The Fourth Dimension: An Interview With BabySkinGlove
In Articles | Interviews4 January 2012
n Friday, December 16, fifteen members of the notorious Brooklyn-based performance collective BabySkinGlove crowded into my midtown ARTERY office. Den mother Bailey Catherine Dorothea Edith Nolan lit a protective candle of Saint Clare of Asisi while her sisters in art purified the space with metallic glitter. Over the next hour, BabySkinGlove would bare her soul, offering insight into creativity, history, glamour, celebrity, collaboration and the BSG worldview.
DR: Please describe the genesis of BabySkinGlove. How did your project come about?
BSG-Alpha: The Genius of BabySkinGlove? We’re all honorary members of Mensa [The International High IQ Society] and we met there during a social mixer.
BSG-Beta: We wanted something new to do and we all literally moved in together at VillaVulvaDiva, which is where we still live.
BSG-Gamma: And we have chapters all over the world. We have a West Coast Chapter that Ellen is deeply involved in.
BSG-Delta: And we have an Italy chapter – it’s beautiful there in the summer.
DR: What attracts you to specific historic events and how do you reinterpret history?
BSG-Alpha: Actually I have a Ph.D in history – that’s something that we all have in common. We all have Ph.D’s in history and that’s something very important to us.
BSG-Beta: Sometimes we pick our historical events by what’s going on in the present. What is history? A lot of memories people wrote down and then others accepted them as truth. What we aim to do is say nuh, uh! That’s not necessarily the truth and we do extensive research for every project that we do
BSG-Gamma: We sleep in the libraries and on the internet. I’ve spent a couple of nights at the internet. We have a human resources and a Google Image department. They aren’t here with us today but they compile so many images for us to look at and think about. Sometimes a piece starts from just one image and sometimes a piece starts from what time the sun rises or what color you really love at a given moment.
BSG-Delta: A lot of times we look at an image that’s very important in the contemporary consciousness and think about the image that a historical event or time period left on the Google Image Search of that time and the media surrounding the image that laid it down on the street which is what everything comes down to.
BSG-Epsilon: It’s not political – it’s historical. It has zero to do with politics at all. We’re scared shitless of politics and I don’t like being scared and I don’t like working with people who like being scared. We choose to not be scared.
BSG-Zeta: And we’re bringing that to people as well. BabySkinGlove is a choice that you can’t make. We make it for you. In essence it is the true form of choice. We’re working on a feminist piece. It’s my side project. We all have a lot of side projects going on and we’d love to share them with you. We’ve constantly got our hands dipped in lukewarm water. At least one.
DR: What artists or movements have most influenced your creative development?
BSG-Alpha: That’s a great question. When I start to think about what artists have influenced me I notice a #trend that is oddly enough all defined by different genetics such as choice of hair color. Coincidentally a lot of our idols are chosen redheads: Napoleon, Galileo, Thomas Jefferson, Reba McEntire, Tori Amos, Wynonna Judd, Geri Halliwell, L. Ron Hubbard (a little known fact), Ginger, Carrot Top, you know, the obvious ones, Emily Dickinson. And then of course there are the influences that come from places other than genetics such as breeding – Lifestyle Magazine, people such as Oprah, Anne Geddes…
BSG-Beta: Her work is so beautiful – the way she involves nature with babies. It’s moving.
BSG-Gamma: Obama before he was the President. The apolitical Obama is what we were looking at recently. The Hawaiian Obama. Lilith Fair, all the saints, Joan of Arc…
BSG-Delta: I think we all took a lot of influence from the mall, Mall of America, and all the large malls. We see them as temples to one of our favorite pastimes as Americans – bringing it all back to history. The mall is completely historical in every way. It’s like an amusement park for history. It’s like a historical rollercoaster. It’s very contemporary, it’s very street, it’s very lyfe.
BSG-Epsilon: RuPaul, Lisa Frank, Alex Mack, Imelda Marcos, I mean we could go on and on. Kris Jenner is a big one for me – a true matriarch! Her entrepreneurial instinct is brilliant.
BSG-Zeta: Just the way she runs a family too. I feel like family is an important issue in BabySkinGlove. It’s something we all have redefined in some way and have really thought about within the pieces and without. I think she’s a really good model.
BSG-Eta: And she was a model.
BSG-Theta: Tanya Harding, Rosie O’Donnell, Leisha Haley…
DR: Your re-enactment of the Silk Road was very Bacchanalian. Were the caravans really like that?
BSG-Alpha: Yes they were!
BSG-Beta: People don’t want to accept the entertainment factor of the Silk Road but it was not a place to trade spices. It was a place for people to have fun from across the world and it was the first worldwide party. It was a rave.
BSG-Gamma: And the spices were their drugs and there was trance dancing. It was very realistic.
BSG-Delta: I would just say that to question the realism of any piece we do is completely absurd. Like I already said, everything we do is 100% historically accurate according to the internet and we have departments all over the world that are backing us – that are researching. The Google Images are just off the charts in our collective. It’s all about what history is to us and what we say those choices are that we have made. How do we come full circle and reinterpret what you say is history and what we say is the future
BSG-Epsilon: And the present.
BSG-Zeta: What did you think of the show? Did you like it?
DR: I loved it! I thought it was so original – mind blowing really…
BSG-Alpha: Did it make you want to go and trade spices?
DR: Yes! It was transporting.
BSG-Alpha: Transporting is the word. We’re really into transporting. We’re really interested in trance…
BSG-Beta: And time machines. One thing we’re trying to do is time travel in a way that we give you something and you cannot get out of it – ever. If you change anything you change your own future and your own history.
DR: For the ARTERY launch event, you interpreted the assassination of JFK. How would you describe your approach to and goals for this piece?
BSG-Alpha: As we mentioned, we have chapters all over the world – mainly in LA and in Italy. Sometimes things are just handed to us in a moment of unbelievable questions. When the JFK assassination performance was conceived, JFK’s ASS was the title of that show, Mercury was in retrograde which forced us to bring together all the people involved worldwide, universally, and have a six-way video Skype meeting.
BSG-Beta: I’m not going to say we started the Occupy Wall Street movement but we’re are definitely going to finish it. With that attitude we thought about America and what on this day is going to make you remember why you’re American and who are America’s people.
BSG-Gamma: I’d really like you to know how Erikah Badu has influenced us. She is so American! She was born in America and she will die here too.
BSG-Delta: It was a moment in BabySkinGlove when we were challenged to pull together all of our talents to make sure that we could fully deliver something in that short amount of time that would be as monumental as an assassination.
BSG-Epsilon: It was also something that people could participate in with their own iPhones or Blackberries at the performance and Google what we were doing and who was available that day. We had a complicated worldwide web of audiences. That assassination was one of the least known or least explored assassinations in our history – the least explored in universal history.
BSG-Zeta: I asked my mother, who was alive, if she had ever heard of it and she said no.
BSG-Eta: Where were you? Do you remember?
DR: I wasn’t alive, I was born in ’66 but my father-in-law was in the same dormitory at Harvard as JFK.
BSG-Alpha: So your wife probably had a really visceral reaction to that performance because she was in attendance correct?
DR: No, not in Dallas thankfully.
BSG-Beta: No, I mean’t the JFK assassination that we delivered. ..
BSG-Gamma: You said something very beautiful, Daniel. You referred to the actual assassination as a performance and I just thought that is so in line with how we think. Everybody is just a performer.
BSG-Delta: Everyone is capable of performing and probably is at all times in some way but they don’t stop to make it known. We’re just trying to remind people that they’re capable of making herstory.
DR: What is the role of glamour in your art?
BSG-Alpha: Glamour is both absolutely everything and entirely nothing.
BSG-Beta: Glamour is like being in a classroom without a teacher but still learning.
BSG-Gamma: Your homework’s done but nobody called on you and you’re not getting graded.
BSG-Delta: It’s like being on the subway without a flasher.
BSG-Epsilon: It happens but it doesn’t happen.
BSG-Zeta: It happens to us. It’s a foundational mark for a lot of growth. It’s how we came together. It’s really in our blood – it’s not something we could actually create. You either have it or you don’t in a lot of ways.
BSG-Eta: It’s more like a religion or spiritual relationship to material and showing the world that you know glitter, you know diamonds and gold and gold knows you.
BSG-Theta: And fur
BSG-Iota: That’s more what it is. It’s not what we know, it’s what knows us. We know glamour and glamour knows us and the latter is the important part. Its more a does than an is.
DR: BabySkinGlove has worked with many distinguished artists including Vanessa Beecroft and James Franco. How would you describe your process and approach to these collaborations?
BSG-Alpha: Collaborations are like high school. It sucks the whole time but you know it’s going to end and looking back you have some really cool t-shirts and great autographs in your yearbook.
BSG-Beta: And also some not so complimentary ones, which is what I find alarming. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
BSG-Gamma: It’s like going out for a really expensive dinner.
I’m paying a lot of money for this lobster and it’s a really good lobster but it’s a lot of work to open it up and get the meat…
DR: And whose meat is it?
