I must have met artist Andrea McGinty several years ago digitally on Twitter. This seems to be a recurring theme for me. In any case, we met IRL shortly thereafter either at an art exhibition or some event at BHQFU. McGinty, like many people generationally classified as millennials, has either a multidisciplinary, an interdisciplinary, or a transdisciplinary practice. I don't know the difference and neither do you. In recent years, she's been best known for her sculptural work where she incorporates myriad everyday consumer items into oddly futuristic-looking hybrid home goods for people who demand that their house guests believe that they are chill, when they absolutely are not.
She's also curated quite a few group exhibitions and screenings since 2015 that have featured some of my favorite funny artists like Nandi Loaf, Jen Catron + Paul Outlaw, Ann Hirsch, and Al Bedell. Her own video work is gloriously upsetting, often making you doubt the ostensibly understood realities between you and your current romantic partners. Taking a tour through her website, sex seems to come up a lot, albeit subtly. In her studio work, McGinty is a sort of refined, suggestive Victorian to Tracey Emin's brassy Marquis de Sade. LOL.
But in 2015, in the third installment of Badlands Unlimited's New Lovers series of erotic fiction, McGinty dropped God, I Don't Even Know Your Name. It chronicles the adventures of Eva, a young aspiring artist from New York who fucks her way across Europe in a quest to find, well, something. Unlike McGinty's studio output, God, I Don't Even Know Your Name is patently bawdy. At one point, after fucking a Finnish man named Einar, Eva wonders to herself how men can fall asleep so easily after cumming. "She was so alert," the narrator tells us. "She wanted to paint four gigantic paintings of Einar's dick, or lift a car, or something." Even when performing as a digital native in Harlequin romance novel drag, McGinty can't resist a joke.
Fast forward to 2017, and McGinty's got her second book, Ah Yes Bad Things, coming out via Soft City Printing. It's decidedly less driven by narrative than her previous effort--and less overtly sexual--but the byzantine nature to the structure of its content fits perfectly in the format of a risograph zine. With a mixture of bizarre iPhone photos and short bursts of existential texts, it marries addictive online scrolling with the intimate, privately calming engagement of a physical book. Her distinctive comic voice is ever-present throughout, making it a perfect read for a subway ride or when you're alone, extremely stoned and need to feel connected--but not too connected--to somebody else out there.
Soft City Printing is releasing the book at an event on Thursday, May 11th at Printed Matter. McGinty's invited the aforementioned Al Bedell, artist Jayson Musson, Darcie Wilder, and yours truly to give readings. Leading up to the event, I got the chance to talk with McGinty about the zine, self-deprecation, and the anxieties of making sculpture.
Have at it below, screedlers.
You just got home from a solo exhibition, Reduced Guilt, at MIAMI Practicas Contemporaneas in Bogotá. How did that come about?
I met Juan Sebastián Peláez, who runs MIAMI along with fellow artist Adriana Martínez, while we were both showing at the Material Art Fair in Mexico City in February 2015. I was showing with the Lower East Side bar Beverly’s, who created an installation for the fair, and Juan was showing as part of Carne Carne, an artist collective that exhibits work at art fairs with a playful sort of attitude towards acting as both artist and dealer. I briefly met Juan and Carne member Santiago Pinyol during the run of the fair.
I met Santiago at NADA in March. He was telling me about that experimental art school in Bogotá, Escuela de Garaje. He’s so great.
They’re all super great. On the last day they finally got the chance to come check out the Beverly's installation, which was exhibiting something like 14 artists, but was also very much a Beverly's style experience. Mezcal, loud hip hop, and dancing, starting from when the fair opened at 11am until it closed. It was Juan’s birthday, so the two came downstairs with a bottle of tequila at, like, 11am, and we all hung out taking tequila shots and talking about art. We’ve been friends/plotting my trip to Bogotá ever since, and have shown each others’ work in other capacities in between. Santiago included a video of mine in a screening organized by a different artist space he’s involved with in Bogotá called Laagencia, and I exhibited a work from Juan’s series of cardboard cutouts (similar to, but dramatically smaller than the Rihanna piece he had in the last Berlin Biennial) in New York.
Soft City Printing is about to put out your new zine, Ah Yes Bad Things. It delivers quite a few laughs, from the awkward cell phone photos to waxing poetic about treating cleaning up a shot of a guy’s cum like it’s a paint sample--living with it for a while before making any major decision. How would you describe the book to the uninitiated?
