The Passive Voice EP and Zine

 

I recently released a six-track music EP with an accompanying zine, because that is something I always wanted to do.

My usual audio work tends toward sound collage and more avant-garde stuff, but it’s always been my dream to release a more traditionally “musical” project. Sometime last summer, I decided to take action. By January, I had a finished product: The Passive Voice EP and Zine. 16 pages of drawings and hand-printed lyrics, and six audio tracks (real songs! not just layers of ambient noise!) released under the name Brigid Fitch (a spoonerism that I first started using during my short stint as a teenage hardcore punk guitarist – if you’re wondering, I was truly horrible).

Musically, I was equally influenced by the confrontational industrial group Throbbing Gristle and the legendary Ms. Britney Spears, which led to a minimal, harsh pop kind of a sound. Heavy, computer-generated and manipulated beats, distant and distorted vocals, and the occasional hint of melodic accompaniment layer into a cohesive but slightly jarring audio experience. I wanted to strike a balance between pleasantly poppy and uncomfortably challenging, and I think I did a pretty good job. 

Thematically, I was interested in questioning the traditional pop narrative, as well as manifesting the sort of feminist critique visible elsewhere in my artistic work. From the official blurb: Explorations of domesticity, disembodied sexuality, power and violence subtly emerge through an interplay of sound, text and image. The Passive Voice speaks of strength through passivity, ambiguity, and ever-present anxiety. 

The lyrics vacillate between off-kilter manifesto and violent breakdown, and the drawings, often physically overlapping with the text, reflect the paradoxical agency of apparent passivity.  In this way, it pays homage to Moira Roth’s idea of “The Aesthetic of Indifference” in a feminist context (hi art theory people!), quietly echoing glamorous but tragic female pop-cultural figures.

If you are interested in checking out the music, you can listen via the BandCamp player above. If you really like it and want to buy a copy (and check out the zine!) you can do so via my BandCamp or Etsy.

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Settling? Building? Growing? Changing?

I haven’t updated this blog in about 500 years, because I have been doing other stuff – art stuff, friend stuff, life stuff… so here is a recap of the last year of my life:

I have been fairly artistically fulfilled, performing pretty regularly in a variety of projects, and involved with a couple of groups/collectives. I also just released a zine and EP with drawings and music I’ve made over the past six months. You can check it out here: www.etsy.com/shop/kitschrevolutions (you can also keep up to date on my artistic life over at my website)

Jeff and I finally found a permanent, affordable, well-located, beautiful place to live after eight grueling months of searching. We scavenged most of our furniture for cheap/free, maybe there will be more Trash Heap Survivor Stories for you in the future!

Fun visits from friends and family.

A fleeting but wonderful Berlin summer, and a not-terrible winter, with good friends and fun activities

A drastic reduction in the consumption of gluten-containing products, which has had a huge impact on the chronic health problems I had been experiencing for years. Maybe I will share some recipes soon…

A stint as a professional jump-roper at a fancy art gallery

GOT MY FREELANCE ARTIST VISA RENEWED FOR ANOTHER TWO YEARS!!!!

And, of course, the requisite 50 billion breakdowns, public and private, that seem to be less easy to write about but just as central to the task of living.

Well there’s my recap of the last many months!

New Food Obsession: Beef Bone Marrow on Toast

beef bone marrow

Lately I’ve been making a lot of stock/soup out of varying combinations of animal bones and meats. Mostly chicken stock because it’s cheap and relatively quick to make, but a few days ago I splurged (three euro, I know, really splashing out) on some beef marrow bones and various other pieces of cow bone with scraps of meat attached. I rarely make beef stock because it takes longer, is slightly more expensive and seems (to me, for my recipes) less versatile. BUT it’s delicious and definitely worth a go once in a while. So, while at the supermarket gawking at the offal in the meat section (this is one of my favorite pastimes), I decided to give beef stock a go.

To make a good beef stock the bones should be roasted for 20-30 minutes at about 200 Celsius (400 F) prior to simmering. If you are using marrow bones for your brew (you should be!), you have some deliciously cooked marrow staring up at you when you take the roasting pan out of the oven. You could just dump it in the pot with the bones to add flavor and nutrients to the stock, but if you are extravagant like me you will want to eat it all ASAP on a piece of toast. If you are more extravagant than me, you will serve it with a parsley-lemon salad or something nice to aid digestion, and wait until you find the camera before slurping down the core of molten goo bubbling up at you under a layer of crisp, crunchy awesomeness. As evidenced by the above photo, I’m not that fancy…

It’s pretty hard to find any reliable information on bone marrow nutrition facts/health benefits, but I’m going to say that it’s probably pretty good for you if eaten in moderation – a lot of bodily processes rely on what’s inside bone marrow, and that’s got to count for something! It’s fairly high in fat so you may not want to eat it every day, if fat isn’t your thing. But whatever, it’s way tastier, cheaper, and probably healthier than a candy bar. You’ve probably done a million less-healthy things today than eating a few spoonfuls of high-calorie bone marrow (did you drive two blocks instead of walking? You’re destroying the planet AND yourself! Etc.). And none of them were as satisfying.

