This interview is part of a series that seeks to move queer inspiration in the present to the forefront of a conversation on what makes us want to live. Who amongst our peers makes us feel lucky to be alive here, right now, despite the particular everyday horrors of 21st century life? What of our own art couldn’t exist without our peers, those living and creating in response to our world as we live in it? I’m truly thrilled to get to interview these queer artists on these questions and more, drawing lines to connect what we make to what has been made. Nostalgia gets boring: there is so much to love for decades long past, but we’re here NOW, and until time travel becomes an option here and now is where we’ll stay. Let’s hear it for here, let’s hook-up our hearts, let’s turn each other on to what is living just next door. —Gina Abelkop
YOU MAKE ME FEEL #4: INTERVIEW WITH CARINA FINN
Carina Finn is the author of Invisible Reveille (Coconut Books, 2014), LEMONWORLD & Other Poems (Co.Im.Press, 2013), The Grey Bird: Thirteen Emoji Poems in Translation (with Stephanie Berger, Coconut Books, 2013), MY LIFE IS A MOVIE (Birds of Lace, 2012), and I HEART MARLON BRANDO (Wheelchair Party Press, 2010). She is also a playwright and multimedia artist, and works as a pastry chef in NYC.
Tell me about one particular song/film/book/poem/piece of art (made by a peer in the last 5 years-ish) that has recently undone/inspired you. What about it was so striking to you? What in your life made you so open and receptive to this particular piece of art at that time?
I’m really glad that I get to talk about this. I recently saw a performance called So Long, Willy (Let’s Go Home) by the collective I AM A BOYS CHOIR, which includes many brilliant humans including my friend and former housemate, Kate D’Arcus Attwell. I never get to go to anything because I work as a pastry chef so my hours are very strange, but I took the night off to see the opening of the show at La Mama, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Without giving too much away, the show involved many inflatable exotic animals, a heartbreakingly beautiful a capella version of the Britney Spears song “Alien,” bodies smashing into other bodies, and the sexiest human/plastic orca seduction scene of ever.
The piece was so much about queerness and loneliness and the beautiful horrors of embodiment, and I was feeling especially queer and lonely and horrified by my body but also, very hopeful, the night I saw the performance. Watching it was like looking into a neon mirror in the best way. I don’t think there is enough interdisciplinary work that really hooks into that emotion that we all have, the one of singing a Celine Dion song in the shower and just sobbing and sobbing with joy at being alive and the solitude of it all.
Tell me about three of your favorite contemporary artists (writers/filmmakers/musicians/theorists etc): what makes them one of your favorites? How did you discover their work? Did you discover additional artists/art via these people?
I really like Tara McPherson’s work right now, because it’s cute and girly and goth and a little bit 90s. There’s something kind of off about it that I almost don’t like? Which makes me like it more. I discovered her work at this very random store called Fuego 718 in Williamsburg, which feels like walking into a surrealist version of Mexico. Some of her prints were on the walls and I kept going back to look at them because the store was next to the ceramics studio where I took classes this summer, and I eventually bought this book called Weirdo Noir because her work was in it, which is like this anthology of painters from the Lowbrow Goth movement. I’ve been really into Lowbrow painting ever since I discovered Mark Ryden when I was eighteen and living in LA and thinking about dropping out of life to be on Playboy TV or something.
Tegan & Sara are contemporary artists who are extremely important to me, for many of the same reasons I mentioned when talking about So Long, Willy (Let’s Go Home). I keep coming back to them and even though I probably know every one of their songs I discover something new every time. The first time I read about them was in like, Seventeen magazine when I was in the fourth grade. I distinctly remember sitting in my grandmother’s living room, lying across the coffee table, and reading about these Canadian lesbian twins and thinking they were weird and cool because there was a girl in my class whose name was Tegan, and she was weird and cool. Even though they both are and are not similar, my CocoRosie crush came out of my Tegan and Sara obsession.
I know I should put a writer in here but I won’t. My third favorite is going to be Alex Stupak, who is the chef of the Empellón empire in NYC. His food is whimsical yet structured, the complexity of his flavor profiles almost argumentative; like a cracked-out sonnet. I go to his restaurants as often as I can. He’s a white guy who started out doing pastry and then became this force in avant-garde Mexican cuisine, so his food has a kind of academic quality to it that I really admire. I staged in one of his kitchens for a day, and he reprimanded me for making a mess of breaking down an overripe pineapple with a dull knife. His cooks are very quiet when he is around. Watching him plate is like watching videos of DeKooning painting.