When Soft City approached me about working with them, I had just spent an incredible amount of time painstakingly going through all of my social media accounts, phone camera roll, and notes to try and wrap my mind around this specific creative impulse. I was trying to understand why I have, up until now, kept them relatively separate from my visual art and writing. I’m a person who is completely addicted to social media, primarily through my iPhone, so I am constantly jotting down thoughts and jokes, taking snapshots, and working through ideas in status update length segments. Much of the writing in this book is either directly from Twitter, or developed based on tweets I’ve made. I wouldn’t call them poems, in part because I am friends with too many serious poets to dare, but also because I see them more as prose in the language of social media.
Poetry has, for sure, become a somewhat lazy catch-all to describe anything that isn’t traditionally structured prose. I’m sure, like you suspect, that it drives actual poets up the wall. It’s sort of funny though, because anybody who is regularly participating on Twitter would likely immediately associate this style of writing with that platform.
Yeah, where you see short lines and pauses, it’s not mimicking poetry as much as following the format of a stream of tweets. All of the photos in the book were taken with my phone as well, and many have previously appeared on my Instagram. I’m not necessarily the type of person who thinks Instagram/Twitter is my “sketchbook” or anything. I also post a lot of dumb shit.
Who among us isn't guilty of shitposting? It can eventually be mined very productively when considered as a larger aesthetic.
Exactly. I often compare the way I combine elements in my artwork to scrolling through social media, seeing photos and headlines divorced of context. So, I figured it would be worthwhile to reexamine my output, despite how embarrassing it felt to look through years of my own compulsive babbling.
What’s the appeal of Twitter for you? Admittedly, I ask a lot of people this, but it’s clear to me that artists I follow who have relatively oblique senses of humor seem to thrive on it. It’s an excellent medium for saying something self-deprecating without the character count to actually hold oneself accountable.
Twitter is my perfect storm. Self-deprecating humor is endlessly satisfying for me, and it is not only accepted on Twitter, but rewarded. I don’t look at it as much as not being held accountable, but being able to confess your deep, dark shit, exaggerate it to hell, or even straight up fabricate a story where no one can tell the difference, and it doesn’t even matter anyways.
Seriously. Twitter, specifically in terms of artists I interact with, is an absolute bog of the abject.
I remember reading someone say that if they posted “I want to die” on Facebook, everyone would be worried about them. But if they post it on Twitter they’d get a hundred retweets. I’ve tweeted many a joke about how I love lying, and by that I mean that I love to tell a story. I love to play with language and imagine alternate endings to experiences. There’s a level of acceptance of weirdness on Twitter, and people also respond to your jokes and stories with their own versions. People push each other. Twitter didn’t really work for me until I was actively engaging with other users, and then I was hooked. I’m a bit of a homebody and a total work-a-holic, so being able to have that sort of social environment coupled with creative output without leaving the house is very seductive.
In 2015, Badlands Unlimited published God, I Don’t Even Know Your Name. It's a far more traditional narrative approach to a book than Ah Yes Bad Things, with the protagonist bouncing around across the pond meeting various lovers within a sensical story arch. What brought you back to a more experimental approach for the zine two years later?
God, I Don't Even Know Your Name is actually more of an outlier in my body of writing and Ah Yes Bad Things is closer to my typical writing style, though I’ve gone back to working on some more traditional narrative stories somewhat recently. I had heard about Badlands Unlimited’s New Lovers project when it was still in development and submitted a short piece of writing I had been working on while traveling in Europe which eventually became the first chapter of the book. I had primarily been writing short, experimental text for my video art and had started to develop those texts into longer prose works, many of which were fragmented narratives. But I had never created a story as involved as God, I Don't Even Know Your Name, and basically jumped in the deep end. Badlands was interested in working with writers from varying levels of experience and were incredibly generous and patient with me through the writing process. I never could have anticipated the reach and reception of the project--it still doesn’t feel real sometimes--and I took a bit of a break from writing after the book was released to process the experience. When I inevitably couldn’t help but write again, it took the form of quick notes in my phone, or jokes on Twitter, which eventually led to me analyzing my archive and growing the zine from there.
If I were to describe your sculptural work to somebody, I’d call them comic objects. Meaning, they’re most certainly art objects, but there’s an underlying, pathos-riddled comedy to the fact that you make them in the first place. What would you call them? Sculptures? Contemplation props? Comic objects?
I consider them "Capital S Sculpture" of the highest form.