Bonus: you still have the roasted bones (did you forget about those already?) to throw into a big pot for your delicious, undoubtedly healthy stock. Simmer those lil’ dudes up with some apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, and a bay leaf for anywhere between 5 and 24 hours (adding water as it evaporates), throw in some vegetables towards the end for even more flavor/nutrition, strain it all and you are good to go, high five, now you can make a tasty soup.

Trash Heap Survivor: The Candelabra

candelabra

Jeff found this one on the street near Boxhagener Platz when we lived around there (two sublets ago, if you’re keeping track). It’s currently hiding in our friend’s basement while we prepare for what is hopefully our final move into a more permanent apartment.

For the record, I’m not into taking things from the trash just because they are trash. I try to strive for simplicity and not take too much more than I need (though my success is debatable!). Most of our curbside/Craigslist/dumpster finds are pretty functional, but sometimes a little decoration is nice. And this piece is not without its own purpose… I mean, it’s a candle holder! It can hold candles or little pots with seedlings or strings of beads or Barbie doll heads. Or maybe it will just stand in a corner looking pretty. Either way I like it, and we’re keeping it.

What are you guys finding in the trash? I’d love to know!

Super Simple Carrot and Potato Soup

Jeff and I have been moving around a lot lately. As in, we have a new home every month. Which means I spend a decent amount of energy concocting recipes that will use up all of the bulky and/or heavy foodstuffs we’ve accumulated at any given apartment, so that we don’t have to move with them. Chief suspects are bags of potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery – the main ingredients in this incredibly simple and surprisingly delicious soup. As a bonus, this dish is very filling and also quite the comfort food – perfect for helping our bedraggled, nomadic souls feel a little bit more grounded.

You can serve this soup with a delicious salad or some crusty bread… or just by itself. This recipe makes about four normal sized bowls – enough for one hearty meal for both me and Jeff, but my classic disclaimer is that we possibly (probably) have bigger appetites than many. Swapping out the chicken stock for veggie broth or water makes it a good vegetarian/vegan dinner option.

carrot potato soup

Easy Carrot-Potato Soup

Olive oil (about two tablespoons)
Two onions, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or more depending on your preference/tolerance for garlic)
5-7 Carrots, peeled and chopped
5 small quick-cooking potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
5-7 stalks of celery, chopped
Chicken stock/bouillon (can sub water or veggie broth for a vegan alternative)
Bay leaf (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

If you want to get fancy, you can add the ingredients one at a time, but more often than not I just dump the vegetables into the olive oil, sweat them for a while (until the onions turn translucent) over medium-low heat, and then add the stock and the bay leaf. Add only enough liquid to just barely cover the veggies. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. When the carrots and potatoes are tender, remove the bay leaf (important!!!), take the pot off the heat, remove (but reserve – you’re gonna add it back in in a second) about half of the liquid, and use a potato masher or an immersion blender to get the veggies to your desired level of puree (I prefer chunkier because I am too lazy to mash more than I have to). Stir the liquid back in, a little at a time, until soup is at desired consistency. If there’s any liquid left over, dump it, drink it, or save it for later. Whatever. At this point, taste the soup. Add salt and pepper if you deem necessary. Cook it a few minutes longer over medium heat, and then serve.

I tend to use a lot of spices in my cooking, but this recipe really doesn’t need any help in the flavor department. In fact, additional spices would muddle the taste of the vegetables and make for an inferior soup. Sometimes I even skip the bay leaf, salt and pepper, and it tastes really great – just pure carroty goodness. So enjoy the simplicity of this one.

New Food Obsession: Cucumbers in Yogurt

My new thing is cucumbers in yogurt. Chopped up cukes mixed with salt and pepper, maybe a few cloves of garlic, all stirred into a big bowl of plain yogurt – I have been eating this lately as breakfast (great for hangovers!), as a side dish at dinner (goes great with lamb!), and as a sauce/creamy dressing. Calling this snack a raita or tzatziki or even a “salad” feels overblown, though in essence it is all three of those dishes. It could even possibly be described as a healthy version of my favorite Polish dish, mizeria – cucumber salad in sour cream. Turns out about a zillion cultures around the globe have a version of this delicious, healthy treat.

What’s so great about cucumbers in yogurt as a meal/snack/side dish/salad topper (aside from its versatility)? Here are just a few things:

First of all, it’s delicious and nourishing at the same time! That should be a good enough reason to eat anything. It’s tasty, with the benefit of leaving you feeling energized rather than sluggish like a lot of snacks might.

The yogurt contains healthy bacteria that basically perform your digestion for you. You need these little dudes. Cultured and fermented foods usually (but not always) provide a good source of bacteria – the addition of preservatives and some packaging methods can destroy these little good guys. Check the yogurt container and make sure it says “contains live and active cultures” to ensure you’re getting the probiotic benefits. If you add garlic to the mix, be aware that the anti-biotic properties of the garlic may destroy some of the good bacteria in the yogurt (but you are getting a host of other benefits with the addition of garlic!), so plan accordingly.

