Jacklyn Janeksela

Black Fly: Sex Education Done Right

Nana Adae-Amoakoh and Ella, two influential forces, have manifested Black Fly –a space where POC can freely express their concerns related to sexual health. It’s about having those serious conversations, but also about supporting sexual exploration. Black Fly encourages artists to bless the world with their creativity, which becomes a vehicle that propels conversations forward.

Nana Adae-Amoakoh and Ella Frost have dedicated their free time to promoting and sustaining sexual health for POC. The conversation is huge –one that’s long overdue and has the power to change how the world perceives black and brown bodies.

Often overly sexualized, objectified, and commodified –black and brown bodies have existed under sexual troupes or motifs, often constrained or exaggerated. Under colonizing regimes, POC have been silenced. But no more. Now is the time for voices to soar and both Adae-Amoakoh and Frost are facilitating flight via Black Fly. The focus is on community as wealth. It’s also about connecting stories from around the globe; talking candidly about sexual health bolsters confidence, informs identities, and educates. Black Fly is on a mission that will take POC’s sexual education and identity to the moon and back several times over.

What inspired you to start Black Fly and what was the process like?

Nana: Both Ella and I were fed up with the lack of decolonized information on sexual health and well-being that considered the multiplicity of POC narratives and how our identity intersections shape how we are impacted in this area. In our first conversation, we literally couldn’t stop speaking about our respective sexual health and the issues we and others we knew have dealt with. Three hours later, we were convinced that if our friends and we were feeling and experiencing these things, then there must also be people we don’t know sharing our concerns.

When we did the call-out, we simply stated the vision for Black Fly and encouraged people to submit whatever this compelled them to produce. It was really amazing when the submissions started coming through; people expressing themselves in a variety of ways, through a range of perspectives, from across three continents. The process of putting them all together, choosing the order, working with the artists to edit, learning Adobe InDesign, happened alongside us holding down full-time jobs and meant we were often working through the night. But it was a different kind of tiredness. We are so invested and committed to this project, that working from this place of love fueled us to get it to what it is and continues to motivate us today.

Is the focus on sexual health an attempt to re-educate and build a community that transcends institutions, institutions that have often left POC on the margins?

Ella: I don’t think we are in a position to re-educate people, nor would we want to. People of colour know their experiences better than us and know themselves, it is whiteness that seeks to undermine that knowledge and cast doubt. It’s more about having a platform to show these voices within the particular context of sexual health, to know that white supremacy is working on all these different levels, to pay attention to it, recognize it and uphold the voices who are affected by it.

Do you feel like the zine itself or the application process is a ritual?

Nana: When I think of a ritual I think of a spiritual ceremony or repeating an act with the intention of producing and causing a particular outcome. Because of my own experiences, there were submissions that upon reading for the first time made me very emotional. And we have so many inboxes from people who having read the zine, talk about how beautiful it is and how it has helped them manage feelings of isolation because they read or saw something in it that resonated with them. For Ella and I, we definitely recognized a cathartic aspect to producing the zine in ourselves but also for the contributors. I definitely think there is a ritualistic aspect to tapping into our pain in a way which is fruitful.

Black Fly is more than a zine; clearly, it’s a movement, a global one at that –can you talk more about that, please?

Ella: It really has the potential to be, it’s all about tying black and brown people’s experiences together, mapping them out across space and time while also acknowledging colourism and privileges that exist within these histories. It is no simple task! What could be a goal is to set up Black Fly in multiple continents and eventually knit all the communities together in some way, that would truly be a global movement and something we are working on.

If you could summarize Black Fly in a few words or one sentence, what would you say?

Ella: Black and brown sexual health, affirmation, and growth.

Nana: A healing and supportive resource.

Self-love is an act of protest against society for POC. Could you talk more about that and how non-POC can assist in the process, if at all?

Nana: Knowing that someone is going through the same thing as you or has had a similar experience and can therefore relate to your own trauma is truly transformative. There’s something so powerful in saying “I have been through the same” to other people in our community, in speaking out about our experiences and feeling safe to do so. Self-love has to include owning our narratives and learning to accept ourselves with everything that society tells us makes us unloveable. Shame thrives when we keep things in the dark. Giving light to these experiences simply by sharing is a huge act of self-love.

As for non-POC folk, I personally, am over centering them or even having to explain how they can be allies. White supremacy works to make us believe that white people have to be included in our community work when they actually do not. All I ask is when in spaces where POC are talking about themselves, that they listen and go back to their worlds and actively work to dismantle the systems that give them endless privileges. Google is their friend if they want a clearer understanding of what this looks like..

Zines and websites are ways to archive the past. Can you address this within the afro-futuristic movement?

Ella: I am recently delving into Afro-futurism and I’m reading Dark Matter a collection of short stories right now, I love it but don’t quite feel educated enough to comfortably place Black Fly in it. The very fact that Afro-futurism is explicitly about race is refreshing after reading a lot of white cis male sf that can imagine impossible things but rarely delve into racism. I think Black Fly is very much archiving the present and maybe we can push it, using Afro-futurism, to start imagining the future of black and brown sexuality and identity.

Where do you see Black Fly going within the next decade?

Ella: I want Black Fly to keep getting into the hands of the people who need it. We also want to keep pushing conversations in real life in the form of dialogues, workshops and panels perhaps, creating a zine for younger generations so they can also be affirmed in their experience, especially if they are in a system which is not made for their needs. I also want to work on some merchandise because it would be so cute to have some Black Fly tees on all the people in our community AND STICKERS!

Nana: Snap. All of the above.

Find more about Black Zine here and here.

To submit to Black Zine see the following:

We want your submissions in any form you desire.


