QWhat - liela toure



QWhat - liela toure
In our day-to-day lives and interactions, we
face different questions that seek to identify
us. There always appears to be two boxes we
continue to have to choose between. The
illusion of choice is ever present as you
seemingly have the option to decide between
a fixed amount of options. However, society’s
obsession with the binary not only excludes a
plethora of identities but ultimately is boring.
This zine is an exploration of identity through
1/ PERSONA “jessica simpS”
2/ Sorta kinda maybe yeah
3/ emilie + ogden
performance artist
production collective
Musical artist
A Performance
of Gender
an interview with ‘Jessica Simps’
VoteForNudes got a lot of press, what is next for
your online performance?
It’s funny because right now I’m trying to figure out
what’s next in this persona work. I basically invited
sexual harassment by asking people to DM me asking
for nudes, now I’m still overwhelmed by these kinds of
messages. ‘Hey do you cam?’ ‘Wanna fuck?’ etc… I’m
trying to negotiate the boundaries of my persona work
and my own life. I don’t feel like the general public was
in on the joke, you know? It wasn’t clear enough. Right
now I’m using [what was the VoteForNudes] account
to further assert the aspect of play and performance.
As well as queering the performance of the hyper-feminine while still retaining that Jessica Simps is a performance of the approachable bimbo.
Jessica Simps is a Montréal-based performance artist, painter
and all around rad chick. This persona work is part of her continuous performance exploring the contructs of gender through
social media. She recently garnered a lot of attention for the
VoteForNudes online political movement.
VoteForNudes also known as SlutsAgainstHarper was
an instagram account that gained a lot of momentum leading
up to Canada’s most recent federal election. It incited all people
of legal voting age to vote - ideally against Harper. In the days
leading up to the election, the account gained thousands upon
thousands of followers who would DM the group proof of
having voted to receive a nudie pic back. The account asked
for people to submit nudes, specifically from “cuties of all races
/ gender / bodies etc…” This inclusivity and deployment of the
body exemplifies the agency us cuties have!
What does performance art mean to you, how do
you define it?
So this whole online [performance] was trying to assert my feminism without the pushback of people not
wanting to hear a woman talk about feminism. I had
to find a way to make it palatable. That’s where I realized I was performing and in order to be heard, I had
to find a way to make it funny and engaging. Slip in
[feminism] under something else, so people didn’t feel
like they were being preached to. That’s how I came
to understand my own role in performance; I needed
a veil in order to say what I wanted to say. That’s the
thing about performance is that it’s bigger than you.
When we say that gender is performance, then we can
bend it and make it an intentional performance. It then
hyperbolizes the role that women perform everyday
without knowing it. I think when you perform it willingly,
you can’t help but throw the gaze back.
Thoughts on the binary?
As a person who identifies as queer and honestly
gender queer as well, no matter if I change my name
or alter my body I’m still read as a woman because I
refuse to deny my femininity at the same time. I refuse
to shame my femininity to embrace my masculinity
and it’s frustrating that that is still invisible. I think in my
persona work, a lot of that frustration comes out.
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orta Kinda Maybe Yeah or simply SKMY is a female
collective which has a unique DIY, guerrilla style approach to filmmaking. The founders state their collective
was founded in an attempt to tackle how male-dominated the
film industry currently is. Their collective aims at creating a
supportive environment for other females looking to create
content while gaining experience and skills.
I first met Laura Kirwan-Ashman, one of the co-founders
of SKMY, while I was working in London. Her idgaf attitude,
confidence and intellect are qualities that I found especially
striking when first meeting her back in 2012. These qualities
continue to shine through, now in the material her and the
SKMY collective produce.
Their first project Procrasturbation (2015) is a to the
point one-minute film. The comical short begins with Laura preparing to masturbate with a toothbrush. Her flatmate
knocks at the door and for the rest of the short the two are
simply providing euphemisms for masturbating back and forth.
