Harnessing the abject – An interview with Millie Brown

Collect the spit in your mouth, push it to the front.Take your time.
Let your mouth warm; it will begin to feel dense.
Suck it back and forth through your teeth.
Now it is cooling down, swallow it.

Why does this substance so natural feel so foreign once you become aware of it? Sweat, spit, urine, mucus, all of these things that are products of bodily existence have come to be held as abject. There is a cultural shame regarding that which the body produces, remedied by a ubiquitous selection of pharmaceuticals to disguise or prevent such occurrences.

Theorists on the body have contemplated the reasons behind such bodily shame, understanding the distaste as an unconscious aversion to the signifiers of the human condition. Ultimately that which the body produces may be seen as foreclosing the disintegration of the body, representing the timely guarantee of death.

Abjection is about boundaries. So not only are the boundaries of inside/outside in terms of organic production, but also bodies that do not comply with socialised understandings of normality may be seen as abject. That which is not the idealised ‘body beautiful’, the groomed, trained body that conforms to gendered typologies has throughout history been subject to degradation, if not alienation.

But it has also been revered, subcultures and communities claim the abject as a point of rebellion against mainstream culture, in fashion, in art and with and on the body.   Millie Brown’s conceptual performance art is an example of contemporary artists harnessing the abject as an expressive tool. We exchanged questions on her works…

How did the idea of vomit paintings come to you? Were you looking for a new medium to express yourself?

I came up with the concept of vomiting rainbows when I was 17, [...]


An anarchist may be asked, “How will your free society begin, how will you end the government?” The anarchist may have no answer, no way of initiating a self-ruling society without fearing brutal retaliation from the rulers in power. But in a war, when violence damages the buildings, streets and cities, it also destroys the established authoritative order—so who’s left to enforce the rules?

The destruction of Sarajevo in the ’90’s inspired architect Lebbeus Woods to speculate on how to divest from authority and initiate individual empowerment by repairing the city. He saw an opportunity to reinvent the society in Sarajevo, a chance to end the authority-sponsored war cycle and replace it with peaceful individual authority. The anarchy would emerge through the desire to build a city for oneself, by oneself, from the discarded fragments of the established, violent government.

Lebbeus saw the potential for healing the trauma through architecturally mending the city. This would create personal space in the depths of ruin. He knew it was necessary to holistically process the urban detritus, to think about both destruction and construction as a cycle to rebirth.


“The new spaces of habitation accept with a certain pride what has been suffered and lost, but also what has been gained. They build upon the shattered form of the old order a new category of order, within which existence feels it’s strengths, acknowledges it’s vulnerabilities and failures, and faces up to the need to invent itself as though for the first time. There is an ethical and moral commitment in such an existence, and therefore a basis for community.”

No higher authority is needed when the virtue of each individual is true and accepting of the good and the bad. [...]

Sun Ra: When Sun Comes Out: Ephemera 1956-1975 at the David Nolan Gallery, New York


Some people make such an impact on the world that their influence becomes almost impossible to trace, diluting in to areas inconceivable from their origins. Not often, but increasingly so some of these individuals don’t receive the gratification that they deserve by fading into obscurity. Sun Ra is well known to many as the pinnacle of avant-garde and a jazz genius so it is great news that the David Nolan Gallery have curated an exhibition about his work in the context of fine art. His work most obviously existed in the realm of jazz but he also created accomplished films, philosophical ideas and incredible album art.

To understand the great jazz musicians work and ideas you often have to think quite literally out of this world, “We have the human race and the alien race,” he said in a 1981 interview with Detroit Black Journal. “I’m not human, because to err is human… I didn’t get my status making errors.”

This stubbornly brilliant man wanted to progress the world into a more beautiful and spiritual place. Many of these ideas were catalogued into his impressive 1974 film Space is the Place, in which he attempts to transport Earth’s black population to a new planet for a fresh start. “He was very specific with what he was trying to achieve,” explains John Corbett. “He thought it was his job [to change the world]. I think his job was a messianic one. He saw himself in an enlightening role.” Sun Ra is now viewed as an early afro-futurist, an academic term connoting futuristic fantasy trends in black culture as a means of critique and exploration of African diaspora; though the term didn’t exist until 1993, the year [...]

Portraits of people at KAOS by Eloise Parry

KAOS remains one of the most authentically subversive nightclubs in London and last month it celebrated its tenth anniversary where myself and Eloise went to take portraits of the hardened fans of the club.

Lee Adams, the founder let us use the shower room in The Flying Dutchman as a studio. I would wait outside the shower room while Eloise took photographs of individuals and I would catch people to be photographed and wait with them while Eloise finished each portrait.