2 Rules:

  1. ANONYMITY is vital.

If u don’t want ur name included then it won’t be.

  1. POC only. All genders welcome.



WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Aisha Mirza: Mad, Brown, & Hairy

Mad, brown, and hairy– it’s a label Aisha Mirza have given themselves. Mad as in angry, but also as in a madness that creates the artistic fuel and divine spark. Don’t get all bent out of shape either, their journey is not up for debate or critique. Their journey, like most artists would agree, is matchless. There is no gasping here, no shocked looks, no twisted mouths uttering, How dare they. They dare because it’s a calling and because they can –period. For Aisha Mirza, talking and writing about being mad, brown, and hairy is more than just using adjectives, it’s peeling back the onion, lifting the veil, and getting to the core of the fruit, the world, the self. They write what they know. And they are so self right now.

Self is such a slippery word, but Mirza isn’t recoiling. The strategy of self-care is well worth noting as a way to delve further into self; where self meets self, self meets other selves plus society and other humans. Not to mention, all the types of gazes and categories that can be beds of trickery. Don’t you lay down there in that bed, just no, just don’t. Mirza writes. And often times, the subject matter is touchy, but one we should all want to touch.

Self-care happens to be one of Mirza’s primary techniques against the colonizer’s gaze and their subtle micro-aggression. This is how they permeate social norms and forms of control, by knowing when to remove their body, to know when their body is no longer safe in particular spaces. To leave the space and be the space –that’s magic right there. That’s both intellect and intuition, no doubt a result of growing out their body hair –linking to the nervous system, so much vibration from planets Uranus and Mercury. In going all the way in on self-care, Mirza knows where they stand, which makes their adversaries more visible. They have found plenty of allies and built community, but identifying the aggressor in the midst is their mission. And the hair continues to grow, it transmits messages from ancestral root and finds locations where they can flourish. The hair might even be the pen with which they write their essays.

This is a Southeast Asian body hair and gender non-conforming, queer movement. It’s one that’s gaining momentum and picking up the shards as it chugs along. They are not alone. They are supported by other bodies, which reflect their own. The movement is taking down micro-aggression one hard stare at a time. Mirza recognizes the power of looks and silence –both used as ways that white people have allowed racism to perpetuate the globe. Deliberate negation of such attitudes by whites is just more proof of micro-aggression and non-sense fragility that are both burning down villages where black and brown bodies reside and resist.

It is written on the body, but that’s not enough. Mirza documents through writings and film. Their legacy is already been put into motion, building upon itself, protecting and preserving black and brown bodies.

Mirza discusses their work with The Turmeric Project. “Where people hold the grief of being disgusting,” raises questions, but also eyebrows and leg hair and beards. What is disgusting anyways, but a concept that goes against the European standard of beauty? What does the colonizer know about beauty when it comes to a black or brown body? And how can a white body understand the grief of a non-white body?

Decolonization has been a huge part of Mirza’s journey. The meeting of diaspora and art cannot be ignored. This is about hoq art changes as a result of the diaspora and how is it used as a tool against the system. Body hair just happens to be one of the responses to these questions, but the answers are as limitless and potent as the number of Southeast Asian deities.

As Mirza allows their body hair to grow, as they exposes body hair for the world to see –either in essay or in aesthetically (un)pleasant photography– they witnesses the effects on the world around them. Mirza invokes a spirit of exploration on the body, through tiny tendrils that stick up from pores wherever they damn well please. In blessing the body by allowing it to be in its most natural state, Mirza gives permission to be self, to be whatever self the universe has granted them in this lifetime.

Find out more about Aisha Mirza here, here, & here.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Lost and Found G-Strings Galore in the Lost and Found Box: hustle*

To wear another stripper’s thong is asking for trouble. It’s risky and a little bit sexy. Aren’t you imagining two vaginas rubbing up on each other right now?

I discovered lost and found thongs when I realized I had started bleeding on stage. There was another girl who also bled on stage, but she used ritual knives and catching jars. She danced to Bennie and the Jets when she did her performance. Her raven hair draping over her chubby shoulders and over her tits like ink, like squid ink, like onyx, like night. She was the night and darker than all the darkness in the club. There was great comfort in the roundness of her size. If there ever was a goddess so deep with magic, she would look like this, charcoal liner and all. This was as if Lilith had hit the stage, this is what we caught her doing. And she swelled, really bulbous as her minions gathered. My blood didn’t stop the room like hers did. It didn’t create fanboys or even spawn whispers. Mine made one customer point a finger and another chuckle. My blood was the biological type, the cycle, the Moon, the maternal stuff. It wasn’t sexy. Despite my baby doll costumes that occasionally got some play, no one believed I was still a virgin. They had no clue that mere months before getting topless for strangers I had just had my cherry popped. No blood to show for it; my hymen far removed. It was as if it never happened. The sex and my virginity filaments unthreading. The undoing of something that had already been undone.

I wanted a blood like hers, I wanted my blood to hurt somebody, too.


When I started the hustle, there were no rules, no handbook. No one ever told me to carry an extra g-string. Who even knew such a rule existed? The experts, that’s who. Of one, I was not –yet.

That day, I was introduced to the lost and found box. A grey plastic bin tucked under the benches where the girls got ready. We called it the dressing room. It smelled like armpits and body spray, talcum powder and singed hair. I spent hours back there studying the girls and their make-up application, memorizing their body spray of choice, and watching them slip into the stalls together.

You can’t even imagine a box like this exists in the back of a strip club. But I can promise you, it does. Every strip joint has one. Not a single one I’ve worked in didn’t. Or maybe it was the box following me like some sort of symbol, some Jungian synchronicity that told me to beware the casket, beware the tomb, beware getting nailed in, nailed down, nailed.