This female-written tongue in cheek humour is refreshing and
witty. In mainstream media, female masturbation is something
often swept under the proverbial meat curtains. This short
underlines the ordinariness of the act and simultaneously does
not sexualize the women on screen.
This female collective reminds us how vital it is to have
women creating content. More importantly Procrasturbation
(2015) serves as a shining example of the importance of
women writing roles for other women. The advent of the selfmade web-series has given us series such as Broad City, High
Maintenance and now Sorta Kinda Maybe Yeah. With multiple
projects and a series of episodes in the works, it will be
interesting to see what comes next.
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- Procrasturbation (2015)
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Thoughts on the term ‘feminism’ being used as
a trending topic?
“We are of course all feminists and are aware that the
content we create will be viewed as feminist. The fact
that a political standpoint that affects over half of the
world’s population is seen as ‘a trend’ and something
that comes and goes is pretty disturbing. Anything that
turns women – in particular younger girls – onto feminism is a positive. The more it’s talked about, the more
the myths and negative stereotypes surrounding it will
hopefully be done away with.”
What are other topics or experiences can we
expect from the webseries?
”From the beginning it has always been important to
us that we have realistic, diverse portrayals of women. The three of us who write, direct, produce as well
as play the three main characters are fairly diverse in
terms of ethnicity and sexuality. Both Aya and Laura
are mixed-race and grew up not really seeing people
who looked like [them] in mainstream media so we
know how important it is to have that representation.
However, we also recognise that we are all cisgender,
able-bodied, middle-class people with similar upbringings in terms of education. It’s very important to us that
we tell our stories and explore things that speak to our
experiences, in the hopes that other people can relate.
[Making it] equally as important that we recognise our
own privilege, as well as the London bubble we live in,
and we try to do that in a tongue-in-cheek way, y’know
#firstworldproblems kind of thing.”
What are you guys watching lately?
“Catherine. High Maintenance. Broad City. The Slope.
Chewing Gum. The Leftovers. The Returned. Fargo.
Scream Queens. Gilmore Girls.”
Why a webseries?
”The great thing about an internet-based medium is
the freedom it allows you. When you have no budget and limitations on time/equipment/crew etc, you
have no choice but to think outside the box. You have
to be able to improvise, problem-solve and keep that
meltdown at bay. We had one shoot where an actress
[bailed] in the morning so we desperately had to do
shout outs on social media to find someone to fill in.
[Later] when filming outside it started to rain, which
was NOT in the forecast. We basically had to work that
into the script. Ultimately, it’s been a vertical learning
curve where you make a ton of mistakes but you learn
from them very quickly.”
One amazing quality about the web-series is its
ability to highlight certain intersectionalities of
its characters without reducing the character to that
single trait. How do you feel this is accomplished?
“It was always our intention to present stuff as normally as possible because that’s our experience. For
example, we didn’t want Laura’s bisexuality to be like
a big, sensationalised issue; we just wanted things
that are usually treated as ‘ISSUES’ to be [seen] as an
everyday part of life. Female masturbation, body hair,
bisexuality aren’t taboo, radical or political to us, they
are normal aspects of our own and our friends’ lives
and identities.”
What is the dynamic of SKMY like? How do
people join your projects?
”The dynamic between the three of us has evolved
in a really interesting way because our working relationships in terms of SKMY has grown parallel to our
friendship. So we’ve been figuring out how to collaborate on the SKMY stuff at the same time as getting
to know each other. It’s been very intense but a really
amazing whirlwind since we started this whole journey
in April.
We have a zero-budget, DIY approach where
there are no stupid questions and we want to provide
opportunities for women of all experiences to get involved and all learn from [one another]. The web series
is our very first project and that’s what we’ve been focusing on so far, but we are totally open to other women approaching us with an idea or a script and seeing
how we can help make it a reality - we want to create
an umbrella network for other women’s projects.”
