Starting in January 2016, 032c founder Joerg Koch took on the role of editor-in-chief at the global e-commerce platform SSENSE. Since then, 136 pieces have been published on the Montreal-based website.
In a special dossier for 032c Issue 31, we compiled some of our favorite interviews from back then, which feature creatives Lil Yachty, Natasha Stagg, Andrew Richardson, Schoolboy Q, Fatima Al Qadiri, Simon Denny, and Gaia Repossi.
LIL YACHTY “Teenage Emotions”
In the past year, the Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty has experienced a meteoric rise from relative obscurity to becoming an off-kilter music phenom. The 19 year old rapper cuts a striking figure with his beaded braids and colorful ensembles, reps a sober lifestyle, and has turned a fascination with boating and 1990s sportswear into an all-encompassing personal aesthetic.
Max Mohenu: When you’re older and looking back, what aspects of the Lil Yachty image do you want to be immortalized?
Lil Yachty: Bringing back Nautica Competition, the red hair with beads in it, and positivity. I want to be remembered for spreading positivity and love. […]
What drives you to be successful at such a young age?
Well, it took me being in a terrible school to realize I didn’t want to be in school. You always hear dropout stories and you never think you can do it, but the crazy thing is, this time it was me. I wish everyone could flash back and see how normal I was nine months ago. I was literally like any of these kids standing outside the building. Now, I’m sitting here with a 40,000 dollar watch on and a bunch of jewelry. All I can do
is remain humble and stay thankful to God.
You said in an interview that you “want to be rich as fuck before you’re old as shit.” How are you planning on doing that?
Just having other things going on, man. I’d like to get some properties and maybe open up a restaurant at some point. I don’t know. Just something different. […]
The Atlanta rap scene is deeply rooted in club culture and hype party production. Does it feel important to be connected to that? Or is it important to do something fresh and new?
I think all music is important, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t make records exactly like that. I make music for teenagers, bro – maybe in a relationship, or just got broken up with, or happy and in a good place! If you like the storytelling, that’s cool, but it’s mostly just about teenage emotions. Oh my god! I think that’s what I’m going to call my next album.
[Laughs] Yeah, maybe. I think that’s the one.
Read the full interview here.
NATASHA STAGG “Almost Not-Famous”
Natasha Stagg is a magazine editor, journalist, and the author of Surveys, her debut novel that explores the slippery surfaces of fame in the digital age. Its story follows Colleen, a 23-year-old whose relationship with a “kinda famous” guy snowballs into a tour hosting sponsored events across the US.
Bianca Heuser: What fascinated you with the idea of celebrity in the first place?
Natasha Stagg: I’ve always been interested in it. I have followed sort of fringe celebrities my whole life. I’ve always been interested in the celebrities people become angry about: socialites, who people used to call celebutantes, anybody who was famous just for being famous. Obviously, that kind of fame is more about charisma than anything else. I always thought it was interesting how upset people get when someone becomes famous simply for being themselves. To me, that seems more genuine. It’s portrayed as less genuine instead, because they don’t have a vocation. But I think the vocation part sometimes is a veneer, or a falsehood of someone’s fame even, because we all know that the real reason for it has to do with the image of the person and anything related to it. So when someone becomes famous who is not
a singer or an actor, that seems more interesting to me. It shows all the inner workings of how that person came to be in the public eye more transparently.
How does that relate to Surveys’ protagonist, Colleen, and her fame?
When I started writing Surveys, I wanted to explore the idea of people becoming famous. Not necessarily for no reason, but the idea of someone’s fame blossoming seemed like pretty fertile ground to write a coming-of-age story. Coming into a new public space is another way of coming of age – it’s like coming of age doubly if someone becomes famous while they’re growing up. It also just seemed like a fun thing to write about. I wanted to write about a young person. All my favorite books are coming-of-age books, and so I wanted to write one of those, and for it to be contemporary. I didn’t want it to be about a movie or rock star. Something so specific would have seemed pretty isolating. The trick I started with was just saying that I’m not going to describe how this person is viewed, what kind of atmosphere she’s viewed in. I wanted it to be very vague so the reader could fill in the blanks. Reading the reviews, people obviously filled the blank with this Internet fame narrative I never really intended.