Inside this grey box were treasures. Although most were stained or torn, each one was like holding onto a stripper’s heel and taking a spin with her around the pole, flying into her soul, hovering just above her nipple that strained through latex. Touching these items was like touching the body of a ghost stripper. It felt eerie, erotic, and almost cathartic. Once I learned about the lost and found box, I was hooked.

How magical to use something from a forgotten stripper, a runaway stripper, a transient one at best. One who might have been fired for giving a blowjob in the champagne room. One who might have left a shift and never come back, leaving behind a few relics in her locker that would later be ripped open with wire cutters as large as a man’s torso. One who might have quit and given zero fucks about what she tossed lazily about in the dressing room.

At first, I froze when the girls showed it to me. The box was as quiet as I was, as if we were admiring each other and our ability to live as shapes, to be molded, to hold things. I was forced to dig through the rubble; my white stained thong looking like a bloody tissue from a bar fight, a sanitary napkin that had missed the tiny bathroom trashcan, the removal of lipstick from any number of women. With the luck of diamonds and cosmic tidings, I found a g-string just my size. It was florescent pink and it would become my moneymaker. The girls told me to scrub it down like my life depended on it. With the hottest water my hands could stand and a bulk box of powdered detergent, I got to work over a grimy sink. By the time I was finished, my hands throbbed. They throbbed with the beat of the speakers and shined gristly and pinkish. Once dried, it still smelled of her body spray and cigarettes, but I wore it as though it were my own. She must have been just my size because I was hers. Beyond time and dimension, we fused. It felt warm, it felt like a cup of something warm a mother would give to her child.

By the time I made it back out on the floor, the customers who had seen me bleed had gone. There I was again, a new face, fresh meat, ready to dangle from the sky, twisting about like a circus girl with a bit in her mouth, spinning, like a horseshoe that’s been chucked at the metal stake. Only this time, I was not me. I was another me. I was a me dug from the bottom of a plastic bin, a me that I uncovered just as I covered her face, the face of the girl who had left behind a g-string. She, through existing once as a vagina on this g-string, was existing now through mine. It was almost like we were blood sisters.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Mili Seethia: Rainbow Colored Everything

The world of caricatures has been flipped all the way into rainbow territory and beyond. It’s rather cosmic and it makes sense that it would come from India. This is a country teeming with multi-colored fabrics and landscapes, a culture of 1,000 gods and goddesses all buoyant with pigment. It’s the land where Kama Sutra delivered us into a rainbow of mystic positions and deliberately seductive renditions.

Rainbows represent LGBTQIA+ and it makes total sense that Mili Sethia would use it to campaign her own work. It’s not about portraits as much as it is about breaking binary notions and turning the world on its head. She’s known for taking 90’s Bollywood sex symbols and revamping them with a queer angle. It’s called Esqueer and it’s all about breaking down masculinity as we know it and society has defined it. In addressing the masculinity concept, Sethia tells us what a troupe it really is. All things can be queer and seem to be, quiet organically, actually.

Admire Sethia’s color schemes, mystic implications, and queer sheen present in every piece, every brush stroke applied with what feels like magic potency. The work deviates very little –portraits upon portraits upon portraits. Yet the remarkable part is that each portrait includes its own aura energy field. She has even named her portraits Queertraits, a play upon her Bollywood project. Sethia does not shy away from queerness.

Sethia received plenty of attention for Esqueer project –one that demands India to re-evaluate its sexual initiative. Her portaits sparkle like a very queer star. Sethia is in touch with colors and the queer community in effective ways. And she sees the world in ways we might not be able to understand or fathom. However, that matters very little.

Sethia’s mastery is color, no doubt. Even the artist realizes this, “I like to see the world through rainbow-tinted glasses.” Combining colors in unpredictable ways leaves the viewer with an impression of the artist themselves –that art is unpredictable, vibrant, and beaming with energy.

Sethia’s mastery is color, no doubt. Even the artist realizes this, “I like to see the world through rainbow-tinted glasses.” Combining colors in unpredictable ways leaves the viewer with an impression of the artist themselves. Art is unpredictable, vibrant, and beaming with energy in that way.

Each piece is a peak into Sethia’s brain. To experience her work is to view the world through her proverbial rainbow colored glasses. And we ask ourselves: is the artist wearing tinted glasses or is the artist blessed beyond the paintbrush? Is she gifted with the ability to see auric impressions.

We are enchanted by the hues and Sethia’s willingness to experiment with color and conventions. We are thankful that she’s using her voice to combat social ideologies long needed to be evaluated.

Sethia sets the stage for interesting questions and they transpire as rainbow colored sweat beads all along our foreheads. That India heat matching the fever set off by Sethia’s portraits.

The real beauty is in Mili Sethia’s life. While many painters and artists barely find the time to produce work, it appears that Sethia is living by art. Going to festivals and meeting patrons at local shops, Sethia makes sure her art is seen by the public. She puts her art’s mission out there.

What does this say about the artist? That she believes in self. While the concept of painting and selling portraits is nothing new, it is in Sethia’s determination that the artist can identify self. If anything, Sethia reminds the artist to stay true to self, to be an advocate for a life of authenticity. It’s refreshing. Not to mention, her audacious take on masculinity, queerness, and gender all point to the portrait of an artist as a young, queer human.


Find more about Mili Sethia here, here, & here.


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

The “i’m tired” Project: Body Language

The “i’m tired” Project: Body Language

What does a heart do when it aches? What does a spirit do when it has reached its limit? What does a body do when it recognizes trauma?

