THERE’S CUNTS, THERE’S TITS, THERE’S ASS… JUST SO YOU KNOW!
In support of 'Masking Is Always Better with A Friend' exhibit at Autumn Studios
'Masking Is Always More Fun with A Friend' is a multidisciplinary exhibition centered on the long distance, co-dependent friendship, between Madelyne Beckles and Delilah Rosier’s. The multi-media show documents a friendship of excessive binging and purging, through their abundance of material objects, information technologies, and feelings. The day before their opening night, I met up with Beckles and Rosier at Autumn to talk about their feelings pre-show, their practice together and apart, and how shame and tragedy is always better when shared with a friend. A retrospective on a private relationship on a very public display, Beckles and Rosier’s show demonstrates the new capabilities of a friendship to stay “connected” even if at a distance.
Nicole Coon: The show is a display of your friendship both through a digital and material archive. How did your friendship start?
Madelyne: We met in grade 9 French class. I’ll tell the story because you don’t remember.
Madelyne: We had to make these poster boards of things that you liked, and I remember we had a lot of similar things. Like Andy Warhol and somebody else…
Madelyne: Yeah! But Delilah was way too cool for me, she was punk, smokers corner, like badass. Throughout high school we were always in the same class and kind of had a rapport. And then I remember…I’m just going to say it… at Prom I was so high on M, and I remember yacking in the bushes and seeing you sitting on a bench and asking if I could just sit with you for a little bit, and you were like “Ya ya” and we had a really good conversation. Then I went to school and you were just around more.
Delilah: Well I would come to Montréal all the time.
Madelyne: But not in first year, or second. It was when I came back to Toronto and stayed for the year …and then the rest is history.
So after that year, Mada you moved back to Montreal and Delilah you stayed in Toronto. You both lived in your respective cities and kept in touch?
Delilah: Yeah, Well we chatted constantly.
Madelyne: Like you had broken up with your boyfriend and I was becoming friends with your friends.
When did you decide you wanted to do the show together?
Madelyne: I always knew I wanted to do something with Autumn. I don’t remember when I put my foot down. Maybe march.
Delilah: And I was like “Can I be in it!”
Madelyne: And I was like “Yeah, sure.”
The show is a public, uncensored, revelation of your private friendship - both its vices and virtues. What are you most nervous about in exhibiting this show?
M: I am most nervous for my family to see my video Girl on Her Period Seductive Dance. Specifically my grandfather, my stepfather, everyone else I don’t really care about. But I mean I gave fair warning; I told my mom today that there’s cunts, there’s tits, there’s ass…just so you know!
But other than your family, you feel okay with the public seeing it?
D: Well its funny what you said earlier, the video is a perfect representation of your work and it’s the thing you’re most proud of but it’s also the thing you’re most worried for people close to you to see. And yeah I’m also worried about Mada’s video, and my dad plugging the fucking headphones in and never seeing him again! He’s going to walk out with that laptop! Well I think I am most nervous for the Jean- Paul Goude photograph of Grace Jones, which is so ridiculous and I highly doubt that anyone would call that out. Just because it’s a white man’s work that is based off of fetishzing black women. But we think that Grace Jones’s representation in the show trumps that fact, it’s also in juxtaposition with Madelyne’s work.
The show is one day away now, what are you both most excited about?
M: Honestly there is nothing more we can do once its starts so there is that sense of relief, and then we can enjoy ourselves. We have friends coming in to see it, which is so nice, so we can just hang with them. We put a lot of fucking hard work into this so I am just excited for people to see it in general.
D: and I mean if you get it you get it. We were kind of joking, if someone asks us “What’s this about?” well send it off to one another, “Go ask Madelyn” and Madelyn will say, “Go ask Delilah”.
M: I think the titles will really bring it together; I’m excited for people to go around in conjunction with the titles.
What titles do you particularly like/are proud of?
M: I have three. Pity Party, which my Aunt came up with today for the garlands. It’s about eating a lot of food and indulging in self-pity.
D: That title also comes from a place of privilege.
M: Sculptural Appropriation, just because cultural appropriation is such a hot topic right now. Also I find it really interesting that we are using ready-made objects because there is an art historical term for that. Somebody…not to use my grandpa too much in this interview…but someone like him will get it.
M: Last, our collage is called Site-Specific Interior Decoration (do you take debit?) which is Delilah’s and mine tagline when we go out, like “Do you take debit? Do you take debit?” because we never have cash on us.
D: Some of the titles we were just riffing in the moment, some of them we were just thinking of funny words that we liked.
Where does the title of the show, 'Masking Is Always More Fun with A Friend' come from?
M: Well, it is represented in the show through literal masks. Also we are both fans of Drag Race and sometimes we would call each other and watch the episodes at the same time, like “Okay! Start now!” Delilah had seen this TLC special about this subculture called “Masking” and made me watch it. It’s about these men who wear latex suits, like they’re not “fags” they’re not “drag queens” they just like do it as a hobby, kind of like “furries”.