That’s so interesting!
It’s just the obvious one to go with. I don’t mind it, but I didn’t mean for it to be so topical.
I also immediately jumped to that conclusion and thought it was amazing that you didn’t mention any platforms, because constantly referencing Facebook and Instagram would have made for such an ugly language. It would hinder its aging well.
It was almost accidental that it can age well, if it does. [Laughs] I was writing a lot of the middle section in workshops in grad school, and in my small group, everyone agreed that any mention of exact platforms would make it feel dated almost immediately. In high literary circles there is this emphasis on separating Internet lingo from a classic, or evergreen story. I don’t really agree with that. It’s strange that people have found it so difficult to recognize that all of this stuff is going to stick around and will be as relevant as mentioning a television set in a story. I just felt this pressure to not name specific platforms and numbers because it does feel kind of gross. I wanted to stay away from shocking anybody with any of that information and instead just lay the groundwork. These people are whatever amount of famous you think they are. They are doing whatever kind of aesthetic research you think they’re doing and they become endearing to whatever population you think they attract.
Read the full interview here.
ANDREW RICHARDSON “Paramilitary Clothing”
Andrew Richardson is a stylist and the auteur behind Richardson, a culture magazine that uses sex and pornography as its main editorial lens. The magazine has since grown into a streetwear label, which has recently opened its first store in Los Angeles.
Thom Bettridge: What did you learn from your time working with Steven Meisel?
Andrew Richardson: Working with Steven on and off for 15 years taught me about being thoughtful about what you do and also optimizing every opportunity to make images. Not being lazy, but also staying open to coincidences and staying flexible within the idea that you’re interested in. If you don’t have good taste, you can’t do vulgar work. But if you have good taste, then you can break that good taste and make something really interesting. Some of Steven’s best images are ones where he’s broken the beauty of the situation in a way that somebody else wouldn’t have thought of doing.
So you create this kind of artifice – this very strictly calculated image – and then there’s a rupture in that. It’s like this moment of …
Pop! Those are the kind of moments when you’re like, “Wow, that’s an image that will resonate forever.” Terry Richardson’s always talking about doing something that can be referenced in 15 years time. That was always the goal, rather than just being more wood for the fire. Unfortunately, I feel a lot of fresh imagery today is so controlled by advertisers and editors who are afraid about the financial aspects of a magazine. It’s almost like we’re going back to a pre-Diana-Vreeland idea of fashion magazines, where they’re just like catalogs for brands to sell their wares. What happened after her was that fashion magazines became the arena of ideas and feelings and became kind of cultural magazines. And I feel that it’s less about that now. That’s a great sadness.
Part of that is you see a lot less sexuality in fashion photos. There’s a sort of neutered quality.
You see a lot of really dumb conventions of sexuality. People feel like they’re restricted to expressing themselves using the fashion that they’re photographing, and then they’ll use some sort of boring erotic motif to make the story “cool.” It all seems very lazy and boring.
How do you keep yourself excited?
The magazine is about sex, but it’s really about provocation. It’s trying to be a thought-provoking magazine based around sexuality and culture. And then the magazine evolved into a fashion brand, so you’re thinking about clothes and you’re thinking about graphics and you’re thinking about translating the ideas that are in the ethos of the magazine into clothing. There’s a lot of work to do in the Richardson world. That keeps me pretty busy and pretty satisfied.
What made you decide to start a clothing brand?
I’m friends with James from Supreme. He said, “Oh, we should do some t-shirts with artwork from the magazine.” And I had never even thought about it before. We did that, and then I didn’t do the magazine for about seven years. When I came back, I thought, “Let’s do a few t-shirts!” I have a background in fashion and I’ve always sort of enjoyed it.
In an interview, you once described streetwear as being “paramilitary.” In a way, when you create a streetwear brand, you’re creating uniforms for a fictional gang.
