43. Micro Reliquary III
Like the newsletter you're about to read, June has been all over the place.
Like the newsletter you're about to read, June has been all over the place.
I tried, I really did, to assemble everything for this under a coherent theme but nothing quite fit. There were simply too many pieces all belonging to completely different puzzles, and attempts for order felt a little futile. Not to mention that I've been all over the place: started one job, ended another, interviewed for another job I won't start until autumn, started an internship on top of everything, and somehow still found the time to research and read (for both work and personal pleasure) about subjects ranging from apocalyptic body horror to environmental protection reports about the state of water management in South Florida. I've spent my lunch breaks running over to gallery shows and indulged in a solo afternoon movie screening (or two). Each little quest has left me gently sunburned, mildly dehydrated, and my legs aching, and it's been worth every minute of adventure.
So, for this month's newsletter, I've decided to embrace the chaos that comes with stumbling into sweaty fever dream that is the start of summer.
Listen, I know we're not supposed to judge a plant by its decorative vessel. But with the warm weather fueling my urge to spend an obscene amount of money on plants, I can't help but seek out planters that do justice to their natural beauty. A personal favorite of mine has been this gorgeous cork pot designed by Craighill in collaboration with Lichen, a furniture store and workshop based in Queens. Now home to my ZZ plant, it's been a wonderful break from the homogeneous pattern of plain plastic containers and bland terracotta pots that once littered my bedroom and office. Both of these organizations are New York City design powerhouses, and it really shows in the execution of this planter with its sleek curving form and tactile texture that plays off leafy structures and silky blooms.
I picked up Jenny Odell's How To Do Nothing the day after I finished my last final. By then, I was worn out, after a semester spent researching, writing, reading, working, and adjusting to my new life as a grad student. Although the book was published before the pandemic, so much of what Odell talks about with regards to productivity, labor, and attention feel more timely than ever. This is a meandering book, following Odell's growing enthusiasm in bird-watching to the histories of communes that tried to reject societal norms, and along the way we find small revelations about how we can rethink our relationship to work and social media, how to resist the pressure to commodify one's self. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll end with one of my favorite quotes: "Through attention and curiosity, we can suspend our tendency toward instrumental understanding—seeing things or people one-dimensionally as the products of their functions—and instead sit with the unfathomable fact of their existence, which opens up toward us but can never be fully grasped or known."
For the past month, I've spent every Tuesday afternoon tuning into a lecture series facilitated by the Institute for Postnatural Studies and the Institute of Queer Ecology centered around "Mutability & Mutualism." During this time, I've learned about bio-hacking hormones, multi-species coexistence, queer ecological practice, and how eels can symbolize the experiences of immigrants and gender non-conforming people. It's been such an enriching way to spend each week. I've learned so much from artists and thinkers whose artistic, scientific, and theoretical work I've admired for so long, and I can't wait to take my learnings into my own creative practice. Postnatural Studies has more seminars coming up if you're interested in all things ecological.
Thin Wild Mercury's fragrance "Laurel Canyon, 1966" smells like a party I'd expect to find in an Eve Babitz story. Its notes of birch tar, jasmine, sweet orange, and patchouli evoke wood-paneled walls, the smoke of passed-around joints soaking into retro carpeting, that first step outside after a long night of partying when you inhale the morning breeze and feel the sun warm your limbs aching from dancing and skin still sticky from spilled drinks. I never thought that I would be attracted to a fragrance with notes of tar and patchouli in it (especially since my tastes skew citrus and floral in the summer) but this has been a wonderful way to satisfy my cravings for a scent that is nostalgic, androgynous, and earthy.
Every time I put on these dainty pearl hair clips by Elisa Muthig in my hair, I can't help but feel like a fairy princess. I originally got these for New York's Renaissance Faire all the way in August, but I couldn't wait any longer and decided to put them on to go see a performance of Macbeth. Since then, I've loved how they frame my face with an angelic shine that reminds me of falling raindrops. Yes, I've definitely gotten some looks on the subway each time I wear them, but it's been absolutely worth it.
For this year’s Venice Biennale, the Nordic Pavilion became the Sámi Pavilion to honor the art and sovereignty of the Indigenous community across the Nordic region. Among the 3 artists chosen to participate, I have become so fascinated by the work of Máret Ánne Sara. Sara’s sculpture pieces are made from the parts of reindeers, an animal that has played an important role in Sámi life despite legal attempts to block their herding rights. Nothing is wasted from sinews and stomachs to calves and reindeer milk. One of my favorites is Ale suova sielu sáiget, an ephemeral piece made not only with threads of sinew but molecular compositions of fear (reindeer excretion and stool, as well as diesel) and hope (maternal breastmilk). Sara notes: “As human beings on this earth, we are simply a part of an interconnection of life forms and the constant dialogue and interdependence between these. My work asks questions about what happens when outside powers enforce laws upon you that systematically force you to break your own and collective ethics and morals, epistemology and philosophy. When your sanity is criminalised, how do you counter and continue?”
Laura Benson’s art has captivated me from the moment the Instagram algorithm led me to this illustration. Benson’s imagery is rooted in enchantment, depicting creatures in scenes like something from a fever dream. Symbols of fire, blood, and little devil figures, playfully dance around the boundaries of divine and damned. Their work is so wonderfully haunting. What I love most though, is Benson’s use of metalwork, encasing her pieces in silver pendants and frames so that they look like trinkets you might find in a witch’s house in an old folktale.
