Tadpole and baby bottles
September Diencephalon at Bible, 19 Monroe Street
This past December the space Bible lovingly portrayed their most ambitious show yet, "Tadpole & Baby Bottles." The 19 Monroe street gallery temporarily became the internal universe of the artist September Diencephalon, housing a short film, a short story & 18 paintings. September, who is from Paducah, Kentucky, has created a universe based on two characters Tadpole and his racist Trump loving, abusive father. The exhibition, and now Bible's interview with September here, give life to that universe.
Bible: Tadpole is a fictional character, but if you look closely at the paintings, you can see that many of the figures wear a mask that is a rendering of your own face. Can you talk about your decision to literally paint your self into the narrative of the “Racist Gluttony Suicide Orgy”?
September: A face in itself is a disguise. A disguise over a disguise. Does a past face contain self? In the future, I want to change my sex. In “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” Uncle Keep Your Pants Up Danny Danny Keep Your Pants Up wants to have children but nobody wants to have sex with him. He decides to embroider a human ovum on polyester and repeatedly tries to fertilize it until he kills himself. He wasn’t able to create a human child but he did create a child and it is now hanging on a wall. Perhaps a futile attempt to leave a piece of yourself behind. His DNA is my DNA. The work in “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” are my children. I wanted to create a family that encompasses all aspects of what it is to be a human, good and evil. I was sexually abused as a child by a family member. I exist in “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” the same way as the iPod Touch and the embroidery with semen exist. I am also an artifact of trauma.
B: “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” connects across multiple media forms (video, short story and paintings) and also sometimes refers to itself within itself – have you used this kind of synecdoche device before?
S: Yes, I also did this in The Artist In The Maze at Sushi Bar Gallery and in Will you listen to the problems of a stranger? at Pay Fauxn. It is a bottle. A bottle is a container and a container is a body. What is contained in the body changes.
B: What do you mean that you want to change your sex in the future? Is this connected to your interest in transhumanism and future technologies?
S: Yes, this is connected to my interest in transhumanism and future technologies. I’m also a synecdoche. I’m a bottle. The bottle can change as well as what is inside the bottle. I want to biologically become a woman in the future. I want to transform as much in my life as possible. I want to be multiple bottles at the same time. I want to become different identities and understand the world from many varied points of view. I don’t want to be permanently biologically male and I don’t want to be permanently biologically female. I don’t want to be a human anymore. I am discontent with humanity. I want to escape the human condition. What becomes of art when the artist is no longer finite and living in a posthuman world?
B: The orgy and suicide take place at Yellowstone National Park, have you ever been there? I’ve only seen those idyllic postcard pictures but have read stories about how visitors keep feeding bears human snack food.
S: Yes, I’ve physically been to Yellowstone National Park.
B: Why did you choose Yellowstone National Park as the site for the "racist gluttony suicide orgy"? Can you talk about it as a setting for the orgy...
S: I chose Yellowstone National Park because it is America’s first national park. It is a place in use for conservation purposes. I knew about Norris Geyser Basin from visiting Yellowstone National Park and I started writing about these characters who love Donald Trump that commit suicide by being dissolved by nature. I wrote the first draft of the narrative in May 2017. Donald Trump then announced that the United States would cease all participation in the Paris Agreement.
B: You insert the now infamous "make America great again" red hat and other Trump references into the paintings and he appears in the story as well. For me, its almost akin to deploying a swastika which is a tough move in the sense that it is difficult to look at and not immediately aesthetically pleasing (like a post digital airbrush flower painting). Did you plan to include political signifiers from the start?
S: I always knew I wanted to use political signifiers. “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” is a commentary on the contemporary political moment. Living in Kentucky during the United States presidential election of 2016 I saw many people wearing Make America Great Again hats. I wanted to write and paint a satire from a point of view that is aesthetically and politically challenging. I wanted the Make America Great Again hat to become a character in the paintings. It is a very vulnerable and uncomfortable place that I have written and painted myself into because many people may perceive me in a negative way because of the fiction I have created.
B: In the last six weeks or so we have seen the #metoo and #notsuprised movement and men and women coming forward with stories of sexual misconduct and assault in the workplace. I think this connects with the themes of toxic or grotesque masculinity and misuse of power that thread through Tadpole's narrative. Have you thought about how the latest 'news' reflects notions of gender and sexuality in your work?
S: I often think about how these paintings will be viewed decades from now. For instance, in the time I was painting one of the paintings in “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” the logo for Nestlé® Pure Life® Purified Water was changed. The past logo is gone from the website so I had to archive the reference photo I took of the bottle just so people would know that the past logo actually existed. My hope is that we will continue to merge with technology and the future viewer will be living in a better society than we currently live in and will look at “Tadpole and Baby Bottles” as a record of evil in 2017.