Interview: Jacob

Today we’re joined by Jacob, who is known on social media as Jacob’s Jottings. Jacob is a phenomenal author who writes both original fiction, nonfiction, and fanfiction. For nonfiction, he writes about autism and mental health for the site “The Mighty.” For fiction, he has mostly written fanfiction and original short stories, but has recently taken on two large projects. One involves a detective in post-war Britain and the other is about an autistic wizard (which is something i would absolutely love to read because it sounds fantastic). It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. The Capitoline Academy (Sunset) (A4 cover logo)
The Capitoline Academy (Sunset)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer, and I’ve really started to come out of my shell in the last few years. I’ve always written short stories and never shown them to anyone before, but that changed when my friends started writing fan-fiction, and my English teacher at college told me to attend a creative writing club.

Though I’m still very private about my larger projects, I started publishing articles for mental health site The Mighty, one of those articles received 32,000 hearts on the site, and got shared a lot on social media, so I started to say to myself ‘what if people would like my creative work too?’ and here I am now, writing two large scale projects, one about an autistic wizard, the other about a detective in post-war Britain. Not just that, but I published some fan-fiction of my own, and I found once that was out there, I found it a lot easier to write without much self-doubt.

I’ve recently finished college, and I’ve been accepted onto the Creative Writing BA course at a university I’ve dreamed about going to for years. I’m hoping this will really make my dream of being a full-time writer a reality, even if it takes years to take off.

As well as writing, I also do a bit of photography, and some digital design. I make all my own covers for my projects, as well as posters for events, and I love going out and taking pictures. I often use the pictures for reference for my writing, and it’s a great skill to have alongside.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in many things, mainly everyday life. But I often find myself looking into what I loved as a child, certainly what comforted me. Sometimes this is in the form of stories by other authors, such as J. K Rowling, or Terry Pratchett, but other times its films and music, or most importantly to me: knowledge. Plants, animals, and space particularly always have heavy presence in my stories, and that’s because I love to learn new things.

I’ve always written to escape the real world, so I suppose it is natural that my other methods of escape blend well with this, I often find that going to a museum or exhibition particularly fuels my writing, it often ends in me trying to fit a lot into one box- my wizarding story contains as much knowledge of the natural world as it does fictional magic for example.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve always been creative, and I was sure I wanted to utilise that in some way, but could never find an exact form that suited me. I tried art, and drama, and found myself not ever truly comfortable. I mainly thank books, films, and television, for getting me into writing. The idea of making my own stories was irresistible! I cannot pinpoint when it exactly started happening, probably about five years ago, but I finally found that writing (alongside reading and watching) was the most enjoyable thing to do. Then it all fell into place, and I find myself writing all the time, even if it never gets added to again- it’s fun.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Oh definitely! The infinity symbol finds its way into most of the stuff I write, not just because of its use by the autistic rights movement, but because of my fascination with the concept behind the symbol. I also always incorporate types of birds as symbolism- usually owls, or penguins, as they’re my favourite, penguins especially.

Playing with colour is something I’ve recently moved into, I don’t have a single character that does not heavily associate themselves with colours and their meanings, even if it is just a subtle inclusion. Blue for my protagonists usually, a colour I use not only to create a cold atmosphere, but also to show the presence of intelligence, imagination, and peace. Reds and oranges meanwhile shows up my more passionate and instinctual characters, with purple showing a combination of the two.

I also love playing with imagery, with many of my characters having ‘hair the colour of fertile soil’ or the ‘great spurts of an ancient wine, hemorrhaging profusely’- it can feel a bit forced sometimes, but it often pays off, and I find it a great way of illustrating the worlds I’ve made.

I’m also told I tell stories in a unique way, my friend recently commented that when she reads my writing, I am clearly telling the story, rather than just creating it. I’ve never quite understood this evaluation, but I’ve heard it quite a few times in several forms.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It sounds cliché- but I would say just do whatever you love! I spent far too long worrying about what others think, and though that matters if you want to make a career out of it, the initial starting of a new art is a solo-activity. If painting makes you happy- paint! Everyone I know who does something creative for a living started off doing it to just kill time, or to help them with another activity, and it grew from there.