D: Old. Straight. Men.
M: Yeah they are all old, super straight men. So they put on masks and latex suits that make them look like women.
D: Like rubber dolls!
M: And they have this subculture community that is pretty small, most of them get their suits from one place in the middle of nowhere. So we watched that, and it resonated with us a lot. Its creepy, its sexy, its heartbreaking, its heartwarming. It’s all these things and on top of that it’s a reality segment that we love. And then we were thinking of the show, which came around the same time we figured we would do the show, I was on Pinterest and I saw this pin by Into the Gloss that makeup blog, and it was like “Masking is Always More Fun with a Friend!” and its two chicks taking a selfie in facemasks. I was like, that’s fucking hilarious. That’s perfect. We wanted something weird, a run on sentence, instead of just “US”.
D: And its so layered right, like you could tell people eight different answers and be like yup! And the poster is a processed work as well, so the whole thing is very self-referential.
Why did you choose that photo?
M: The body of the post card is an email I sent called “Kewl Werds” and it’s just us riffing. But it’s so funny because we did it unintentionally. We were like, “We got to make a poster!” and then we already had this, and superimposed our image and then just as it happens right under it says “Excess, Gluttony, Social Capital” like everything that this show is about. But just not in a full statement yet.
What are some buzzwords you would use to describe the show?
M: Binge and purge.
D: Bend and snap, just kidding! Definitely co-dependence, truth, and over-sharing, which is something we’ve talked a lot about. That women are often told that we give too much information, and to stop telling people about about your fucking period! But in giving TMI that’s how we grow as people and as friends, or just the two of us talking shit over. Like when I remember a fucked up anecdote from my childhood, which is deeply embarrassing, the first thing I want to do is call Madelyn and tell her. Because it’s hilarious, you get to think it over and make something of it with someone else.
M: And I would say humor, like the show can be looked at super dark. Like all this junk, this hording, but we think it’s hilarious.
D: Well we’ve been laughing the entire time right.
Do you think it’s hilarious because you’re able to relate and share those potentially “shameful” experiences with someone, who has experienced something similar?
M: I think it’s also… I’m going to get dark now…We’ve had very different upbringings but they have both been tragic in ways. When you’re hurt and you experience fucked up things in your family, you have to be able to take it lightly in a way. It’s like I’m not the only person.
How do you think that has influenced the show?
D: Well even the shelf. Madelyn has her retainer case out on the shelf and its green, and its right next to a green container with all of my wisdom teeth. And the other day I was like “Oh Madelyn you had braces?” because I didn’t know her then, and she was like “Yeah, did you?” and I was like “No, I had no dental care as a kid” and she was like “That’s why all your teeth are in this jar!” Like we didn’t even think of that but it just worked.
How are your art practices the same and how are they different? Have they worked together?
M: I think with my practice, my intention is to take up a lot of space in exploring narcissism and self-deprecation-it’s all about me, me, me! There’s a video of me, a big print of me crying, and a big print of my search history. I focus a lot on myself. So I think that’s a difference for us, but I think a similarity for us is just the everyday.
D: Well I mean we have a similar aesthetic and taste. And sense of humor.
M: Yeah for sure, I think that the installation - the shelf, the shrine, the rug with the things stacked, the video and your paintings - I think those objects epitomize our similarities, as being people and why we’re friends, and in turn is why we are both artists.
D: I mean I have only recently started to represent myself in my work. With the masking thing, I never made profile pictures of my face and then slowly eased into it, but I always have filters and masks. So kind of taking away that mask is another thing Madelyne has helped me with. Representing myself. Taking up space, literally.
What has been the most challenging aspect of putting on this show?
M: Fucking magnets are a bitch. And money. Also when we were living in different cities, I was in Montreal and Delilah was in Toronto, I was stressing out when July hit and I was still in Montreal and I had very different ideas of what I was going to do and put in the show. Life came in the way, but luckily I was able to come back here for a month. We’ve had two weeks to be physically together and conceptualize, and a week to set it up.
D: And since Monday we’ve spent everyday here.
M: But it has been pretty flawless.
D: Totally. Well even with the collage that all came about in one go, and there were no problems. It was just so hip to seamlessly work with you and share our energy, laugh, and for there to be a tangible outcome of that.
What has your process of putting the work up in the gallery space been like?
M: We started with the installation and that was the first thing we finished. And then the popcorn… I think setting up the installation was the fun thing and then we did the popcorn, which was the tedious thing.
D: But it’s funny, because the task itself is like classic women’s work- sewing aimlessly through shit. So that was funny, just to sit down and meditate while were sewing.
M: Most of the walls came together on site. We had an idea of what we wanted the installation to look like, which ended up happening. But everything else was very site-specific. Also, nothing will go wrong if you don’t have a plan ya know?
D: No measuring tape involved in this process.
M: We did not use a measuring tape.
D: Nor did we use the level.
M: Nope didn’t use the level. Our minds just work differently.