It takes that pain and turns it into protest. Enter “i’m tired” founders Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans, the driving force behind this crucial project, one that is both vulnerable and powerful at the same time, a genuine reflection of the body itself.

The body is a vehicle. It takes us from point-a to point-b, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It, quite literally, carries us. It carries us from here to there. It carries us through. It carries us above, beyond, and below. The body is the greatest technology this world has ever seen.

What other technology can take pain and turn it into beauty?

None. Only the human body has that capacity.

And that’s why the “i’m tired” project deserves our attention. Not only is it speaking on the body, even about the body, it’s also speaking directly to wounds that are felt in the body. Wounds, not always visual, speak on our behalf. They say where we have been, who we are, and where we plan to go. Our wounds define us. And sometimes, it’s the silence of our wounds that speaks loudest.

Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans are fighting back in the name of the body. In doing so, they hone the body’s power. Akpan and Evans stand for the body and they lean into it, using it as canvas. Quite literally, they are making protest signs on the body. This is political art. It’s the type of art that can change notions and nation if we let it. The question is, are we willing to look at the wounds and not look away? Are we willing to call people out? Are we willing to reveal our truth despite aggression, assumptions, and stereotypes?

As Ai Weiwei said, “If my art has nothing to do with people’s pain and sorrow, what is ‘art’ for?“ It appears that Akpan and Evans’ approach to their entire project is predicated on pain as catalyst. Some believe art and protest cannot be separated, that extrapolating one from the other waters down the objective and minimizes trauma.

Art, after all, should provoke communication, if not thought. Akpan and Evans offer real life stories that reflect the viewer in some way. In using the body, the “i’m tired” project entertains a conversation between the viewer and the anonymous body. The creators are surely striving to make us more human and that starts with compassion. Compassion begins when humans tell their truth and expose their true selves.

The “i’m tired” project has garnered awards and attention alike. And with good reason –this is a project worthy of all our praise. Everyone’s willingness to be naked reveals our need for compassion. The human body and experience want to be recognized as much as they want to be reflected. In viewing another’s story written on the body, we can experience our own. Here in the “i’m tired” project, the dichotomy of our human existence has never been made more apparent.

Find out more about the “i’m tired” project here & here.


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.


Jasper Finn, Canvases that Clap Back

Art has no boundaries, it knows no rules and it breaks stigmas –at least that’s what Jasper Finn’s art seems to be saying. Despite Jasper Finn’s young age, eh hem 18 years old, Finn’s spirit is all wisdom. As if Finn comes from an ageless, all-inclusive era where non-binary reigns supreme and social concepts fade away; where guidelines are almost laughable because in the art world anything goes. Where Finn dwells seems to go beyond our earthly definition of freedom and incorporates mantras of live and let live.

Finn destroys, too –extinguishes pre-conceived notions about what a young body and mind can do. With images in high contrasting colors, blended with equal parts surrealist slants and honest edges, there is a definite future for Finn, a transgender, queer, LGBTIA+ supporter and art energy. Finn isn’t afraid to strut, so to speak, in the artistic realm. Being a transgender queer identifying artist makes Finn’s endeavors incredibly timely considering all the backlash around the world regarding transgendered humans. Finn is a voice for humans, for the human experience, whatever that may be. It is a voice that could save lives –if only we’re ready to listen. Art speaks, in this case it screams.


When Finn’s school tried to censor their art, Finn was not only reluctant, but decidedly fearless. Finn was not about shutting down their art for the sake of social norms. Finn didn’t stop –rather, they foraged an artistic platform that eventually won Finn top awards from his school’s College Board, despite the administration requesting Finn to choose more appropriate themed artwork.


Finn reminds us that when we fuel our art with passion and purity, blessings are bestowed upon us. Whether in the form of awards or internet fame, staying true to self and the artistic journey’s speaks volumes about our character, who we are and what we want to do with this life. It’s clear Finn dreams to emerge themselves in that artistic life, be authentic AF, and give zero f*$#s about critics input, proves that Finn is on a mission that can’t and won’t be stopped.

Let’s not call Finn brave or wise for their age, that would only insinuate that young people can’t understand either concept which is rather ridiculous. It also, and quietly possibility, undermines another human’s experience. For how does one know the soul of another if not living within that body, how can we know what the body feels like if we are outside of it and it’s not our own experience. Finn lives in a body that can feel confining and create confusion. But these concepts are social-based and full of stereotypes. Finn aims to rescind such binary categorizations. While peeling back layers of self that break free of definitions and titles, Finn can delve into pools of self that most will never touch. And it appears that Finn swims freely, albeit with heavy emotions –the mermaid swirlings abound and Finn is the prettiest fish in the pond.

Finn has expressed vulnerability with pieces like “Caged” and “Growing Pains”. Both address issues of body as related to assigned genders and biological genitals. When gazing at Finn’s art one knows that the artist has a way of dissecting and depicting that which many of us might be afraid to discuss.

The main focus of Finn’s art is humanity for the motif is about the human experience. All human experiences are valid and each one valuable. No two experiences are exact –there is something incredibly breathtaking about that idea. Finn recognizes the beauty that rests inside each individual’s experience, absorbs it, rests with it for a while, then creates it –distributes it for the world to see, for us to swallow whole –ingest and digest. Art for Finn is self, self manifested on canvas. And Finn’s canvases clap back at anyone who portends to ignore, minimize, or criticize the artist’s perspective.

So not only is Finn’s art giving major clapback, it’s also provoking all who view to applaud, like stand up with shoulder back, yelling out, encore or bravo or yes, you are giving me life. And hats and wigs off to Finn for listening to that inner voice, the ether, and letting universe guide their art. Not only should artist take note, but all humans should listen closely. There’s nothing like living true to self and nothing like a canvas that claps back. This is art done with 100% pure ether and listens only to the calling, the calling to be self and nothing else.