No, it's okay, ha ha. Though I’m aware that they are, in reality, sort of tacky, funny, sad little objects. I’m really interested in guilt, shame, and anxiety, the causes of those emotions, and the things we do to try and fix ourselves, which is fertile ground for pathos and humor.
Do you remember the tweet right above this? I think I remember you asking me--in good humor--if it was a subtweet about you. For the record, it was a subtweet about everybody who makes sculpture. But, I am interested in the kind of anxiety that comes with using identifiable, everyday objects in your work. How do you select your materials, and how do you make peace with the fact that somebody else might choose the same ones? Comedians who work with topical material find themselves in a very similar boat.
I honestly think about that tweet all of the time, Sean. It haunts me. I think it hits so close to home because I thrive and am most productive as a part of a community of artists, where we all support each other, but it’s so easy to get trapped up in insecure, competitive thoughts. Like just now, I opened Instagram and saw a bunch of friends at an opening and felt like shit for not being there. I closed the app, reopened it two seconds later, and realized it’s my friends supporting their friend, and they’re all cute and great and I’m happy for them. I think New York is becoming an especially difficult place to be an artist. Time and money are tight, you are surrounded with artists that all have hopes and dreams very similar to your own, and due to the scale it’s increasingly decentralized which can make it hard to feel connected. It can be easy to slip into a negative mindset. When you open Instagram, or go to an exhibition and see a work that feels similar to yours, it’s easy to get paranoid, when really we’re all just responding in different ways to the same environment. I have a pretty specific conceptual and visual language that I pull materials from, but I will rule materials out if I’ve seen someone else work with them recently, or because I feel like I’m responding to them because they’re trendy and not because they fit with my work.
What about your videos? They’ve also got a very specific conceptual and visual language to them. It’s like I’m watching calming self-help clips, except the image/text/sound relationship is entirely fucked. Returning to something you said earlier, one in particular, over softly rolling blue liquid, informs the viewer that people think that you’re very nice but then asserts that you’re just a very good liar. Are these just little stories?
My videos are created from found (stolen) clips of stock footage and audio uploaded to YouTube under the umbrella of meditation/sleep/relaxation. One of my favorite things about the internet is all of the niche communities that grow out of these massive, ubiquitous corporate sites. The texts are all original, and mimic the sort of overshare language of social media--the type of private admissions you would normally only tell your closest friend or therapist--now broadcasted to thousands of followers. But like all of my writing they are fictionalized or imagined. I like to describe them as the type of thoughts you would try to push out of your mind while meditating, which is what links them to the video/audio, but also makes the combination a bit unsettling.
I wanted to ask you about something you’ve said online quite a few times, something about “postpartum exhibition depression”? Not sure if I’m saying the phrase correctly, but I think I understand the sentiment. Is it that you experience a kind of studio mania leading up to a show, like hyperdrive productivity, and then once it’s out in the world, you’re just in a void? I imagine a lot of artists and performers feel similarly, but we rarely talk about it.
The awkward calm following the madness of working on an exhibition is definitely a large part of it. I’m a person that has a hard time taking a break, and am also the type of artist that will keep changing work up until the moment it is ripped from my hands. When I’m working on an art exhibition or a writing project it is a pretty isolated practice, outside of occasionally asking friends to look at the work. When an exhibition opens or a piece of writing goes to print it is the end of a long, solitary process that I am ready to move on from, but is also the beginning of other people’s experiences with the work. It becomes very public and its reception is now out of my hands. That disconnect can often feel very jarring for me, though I imagine I’m not alone.
You’re most certainly not alone in that sentiment, or any of the others that you’ve expressed in our conversation. I imagine that it’ll prove helpful for others to hear somebody speak on these things. I know that I feel them.
I hope so! I’m trying to use my powers of overshare and endless self analyzation for good.
That's very responsible of you. Okay, let’s end this thing with some more "comedy." Having grown up in Florida, I have to assume that you had some questionable musical tastes when you were younger. Can you give three extremely guilty pleasures you had on rotation during your formative years?
On the record, I hate you for this question. I have absolutely seen Reel Big Fish live. I am painfully from Florida, so New Found Glory, Dashboard Confessional, and Further Seems Forever shaped the low standard of my relationships for years. And I don’t consider them a “pleasure” per se, but growing up in Florida you are required to know like all of the words to basically every Sublime song.
I’m absolutely satisfied with this ending on that note.
I’m sure you are lol.
Follow Andrea McGinty on Twitter: @lifecreep
And, in honor of McGinty's bad adolescent taste in music, please enjoy the following videos: