Tuesday, July 14, 2015


by Kendalle Aubra

And what are you today, my dear?
Princess? Pirate? Prawn?
To don that shirt, my silly girl
With patched and puffy brawn?

And what are you today, my dear?
Hair snarls, wild and free
Are you perhaps a faerie,
Or a charmer of a bee?

And what are you today, my dear?
With such affixèd frown?
Pagliacci? Peter Murphy?
Some other mourning clown?

And what are you today, my dear?
Independent? Grad?
You have the hats and habits
Of the dreams you never had.

And what are you today my dear?
Artist? Barkeep? Domme?
So many different costumes--
Why the one that you have on?

Monday, May 11, 2015

I like to describe this look as "female Elvis-impersonator in a Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome world." Yeah, I got a little Tank Girl to me, too--in fact I was shocked when I saw the film for the first time since I was 10 last January and realized that somehow I did grow up to be Tank Girl, despite regretfully minimal exposure to her. <3 My babin' bosom buddy Polina took this photo of me because I matched her entire room. Nothing feels as good as that kind of sisterhood. <3 <3 <3

The collar is Polina's, too, actually. I just had to borrow it for this look. I have a flower barette from Las Vegas that, by some miracle, perfectly matches my hair and lipstick, but I guess I didn't get a photo of that. The shirt is from Collectif and I bought it in London a few years ago. The jacket is faux fur and faux leather, thank you, from Nasty Gal, where the fringe denim shorts were also purchased. The steel-toed boots are Miista. They're good for kicking ass and dancing.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ode to Grange-Over-Sands, England

In the vaulted, heather morning, birds unknown to me do caw,
Dipping down betwixt quick showers; silenced now, with worm in maw.
Though the hour be unholy, still I find myself at ease
With some semblance of well-restedness, above the gnashing seas.
Yes, I may confound the locals as I stalk the glossy streets,
Vested in my vibrant garb, with steel-toed boots and book of Keats,
But I cannot help but smile as I glide, untouched by mutters
Caressing every surface with my eyes and camera shutters.
Yes, you’re quiet, yes, you’re tiny, gorgeous, ancient, silent Grange
And in spite of this, I’m breathless—Is it really very strange?
I coo and I adore you, though no one ‘round me understands
That I’d like to sink my heart right into your voracious sands.

By Kendalle Aubra, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014


And so they lived happily ever after. The end.

Their individual recoveries spanned a tireless circus of weeks, offering hope and growth on a tattered zoetrope left unwatched in your grandmother’s dining room. It seemed so circumstantial, so surreal—the escapist propaganda of the DMT released by one’s brain at that ultimate and penultimate moment of life and unlife, echoing silently through their brains like an overexposed television program in a dark, silent room with only the buzz of electricity lightly humming the soundtrack in prayer. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . . . Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Click.

Somehow, yet explained but yet unfathomed, they’d survived.

But before that, it was chaos. As he gazed into her cloudy eyes he wondered if they reflected his own doubt, his own alienation from judgment, or if they clouded over with that quiet moment at the pinnacle of fear, in peacefully resistant mortal anguish, screaming cathartically at the edge of the precipice where her consciousness ended. The death of either was the death of both.

Nothing like the fear of mortality to put a little spring in your step. Heh.

Physically, he couldn’t handle the thought. It fell through him like a magnet through sand: anti-acknowledged, vacuous, rejected. It left a fuzzy hole tracing its downward and direct diagonal path from left brain to right mandible. It wasn’t an option. It was never suspected to be an option.

A tic shot down his spine and flung his right arm upward and forward, passively, warningly, when the thought hit him the first time. Eyelids clenched, he could just see his arm plummeting through the window, through her chest, right through her. He shivered with self-doubt and a salivating curiosity. That could be his moment, then and only then. His moment to give her her moment. Heavy-lidded eyes dared him without focus. She was ready; he could tell.

Really she shouldn’t have gotten him going like that. “But I want it,” she’d wined in a slow, obnoxious crescendo like a mosquito. She was still attempting to light the broken cigarette lodged between two swollen lips and strands of blonde, tangled hair that cradled it like many maternal arms, or women mourning limply on the coffined bodies of their fallen soldiers. “Some part of me actually wants it to happen to me. That’s why I’m here.” She looked out over the rooftops, focusing, he thought, on a streetlight shining orange in that deep Parisian Midnight Blue.