Find out more here.


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.


Turtle Tank, Where All of Your Radical, Creative, Entrepreneur Ideas Should be Swimming

Often, we talk so much about the art and the artist that we forget about the art process. Not insinuating mediums or artistic procedure, per se, but how an artist got to where s/he is today, i.e. how does one muster the strength of mind, body, and spirit to persue a life of artistic splendor or radical endeavor.

A movement, one of many –reaching far beyond concepts of surrealism, protest art, and expressionism. Becoming, as in being born into or making a decision to follow a path, an artist is a movement. Fulfilling a call, being true to self, fostering vital forces –the artistic orb grows and rotates, spirals and causes dizzy spells. The mere thought of embracing an artistic self and/or creative entrepreneurship can be both overwhelming and disconcerting. So, how does one arrive to that place, the place where online sites lead to real spaces, real spaces gather like-minded, and the artist is satisfied with the strides s/he has taken? How does the artist dig deep enough to confront the truth about self, the art itself, the art world, and the miscellaneous?

Making art is one thing, but jumping in, making the decision to live by art is another entity altogether. We can go it alone, walk the road and see what happens –embrace the unexpected and plan as well as humanly possible. Many times, beautiful coincidences sprout as naturally as any plant, but many times the road is arduous, full of mammoth boulders, big enough to block the flow of energies and bodies alike, big enough to make us want to turn around and run back from that which we came.

Unless we face ourselves in the mirror, take a good, honest look at who we are, our fears, our desires, and our hopes, creative entrepreneurs might be in for a surprise, one that doesn’t always end well. It is in our fears that our creative projects really take hold. Those boulders are not bigger than a pebble or they’re a construct of your mind. And in order to push past them, to obliterate them, you might need some humans behind you, pushing, encouraging, and believing in you like you believe in yourself.

If you are a creative type, whether artist, entrepreneur, or both, community becomes you. As creative beings, community is that which guides, fosters, and, eventually, supports artistic endeavors. Dreams are not possible walking that road alone, no matter how talented or persistent. Turtle Tank is already in-tune, they have set down roots in a creative pool and released aquatic allies for the benefit of all creative entrepreneurs.

Turtle Tank is Ije Ude and Samia Abou-Samra, skilled consultants of powerful proportions. They know how to get to the heart of your artistic matter. And even before they take you to the creative process, they want to talk about what’s holding you back, i.e. what your fears are and how you can use those fears to propel you forward. At Turtle Tank, no stone is left unturned. You will get into deep waters and whether or not you know how to swim matters little because Ude and Abou-Samra are there, floating alongside you –to catch you and let your courage burgeon. You might have to hold your breath, but it’s part of the process; it’s about letting go while holding on –think of how the turtle swims with its massive shell as if a delicate bird, graceful and majestic.

When considering the radical entrepreneur life, one must consider more than ideas and passions, one must conceptualize. It’s a matter of visualizing for a successful future that will benefit both creative and community. This takes time. Turtle Tank knows this and they are waiting for you to reach out, ask for help, be vulnerable, and assume all the responsibilities and possibilities.

More often than not, we see the results of the artistic life, the finished, polished or not-so-polished product, but rarely are people talking about the steps to get there. Some of us are left wondering –how did they get there, how did they make their art work for them and the community, how did they ride that creative entrepreneur wave all the way to the shore and not fall off.

Let’s keep it extra real – they have fallen off, several times, in fact, before they made it to shore; while others stayed out there among the waves and sea creatures because it was more authentic to their journey. But the secret lies in how they came to those conclusions. And, truth be told, they arrived there with some cosmic guidance –like the blessings bestowed by Turtle Tank. In order to find success, facing our truths is vital.

What is your truth, artist? Do you know? If you’re caught in an undertow or getting burned on the beach, it’s high time you figured out what you can do to make your artistic journey more enjoyable and true to self. While blunders are bound to happen, Turtle Tank wants to give you techniques to manage those moments when your creative being feels way too heavy.

Turtle Tank proposes several things for their community. They gather energy, they focus, they address fears; they find purpose and help build health habits. What is so refreshing about swimming in Turtle Tank is that the water feels both like home and like a new space.

If you’ve doubted your creative self, you’re not alone. You are so not alone. Most of the time, as artist, we don’t know where to start –but we’ve got a ton of ideas and our spirit is beaming with desire. Or we start, then stop, finding ourselves at a crossroads unsure of which path will suit us best. Yes, this is that creative, radical life, however it can be less complicated if equipped properly. Being an artist ain’t easy, it’s more complicated than we realize or like to admit. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to reach out for that hand extended in your direction. If nothing else, Turtle Tank entertains conversations that many artists may never have. It’s so much more than creating, it’s about manifesting on a deep, personal level –tapping into something. And that happens even before a project begins –for it happens in the mind and in the heart. After all, aren’t artists all soul anyways, carrying about this flesh suit like a home?

Find out more about Turtle Tank here & here.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Caged Dancing is not like Dancing in a Box, but it Really is Though in Many Ways: HUSTLE*

Those caged dancers are a thing of the past, real mid-20th century nostalgia, out of date, yet retro enough to be seen in hipster places today. Caged dancers are dancers of an era I thought I wanted to be a part of; cool enough to be anti-establishment and dangerous enough to be part of an alternative world that wouldn’t cause too much trouble. Or so I thought.

When I first started dancing, I thought that’s how stripping would be. Me, behind those cage bars, writhing away as if in heat or panic or both. Frenzied maybe, on fire, seething, most definitely. A real sexpot brewing forth from the embers of the underworld: I would let the whole space seduce me while I seduce it, then seduced them –the customers, the perverts, the lonely, the tragic. Oh, how we had so much in common.

