Upstream of Consciousness wants to be a collection of interviews that only contain answers. I will provide 5 phrases, words, quotes, links, pictures, or videos (in italics) and your consciousness will provide the rest. Responses can be short or long, real or fictional, words, links, or anything in between. In return, each of my "subjects" will give me 1 item back which I will then respond to (under the heading Ripple, with a number next to it). Come, swim for a while.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Note: More of Beth's life and art (or life as art) can be found here. You can also purchase some of her beautiful photographs, including the one in #5, so go check it out.

1. Sarah Kane

Sarah Kane. Sarah Kane killed herself at age 28. I have her complete plays. There are five and they are increasingly brilliant and heartbreakingly on the brink of sanity.

Sarah Kane wrote Blasted at 23. At 23 I was smoking too many clove cigarettes and playing at being A Serious Artist.

At 28 I will not be writing works of theatrical brilliance. I will also not be hanging myself in an asylum bathroom with borrowed shoelaces.

I directed one of her plays in college. We referred to her as "Sarah.". We got to know her. We had one of those only in academia rehearsal processes where we covered a wall with images of rape survivors and anorexics on the brink of death and suicide bombers and child beauty queens and the little girl running naked after the bombing of Hiroshima. We had a rehearsal process with the secrecy of FIght Club. We started every day by reporting our highs and lows.

I was fucking one of my actors and desperately in love with another. It was all terribly complicated. I'd found a bunch of broken, misfit toys and I was queen. My professor came to watch midway through the process and took me aside to sternly say, "Beth, theatre should not be therapy."

I disagreed with him. I think it's sometimes the best therapy there is.

The production was a huge success. A year and a half and 45 miles away, a girl came up to me and hugged me and told me she had never been so affected by a play in her life.

I am significantly crazier now that I am not making theatre.

2. to unlock

To set free. Possibility. Hope. Power.


There is no other artist (pair of artists) in the world who get people to CALL LOVED ONES during a show so they can be serenaded. That's something I love about Amanda. There's so much unexpected and joyful that happens at her shows.

This clip is from before I was part of Team AFP. Now when I see videos on YouTube, more often than not I go "Oh, right... I was there, just to the left of the frame." And there's a lot of warmth in those thoughts. Being part of something meaningful. They're off-key (and it seems a little drunk) but this is meaningful. I actually remember watching a video of this, maybe even this video, a few days before I went to the New Year's Eve show last year. It's amazing and a little unsettling to think of the girl I was then, watching this video and tearing up while thinking about who I'd call. (The tearing up was because the only person I could think to call was my very recent ex.) I remember wanting so to be a part of the experience that audience was having. Of course, now I'm at many, many shows and I'm still not a part of that experience. I am slowly accepting the fact that I don't go to the party, I help throw the party, and it's a totally different thing. Beautiful in its own way, but not the same. But sometimes I wade out into the middle of the crowd and let their energy crush me and bring me back different. Those moments remind me who I was.

I wish Amanda would let her hair grow out like that again.

4. "My portraits are more about me than the people I photograph." - Richard Avedon

Yes. This.

The way I feel about someone translates in my photographs of them. I can't make a beautiful photograph of someone I don't find to be beautiful. This is why in awful at shoot for hire... There's no time in those situations to know the person, to find the beauty.

Beauty evolves for me. I met an extraordinarily beautiful woman, but as I got to know her, I found her to be cold and distant. She became less attractive to me. I found it difficult to shoot her.

It works the other way. I met a girl who was initially only vaguely pretty, or perhaps even plain, but as I got to know her I found more and more beauty. She had a lot of teeth, or, rather, showed a lot of teeth when she laughed. I fell a little in love with her. By the time I shot her, she was all beauty, and it showed in the photos. A mutual acquaintance told me he'd never seen what I'd seen, but the photos were unmistakably her, and in them she was unquestionably beautiful.

But my photography is about interaction with my subject. Its a collaboration and I rarely try to make a person appear as they are not. They bring themself and I do my best to see them through the distortions of my own perception.

I remember, years ago, showing a series of photographs I'd done of a girl I knew to a friend of mine. They were simple portraits. He looked for a few moments and then looked me in the eye and said, "You're gay, aren't you? And you're in love with her."

Yes. And yes, I was.

I find often that the more complicated my feelings for someone are, the more interesting the photographs I take of them.


This is love. I took this photograph more than five years ago. That's not the ocean... it's the roof of an abandoned car dealership. You can see a frying pan in the water. I'm surprised the girls didn't get the hiv being in there in their bare feet. The blonde, incidentally, still lives in Pittsburgh. Her name is Meg. I invited her to the show and she showed up while I was selling merch at the Vermillion Lies table. She took my hand and smiled and I looked at her and said, "I'm sorry, where do we know each other from?" I was so in "work" brain... when I'm on the road, sometimes people come up to me and hug me and I have to ask where we met and they tell me "Oh, we met in City!" and sometimes I remember them. Sometimes I don't. So Meg showed up at the table and smiled and grabbed my hand and my brain just misfired. She responded, "... Beth?!" and I said, "Oh! I know you from the fact that we've been friends for SIX YEARS."

6. tattoo

1st response:
Reminder. Permanant post-it note. Often come in dreams, frequently full of symbolism.

2nd response:


It's a choose your own adventure! But real emos don't have girlfriends. We suffer alone in our rooms.

8. your mom, me, some exotic fruits, and a tub full of Jello

A recipe for a super-hot Thursday night. Obviously.

9. balance

Complicated. I am a girl of too much.

10. "I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there's a place where a record of their existence is kept -- a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you. Sometimes that house is messy, sometimes horrifyingly so. In real life, we wouldn't invite any passing stranger into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem O.K."
- Emily Gould

For me, my blog is 100% about connection with other human beings. I love being able to say, "This is my experience" and have ten people reply, "Yes! I identify with that, but I do it this way." I like dialogue. I love communication.

It's a huge sign of trust for me to let people see my actual messy apartment. My blog-mess... I go back and forth. I definitely have started only showing parts of the house. It used to be I showed the whole house, but only to my friends. Now I show everything but the bedroom and the attic to everyone. Friends get to see the bedroom. No one goes in the attic unless we are face to face and very drunk.

Showing either kind of mess to people makes me feel very vulnerable. But I do it. I can't not be honest in my blog. It's a diary where I vent, it's a forum where I keep friends and family up to date, and it's a place where I can go to say things I think are important for other people to know. Being less than open is insulting to the people who read it. If they care enough to read my blog, I should be brave enough to give them something Real.

This is the messiest I've ever been on the internet. I posted this video to my blog a little over a year ago. People agreed that it's either hilarious or heartbreaking. I think it's probably both... it is definitely Real, though:

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Beth baby, you need a hug worse than anyone I've ever met.



About Me

I am interested in the human condition.