2. Inherited Intuition A4 Cover
Inherited Intuition

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I use the label asexual as standard, to me, this means not feeling sexual attraction. I’m confident in identifying as a sex positive asexual, but I’m yet to 100% settle on my romantic orientation.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I think one of the strangest encounters in my life was when I first explained asexuality to someone, without attaching the label to myself. I was told its ‘unnatural’- for this reason, in my private life, I don’t talk about my sexuality until prompted.

I also find that some in my age group is often sex-obsessed, I’ve often been labelled prudish just for not wanting to talk about sex, and I find it very hard to try and express my frustration with that. I am not at all prudish, I just think about it completely differently to they do!

I incorporate it into my work- I actually find it harder to write allosexual characters, and therefore many of my characters are asexual by accident! And I do worry that some people won’t understand the representation if they haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I do my best to write characters that educate as well as represent now.

Outside of my field, I see prejudice and ignorance regularly, insults such as ‘frigid’ and so on, I also see the constant discourse present on sites such as Tumblr, and though I do my best to keep out, I sometimes worry for our community, I hate the idea that anyone who identifies as asexual will feel like it isn’t valid or can’t talk about it in case they’re verbally attacked.

As an autistic person, I also find that some people think my asexuality is part of that. I don’t think it is- and it’s quite insulting to assume that someone’s sexuality is part of their sensory issues for example. The two often overlap for me, and I also know autistics that do feel sexual attraction and have those sensory issues anyway. Some people in both communities would even say their sensory difficulties enhance their sexual experiences.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Personally, I find that the definition of asexual is often mis-identified. It means lacking sexual attraction. But I know people who are completely convinced it simply means ‘won’t have sex, or won’t masturbate’- it is often a pain to try and debate it with them, and I find myself bringing up articles from the community to back my side up.

I don’t like discussing the personal details of my own asexuality in too much depth with people who might not understand, and therefore I think the extra labels of ‘sex positive’ are really useful when discussing asexuality, as well as the other identities within the spectrum.

At the end of the day though, the only person other than me who has a right to that deeper information is a partner, and I don’t think asexuals should ever feel pressured to dissect their identities for another person’s curiosity or because of an ignorant person’s misconceptions.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Firstly, it is okay to struggle! I found it incredibly hard to find the orientation that best described me. I still think sexual orientation is a fluid concept, and I think people who are struggling should remember that. If something doesn’t feel right, find the label that does feel right, and don’t feel guilty if that changes. Some asexuals might not find that identity for a long time.

I myself often find myself wondering if I might be aromantic as well as asexual, or demisexual instead of asexual, this is a natural part of development. Just as sexuality in all its forms is natural. A lot of people go through that internal debate. And nobody should ever be afraid of using the label that best suits them.

I would also repeat that the only person who needs to be happy is you. Come out at your own pace. Experience your sexuality at your own pace. Some people don’t find the identity they’re most comfortable with until they’re halfway through life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s a thriving asexual and LGBT+ community waiting to help you through it all, and the right people within it are not going to judge you for struggling.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

People can find my work in several places. For a more personal touch, there’s my own Tumblr blog which is at jacobs-jottings, or my AO3 under the same name (but without a hyphen).

As well as this there’s my new Facebook page, also called Jacob’s Jottings, and my user page on The Mighty, under my full name- Jacob Durn. If anyone is curious, my photography can be found easily on Instagram, where my username is identical to my AO3 one.

My blog has a bit of everything (including personal posts, and lots of reblogs), my AO3 some fanfiction, and soon some original works, whilst the last two focus on my non-creative work.

3. Murder On The Hogwarts Express
Murder On The Hogwarts Express

Thank you, Jacob, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Emie

Today we’re joined by Emie. Emie is a phenomenal performance artist based in Malmö, Sweden and London, UK. She does a variety of different forms of performance art, including installations and video art. Emie has traveled around the world and recently gave a panel in New York. A lot of Emie’s work has a deeply feminist bent and she’s incredibly dedicated to her work, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. SexDisoriented_Tokyo_(c)DaisukeTsukuda
“Sexually Disoriented in Tokyo” Shibuya, Tokyo, 2017. Costume and Photo: Daisuke Tsukuda

WORK

Please, tell us about you and your art.

