Casey Jane Ellison is an artist and comedian who has written for Vice, Dis, and numerous other websites about everything from crying in shopping malls to gender discrimination in art. Her medium is humor, whether through her 3D avatar, her stand up routines, or her web series for VFILES.
One of her more recent projects Touching the Art, which was featured in the New Museum’s latest Triennial, is a talk show-style series where Ellison interviews women in the art world with a dry humor that brings out the inherent absurdity of the way we talk about art (and women). She’s constantly finding new ways to make critiquing the system entertaining and quickly taking the male-dominated worlds of comedy and art by storm.
This weekend, Casey Jane Ellison is performing at MOCA’s Step and Repeat, a three-day festival celebrating performance of all kinds in Los Angeles. I’ll be reporting on the festival this weekend, but before it all happens, Ms. Ellison kindly agreed to answer my vague and “depressing” (sorry, this is why I’m not a comedian) questions about art, gender, and the impending apocalypse.
KATIE ROSENTHAL: So first off, why is LA better than NY?
CASEY JANE ELLISON: Whichever one dries out or is under water later is the best one.
Is gender in or out?
I think we need to define more genders and new genders! Bro, queen, bro-on-the-outside-queen-on-the-inside, 420, A.I., grad student, Eco-foodie, Nothing, etc... Dismantling the binary is in.
To become a successful young female artist, is it more important to make work or to take hot pictures of yourself for Instagram? Is there a difference? Why is mediating your own image relevant today?
It’s the only option they’ve given us. We can’t really avoid mediating our own image. If we want to “feel” “involved” in our “communities” while getting a bonus fun feeling of hope that we could be famous or bought out one day, we post. We use corporations’ systems that bate and switch “self-expression” for market research and intel that they sell to the government - or something? I don’t know how it works or whatever, but it’s like, Uh-derrrr!
Anyway, our generashe knows our govy is paid and controlled by the corporashies and that we’ve never trusted the police and that Amy Winehouse died because no one helped her. We all just watched and snapped photos of her while she disintegrated as the main event in an international freak show. (I just saw Amy and it’s incredible and heartbreaking). So now we don’t need the paparazzi to document our own demises and we are given the tools to turn ourselves into a freak show so that we can gather our own metadata on our own stats from our own community’s status quos, all so that one day we may be exploited like Amy.
So like, it’s relevant because it’s the entry point into the mass mind control created by social media corporations that use our own narcissism against us. The best captive is the one who imposes her own cage upon herself; the monster is like, inside the house. Whoa, I just outlined an amazing screenplay. But um, I’m still, like, optimistic and shit. My suggestion would be to use social media against the corpies and start discussing only the environment on our international platforms, not use it for a tally for how hot we each are. We’re all very hot and that’s important, but we need to stop killing the polar bears and shit. The powers in charge will give us what we’ll pay for and if we only spend our money on saving the planet, they’ll take that deal! But seriously folks, do y’all think I’m hot?
How does one become an It Girl? (I need to take notes)
Be born into privilege of some kind, touch on zeitgeist, and exploit that and be exploited, because of all of those things. These questions are depressing me.
How does one become a successful female artist? (I need to take notes)
Whoever has the most fun, wins.
What is the most important art jargon term in your vocabulary?
What comes after post-Internet?
What happens after the apocalypse?
Finally the animals will play!
Will sincerity ever be cool again (was it ever cool)?
Sincerity is alive, maybe “cool” will finally die.
Will art ever do something important?
If the whole art world worked together on an important topic like energy or pollution then maybe. And if the art market supported that, maybe.
What is important?
The ice caps.
Is there a difference between art and comedy?
Both are ego-maniacal practices. They function with a different economy of attention and entertainment value. Their essential difference is the audiences and what those audiences are expecting.
Art crowds are more aspirational and try to find meaning; they’re less innocent. They can be nervous about being “respectful,” so they are more afraid to laugh, but also more relieved to laugh. Comedy audiences are a group brain that consume, ingest, and react according to a mathematical median of the energetic tone of the room and the world at large at that very moment in the timeline of humanity and there are infinite variables. Or like, whatever I dunno.
Who is comedy for?
To me? Me. I can’t speak for the entire genre.
Who is art for?
Is art work?
What are you working on now?
A new hypocritical talk show that extends from Touching the Art TBA.
Who’s your biggest crush at Step and Repeat?
Why is black lipstick so important to your practice?
I look terrific in it. RIGHT?*
*end of email correspondence (but yes you do).
Step and Repeat is MOCA’s annual celebration of performance art, comedy, poetry, live music, and more, and is organized by MOCAtv Creative Director Emma Reeves and MOCA Assistant Curator Lanka Tattersall. Find out more about how to buy tickets and attend this weekend on their website. See you there!