When she’d joined him in the kitchen she sat right on the windowsill, one knee bent up toward her elbow, the other dangling on the ground, holding her hair out of her face with her right hand while her left arm dangled out the window, garnished with the maraschino cherry of a cigarette. Hoping to ash it, she flicked it a little too hard. It snapped. She didn’t seem to notice. She reminded him of a little girl naïvely hiding candy behind her back, except for the sweat-streaked face, the smeared and blotchy kohl threatening to run into her eyes. It was, in his opinion, a gorgeous summer night; in hers, a miserable one.

He felt distant, dangerous. “Look, Marley, I really don’t think we should be talking about this yet,” he warned her in a broken, raspy voice.

“You’ve never thought about your own death? What it would be like if you just died, right now? You never thought about what the world would be like without and after you? Does it not bother you at all, or does it bother you too much?” The scrapes on her knuckles showed pink and fleshy against her filthy skin, emphasizing her pink, wet mouth as she brought the cigarette in holy sacrifice to meet her lips. A stripe of filth or make up was stretched along a segment of her nasal-labial fold. He felt it best not to mention it.

It was just like Marley to lead him to the kitchen for a beer, unoffered but trivial. His voice felt rusty, small. Marley paid no mind as he meekly cleared his throat, over and over, hoping to find his old voice hiding behind a clingy patch of mucous. No matter the effort, though, his voice just didn’t sound like it used to.

Upon opening the door, he could finally comprehend the peephole’s ambiguous shapes; she was standing with her back to him. She turned around, hair frazzled, face wet. Was it appropriate to ask her if she’d been crying? Maybe it was just sweat. It was an ovenly night; a slovenly night. A night like the hug he so desperately needed, quiet and humming like a doting nanny singing a child to sleep. So consoled was he by this night that he found it impossible, undesirable, and unreasonable to sympathize with Marley. She’s always upset about something, he thought. I’ll have plenty of other opportunities to feel her pain and comfort it away. I need this night. It’s mine. He’d remember thinking that, months later, and hear it echoing through his brain for the rest of his life.

Eavesdropping on his nasty thoughts, Time snuck quickly by and he sat in a waking stupor when the long-anticipated knock, frantic and sudden, jolted him mechanically to his feet. The knocking resonated in his sternum, in his throat, pounding tenaciously long after it left the door. He wondered at his anxiety to answer to others so devotedly when he could barely even answer to himself. Heart pounding disproportionately, he looked through the peephole, knowing full well who it was. He couldn’t really see what was going on on the other side of the door, though.

In any case, months had somehow passed linking days in an endless somersault of lightness, darkness, lightness, darkness, lightness, heaviness. Time was just another flakey bitch to him, really; capricious and unpredictable. Offended by the most unsuspecting things. He and Time were going steady, though she made a terrible girlfriend. Marley was unstable like that, he knew, but at least he could relate to her a hell of a lot more than he could relate to Time.

The heat of the night seemed to fill the awkward, yawning void left in his immediate environment ever since that terrible night when his mother died. Her lack of presence was what haunted him; he wasn’t haunted by her presence the way he often feared and sometimes hoped he would be. Sometimes he would take this personally and feel abandoned; then, in moments of clarity, he would stare into his hands and tell himself that science had always promised that there weren’t any ghosts. If anything, his mother’s spirit terrorized him far more when she was still among the living in her broken, feeble, angry way. She wasn’t there now to tell him “that whore Marley can’t come over here” anymore. He should have felt joyous, at least about that. He should have felt relieved. But now he felt lost, uncomfortable, unsure of just who he really was after all.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Crashed Car: Where Subject, Object, and Narrative Collide

     I have often been told that my art isn’t personal enough. Mostly it focuses on a disruption of visual assumptions, forced visual illiteracy. I strive to transport the viewers of my work into a state of abjection, which Julia Kristeva defines as “the place where meaning collapses.” I want to liberate you (yes, you) from your ego, from your world defined/confined/relatively predestined by your acoustic images, your Platonic ideals projected onto your environment, supplanting experience with perception. One
versed in semiotics or hermaneutics would correct the old adage as follows: “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

     Those familiar with my work may have noticed a certain motif: cars—crashed cars, abandoned cars, former cars. Why? Well, a car in-tact is an object. It represents the basic dialogue of American values: new money, class structure, priorities, information about taste and family. But a crashed car is not an object. A crashed car inherently has a narrative. By merit of its gaping, goreless wounds, it informs us of the most personal, solitary, ultimate moments of its passengers—death, or a glimpse thereof. A crashed car is a relic, the skin shed by the snake and its death-rattle. It requires no gore, no remnants of humanity to make us pale and wince. We are simultaneously enraptured and revolted—indeed, placed in a state of abjection. We can’t tear our eyes away, queasy and horrified as we are. A crashed car is a subject—one that percolates into our minds, our chests, our throats.

     Born and raised in Los Angeles, I have sometimes felt that a car crash is the manifest destiny of narcissists, klutzes, and the innocent alike. Cars are a method of transportation: car crashes are the same method of a different transportation. Surely, a pedestrian lying in the road comforted only by the DMT released in that ultimate and penultimate moment of life and unlife would see those staring headlights as lights ascending them to heaven; is this the rapture? And we, we all stare at the spectacle—the muse to the likes of Fitzgerald, Warhol, J.G. Ballard, and Cronenberg alike—simultaneously removed and utterly involved. It is an event we simultaneously understand and cannot fathom. It is at once alive, dead, and abiotic. So human, and yet so robotic. Surely this unholy union of man and machine sits comfortably in the Uncanny Valley.

     When I represent these destroyed or derelict cars in my work, I hearken to my homeland. But these rusted clumps so feared and fascinated also represent me. My car crashes are self-portraits. I feel similarly both objectified and subjectified—idealized by some and demeaned by strangers conditioned by a world of lenses and privilege. Passersby gawk and stare, simultaneously seeing my humanity and displacing me as an alien. One’s identity, to some extent, is carved by painful experiences as well as pleasurable ones. We define ourselves contextually, by reflecting or deflecting the other. You can’t see my rusted car guts and my bloodless dents, scrapes, and wounds. Not until I paint them. Not until I display them for you in a gallery, sprinkled with our shared existential fears like chopped nuts on a sundae.

      So don’t tell my my work isn’t personal. What could be more personal than death?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why Hating on Hipsters Makes You Look Stupid

            We all know the routine: you smirk condescendingly at the arty young adult with the glasses and the tattoos, or assume that everything he or she does is “ironic”—scare quotes included. You roll your eyes. You scoff. You make some sort of generalization on the way to your sweet new condo in Williamsburg: “We’re not walking fast enough for the hipsters.”
            I laugh to think I might be the first to point out to you that if it wasn’t for hipsters, your snazzy $2.2 million condo wouldn’t exist in the first place. Who are you, dear reader, to talk shit on an entire subculture that you can’t even clearly identify or define while you yourself have been swayed to wear tight, high-waisted pants, oversized beanies, or large-framed glasses? Are you going to just subsume the elements of their culture that mainstream America okayed and then slander them to death for, say, growing their armpit hair, being vegan, or gentrifying the very next neighborhood you’re going to move into?
            I happen to think the general hate of hipsters indicates something much, much bigger. I don’t believe any subculture has been so antagonized since the first punk rockers—who, as it turns out, were doing something truly important, destroying and laying foundations for new subcultures to exist, that everyone might find a place to belong. Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols were famously booed off talk shows, spat on, and even exiled from England. Sure, they were “obnoxious” in their outright rejection of societal norms. Punks were unhygienic to an extreme that put hippies to shame, spitting in people’s faces and giving them pink eye (as happened to Siouxsie Sioux and Adam Ant). They glorified the Id, punching and pushing each other in mosh pits in clothing indicative of their subversive sexual preferences. They had outlandish haircuts and wild, self-aware make up that completely defied what the contemporary standards demanded: bad hygiene equals bad manners. Try and fit in. Comb your hair. Sit like a lady. Punk rock deliberately and loudly defied all that, giving room for those othered by society to other society in return—that is, a community for freaks to belong to cemented by a common abstract enemy: the status quo.
Hipsters are a breath of fresh air after the stagnant remnants of seventies through nineties subcultures. We all know punk is dead: it’s no longer rebellious, no longer menacing, and thus no longer culturally relevant. Goth is dead too, as it always wanted to be—trapped in a feedback loop of masochism, narcissism, elitism, and nostalgia. Rave culture is said to be making a comeback, but I maintain that “rave” is just another dirty four-letter word, a euphemism for a vapid and obnoxious trend with no manifesto but PLUR. The acronym has become a symbol for sketchy pills that dissolve identities and make everyone act identically trashy; stupid bracelets with rave pseudonyms spelled on them called kandy; parties with music so bad you’d have to be loaded to enjoy them. Rave culture never should have existed in the first place. In fact, remember the nineties all together? Remember Clueless and Britney Spears? The important musicians killed themselves or sold out, or just lost steam entirely. After the militant social pressure to straighten your hair, wear contacts, and have your ass crack show every time you bent over, the stark contrast of the hipster aesthetic—an acquired taste for me at first—stands for personal liberation.
            Hipster culture allows anyone to rock an unconventional aesthetic. For the first time, boys make passes at girls who wear glasses in the mainstream. Hipsters never sought mainstream attention to my knowledge—they gained it just by being so outlandish in their “no rules” aesthetic. Hipsters pioneered the nerd revolution. They made it okay to be who you are, or to be who you aren’t if you’re riding that wave with any self-awareness. Anything can be cool if you both mean it sincerely and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Hipsters really began back in the forties, when white middle-class youths sought to emulate the black jazz musicians they so adored, but lost cultural relevance until about a decade ago. What’s so important about this subculture is that it has no agreed-upon definition. What is a “hipster”? Technically, when the term was first coined in the early nineteen hundreds, “hip” meant “in the know”, and the suffix “-ster”, like in “spinster” or “youngster,” was added to it to describe a person who fits in with the root adjective. So “hipster” means someone who is in the know. But what about now? What does “hipster” mean to you, today? Is it an aesthetic that you can compromise by disdain for people who transgress the boundaries of what is socially acceptable more than you do? Is it a novel attitude? Is there a manifesto? I live in Brooklyn, and even I don’t really know what a “hipster” truly is. I know one when I see one, but I couldn’t possibly define one. That, my friends, is what I believe you find so annoying. It is a culture so free, so ambiguous, you can’t even put your finger on it. Anything goes. That is also why I know what the hipsters are doing is important. It’s such a dynamic subculture that I don’t foresee its stagnation so much as its transformation, just as it has been doing for the past several years. It has even revitalized dead subcultures heretofore mentioned and even spat upon, such as goth and *gulp* rave culture—though, thank my pagan deities, with irony, nostalgia, and beats at 1/3 of the speed. In fact, the sea punk idea of raves is refreshingly idealistic. It bears mercifully little resemblance to the horrible “Happy Hardcore” of my youth.
In my opinion, hipsters seem not so much to know what’s hip as to create what’s hip. Therein lies their power, which you find so mysterious that you hate them for it. This puts them literally at the avant-garde. Your repulsion means they’re doing it right.
So, to conclude, whatever hipsters are, they’re revitalizing our culture merely by making us question ourselves. They maintain dynamics in their ineffability. Perhaps this is because “hipster” refers to more of an attitude than an aesthetic with a rigid manifesto, but even then it vacillates wildly between ironic apathy and political dedication (veganism, body hair, et cetera). They encourage paradox and a healthy degree of hypocrisy. Hipsters are keeping American culture fresh—even you have adapted some of their aesthetics, albeit at least half a decade later. Really this reflects poorly on you, and not on those scapegoats bravely and haphazardly carving the way for us at the forefront of the battlefield of cultural development. Considering non-hipsters co-opt the hipster aesthetic, move to neighborhoods gentrified and made safe and desirable by hipsters, and throw the term “hipster” at arty people with the same calculated abandon that scaremongers threw “Communist” at actors, activists, and transgressors not so long ago, you look damn stupid when you hate on hipsters. Damn stupid, and damn closed-minded.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Unicorn Tears: When and How Offensive Costumes are Appropriate