There is a kind of following that KAOS possesses which I’ve never experience for any other social event. The club lets its attendees manifest themselves into something that the mundanity of day to day life doesn’t necessarily offer us. Although the club has a reputation for being utterly wild, which it very much is, I’ve never visited a club which is simultaneously so inclusive. People of all backgrounds and ages attend to experience a similar kind of expression.

The club is known for being closely associated with a fetish and performance art scene and the likes of Ron Athey, Franko B, Chadd Curry and David Hoyle are always familiar faces. However it is also enjoyed for its dj’s who play dark techno which is not necessarily available to experience in many other clubs in London.

These portraits have been chosen to show you all a kind of underground culture which is very much alive in London but once used to be more vibrant. It is so important to document and keep this kind of underground culture going in the face of commercialisation spreading its tendrils and seeping into everything. This club remains utterly original and so do the individuals who support it.





TECHOFLESH! Ghost Crawl : Celebrity Lookalike Surgery

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Technoflesh is a monthly column by Simone C. Niquille for Sang Bleu, writing about technology and/with/on the body, investigating how body modification, as a form of self expression performed on the body, influences modes of 21st century surveillance and biometric identification.



GhostCrawl: Celebrity Lookalike Surgery


During the second World War the United States Army deployed a unit of artists (among them Ellsworth Kelly and Bill Blass) to perfect the craft of camouflage and deception. Like a travelling road show they set out to deceive the enemy by imitating other U.S. Army units. Pretending to be where they were not, adding visual and literal noise to keep the actual tactics and whereabouts hidden. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as The Ghost Army, were equipped with inflatable tanks, sound trucks and fake radio transmissions. Many of the artists found their way to the Army via camouflage classes at NYU & Cooper Union, later joining the Army’s 603rd Camouflage Engineers unit which was responsible for visual deception within The Ghost Army. They were so successful as to make whole battlefields disappear and fake ones appear. A diagram illustrating a mission on the Allied front in the Ardennes displays The Ghost Army’s three warfare tactics: Truth, Distortion and Pure Fiction.


Is the job of the modern camoufleur the plastic surgeon? Biometrics, the translation of bodies to data for later identification and verification, has gained wide reaching implementation and development support after the events of 2001. The War on Terror was announced to a faceless enemy by the U.S., foreshadowing obsessive identification and suspicion in the unidentified. From dating website Match.com offering to find partners that look like your exes, to the FBI generating the largest face database to date, facial recognition has [...]

An interview with tattooer Matty D’Arienzo

Matty D’Arienzo has a strikingly bold style. While tattooing mostly in strong solid black, he manages to express strong graphic qualities in beautifully simplistic ways. We cannot blame him for his bold, loud style as he is a part of the infamous INTO YOU family of tattooing in London. Carrying on the torch on his terms, I got a chance to ask him a few questions.

Interview by Miguel Chavez

When was the first time you saw or consciously understood what a tattoo was? How old were you and what kind of impact did this initial interaction have on you?

The first tattoo I saw was the one on my dad – he has a stick man saint with a pitch fork through the halo, hand poked by one of his mates. He was told it would last a few months, but 40 years later it’s still there and he wears it well. My sister and I plan to get the same tattoo one day.

Tell us about the first tattoo you received, was it done professionally?

Like for many people, my first tattoo was symbolic and had meaning.

At the time I was heavily into playing music so I ended up getting a treble and bass clef on the back of my ankles.  I love doing people’s first tattoo and there’s something special about it: it takes me back to the time of getting my first one done. Being nervous and excited at the same time, and putting your full trust in someone to mark your body for life.


Do you have any education in formal art schools? When did you start making art and when did you realize that power of art, whether it be drawing painting or tattooing?

I used to draw a [...]

Paris, there is a hell you love.

Apparently, we did not need the moon to dance in darkness. Skin absorbed sunlight and held it, so this ribbon of climax could exert its faint glow—just enough to make visible the shades of black, the iris of eyes. The ceilings dissolved, the stars forgot their duties as constellations and fell, dusting our shoulders with the swirl of rococo galaxies. Chandeliers dripping with glass lustres, extravagant mouldings, soft carpets. Georges Bizet lived and worked in this house. With fingers, we swept the curves of our cheeks, blessed tongues with drops of tequila, salt and silver. That night, the walls were crumbling, we no longer had names and became at last the tasters of light.

SBL & OAK party for SS2015 Menswear at Le Carmen, Paris, photos by Grace Atkinson.