I figured I would really give my all, give it my all, give them my all; gyrate until the every inch of me was as loose as it could be, a loose wheel, a loose bracket or parenthesis, a loose nut or bolt –both. I would sweat out the anger of the day, or at least as much of it as I could, authentic teenage angst for when I started stripping since I was still a teenager. And I would sweat it out all over the clients, get them sopping wet, caught under a rainstorm wet, nightmare sweats wet. My idea might have been some slippery slide or slope, either way, we were all going down. I would toss about my pheromones, give it to them good, real good, drench them with all my damp, young DNA, drown them in a sea of my liquid hate and denial, drown them so I didn’t have to drown myself. Quite intangible, yet tangible at the same time. My notions were rather erroneous. Remember, I was but a teenager after all.

Stripping was a cage. It meant I would wear something fringy or laden with sequins, play the part of the vixen or the kitten, but giving artifice baby, at every cost. Artifice oozing from my pores, dripping down their god awful faces, faces that reminded me of caskets and tombs and caves where men once watched women dance by the light of a bush fire, of a fire started with the clank of two stones or the vigorous rubbing of two sticks over dry, bushy tinder, the pressing of two bodies –a fire of today and yesterday and all the days. A steaming kindle gathering, bunched together, tight and tighter, friction and person and non-person. But mostly non-person, always energy, mostly the imagined, the fictitious friction generating heat –one so warm and soothing bodies became gelatinous, like a jelly, a jam one swipes on a piece of toast and says, yum.

Stripping was not a cage, it was free as fuck, it was being a body I never imagined, it was being a body I wanted to try, one I might have known in another life or a dream. I could tap into those nether regions rather easily. The guilt would be that which fueled, that which set me apart from the other strippers. No one carried guilt on their body the way I did –no one carried such a heavy, sober body, a body full of life and death and resurrection. That was my saving grace, well, at least something to save me from grace or grace me into saving, stacking paper. Stripping was a cage and not a cage, both spaces guiding me to a precipice. Nothing to do with money or sex or attention, everything to do with healing and breaking boundaries –breaking open a body and watching how it spills out on the stage, the floor, how it pours into a pair of cheap heels and out of a dental floss g-string. Tons of Mars action, Venus attraction, and Saturn bones. Plenty of Jupiter expanding into a pair of thongs, a platform slipper, expanding out while remaining inside, expanding the mental body beyond the physical, seeing what it could accomplish in such darkness. Full of Pluto, digging, anthropomorphic portions, finding that which rest as if below but always dangling from above.

It was cage dancing, but it wasn’t. There was no physical cage, just a stage –circular like time passing inside the black box. The circle stage not only represented time, but all the eyes glaring, consuming, all the eyes hungry for something, anything –a collection of coins, an astrological chart, a tunnel, a tube, a hole, a big, wide gaping hole, or a smaller one, maybe even barely big enough for a finger or a rolled up dollar bill. Just big enough to slip between the folds or inside an orifice, contraband dealings, dealing with the devil, with Faust, dealing with mortality and our immortal punishments. Self-flagellation, tied up inside the cage, yet crafty enough to pick the lock, remove cuffs, remove nipple tape, latex cover-ups –slick enough to be an eel, a serpent, a stripper. A greasy glare reflecting off a body like the sun catching a piece of metal on asphalt, like a shiny penny or a glass eye.

The jailhouse affect hit us hard, not just me, but all of us who took the cage route, the cage life, the cage rage. In the mirrors, we didn’t just study our own faces, we studied each other’s faces for signs of going under or rising above. The signs were obvious. I can’t tell you what they are because, well, you either know or you don’t know. Some of this shit is stripper code, too. I can’t let all y’all in, of course. But anytime you want to come to the cage and toss a handful of bills, you’re more than welcome. Don’t ask to hear our sob stories, they are not few and far between, they are plentiful, they are growing wild like dandelions, not the medicinal ones who’s stems and leaves alike are stuff of the gods and goddesses –but the fluffy white ones, the ones that grant wishes. And oh, were we wishing, coveting anything that would bring us from inside the cage to outside. We paraded inside the cage, making wishes with every step, wishing on stars which meant each other, ourselves, turning energies into monies into commodities, forever delving into that lonely Chiron vibe, being Chiron and being outside of it. Being the cage and the bird and the human and the spirit at the same time. So complicated if you’ve never stepped foot inside the cage, so logical if you have.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugrejota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Heather Benjamin: Doing Erotica Right

Take 70s porn, let it collide with 1950s comics, add a dash of cartoon humor and dirty lines and you’ve got something called Heather Benjamin. Well, that’s almost right. To look at a work of Heather Benjamin is almost like looking at your own vagina in the mirror. It’s both breathtaking and strange, it reminds you of both sex and death, baby animals and all things floral. You see, when we talk about erotic art, it’s much more than just tits and ass, it’s the egg that waited for the sperm, the creation of life, the unfolding, the folding of body parts, like labia, and the covering up of the male gaze with a few glorious petals. Get a whiff of that, guys. Feminist erotica speaks to the masses and it says all things coming from the female body is gold, golden, will be turned to gold; all things that touch the female body become transformed, a liquefying phase like caterpillar to butterfly, like zygote to fetus. Erotica is more about the gift of the vagina, what we do with it, how we praise it and it’s less about fetishizing the vagina in ways that fail to honor it.