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to an event called I Feel … Unicorn Planet. Knowing everyone was going to go as a unicorn, I yawned, “How cliché! I want to wear something no one’s ever seen or worn at a party like this.” Therefore even I was shocked when I had the sudden impulse to go as a unicorn after all—a unicorn harnessed, on a leash, crying rhinestone tears (which, according to legend, can heal any illness). I made the entire fascinator myself that day with a horn I’d made out of cut, sand-blasted, heated, and twisted sheet acrylic; glow-in-the-dark ears of Sculpey; and some cardboard and fabric. I also added synthetic hair for effect. The costume incorporates a low-cut American Apparel onesie in gold, because pink is too obvious and gold is rare and royal, a pink and purple tail my friend Stace Cadet gave me at Burning Man last year, a soft white knit dickie found in the children’s section of a thrift store, wintery tights from Denmark, and MoonBoots that perfectly match the synthetic rope I used for my harness and leash. This way I have elements of the Sparkle Pony aesthetic, but I have made the male gaze the subject of the piece.

For me, to go in an immodest costume as a unicorn captured, tortured, and abused by humans perfectly danced the line of typical Burner culture and Leigh Bowery-inspired, DuChampian cheekiness used to recontextualize the costume and the culture it pertains to entirely. A lot of women even in the Burning Man scene sometimes wear costumes that are sexist without even thinking about them in those terms, or which are sexual but not particularly intelligent or opinionated. My costume is sexual but has a narrative, which forces the viewer to contend with him or herself on the politics of his or her sexuality. Is this young blonde girl in a low-cut gold leotard dressed as a unicorn in a harness with apparent tears streaming down her face sexy? Why? Am I morally at peace with my sexual attraction to her?