When I was a kid, there were mods, punks, teds, rockers, skinheads, and rudeboys. And there was no Internet, so if you were young and you wanted to establish what you were into – musically, culturally, and politically – you could dress a certain way to show everybody what your affiliations were. I think maybe that’s changed, but I still feel like there’s a place for wearing certain types of things that express who you are and what you’re into. Like secret codes. It’s sort of reassuring that you can represent yourself through these choices about the way you look. And that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s like a uniform for somebody who’s into the culture of the brand. […]
You mentioned that, for you, the magazine was as much about provocation as it was about sex. What are you provoking us towards? What types of boundaries are you trying to transgress?
We live in a culture of “like” and “shame.” And it feels almost like a fascist culture of intolerance of any kind of dissent, or any kind of negativity. There’s very little subtle nuance and there’s very little room for any kind of personal truth. We’re trying to present freedom of thought, whether it’s about politics, sexuality, violence, or whatever. We are trying to present things that if you wear them, you are separating yourself from mainstream culture. And so we’re talking about being thoughtful. I was always really impressed with people who were able to accept and communicate and weren’t ashamed of their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and who they really were. With some of the ideas we present, you have to be quite into provocation to want to wear them.
Read the full interview here.
SCHOOLBOY Q “Resisting Arrest”
Known for his bucket hats and tendency towards mischief, Schoolboy Q has become the elder statesman of the LA rap renaissance. His fourth studio album, Blank Face LP, is a distilled articulation of his stoned gangster rap for the 21st century.
E.P. Licursi: Do you remember your first tattoo?
Schoolboy Q: Yeah, it’s a portrait of my grandma [Laughs]. My homies say that it’s ugly as fuck! The homies say it looks like a melted ice cream cone. That’s fucked up! It’s supposed to be my grandma. Man, I got this when I was like 15.
Well, it’s a nice thought.
And I’ve heard that you have a “Fuck LAPD” tattoo.
Yeah, and the LAPD’s crossed out.
You’re probably too young to remember Rodney King and the LA riots. Or maybe you do?
You know, I don’t remember it, but I remember being in the back seat and just seeing the liquor store on fire. That’s really it. Just like blank little …
Yeah, yeah. It’s like when you were a little kid, like you know how you can still kind of remember when you were like, three, four years old? Like in the bath, in the sink. That type of shit.
Growing up, did those memories affect the way you viewed the police?
No, I have my own experiences. I grew up wanting to be a cop. My mama used to be like, “Nah, you ain’t about to be no cop, what you talking about?” And then I got “Fuck LAPD” on me. I got a strike on my record. I got two felony counts. I started gangbanging. Life just switches. Just by walking to the store every day and meeting the homies, I fucked my whole life up. And at the same time, my loyalty is to my homies. They made me who I am today, they’re the reason that I can speak on this shit.
So, in “Black THougHts” when you say, “all lives matter, both sides” you are obviously not saying it in the way that those people who seek to downplay police violence against black people are saying it.
No. When I said that all lives matter, I was still talking about “black lives matter.” It’s the reason that I said “both sides” at the end. I’m talking about Crips and Bloods. I’m talking to my community. We get so riled up when a white dude kills our people, but your cousin just got killed by somebody you know last week and nobody ain’t protesting about that. I got about five little homies – not even 21 years old – who died recently. Nobody’s protesting about that. I’m saying that, if we’re going to be all in, let’s be all in. Let’s not just be all in when we can bring out cameras and get credit. Like, I don’t see how rap personalities go to these marches and protests – meanwhile, somebody is showing them hoes on Instagram. It’s like, what do you really stand for? Are you doing this for the credit, or are you doing this because you really care? That’s my whole thing. I really care about certain shit. I’ve donated so much shit and done shit for so many families, and not to put it on Instagram. If black lives really matter, then why are you letting this cop do him like that? You’re just filming it, you get what I’m saying? Step in. You’re scared, but if that was your boy, you would step in. You’re going to ride out for your boy? We’re taking bullets for our boy. Why not for just another black dude? Cops are coming into our communities, doing what they want. I mean, “He resisted arrest” – whatever, man, he ain’t pull a gun out. People resist arrest every day. How come only the black dude is getting killed?