Tell me your favorite things about the loose community of artists that you’re a part of, if you’re a part of one in some way, shape or form. What is most exciting about the work you see coming out of this community? Do you make work in response to any of it? What do you wish to see coming out of this community that you feel is lacking or underrepresented?
Eek. So, I moved to New York because this is where poetry seemed to be happening in the most tangible way, and I wanted to be a part of that. Most of my close friends are poets. There’s a lot I don’t like about the poetry community in this city, but there’s a lot to love about it, too. For example, I am going to stop writing this answer right now and get ready to go have lunch with my friend, poet Amy Lawless.
Lunch turned into almost two hours of fantasy dream-house shopping at the massive Crate & Barrel in SoHo, which turned into a really productive discourse on feminism, relationships, the queerness of headboards, and furniture-as-moments, among other things. What I love about being a poet in New York is that it feels like you’re always “doing” poetry; at least I feel that way. Because we are all so physically close we have the luxury of a constant, real-time/real-life conversation. That’s exciting to me, and I think a lot of good work comes out of it. I think a lot of bad work comes out of it, too. New York can be a kind of trick.
The thing I wish to see more of is acknowledgement of the seriousness of both the writing and the conversation around it. I feel like a lot of the time poetry in New York becomes less about the work and more about getting drunk and taking selfies. Which, you know, is fun, but I have a fetish for intellectual rigor.
How do you build and/or define your community?
I build my community as a series of romances. I have to really love someone to let them in my life in a meaningful way. And I always have the hope that my loved ones will come to love one another.
Tell me about an instance where a piece of art you’ve made directly responded to art made by your peers. How did your response engage (or not engage) with the inspiration?
I don’t know if this counts; I don’t really make a lot of art in “response” to other art. It definitely influences and affects the things I make, but I can’t really think of a conversationally-direct example. Recently a close friend, a poet, read me some James Schuyler poems. The next day I wrote a poem kind of around that event. I think reading poems aloud, especially if they are not one’s own, is a special kind of art. Like a seance. And it’s so intimate, that evocation. There are so many layers of meaning and intention. The poem I wrote after that was very interested in exploring the many different kinds of intent that can exist simultaneously around a given moment. What you would and would not do, what you actually do, how what you don’t do can have more meaning than any action that comes into physical being. The poem has a really conversational tone which is a thing I feel weirdly about, because I am a poet living and writing in New York and that is such a hallmark of the New York School in its various iterations. I have a hard time feeling like I belong to a “school” or a “camp,” because these are not things I think about when I am making art, but it’s something that other people inevitable try to ascribe to a given artist because it makes interpretation easier for them. I don’t care about interpretation. I care about feeling, being in a moment, holding myself in that discomfort for as long as, longer than, it’s possible.
You get to curate a festival of art/writing/film/music/etc. What living artists do you invite to present/perform at your festival?
CocoRosie, Alice Notley, Chelsey Minnis (because this is a fantasy festival, much like my fantasy Crate & Barrel home), Dita Von Teese and Annie Sprinkle would do a duet of some sort, Natalie Merchant, Jennifer Tamayo, Chloe Sevigney performing Shakespearian monologues, Niina Pollari and I would request that she do a performance that somehow includes very hot metal objects of any variety. I would want Irina Krush to play an exhibition chess game against an opponent of her choosing, Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek to emcee the event, and Renee Redzepi to do the food. The closing event would be a 90s karaoke dance party and a silent screening of Clueless.
What are currently some of your favorite venues (magazine, journals, presses, youtube channels, websites, zines, libraries, museums, collectives etc) for art? What makes these venues particularly exciting/fresh/engaging?
Musems are easiest — I love the Frick. And the fourth floor of the MoMa. And the Museum of Natural History. Every time I go to the Whitney I have approximately all of the emotions. I actually read Smoking Glue Gun, The Sink Review, and The Volta, in their entirety, every time they come out. Action Books and Spork and Coconut, obviously. Daniel Boulud’s restaurants, Alex Stupak’s restaurants. The Lu Magnus Gallery. VECTOR Gallery. La Mama. Juxtapoz. I always read Vogue.
Please share five links to art that we can view online (website, music, video, writing, visual art, etc.)