I’m an artist and film activist from Sweden who’s spent over a decade working in London as a filmmaker and cinema worker.

My main disciplines as an artist are video, performance and installations.

It was only in recent years I started exploring the field of performance art and transgressing various art disciplines. I make stylized, political work that is influenced by my background in DIY arts, avantgarde clubbing and queer/feminist activism.

My A Sexual Series includes a variety of works that explore and visualize our struggles as asexuals to find acceptance in the world, on a personal, local as well as international level. It also provides various methods for dealing with those struggles and gives a nuanced picture of asexuality to a wider audience, who may have no previous knowledge of these terms or never encountered any of these themes before.

“A Sexual Series is a sex positive asexual’s perspective on our contemporary sexual culture.

A Sexual Series is inspired by posthumanist theory and gender studies.

A Sexual Series works with contradictions as a premiss to find greater understandings of human and posthuman thinking.

A Sexual Series explores the queer identity asexuality with the intent to raise awareness of the sexual construction of teenagers from both liberal and conservative environments and offer alternative ways of thinking about desire and attraction.”

I’m so pleased that my work in A Sexual Series has an international appeal and has already showcased in two art venues in Tokyo (JAP), Athens Museum of Queer Arts (GRC), multiple places in Sweden. It just premiered in New York on Jan 25th at Utopia School @ Flux Factory and in London on Feb 8th for Cuntemporary’s Deep Trash Romance event at Queen Mary University. My hopes and ambitions are to continue bringing the work to more countries globally!

Whilst showcasing the work, I try to find more participants for my international documentary about the asexual spectrum. I call it Ace of Baes and the aces featured so far represent a variety of cultural experiences, being from Japan, the US, Sweden, Estonia, India, Greece and Spain. I am currently looking for an ace producer to help me secure funding for a group shoot. (Holla!)

What inspires you?

Everyday life, encounters, people, the world, technology and meditation – spending time in my own mind. And reading!

3. techtest_SexDisorientation
techtest_SexDisorientation: Emie, featured in the documentary QUEER by Daniela Runesson, Thara Schöön & David Falck, 2017

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve identified as a filmmaker since I first touched a video camera at the age of seven! Then I started curating my family gatherings at the age of 10, turning them into social and performative happenings!

I carried on pursuing my dreams of making a living – or more importantly, a lasting impact on society – and during production of several films DIY, I started my own international production company in London.

The move into contemporary art wasn’t an obvious one, but it makes sense to me. I was in my late twenties and disappointed with some encounters of sexism in the film industry – similar to those that came to light during this current #metoo revolution! So I decided I would explore the field of progressive video art – only to realize that everywhere is a patriarchal world, with artists calling #metoo as well! My hope is to return to film as my main medium at a later stage in my life, but as an artist.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I can see a reoccurring trend with a lot of deep pink in my video works. And cyborgs in my performance art!

Being inspired by post-humanism and monster studies, the cyborg as a symbol, metaphor and identity really appeals to me, as I’ve had scoliosis surgery (reinforcing my spine with three long metal rods). My crip experiences really had an impact on my self-image and I share similar feelings of resemblance towards the Monster of Frankenstein as scholar Susan Stryker has expressed on behalf of the trans community in her My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage from 1994.

Bodies reshaped by science.

Recently I’ve started exploring glitch art as a metaphor for queerness.

A digital glitch, a rebellious pixel, reminds me of queers.

To go against normative expectations of you.

5. aligning_glitch
aligning_glitch: “Straightened” physically and culturally by the hetero norm.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t overthink things, do something and reinvent it if needed. Challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zones. Don’t wait for people to invite you, do as much as you can yourself, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Doing it together is a really good method to progress as a creative being. DIT is the new DIY! Move away from the individualist idea of the sole artist by collaborating and start art collectives!