Yeah, I mean, you watch the videos.
It’s like, yeah, he resisted arrest. You’re a fucking cop, that’s what we do. We resist arrest. We don’t want to go to jail. Your job is to put us in jail. My job is to get the fuck away from you, but I ain’t pulling no gun out to shoot you. Why are you shooting me? It’s scary. Like, why is your gun the first thing you reach for when you got a Taser, mace, you even got a fucking billy club. Break my motherfucking leg or something!
Read the full interview here.
FATIMA AL QADIRI “Medieval Tactics”
Fatima Al Qadiri is a musician and producer, as well as a founding member of GCC, a mysterious art collective known for satirizing the pomp and circumstance of diplomacy in the Persian Gulf region. Her album Brute takes police brutality in the United States as one of its primary subject matters and includes audio samples from the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
Zoma Crum-Tesfa: The opening track of your record really reminded me of the American military’s shock and awe doctrine during the Iraq War – except it was applied in a formal way on your album.
Fatima Al Qadiri: Which one?
The second Iraq War. What was it called …
… Operation Iraqi Freedom
I feel like the record has all these moods, and the opening track is like a horror flick. But the insane thing is that it’s a real sample from Ferguson. It’s a real thing that happened. And not in Iraq, it happened in America. Although “Operation Fuck Iraq in the Ass” was also such a crazy time. Looking back, I was the only member of my family who was against the invasion. They all just wanted to remove Saddam. My father was a prisoner of war. So I’m not going to judge him! But I knew that Cheney wanted the oil. I was watching Dave Chappelle’s “Black Bush” skit. Have you seen it?
No! I need to brush up on my early 2000s YouTube clips.
It is the best political skit, maybe ever! Just look up “Dave Chappelle black Bush and yellow cake.” You have to see it! It just illustrates that the person who is not corrupted by power is a rare fucker. And I’m not saying that I’m Mother Theresa, or whatever. I just feel like there’s a lot of erasure, and the contemporary prison system is all related to police brutality. I highly recommend reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Reading her book, I had to literally put it down every two pages, because I was so overwhelmed and grossed out. It was like watching a horror movie. And I felt these similar moods and compulsions while making this record. […]
I wanted to talk to you about this feeling of apocalypse that pervades your record. You once did this writing where you talked about having survived an apocalypse. And I’m curious about what that type of threat means to you.
It’s interesting because I think of “apocalypse” as many things – in the very Buddhist sense of rebirth, where you have to lose everything in order to be reborn, and how civilizations are found deep underneath other civilizations. I mean, I saw Kuwait get wiped out. And if you go there now, it’s like nothing happened. You’ll see remnants and ruins, but everybody’s shopping at H&M. It wasn’t even a fleeting moment. It was seven months. That’s how long the occupation was – with no work, no schools, no hospitals. This is when I became obsessed with video games. My younger sister and I played video games constantly. I wanted to escape adult reality and how evil it was. I wanted to control my own destiny – and I was a god in a video game. I’ve been obsessed with the future since that time, and what this country was going to look like when we rebuilt it. Like, my school had trenches dug into the playground. The Iraqi soldiers dug trenches. Like that is going to save you from a stealth bomber! It was like medieval tactics.
So, for you, the Dark Ages have happened.
It’s something that is happening around the world. The thing about power is that it’s so elementary. I’m not presenting anything new to anyone who hasn’t been living in a cave. But like I said, this is an audio diary. It’s about being a flea who is being flicked. There was this political leader – and I don’t want to tell you who it is – who once said that if the population were a hair on his nose, he would pluck it.
Read the full interview here.
SIMON DENNY “It Felt More Toxic”
Simon Denny is a New Zealand-born artist based in Berlin. His large-scale installations are often inlaid with infographics that explain the travails and advancements of the tech world – from formative moments in the development of mobile technology to the ongoing emergence of blockchain.
ZOMA CRUM-TESFA: It was funny to watch you do an interview introducing your pavilion for last year’s Venice Biennale with a plastic bag in your hand. Do you regularly shop at airports?