With vibrant, psychedelic dreamscapes, Fatchurofi’s work inspires introspection through graphic illustrations. The color palettes of these pieces bring to mind 1970s retro advertisements and the layered patterned dots of risograph printing. It was really interesting to learn, then, that what’s now become Fatchurofi’s signature style emerged from an interest in ukiyo-e, a style of Japanese woodblock printing. Although his works are created primarily through digital illustration, the layered texture and optical interplays of flatness evoke the precise layering of color in printmaking. I could spend all day staring at these pieces.
I’ve had Arlo Parks’s debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, on repeat this past month. This wonderful collection of songs has accompanied me on subway rides, walks around the city, long bouts of time staring into space as I figure out what to write next. This collection of songs is a journey through first love, heartbreak, aching crushes, caring for friends in sadnesses of their own. Parks’s lyricism packs sucker punches, tapping into a vulnerability of feeling as you get lost in her dreamy melodies. It’s hard to pick just one favorite standout track so here are a few (more like half the album, really, sorry): Too Good, Porta 400, Hurt, Bluish, and Black Dog.
I went into HeidiWorld: The Heidi Fleiss Story knowing nothing about the “Hollywood Madam” and, boy, I was in for a wild ride. If you love getting sucked into juicy Hollywood history and pulling the curtains back on celebrity life, this is the podcast for you. I ended up binging the whole thing in a matter of days, and walked away with a new understanding of sex work, power, and the life of a fascinatingly complicated woman who became an outsized figure in pop culture at the time. I do want to commend the show’s writer and host, Molly Lambert, for discussing Fleiss’s life without stigmatizing sex work or putting down sex workers, but rather confronting the way the men in this story faced no consequences for the same crimes Fleiss was accused of. I’d recommend pairing this show with Lambert’s interview on Longform, where she discusses the way she crafted the show and, if you’re still craving 1980s and 90s Hollywood celebrity drama, you should check out You Must Remember This’s newest season about the “erotic 80s.”
New Composers’s track “Love of Nature” is like a lush, tropical garden distilled into a single song. It’s so groovy and, with each listen, you find a new little note that adds to its textured soundscape. Whatever I write here won’t do it justice, so give it a listen.
Every time I see a tattoo by Celeste Lai (also known as limbforest) it’s like looking at an illustration from a book of fairytales. Seriously, I don’t know another tattoo artist who does whimsical, ephemeral artwork like Lai. Each piece is so dreamy with inked tales of faraway places and magical characters. They’re currently working on a graphic novel, too, so I can’t wait to see more of their creative work on paper and skin alike.
Like many of you, I ended up getting engrossed in Under The Banner of Heaven. Based on the John Krakauer book of the same name which recounts the shocking double homicide of Brenda Lafferty and her child, the show is less about a grisly true crime story and more about a reckoning of faith and the use of religion to justify violence. I didn’t expect it, but I did appreciate how Under The Banner of Heaven explores gender roles and the experiences of women in conservative religion, speaking to much bigger issues about the weaponization of one’s faith to maintain oppressive family structures.
I've been thinking about this essay by Alli Hartley about her experience visiting the NRA's National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia. Although it was written back in 2018, in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, so much of what Hartley talks about and reflects on as she passes through the NRA's galleries feels relevant to today's grappling with gun control legislation, the NRA, and the aftermath of horrific tragedies of recent events like Uvalde and Buffalo (a grim reminder that nothing's really changed over the past 4 years). Yet along with Hartley's descriptions of the Firearms Museum's wall texts and curated exhibitions is a sharp (and much-needed) discussion about U.S. museums' continued lack of engagement with gun violence. Whether you plan to work in museums or you're a museum-goer, this is an important read for thinking about the role of culture in social justice.
Trevino L. Brings Plenty’s “Will” is such a striking, unexpected poem about grief. What I love is how Plenty’s notion of a ‘will’ takes many forms: spurring oneself to action, a determination to make something happen, the inevitability of living and dying, the documentation of a death through photocopied paperwork that dictates the division of property and inheritance. Plenty writes, “I am partial to this grassland; the place of deer marks and porcupine quills, ledger extrapolates history.”
Back in 2015, a couple of animal lovers decided to become amateur pet detectives and begin solving what they believed to be a string of serial pet slayings across London. This multi-year journey is memorialized in Phil Hoad's essay appropriately titled "Cat and Mouse." If you're looking to get lost in a winding, peculiar story about pet enthusiast Facebook groups, love and heartbreak, animal rights,and the consumptive power of obsession, look no further. I will warn you that this piece does contain descriptions of the animal victims and their autopsies. It's a weird ride, one that brings an unexpected sinister wildness to the seemingly boring London suburbs.
The idea of ‘queer ecology’ has loomed large in my mind this past month, a result of Pride and the lectures I’ve been attending. Yet, what does this kind of way relating to the environment look like in practice? Alex Johnson’s essay, “How To Queer Ecology: One Goose At A Time,” offers some guidance. Through a series of instructions, Johnson challenges us to rethink our understanding of Nature, to embrace the non-normative, to consider the dynamics of power that have shaped our relationship to ecology and to ourselves. As Johnson describes: “It is the relation within the human and the natural and the god and the geese and the past, present, future, body-self-other. A queer ecology is a liberatory ecology. It is the acknowledgment of the numberless relations between all things alive, once alive, and alive once again.”