Although Benjamin has been cited as saying that her work is strictly personal, inspired by her own personal sexual voyage, she is thrilled when her audience can identify with her characters. Each piece is an autobiographical clip of her, of an experience, of her perception of herself as she rests and thrusts against this world. And when scrolling through, no doubt, there’s a piece that speaks to even the most prude for in Benjamin’s work is a vulnerability that all females can identify with on some level. Benjamin seems to dig a hole into our psyches and pull out that which we dare not speak, that which we bury deep inside like a danger in a broken heart or any other phallic symbol demonstration inserted here.

While she has been censored several times, that doesn’t keep her from producing work. She is a determined erotic stylist who risks nothing by exposing her own body as she sees fit. What she is not doing is representing other female’s bodies, which is the misconception of some viewers. As a result, she finds the censorship lewder than her lewdest piece. Her work dissects her own body, no one else’s, however gallery rejection and censorship speak on behalf of how society treats women’s bodies in general. As though erotic comes in only one package, or nudity in only one form. They are dismissing her freedom of expression, her private world of erotica and that seems to go against all that art stands for. The art world needs to loosen its hold on the female body, give permission to explore and express, and embrace a world of erotica that is as personal as a fingerprint or a vagina mold. Nothing to demystify here, just Benjamin eroticizing her own body –nothing more, nothing less. It’s her right as a female on this planet. She’s giving praise to Pluto, people. That erotic planet that has us digging deeper and deeper.

Benjamin only desires to delve into that which is hers: her body, her T&A, her sexuality. She is not trying to speak of the woman in general. She goes into her erotic abyss, then drips out on the page without abandon. Certainly, there’s a voyeuristic feel; and admit it, you like it, don’t you.

All the criticism hasn’t stopped Benjamin in the slightest. If anything, it’s a catalyst for her work and a flame that ignites a new brand of erotica inside her heart. She has a huge cult following and with good reason. Whether studying a drawing, comic, or cartoon, the work is thrilling. It entertains and if that’s not what erotica is about, then somebody correct me. The excitement lies in the taboo, in the naughty, in the dirty talk –that and so much more has been incorporated into Benjamin’s art. Yes, it’s erotic, but it’s also like going home because for every single human, the vagina is the door to our first home –the womb.

Benjamin isn’t trying to be fearless or brave. She’s doing what comes natural to her. She’s making her own version of self and adding sexually explicit layers because she can. And she does it well. Boy oh boy does she ever do it well. You can’t take your eyes away, can you? You dirty little human spirit *wink*.

Find Heather Benjamin’s work here & here.


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

The Operating System: Détournement Radical Documentation with Lynne DeSilva-Johnson

The Operating System is not a conventional place in any sense of the word. It is a press, a community, a space for building, growing, and sharing –it’s a village of humans doing what they love most, what they feel the world needs, and giving what they can from deep within themselves. It might be better to say that The Operating System is a concept, a technology, a municipality unto itself and the world.

I don’t want to spoil the interview, so I won’t say too much more. However, The Operating System is an entity you should know about. By embodying more than one identity, The Operating System represents ourselves, really –a mirror reflection of who we are as humans, as visionaries. Ready for reform, reader? Join the movement that is The Operating System. Whether you’re a pioneer or an artist, there is plenty of information to be absorbed and plenty to distribute. And the force that drives it all is one single, incredible human, Lynne DeSilva-Johnson. The truth is this interview in itself is a blessing as Lynne wears several hats simultaneously, but does so graciously, effortlessly and with all the ethereal buoyance of a Venus child.

It was such a pleasure to learn about what makes The Operating System tick and hear the soundtrack to The Operating System’s formation. Lynne DeSilva-Johnson talks myth, digital traces, notions of healing and time, mirrors, and being an eco-system to herself and unto the world.


The vision of The Operating System is rather broad and ever evolving; and while I love what you’ve said in the Wave Composition interview about how flexible the concept is, could you express the mission in less than 100 words?

The OS is a queer run small press, arts organization, and online platform/magazine based in Brooklyn NY. We focus on underrepresented voices, mixed-genre, avant-garde, and politically critical work, as well as on community engagement with process writing and storytelling across creative disciplines, geographies, and language barriers. In 2017, the organization will publish 20+ titles, and is expanding to include a Bowery Poetry imprint and other coalitions. The OS seeks to be an empowerment organization, transparent in our administration, and promotes an open source environment in which creative practitioners collect and redistribute intellectual and material resources for community development.

For those who have never heard of The Operating System, gasp, how might you entice the public to follow the work, the mission, the religion?

We live in a deeply palimpsestic, richly chaotic, high volume environment – I’m never surprised if someone hasn’t heard of The OS! But for anyone who lands on our doorsteps, there’s surely something here for you; and not only to read, but to do. The OS is all about permission and offering agency — as well as providing practical strategies and resources. Whether you’re looking to publish, wanting to be a better, more involved citizen, trying to kick start a creative practice, or seeking to simply learn more about groundbreaking, innovative individuals and organizations in the arts and beyond, there are deep channels of inspiration here for you.

In terms of entertaining futurist ideologies and generations, what would you hope that those who have yet to come into existence would take away from The Operating System?