And finally, is masturbating with a toothbrush
a thing?
”We say, whatever works for you!”
Holiday Gift Guide
How to tell if a gift is for
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Emilie & Ogden’s magical melodies makes its
listeners question why the instrument the harp
isn’t used more in contemporary music. Emilie
and her harp Ogden, have recently released
their first full-length album 10,000. Before the
album’s release, they got a lot of buzz after
Time Magazine shared their cover of Taylor Swift’s hit “Style”. This resulted in Swift
re-tweeting and sharing the post with millions
of her followers.
Emilie admits that she often gets asked about
what genre Emilie & Ogden fall under. “I like ‘Alternative
Folk’” she says but urges people to listen and decide
for themselves. “I think humans just like to define
things and label things”. She begins recalling a recent
show where the poster advertised for a ‘folk, rock, jazz
evening”. Another topic often raised is her choice of
instrument. “Whenever I do interviews it’s always like
‘harp, harp, harp, harp, omg the harp.” She acknowledges the unique instrument choice and continues on
about how she found the connection. Always having
been attracted towards singer / songwriter music, she
started out playing the piano and took guitar lessons
as well. Eventually, she found the harp and sought
out lessons on Craigslist. Playing such a classical
instrument in contemporary music allows for a lot of
freedom. “It’s nice not a lot of people play the harp because it’s [liberating] to play it any way I want”. Adding,
“I can do weird things that aren’t ‘correct’ and people
don’t really know so I can do my own thing.”
This summer Emilie & Ogden went on their first
European tour accompanying the band Half Moon
Run. Quick to point out the positive experiences there
were also negative ones as well. “Europe was rough
sometimes. When you live in this bubble and don’t
have a lot of money and you end up staying at a lot
of shitty hotels or insane travelling with [equipment]”.
Switching again to the positives and reminiscing about
her travels. “I got to go to Iceland which was the time
of my life and spent a bunch of time in London where
I had never been before. It’s crazy to realize like ‘Oh,
shit, I’m playing for people across an ocean.’ It’s really
“ ”
Whenever I do interviews
it’s always like ‘harp, harp,
harp, harp omg the harp’
When describing what performing live feels like,
she laughs and simply says it’s the best feeling ever.
Recalling her earlier shows as a teenager and how it
felt almost narcissistic to perform as if to think ‘oh, I’m
so cool, I’m a singer’. The more shows she performed,
and the more she developed her unique voice as a
singer, songwriter Emilie realized the importance of
performing live. “When I started doing bigger shows,
people [started] writing after the shows saying ‘your
performance touched me’ or ‘it made me feel this way’
Stills from the music video
What Happened (2015)
and this makes you realize [the music] is so important
to people.” She adds, “That’s what’s really cool about
performing. Is this person doesn’t know [anyone] but is
completely naked and vulnerable. That’s what’s special.”
Emilie is a Montréal-native who speaks both
English and French. The title for the album was intentionally language-less. The album title is named
after one of the songs on the album and in written
numerically. “Right now I have the biggest following in
Québec. After having played Europe and coming back
home to sold out shows is amazing. The idea behind
the album’s name was that anyone could understand
Emilie & Ogden’s first music video “What happened”, is an eerily beautiful visual compilation. Emilie
wanted the video to be compelling and memorable
as it acts as an introduction to the general public. The
video is an undeniable success, having been directed
by Pierre Alexandre Girard. The dreamy visuals are
accomplished by speeding up the back track while
filming. Emilie admits she always shares this story at
her shows. “[On set] the backtrack is playing in this little
chipmunk voice and I had to be playing the harp at
three times the speed while lip-syncing. But because it
was sped up, what I’m playing on the harp isn’t in the
same key as what I’m singing because of the speed
so it was a total mindfuck!” In the end she had to do
it 50 times during the 12 hour shoot, change clothes,
change makeup then do it again. She laughs saying “It
was pretty hilarious”.