SIMON DENNY: That was not just a plastic bag, that was my tote bag! I made that as part of my merch experience for the Biennale.
Oh, my bad.
Every time you do a pavilion, you need to make an official tote bag. And we thought – me and designer David Bennewith, who I partner with on many projects – “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the tote bag was a plastic shopping bag?” Of course, we also ended up making this huge book and, in the end, you had to double-bag it in order to carry the thing.
Could it not have been paper?
We liked plastic for that project. It felt more toxic. We did use supposedly biodegradable plastic or whatever, but you know that doesn’t really work. It just feels better.
What was the graphic on it?
The graphic was the logo that we did for Venice and it comes from Nicky Hager’s book, Secret Power, which was also the title of the show. He was one of the first people who developed this notion that New Zealand was collaborating closely with the USA in their intelligence. Anyway, his book is from the 1990s and it has these amazing graphics in it. I found this one map where New Zealand is in the center, so not much else of the world is visible. It fit the project, so I used it.
You lifted the graphic, or were inspired by it?
No. Well –
It was lifted.
It was both, you know? It’s always both.
Multiple authorship comes up in the way you describe your process and even how you organize your presentation personally. How did this influence your show in Venice?
Well, I never make anything alone. I have this great team that shrinks and grows, and this network of artists and thinkers that I’ve been in touch with. They frame my interaction with these subjects. Venice was a really good moment for me, because I felt it was very significant for all the people involved in producing it. The whole thing was about this artist, David Darchicourt, that worked for the NSA. Because of the indirect participation of The Guardian around the opening of my show, this guy Darchicourt ended up claiming authorship publically of some of the visual content released in the Snowden leaks. Politically, that was a strong outcome, and also for me personally.
Is the idea of collaborative endeavor also part of what appeals to you about blockchain? That using a distributed database like blockchain is a movement away from these more hierarchical systems of power?
Blockchain is hopefully an example of something very bottom-up. Instead of, for instance, multinational organizations governing exchanges between peers, the parameters of the exchange are encoded and automatic. So over time, more and more of these institutions would no longer be necessary. That prospect for our future, which at times can feel very bleak, is a prospect that to me has some optimism.
Where does the optimism lie for you? Like, I understand that blockchain is probably an inevitable part of our future, but I have trouble finding that optimistic.
So, take the Internet, for example. At the beginning, the Internet was kind of this ideal thing. You could communicate with anybody, anywhere in the world, and have information that was free. Now, however, the internet has become centralized rather than decentralized. It is essentially colonized by these few monopolies. What I like about the proposition of blockchain is that it says we need to reset that. Even how it’s managed to scale so quickly in awareness is quite promising.
It’s interesting how you are accessing a certain nostalgia we have towards the Internet to massage in your point about blockchain, which to be honest, I’m still not totally sure I’m on board with – like, look up Brock Pierce, everybody.
Examples are always helpful. If you have an example, you can unpack a specific instance of something, and it can be revealing about a whole subject. Look at the way that Pokémon Go accessed nostalgia to get access to a market. I think that, as a strategy, is something relevant and interesting. I’m trying to tell these stories that I think are important and urgent. Like, bitcoin and blockchain contain a proposal for a future vision of sovereignty. And that’s complicated! I need any help I can get to help people look at that shit.
Yes, but while the economic intentions of blockchain seem clear, the geopolitical intent seems less so. Do you not worry that blockchain will also become centralized in a similar way?
I am not really 100 percent sure. I am listening to a lot of voices, some very skeptical, who say blockchain will advance radical individualism and libertarianism, leading to more extreme divisions between haves and have-nots. Others say it will lay the foundations for a fairer, more distributed, more transparent version of globalism – that if you replace the existing possibilities of infrastructure, different ecologies become possible. But, as an artist, including many voices is what is important to me.
Do you have specific hopes for what these alternative ecologies might look like?
I’m open to many possibilities. It’s hard to be too specific about the nuances of a future you would like to exist in, especially as the technology that shapes it changes so rapidly.
Which blockchain apps are you using today?