BSG-Alpha: Is it the lobster’s or is it the restaurants? Is it the table cloths? Where did we get this lobster? Why did we order this lobster? Whose getting this bill? Who’s paying? Who’s paying? That’s really the question!
BSG-Beta: I’ll say this about James Franco. I should never have given him my number! That was a total mistake and I know this too. Every celebrity you know, across the board, has unlimited texting and data. It’s inescapable if you’re a celebrity.
BSG-Gamma: We approach each collaboration differently much like we’re collaborating with you. Look at how we approach this. We came bearing the gift of ourselves. We came completely prepared to work with you and see your needs and have them met and you are here to do the same for us. It’s all about the energy exchange in here. You never know and, when it’s over, you know too much!
BSG-Delta: The best thing about collaborations is in fact that they end.
DR: What role do gender politics play in your reenactments?
BSG-Alpha: This question is really complicated because when I think about the answer it’s very clear to me but I don’t know if I can put it in type-able words. For example:
Are you a man or a woman? Wrong!
Are you tall or short? Wrong!
Are you left-handed or right-handed? Wrong!
We all expect to have an answer but if I wrote all the answers down, it would be a Sven diagram rhizome DNA-looking system of calculus that I am not even qualified to define.
That’s why the internet is so important for gender because the diagram that one would make when trying to answer these questions would look more like MySpace than a diagram of the economic failure. It’s all relative and it’s all in the shape of something that I can’t necessarily define. I can define it but I can’t tell you.
BSG-Beta: Just because I am X and I sleep with Y but I live with A, does that mean that I am AXY? No, it doesn’t mean anything.
BSG-Gamma: Bailey and I are in the same thing. She lives with a woman and has short hair and I live with a man and have long hair but when you really look at it, there are no transfers of what we’re seeing or thinking.
BSG-Delta: People like to put lines around everything. I like to draw Ellen in a certain way but I actually can never capture Ellen in a drawing because it wouldn’t make any sense. So it’s the same thing whether we’re talking about a foot or if we’re talking about gender. We can’t draw it. It’s impossible. That’s partially what we have the internet for but that’s also what we don’t have politics for.
DR: How does technology enhance BabySkinGlove?
BSG-Alpha: BabySkinGlove is at the forefront of design and technology. We’re using our own folk technology for everything we do. We made our entire website ourselves! It was all GIFed, built and drawn by us. We work with Christina Quarles, an amazing artist in our LA Chapter and Montana Hart or Sarah Hallacher in Brooklyn.
DR: Does BabySkinGlove endorse any products?
BSG-Beta: We’re coming out with a makeup line with Wet’n'Wyldlife in collaboration with a designer in Connecticut who we met recently. Her name is Mira of herbanluxe and she’s a beautiful woman. We believe in quantity over quality. As much as we like quality, we love quantity. That’s how it goes and with Wet’n'Wyldlife there’s such a beautiful ratio of metallics to color. It’s shocking actually – couldn’t be legal. And it’s liberating! We just want to whip it out to the world. This goes back to our glamour question but the makeup is uplifting and about energy and empowerment.
DR: What’s in the immediate future for BabySkinGlove?
BSG-Alpha: Christmas! The Winter Solstice! Christmas is a really important time for us. Even though we all live together, the holidaze give us a reason to travel all over the world to places like Philadelphia and Detroit and sync our moon cycles with the solstice. This year, many of our individual plans remain undecided and we’ve been working a lot on new private performances as Christmas gifts. We’re also interested in researching each other’s collective family history to unveil inspiration for next year’s fashion trends.
BSG-Beta: Then on February 10th we will be running a Klone Klinic at the Brooklyn Rotunda, which is a very Brooklyn nice gallery, that will address a lot of the clone issues that have been happening over the past ten years. Shark DNA is a really hot topic. Teenagers are welcome to come talk to us. They are trendsetters and a big inspiration to us. We’re fighting the world but they’re actually fighting the world in their house. When you think about a house, you usually think of structure, but they internalize the world and that’s all they have. They’re fighting everything. We are going to be talking to people. This is not about sheep cloning, this is about human cloning. We’ll be talking with them to see if we want to use their clones as recruits, interns or designers and we’re looking for someone with web building skills. It’s a good way to get your foot in the door. It’s really an audition.
Writing Credits: Daniel Rothbart is an artist and writer. A former Fulbright Scholar, Rothbart is the author of Jewish Metaphysics As Generative Principle in American Art (Ulisse e Calipso) and The Phoenix (Ulisse e Calipso). His work can be found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Orsini Foundation in Milan and numerous public and private collections.
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