would definitely call “utopic” where I’ve felt amazing energetic kinship to those around me, or even just to myself… I should add, these were not periods that were free of problems or hardships, but they were times of feeling deeply connected to what I was doing and how I was living. Constantly scheming and trying to help others with their schemes.
I think the world is shitty and hard, really lovely things always fall apart, pain, violence, heartache and futility reign supreme. Flying in the face of that, a utopia notion in my head can push me forward, and encourage me to try to create good energy and critical work. Utopia as a constant push to conjure up how things could be better, and then the working your ideas into realities.
CP: In some way I was thinking about the utopia question because of the on-line project A Gay Utopia. I was wondering if you could talk a little about that–how did the project get started? What was it like developing work for an on-line and shared context?
EF: Before the Gay Utopia Online Symposium, I felt like the term was floating in the air a lot, especially the air over Chicago. In my experience, it was being used as sort of a rallying cry, to envision working for each other, creating networks, sharing resources, and helping each other build the things we wanted to see in the world. When I went on tour with Lee Relvas in 2006 she delivered this brilliant soapbox speech as part of our performance that culminated with asking the audience “Are you ready for a Gay Utopia?” Well, the answer to that was yes.
I’m unsure of how the Online Symposium started, but that project was the brainchild of Noah Berlatsky and Bert Stabler. It’s a wild grouping of folks that they brought together, and I’m really proud of the work I did for the project. There’s a wide range of how people approached the work there, and I think I approached it as someone who feels like “Gay Utopia” is a concept that nourishes me and is integral to how I see the cycles of my life tumble out. The Gay Utopia shares a lot with the Temporary Autonomous Zone and I am really invested in both of those, so I wanted to create a comic that reflected falling down that rabbit hole. When I settled on a long scroll down drawing, I also decided that the most important thing for me to show in the images was the close combination of destruction and ecstasy, love and fury going hand-in-hand, fueling each other. That’s a big part of my lived experience.
CP: I was thinking about tattooing again, and your description of its gift-quality. It made me think too about how you describe community and connectedness as being somehow central to those moments of utopic experience. In many cultures, it feels like tattoos have ritualistic significance–it’s a sign given at the coming of age, for instance, or after some epic experience. I was wondering if you feel like tattoos have a ritualistic resonance in your experience and what that might be?
CP: I was also reading that you do some performance work as well–can you talk a little bit about that? And maybe what it is like to physically embody something, (vs. describing it 2-dimensionally).
EF: I do occasionally do performance work. To me it seems much more like conducting a public experiment, whereas displaying a finished drawing is like showing off the answer to a long series of problems. Performances are so dependent on your openness and the openness of the audience and they hinge on both the clarity of your purpose and also your ability to convey that purpose in a non-didactic way. It’s usually a medium I use when I have a cluster of ideas floating around my head. To perform effectively – it is so hard! For me, performing is maybe the hardest, so I try to listen to my heart about it and know when I’ve got something cooking, and if I’m not really feeling it knowing to throw in the towel and forget it, I’ll just do some drawings, which I always have ideas and methods for.
Go here for more glimpses of Edie’s work.
Featuring work by:
Michael Bancroft, Noah Berlatsky, Dayton Castleman, CThrough Outfit, Chelsea Culp, Derek Erdman, Gina Grafos, Jacob C. Hammes, Jaime Lynn Henderson, Hideous Beast, Thaddeus Kellstadt, Paul Mack, Rachel Pollak, Yvie Raij, Oliverio Rodriguez, Christopher Santiago, Dewayne Slightweight, Edra Soto, Bert Stabler, Matthew Steinke, Susannah Kite Strang
Curated by Bert Stabler
3219 S. Morgan, Chicago.
Open hours 1-4 pm Saturday July 11, Saturday July 18. Closing party Saturday July 18,
For more info check out Proximity’s site.
Here’s what I’d go to, if I were you…
1. Co-Prosperity Sphere
Bert Stabler is bending you brain this 4th of July with SALAD-CHURCH-EXERCISE: A show about self-improvement through self-denial. With work by over 20 local artists, a massive salad potluck, and taglines like, “While large-scale organs of control, such as schools, hospitals, and prisons, enforce the social contract through a restriction of choice and a remote delegation of authority, personal or cultural techniques for redirecting and mastering libido, the inner primordial chaos we carry within, can be found in the options represented by salad, church, and exercise.” How could you go wrong. You can take the Orange Line to Ashland, Saturday from 2-6pm.
2. Julius Cæsar
For the day after Independency Day, lets raise our torn jean jacket clad arms an Question Authority! Mmm…high school. But seriously, Kaylee Rae Wyant and Jerome Acks are doing something cool over at Julius Caesar called Hear Here. Framed as work “examining the many ideals and complexities encompassing freedom, democracy and revolution” it should be interesting to contemplate after a flag choked day of “patriotism”.
3. BEN RUSSELL
How many ways can you put your own name on a show? Well, if you are Ben Russell, as many as humanly possibly. How is “Ben Russell, presented by Ben Russell, at Ben Russell” for ya? Weird thing is, it ain’t a solo show. Ben Russell is a new space in Pilsen, go there and check out work by Marco Kane Braunschweiler, Martine Syms, Paul Chan, Miguel Cortez, Roxane Hopper, Julie Rudder, and Kelly Kaczynsk are doing their performance piece at 9pm the opening night. Drop by for the Sunday opening from 6-10pm.
As a celebration of the closing of the Bucky Fuller exibition, the MCA is hosting Jen & Ira & You at the MCA Meet Buckminster Fuller Meeting the Hippies in Golden Gate Park, a performance piece by Jennifer Karmin & Ira S. Murfin. Ever wondered why hippies loved this son of the atomic age? Well, here’s your chance to find out. The performance is free with the cost of admission, so if you get into the MCA free, you’re good to go.