I spent the last week making this portrait of #Alvivi (click the image for downloadable hi-res version). Their saga unfolded as I drew. I mostly followed it on Facebook – an endless stream of links and comments, butthurt and outrage, condemnation and rationalization.
Paint, paint, paint.
My brush was the only thing that kept me silent. I willed myself not to Facebook my internal monologue, which ran mostly along the lines of: fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck all you closet conservatives in liberal sheep’s clothing, motherfuckers’.
I knew if I status-updated that shit and got 10 likes, I would feel good for 2 seconds. But I didn’t want to feed the internet kraken with my raw mental garbage. Not because I’m better than anyone else, but because that is not my job. My job is to put my mental trash in the compost heap of the self, and wait for it to turn into something worthwhile.
Being an artist = being ruthless enough with yourself to know what’s dressed-up trash and what’s a real opinion, a real thought, a real question.
If you can’t identify this in yourself, there’s no way you’ll be able to tell the difference in the world around you, whether it’s real life or online.
I set out to paint two human beings.
I look at the painting from every angle and I know I’ve failed.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was. Disappointed too. I had such noble intentions! Lofty humanist intentions! But I’ve never met #Alvivi. I only know what the internet tells me. Even their likenesses are based on photos I found on Google (warning: link is NFSW). How could I paint them as actual human beings?
I’ve learned that my mind always plays tricks on me, but my hands don’t. They can’t. If I trust them and think through them, what comes out usually has something of truth, just not the truth I wanted.
Instead of Alvin and Vivian, I painted what we’ve turned them into – demi-gods who burn with the heat of suns, or devils bearing hellfire, depending on how you see things.
Alvin and Vivian. Remember these names. This portrait is not about them. This is about us, and the sickness, intolerance, hypocrisy, and moral righteousness of the society we’re making, building, living in. It’s a society that practically weaponizes shame, that doesn’t know the difference between a bad joke and an act of violence, that creates monsters from humans, that uses the incredible tool of the Internet not to communicate, but to dominate.
I have nothing to offer except the admission that I’m right here wallowing in the same shit, indulging the same fears and prejudices, hoping with the hopeless hope that what I do isn’t completely useless and in vain.
And from the shittyness we’re in I also have a proposition, a speck of sand that could be gold dust, or just mud that caught the light.
A proposal for practice, nothing more:
Stop sharing your hate.
Compost the fuck yous.
Turn that shit into gold.
Alvivi’s Facebook and Twitter have been shut down. Their Youtube channel is still up, and you can see the last video they posted before being arrested, denied bail and sent to jail for a week. That video is an apology for any offense their Facebook Ramadan greeting may have caused. They’re out now, but not allowed to use any digital devices.