Maybe that was a detail that you both didn’t think was essential to the content of the show and your practice?
M: No, not at all. Even when we started putting up the prints and the magnets weren’t perfectly aligned and I was like, “ I actually don’t give two fucks, this has nothing to do anything.”
Well from what you have said, the nature of conceptualizing the show and the selection process of the objects and other different medias was very intuitive.
D: Well yeah, at the early stages we had to decide whether we were going to cram the fuck out of the place, or be highly curated and minimal.
How long have you been conceptualizing the show/installing it?
M: Around forty hours. We’ve been spending all our time together. And there is other stuff besides the actual installation. Because I mean with our personal items, technically we have been collecting those since we were born. And that’s the interesting thing about our show, we couldn’t just come to the gallery today and install our “work”, it’s been more about the process of collecting.
D: Yeah and we’ve been calling it our retrospective too, because we have been rehashing all this shit from childhood that we think defines us.
How much of the content in the show was taken from your computer or another digital archive?
D: All of the prints were originally digital and so is our online archive.
M: The video is IRL (In Real Life) that I have kept revisiting. Its very “long distance relationship”. We both have digital archives of when I visited or she visited me or we’ve been in the same city for the same time.
How did you conceptualize the show when you were in different cities?
M: We’re not big texters with each other.
D: We need that body language. Or intonation.
M: Yeah totally. Skype or phone. Also I know when I want to talk to you its not for quippy little hangs. I need to tell you everything that I’m feeling right now. Were both very sensitive people.
D: And talk for 5 hours at a time.
Social media and the internet informs both of your work, and has defined a lot of your relationship. How often are you both “online”?
M: Pffft…Like I’m on my phone every second.
D: I’m not allowed with my job but plenty…during school fuck.
When I walked in Alanis Morissette was blasting. Is there a soundtrack that has been of particular inspiration to you guys?
M: Well Kendrick is a big thing for us. “To Pimp A Butterfly” has been a big album for us. I think it’s going to be playing at the show.
D: I’m thinking about writing my thesis on it.
M: We’re just obsessed, it’s so politically sound in terms of the things that we feel passionate about. He’s like Malcom X! He’s fucking incredible. That album is so exciting to us because it’s influenced by jazz, which Delilah has grown up around. So much sampling, Boris Gardiner's “Every Nigger is a Star” really resonated with me. I was freaking when I heard it. So that’s definitely something we’ve thought about in conjunction with the show. Also Kanye.
M: “Know Yourself” has been a biggie for us, also because I have been so happy being in Toronto for the past month.
What do you want people to take away from the show?
M: Umm… That we’re artists? Haha! I don’t know I have always felt work being like “I make art” especially because it’s a very new thing.
D: Did you say it’s a new thing?
M: I have always done stuff, I was a dancer, and sang as a kid, I’ve always been creative. But it feels bigger to be like “oh yeah she’s an artist she has an exhibition,” to be honest.
D: I have always identified as an artist, but only since I have started school and stopped affiliating theory with my practice then I was like, can I even call myself an artist?
One of the things about our relationship is that she kind of stripped away the shame in me about indulging in pop culture. To think about it rather than hide the fact that you’ve watched every fucking reiteration of any type of Kardashian-thing-ever because we can sit down and talk about race, gender and class within that context.
What are you guys going to do tomorrow before the show? Do you have a ritual?
M: We’re going to sleep in as late as possible. I’m going to go to my parent’s house and shower. Do errands, get back here at five, do our CBC interview, get changed, do our makeup, and get black out.
D: and also we want tattoos for the show!
M: Yeah tonight we might do matching tattoos! Delilah is a tattoo apprentice and she’s got a gun so we are thinking of doing the classic “comedy/tragedy” drama masks, with the little ribbon.
Oh that’s good. Do you have any matching tattoos now?
M: We both have a “Winner” tattoo (which is also in the show) from a wet nap. We have our foursome tattoo.
D: Oh, and I have your name tattooed on me.
M: Also I have your drawing, and you have mine.
How have you both felt being working together this month, enshrining your friendship, spending time together?
D: Excellent. I’m just happy to see her.
M: We’ve practically lived together, the whole time, which I think is rare. I have worked on projects with friends before and when its come down to the wire I usually need my space. But no, it’s been great with Delilah. We’ve just helped each other with different things. Living together has helped.
D: It’s also just a joy to be in the same space, we have such separation anxiety, when Madelyne comes here, when I go there. And then when I take the bus home - such a come down.
Well it’s very cool that your friendship apart has culminated to this moment of intense physical togetherness.
M: Yeah a physical manifestation in all senses. I’m very proud of us.
D: Me too.
Besides the show, have any other ideas materialized about your future plans, together or apart?
D: We’re talking collective now.
M: Yeah we both have our separate practices but this show was just so easy to do, and looks aesthetically good to both of us. I think we have something really good. Like what we said, we both have different practices but they work together very well. I don’t think I could ever do this show on my own.
M: Now we just have to think about a good name.