Ambivalently Yours is the artist’s anonymous online persona that explores the ambivalence of thoughts and ideas surrounding feminism. The project has created an online community that is empathetic of differing ideas as it seeks to create a space of collective discussion. The project was born in 2011 through the exploration by the artist of this ambivalence using several mediums such as illustrations, sketches, blog posts and anonymous notes left in public spaces.These actions sparked a conversation that spread through the internet and worked to broaden the interaction and responses that the project received.
The illustrations are deceptively simple and, at times, dance the line of the surreal. They are a combination of text and deliberate mark-making techniques that draw in the viewer. Although the works are primarily digital, previous projects have included installations and a podcast, Rebelliously Tiny, that explore the same thoughts and themes through an alternative medium.
The concept of ambivalence is one that becomes decidedly more interesting in the current time that we have of polarised thoughts and political positions. Is this something that came into play when you created the project?
I started thinking about ambivalence when I was in graduate school about 6-7 years ago. During that time, I was shifting from a career in the fashion industry to a masters in feminist art. These two worlds felt very opposite to me, and I had a hard time finding my way from one to the other. I was trying to redefine myself and expand my political views, but I sometimes felt held back by the assumptions I felt others were making about me because of my background. Looking back, I also realise that I was making a lot of assumptions about who I was supposed to be if I wanted to be a “real” feminist artist. Allowing myself to embrace my ambivalence allowed me to create a new space where I could be both and neither; a space where I could change my mind if I needed to. Back then, feminism wasn’t talked about in the mainstream the way it is now, and world politics weren’t quite so openly volatile and polarized, so my struggle was more inward, but I do think that my approach to ambivalent thinking makes sense in today’s cultural and political climate. I think that the strongest forms of resistance exist in-between, because there is less room for difference and nuance when you are committed to rigid extremes.
The definition of the word “ambivalent” was the starting point for your work, however, as a concept, the lack of a definition that can relate to the word comes into play. How has this been reflected in the way that you approach your work?
Ambivalence means having two opposite emotions at the same time, and I believe that this can be a very active place to be, because it encourages you to constantly revaluate your position. In a way it is an emotion that can’t be defined because it is constantly in motion, redefining itself. Ambivalence to me is an active state, and it is from this place that I make most of my work. My commitment to ambivalence is about learning to ask more questions rather than get stuck with incomplete answers.
Your work combines text and drawings, which reflects a medium that is conscious of its online existence. Is this something that you set out to achieve when first creating your works? Do you think that art in general should be more conscious of its ability to exist in an online space?
My drawings were always made to exist online. At first I was illustrating my own ideas and sharing them on Tumblr (and later, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) and eventually I started illustrating the feelings of those who wrote to me online asking for insight or advice. The juxtaposition of image and text, and the placement of these drawings in social media contexts allows them to be consumed and shared easily, like memes. In other words, much of my work is both for and about the Internet. I don’t think that all art does or should work well in online spaces. I think the decision to share something online is an important curatorial choice that affects the way the art is ultimately perceived, so not all art has to be shared on the Internet. For example, I just self-published a book of poems and drawings entitled: “Some Feelings Are Better On Paper” (https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/575496311/some-feelings-are-better-on-paper-book?ref=shop_home_feat_3). I could have shared these poems and drawings online, and some of them I did, but I think that some art works best when it is experienced slowly and offline. There are some emotions that are easier to convey on paper than on the screen.
The words that appear in your drawings present us with subtly and cleverly conflicting feelings. This is a reflection of the complexity that exists within individual women and, more importantly, within feminism as a theory. How do you aim to include those groups within feminism that are still ‘othered’ by the mainstream media?
While the current trendiness of feminism in mainstream media may be ultimately favourable to the movement, there is still a lack of diversity within those praised and included in the larger conversation. Many political debates over so-called feminist issues, speak of women as a singular (see white) individual who should be saved instead of consulted or trusted. The problem may lie in the attempt to define feminism as a way of proving its value. When something is defined someone is often excluded from that definition. I believe that by approaching feminism from an ambivalent perspective we can work at undefining, allowing multiple definitions to co-exist, and investing in our contradictions and intersections instead of trying to homogenise them. My hope is that through this process we can work to create a more intersectional feminist movement that can resist and evolve within the dominant culture.
Your drawings have been created through online responses, which in turn create further online responses. How does this circular motion of creating impact the direction of your work?
I like to think of my work as a conversation, a form of communication. Art has always been the way in which I felt I could express my ideas the most clearly, and by expressing myself through my art online I was able to start conversations with people all over the world. Everything I do is informed and influenced by these exchanges.
How do you see your work progressing in the future? Do you see yourself directing how it develops or will you allow it to be fuelled by the online interactions?
I’m interested in the way we communicate online and most of my work is inspired by it. Online communication is evolving and changing all the time, and in order for my work to stay relevant I have to keep evolving with it. Some of the social media platforms where my work first started like Tumblr are becoming less popular than other platforms like Instagram. Yet on Instagram, it is hard to have the kind of long form exchanges that used to happen a lot on Tumblr. A lot of the popular social media right now is quite fragmented and fast paced, and I think that some issues and thoughts benefit from being explored in a more long form way. Right now, podcasts are becoming increasingly popular, and a place where longer conversations are happening online. This is why last year I launched the Rebelliously Tiny podcast (http://www.ambivalentlyyours.com/podcast/) , where in each episode I ask a guest to help me answer one of my social media questions. This project not only allows me to explore subjects with more depth and thought, but it was also an opportunity for me to ask my community for help. Being constantly engaged online can be very isolating and overwhelming, so by exploring new medias like podcasting, I am not only expanding my community but also finding ways to subvert popular media to create new and radical ways of communicating and supporting each other.