2. asexual_rebelbyDaisukeTsukuda
“Asexual Rebel” Shibuya, Tokyo, 2017. Costume and Photo: Daisuke Tsukuda

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Sex positive, panromantic, demisexual.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Oh, definitely! Try dating as an open asexual…! The worst part is not that the Jungle is so much thicker than average for us in a context of this ultra sexual dating culture, it’s the fact that people in general show no interest in you beyond the sexual. Or you come out and they just fall silent and let their own preconceived ideas control their behavior and actions (usually non-actions). The only person who’s asked me a genuine follow-up question after coming out as an ace person (who listened carefully and didn’t judge me or argue their point), is the person I later ended up falling for and am still seeing today!

Generally, we need an intersectional perspective on how power dynamics impact our emotions and sexual behavior to fully understand the idea of sexual attraction and desire. And it would help if people learn to self-reflect, listen and be curious rather than douchebags.

4. sex_dis04
sex_dis04: Exposition of Emie’s Sexual Disorientation (performance video). Documentation by Anette Skåhlberg.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That all asexuals are the same.

In fact, I was surprised by the diversity within the spectrum and the intelligent level of thoughts and conversations about sex and sexual behavior in the ace community.

Some people argue that sex positive aces shouldn’t be included in the asexual community, but where would we belong? The lack of sexual attraction is what unites us, no matter our sexual behavior and whatever reasons behind it.

But actually, I’d like to challenge the phrasing of the question and proclaim that I believe the majority of people have misconceptions about their own sexual attraction to others. I believe the estimated ‘1% of the world population being asexual’ is a massive understatement.

So I can’t wait to live in a world with a greater understanding of what the ace community means when we talk about ‘lack of sexual attraction’ and do another poll. The problem is that everyone is so caught up in the middle of the sexual culture, that we don’t realize the power the sexual norm has on us. It’s an extremely hard norm to remove and distance yourself from, so I have the utmost respect for my ace siblings out there, because I know the inner self-dissecting and acceptance you need to go through before you can even consider coming out as ace!

Now, if I’m right when I believe there are a lot more than 1% of aces out there, suddenly we’re touching upon the infected question whether or now we belong in the queer community or not. If the queer community includes around 50-60% of the world population, is it still queer by definition? Personally, I’d like the definition of queer to stand for radical thinking and norm-breaking behavior. Capitalist queers is for me a far greater contradiction than asexual queers, as the status quo way of thinking is so influenced by colonialism and the global capitalist norm – especially in terms of how we are expected to conquer, consume and collect our lovers and relationships.

My utopia is relationships with ourselves and others built on curiosity, acceptance, love and consent.

Coming from a post-humanist standpoint, I want to move beyond the humanist idea of the polarized mindsets (white/black, man/woman, left/right, us/them…), so I would claim that the ace spectrum is building a complex parallel across the sexual dichotomies homo/hetero. We’re opening up the straight-line way of thinking about sexuality and attraction into a fluid mind map in 3d, which automatically encourage self-reflection and openness both towards yourself and others.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

You’re not alone. Find people who are into similar things as you. Deepen the relationships with people that respect you for who you are and let those encourage personal development in you, as you in them. Grow! Do what you love, not what people around you and society at large say what you ought to do. Learn to respect yourself, your body, your (non-)desires and your boundaries (extremely important!). Don’t let people take advantage or disrespect your comfort zones.

This is what I wish I’d heard when I was a teenager.

Instead, I was under the impression that everyone was like me and shared similar conflicting feelings, but was just better at pretending and performing.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

If anyone’s in the UK, I’ll perform at Goodbye To London // This Dancefloor Isn’t Here Anymore’s event about disappearing queer spaces in London on Valentine’s Day! https://goodbyetolondon.wordpress.com/

www.happyendingsproductions.co.uk
www.facebook.com/HappyEndingsProductions
www.twitter.com/happyendingsltd
www.instagram.com/semiemie.

6. M-E
M-E: A Video Selfie, 2015. Distributed by FilmForm.

Thank you, Emie, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.