Cucumber helps to hydrate your body, and contains vitamins and minerals essential to your vital processes (aka what you need to keep your body alive and functioning properly). For a good rundown of the known health benefits of cukes, check out their listing on World’s Healthiest Foods, a website which basically translates peer-reviewed scientific research on healthy foods into understandable normal-people-speak.

The yogurt gives a good balance of protein and carbs, and gives you energy while keeping you full. The water content of the cucumbers can also make you feel fuller faster, if you have a problem with delayed satiety (aka if it takes you a while to feel full). It’s not going to kill you if you have two or three bowls of this stuff anyway, so don’t feel so bad about it if you do. You shouldn’t feel bad about eating. Period. Unless you’re eating babies or something. Then maybe you should feel bad.

Lastly, this is a simple, tasty, totally not daunting way to get more vegetables in your diet. I know that’s something that many people struggle with (even the most well-intentioned, health-knowledgeable among us!) – I totally have problems fitting in enough veggies sometimes. But this recipe is so easy! No cooking, not much cleanup, barely any chopping. And big taste/nutrition returns for such a small investment of food-prep energy.

Here’s my method (it’s barely a recipe):

For one breakfast-sized serving, chop (any way you want! I quarter and then slice) about half a large cucumber. Add however much plain yogurt (Greek or regular, full or low fat… I use bio, regular, full-fat) you would like, sprinkle on as much salt and pepper (and other spices if you want – cayenne, oregano, parsley?) as you see fit, and maybe throw in some minced garlic. Mix it all up and enjoy! Too easy, right?

P.S. Sorry I don’t have a picture! I ate too fast (it’s that good!)

DIY: Doing What You Want in Life

If you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past month, first of all, I’m flattered that you’re regularly reading my blog and noticed my absence at all. Thanks! Sorry for deserting you!

I’m afraid I’ve fallen victim to a bit of hopelessness – Jeff and I have experienced quite the run of bad luck on the finding-an-apartment front, and are sublet-hopping for our lives as we wait for the stars to align and some key documents to make their way into our possession. I’ve also had a string of false starts on my search for employment (if you have a freelance writing job for me, drop me a line!). Luckily Jeff and I have some really awesome and supportive friends, or our morale would be in the negative digits right now.

In addition to the stupid living and working mess we’ve got going on, I realize that I’m falling victim to my own stupidity, for which I owe myself a big apology. In my quest for stability and safety (neither of which I’ve really found yet, oops), I’ve neglected my personal wellbeing, and forgotten what exactly I want out of life. So I’m writing this DIY tutorial for myself, to remind myself that personal fulfillment is worth striving for, even if everything else in life sucks. Maybe it will help you, maybe you will read it and go awwww, maybe you have advice for me, maybe you can relate. This is my plan of action, and as far as I’m concerned, everyone should have their own.

To start: don’t listen to anyone who tells you that if you do what you love, the money will follow. It’s most likely a lie, unless you love investment banking, lobbying for big business, or being a high-class hooker (and have the luck and connections to pull off those careers). I love making sound collages and performance art. I love writing. I am fairly talented at these things, and have almost a decade of training in these artforms from some of the most capable, inspirational artists and teachers you will ever meet. I’ve also been paid a sum total of less that $5,000 for all of the artistic work I’ve done over the past 10 years, and most of that money came from writing copy, not poetry. Forget about making money. Do your thing because you love it. Maybe you’ll find a way to make a few bucks off of it, maybe not. Don’t let that be your only goal. Don’t let money define your legitimacy, either. Own what you do. Care about it. Work hard at it. Or don’t.

Decide for yourself if your passion is a hobby, or a vocation. For me, it’s a vocation, a calling. Saying that makes me feel stupid, and like people are going to question my legitimacy/talent/devotion/credentials. But it feels better than not saying it! And if you’re out there and laughing at me because you think I’m a wannabe or a no talent hack (I realize you probably aren’t thinking that, but this is my big fear), then screw you! Death to the nonbelievers!

If you don’t have money, do things that are cheap/free. Don’t use poorness as a crutch  – you’ll still be poor if you neglect yourself. Poor and unhappy.

Reach out to people. Even if you don’t particularly care about building a community of like-minded individuals, chances are you want to know about what’s going on in the world and how you can become a part of it. I’ve booked awesome shows by e-mailing strangers who sent out ads. I’ve gotten grants and studio space and opportunities by talking with people. I’ve never gotten anything but depressed sitting at home on my butt, refusing to interact with anyone.

Work. Work on something. Actively. Engage your interests. I can’t perform a show if I haven’t created one. Can’t publish the blog I haven’t written. Maybe this isn’t my best blog post, but it’s better than the one I didn’t write, and infinitely more shareable.

In the end, I think the best advice is the beautiful cliche: Just Do It. I’ve pushed aside my personal calling and emotional needs for the past several months, waiting to figure everything else in my life out before getting back into the studio/discovering a community/doing my thing. And I’ve been deeply dissatisfied, and it’s only made everything else harder. Lesson learned: don’t push aside your personal needs, or they will grow and overwhelm you. Do what yo gotta do, or the meltdown will eat you alive.