For my map, I wanted to do something that involved the way we map emotions across media. For my last project, I mapped my depression across multimedia and bodily existence, but I wanted to do something more poetic and less straightforward this time. I was a big fanboi when I was much younger with regards to gay male fanfiction specifically, and had recently got back into it because of a reconsideration of the dynamics involved in tumblr slashfic/”shipping” culture, as well as because my boyfriend was into it. When I read Laura Mulvey last year, I wrote a little about the implications of the community’s gender dynamics: a population of mostly young women imagine a fantasist homosexual life for their favorite characters, which saves these characters from the poisonousness of their stoic masculinity, heterosexuality, and violence, or at least helps them accept the nature of these issues. These women use the techniques of screenshotting, making gifs, fanart, and fan writing to feminize the characters by detaching them from the narratives of their stories and objectifying them. They also uphold and liberate their masculinities in their sexuality; often these characters are not even presented as gay-identified, simply desiring of each other. I identified with the commonly accepted ideas around Captain America (Steve Rogers) and the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes. I identified with the narrative presented of two men who had been through huge psychological and physical changes in their lives, but still managed to find their way back together. Rogers is born a sickly and thin boy in the late 1920s, takes an experimental serum that makes him grow into a super-soldier, becomes an overnight sensation and an unstoppable weapon, and is eventually cryogenically frozen during a heroic suicide, only to be thawed out in the 21st century. His childhood best friend Barnes dies while serving during WWII in Rogers’s unit, only to be frozen himself and come back brainwashed as a Soviet super-assassin assigned to kill Rogers. After some mutual beatdowns, Rogers breaks him out of his conditioning and the two reunite, nearly 100 years after their original lives began. As told by fans, it is a classic masculine gay story about two muscular and sad men, who, having known each other and been best friends growing up, are usually presented as soulmates. Regardless of their canon sexualities, their story is both emotionally and physically deep. For me, Rogers’s growth to physical masculinity through chemicals paralleled my transsexualism, and Barnes’s sadness and identity confusion paralleled my depression and dysphoria. These men, in their imagined relationship, had something admirable and resonant to me that I could seek to emulate: a love that was about friendship and care, but that also acknowledged the reality of trauma, identity splits, and hurting one another. As I started a new relationship with someone who had simular experiences of trauma and transness to me, I sought this love as an ideal. I wanted to be good, understanding, and giving in a way that I had only seen in tandem with masculinity and violence in the context of fanfiction. My partner also introduced me to the 70s cop drama Starsky and Hutch. The relatiomship between the eponymous leads of the show contains dynamics simular to that of Barnes and Rogers, in that there was a blond and a brunette, who were both about muscles and masculinity, but also constantly struggling to take care of each other in an unforgiving and violent world. Violence on the show allows for homoeroticism and femininity in the context of the two comforting each other. It was these elements (my identification with the different men and their journeys, my belief in the gendered power of fan imagination, and my desire to be good for my partner in the queer way that these men were good for each other) that came together into my conference project. Through collage poetry layered over fanart and screenshots, some of them lightly edited, I explore the ways in which my mind layered these different elements. I “mapped” the path of my mind through these love stories, emphasizing my own, in the spaces of the internet, time, fantasy, trauma, and reality. I used text from my own writing, as well as relevant passages from fanfiction and academic writing. I set the project into a timeline from an online template in order to get my desired narrative flow and to emphasize time as a setting. The project maps the invisible ways in which media portrayals of relationships affect our thinking, especially about our real-life romances. I was seeking to shed light on how, instead of learning from romance movies or pornography, a marginalized subject such as myself must seek out other models for romantic ideals. I journey through a collective fantasy media, its existence itself a mapping of ruptures in heterosexual masculinity, to learn a queer utopian ethics that is unique to my own romantic project. Lastly, I wanted the form itself to feed back into the larger fan project of mapping the invisible and communal world of fantasy, especially female and trans fantasy. I wanted a fan to be able to read it and like it. You can see the project by clicking here. It is hosted on my tumblr because wordpress does not support embeds. TW for trans(boy) feels, bdsm including bloodplay, violence, maybe a lil body horror/sexual trauma weirdness. I suggest you zoom in to 150% as i haven’t quite gotten the embedding right yet. It does not show up on mobile.
My self-portrait is a map of my depression, using a collage-based approach with text pulled from my own poetic writing and physically-linked symbols. My initial brainstorm was closer to my final product, with an idea of spatialization based on my own gendered ancestry (my family’s history in Poland, the trauma of survival, etc). The maps we viewed in class, such as the dream map, inspired me. My mode of art is largely collage-based, though, so I was nervous about working outside of that medium. I was also distracted by the personal nature of the project and the idea of having a single, recognizable sign system, surface, and connection system. However, after viewing the work of Ward Shelley, I thought I would go in a different direction and instead map the evolution of my sense of postmodern aesthetics. Like Shelley’s work where he maps in neurotic detail different artistic movements, I wanted to create a detailed and text-based timeline of counterculture aesthetics moving into the internet age of “new aesthetics,” something that I know about as obsessively as Ward Shelley does with his movements. My sign system was text and pictures pulled from my personal internet projects, such as facebook aesthetic groups (inb4, sport aesthetics), and from my tumblrs, and . The surface was minimalist, on black with an extra pattern representing the advent of the internet into counterculture. I considered adding more text in boxes to explain different phases of postmodernity, but I struggled to find a connection system that satisfied me artistically, and also felt like my work was not personally connected enough with these explanations. Eventually, I returned to an idea more similar to my original one of collaging my own sense of spatiality and embodied experiences of different spaces or states. I decided to map what I know the best right now, which is my depression and my own thoughts. My surface was different states of depression, coded by color and space: My sign system was collaged poetics, as well as pictures of bodies, many of them my own, and of consumed media I encounter entering into my subconscious. My connection system had to do with different states of mind. I primarily used the symbols of pills to communicate going through different chemically-influenced states of depression. I also used a crow in the top left corner, a symbol of death and darkness in a natural world, and a hand reading “NO” in the bottom left. The hand represents the power silently and physically no to violation and trauma represented by the bottom of the map, the “basement” section. The main effect I tried to produce with my map was a sense of different, separate physical spaces. I wanted it to feel like one could imagine oneself enter into each different space and travel throughout them, hence the use of roads, landscapes, a bed, and my computer screen. I tried to supplement this impulse to enter or traverse by using pictures of different bodies, so that the viewer could feel corporeally connected to the map. My map attempts to make visible the ways in which mental illness can cause a sense of being lost in the vastness of one’s own head. I wanted to make visible the expansiveness and physicality of my mental illness, especially in an era of internet mass media, pornography, and chemical supplements. I am a trans person and an web artist who’s self-making has been internet-based. I interact with my corporeality and sexuality heavily in virtuality. The tools of webcams, selfies, and other such highly recent technologies affect my consciousness about my body and about where I live psychologically. The screen, feeding back my image to me, causes me to live in a dreamlike, virtual state. The shifting chemical states caused by medication adds another dimension to this bodily sense of shifting. These two factor, chemical changes in one’s state of mind, and the shifting in senses of spatiality because of the constant feed of media, can make depression an even more complicated state of mind to grapple with. My map attempts to make visible this struggle.