None really actively. I would like to use more, actually. I have a bitcoin wallet, somewhere, but I don’t even know what’s in it right now. My primary goal has been to research, talk to people who are deeply involved, and make a good exhibition for people to go into. Maybe there are audiences who don’t care at first about tech or blockchain, but they can get a worthwhile moment out of what they see in front of them, and that will interest them into potentially going deeper.
But these subjects are not just a metonym for thinking about more immediate ideas and experiences.
Not only, I hope. I try to think of the work that I do and research as inspiration toward some kind of constructive proposition for better systems. I want globalism to work. I really do! An ideal future, how-ever, has to be a world that is ecologically sound, one in which everybody has access to that experience, and can dream of a decentralized network where you can communicate with anybody, anywhere in the world, and have extensive information for free.
Read the full interview here.
GAIA REPOSSI “Concrete is a Girl’s Best Friend”
With her commitment to raw material and systematized form, the third-generation jeweler Gaia Repossi has proven that jewelry can exist as “micro-architecture.” Yet in the context of creating a flagship store, this proposes a challenging clash: How does one design a building to display hundreds of tiny, precious buildings? For Rem Koolhaas and his firm OMA, the answer is to think of architecture as “macro-jewelry.”
Jina Khayyer: Many of your references and inspirations come from 20th century art, such as Alexander Calder or Cy Twombly, but there is also an element of architecture. Tell me about the architectural approach to your work.
Gaia Repossi: I work through systems, just like architects do. So one idea can be done in infinite variations. When I did my first interview with Rem, without really having exchanged, he said, “Well, Gaia uses systems.” I was shocked that he noticed.
Why did you choose Rem Koolhaas to be the architect of the new Repossi store?
Because I love his earlier works from the 1990s. There’s real appeal with the colors. The brutality. We’re trying to make these very raw associations to luxury, and he’s the only one who doesn’t deny the importance of shopping. In one of his books, there’s a whole thesis on the importance of shopping in our generation. For the client, my first desire was to create an experience. Besides the jewelry, there is this experience of coming and sitting down and walking into these buildings. It’s the experience of the stairs you can’t forget. He’s very famous for stairs. It’s true that when you walk on any stairs of his, it leaves a memory.
You have a strong point of view. So does he. How is it to work with Koolhaas – does he ask for carte blanche? Or is it an exchange?
When we started working together, everything was done from a didactic, scientific approach. They studied every detail about the brand. Right away, Rem was very interested because he had never done such a small scale. He calls the jewelry architecture, because it’s engineered, but on a micro-scale. It’s the reverse of what he does, but there are a lot of similarities. This is different from the classic way of seeing jewelry as a set – where you have a necklace, you have the ring, you have the earrings. We don’t even look at that. Sometimes, a ring doesn’t have a necklace for years. There are no rules when we follow the systems.
Where do you start when creating a new piece?
It always starts with a pattern, a shape, a sculpture, a drawing, a grid. It can be the way some kid wears an earring, or a line of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I like blending and pushing the boundaries between architecture and traditional high jewelry techniques. That is also why I like working through sys-tems. If we take the “Berbere” series as an example, it comes in more than 1,500 variations: one row, two rows, three rows, seven rows. Thin row, thick row, colors, pavé. I like the idea of infinite possibilities.
Jewelry once had the stigma of being a trophy. A present made by men only. You proposed something that became a product for women to buy for themselves.
That was my intention. I am glad it worked. At first, I didn’t want to get involved. I wasn’t interested in jewelry. I felt it was a very dusty business. I started as a consultant and worked more like an art director, trying to “de-dust” the image of jewelry. But then I got inspired. Jewelry should not just be a decoration. It lives with you.
What sells the most? Rings, cuffs, earrings?
It used to be rings. But then the ear cuffs started being this new thing. Even too much. Now everyone wants ear cuffs.
Do you prefer white, red, or yellow gold?
I like red gold, which is our rose gold. I like it because it blends with the skin.
Pink, white, or black diamonds?
I love pink diamonds.
Because they are rare and very difficult to find. And, because they blend with the skin. I like jewelry that can be invisible.
Read the full interview here.