One important thing that The OS stresses is that the archival nature of what we produce is of equal import to the “end result” art form. I’m very concerned with the future of born digital media, and with the uncertainty with which we look ahead at what will remain for the archive — when we consider the myths around art and artists from all mediums, we can see so clearly that these stories have been built from a combination of fantasy and a smattering of “facts,” drawn from newspapers, magazines, and then various ephemera. Artists and writers for centuries have left their work behind, but so too letters, independently produced publications, and so forth and so on. We write (and, critically, correct) the histories of these times not only from the institutions and periodicals that produce the ‘official’ story, but, whenever possible, from whatever evidence the practitioner leaves behind that can offer hints as to their process, relationships, and so forth. And ultimately, while artists work of course is vitally important, these stories about artists’ lives and practices have such massive impact – more so on future generations than on their own, really — and so especially in an age where we have to wonder whether our digital traces will even be recoverable, whether we will offer the rich ephemera up for future study, I stress for The OS that we write directly for these stories, ourselves, by including commentary and back matter in every volume. I also facilitate the production of documents for ephemeral performances that might otherwise have years of rich collaborative process history totally lost to the record. And, I’m working actively to open source and document the process of building this organization, and to build resources and infrastructure. All of these things have significant ramifications in the future — whether for individual or organizational modelling of personal, professional, or collective creative practice, as much as for serving as a historical touchstone for future generations seeking for insight, wisdom, or even simply case studies of art making in this time.

You mention that, for you, The Operating System is like looking into a mirror, but would you say that this same philosophy applies to your viewers? And in what way(s)?

I don’t know if I would want to say The OS is like a mirror for me without the rest of the context within which I said it being immediately legible and making a frame for the statement. But I can still approach an answer, which is: yes and no. Yes, insofar as I feel a true mirror (which is to say, one that’s more that reflective glass) would in fact reflect back to any viewer a swirling, evolving, energy — a complex network of systems, requiring upkeep and modification to thrive. So in this way, The Operating System seeks to be a mirror of not only us as individuals but also of humans as an ecosystem, and we can learn more about ourselves as individuals when we can see these aspects of ourselves (singular and plural) in the theoretical “mirror.” However, the answer can also be no, but conditionally: whether or not viewers have the capacity to see themselves in a space where duality and the in-betweens are explored and celebrated has less to do with whether The OS reflects them than it does their comfort level with uncertainty. But whether most people can “see” themselves, in mirrors theoretical or actual, might be the real question we’re dancing around here, n’est-ce pas?

How does healing ourselves and reshaping our notions of self and society better prepare us for art, the future, and transitioning?  

Healing ourselves both individually and at the systems level is so essential to the mission of The Operating System. A spiritual teacher of mine, Eileen O’Hare, told me once that this practice was my medicine practice (of healing myself and others) and I believe that deeply, though it’s not necessarily what I speak to immediately in interviews, etc (when I’m not asked directly). I don’t need to force that language or understanding of the work on those not comfortable or familiar with the idiom. However, in more general terms, I land on Krishnamurti: this is a sick society, and therefore if we cannot seem to adapt to it, that is actually a sign of our health. But we must, must, heal ourselves and each other if we are to live here much longer. I don’t feel that mincing words is helpful anymore. The earth will recover, and time is very different for a planet than for a human — but if we’d like to be part of that transition, we need to heal on many levels. Art is essential in that healing process, and healing is essential for us to make (and be able to receive) the art that will help us remember our humanity (and our planet, and our birthright as star stuff with the capacity to sustain or destroy).

What is your artistic routine like? Do you have a schedule or are you spontaneous?

You can plan for spontaneity. I have to be very, very rigorous and disciplined with the amount of work that I do (ie: right now I am teaching at Pratt Institute, working on 30+ OS titles, leading a workshop at Bowery Poetry club, performing frequently, working to create two different imprints with coalition organizations, writing a series of 50 articles about NEA funding in all 50 states for Drunken Boat, and leading ACLU people power activism events, among other things), which means that my own artistic practice looks more like structuring in hours that I sit with particular art materials or pen and paper, and make work. That said, I always have a notebook with me, and certainly am I open to flashes of inspiration while doing other things, and I’ll certainly open another window on the computer, or jot down phrases or conceptual ideas to come back to. I make lots of lists. Art ideas and scheduling time for play — are on the list. Some days, I don’t get to write or make art — but I try to at least draw every day, a little bit. Constraint helps. I give myself little assignments, and also do ekphrasis.

Name three people who have inspired you in creating The Operating System.

Diane di Prima’s book, Recollections of My Life as a Woman, has been inspirational to me on many levels — and in many ways informed the founding of The Operating System. What I took from the book was more about composing a creative life than anything specific, but it helped me see possibility and promise in this different kind of life (as well as in different kinds of relationships) than most people seek out. The sort of DIY ethos that she and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) brought to The Floating Bear certainly played into not only seeing myself able to build this life but also to physically, personally, make something like this real, with limited resources.

Then, too, always, Buckminster Fuller, whose ethics and vision have inspired me for more than twenty years. His maxim about not trying to fix the broken system but rather building a new model that makes it obsolete has been my mantra for as long as I can remember. I do have an Urban Design masters, which might make this make more sense, but I found Bucky before I got it! Ha. I’m a systems thinker, and so Fuller, and folks like Gregory Bateson (I also spent a lot of time as an anthropology scholar) have been hugely influential on my thinking in ways that have deep impact on The OS.

And then, well, Ammiel Alcalay, who was my professor at the Graduate Center, he was sort of the lynchpin in helping me shake off whoever I was trying to be for other people, through really engaged, informed exposure to the cross sections of politics and poetics across the 20th century. His love for Olson, and seeing Olson leave a government job for a life of poetry, and working through Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zone, and all the little magazines, all the independent work that came through pure will, and always in resistance — there was no question these were my predecessors, and I realised that with his encouragement.

Who would you love to see at The Operating System?

Courageous, disciplined, radical creators of all stripes who are ready to really live a life dedicated to change rather than attempting to consume “activism” in those hours of the week that don’t conflict with their existing calendars. This is the time for sea change, and we’re building a crew.

If you could give The Operating System a soundtrack, who would be on it?

Anyone who makes any person working with me inspired, driven, or happy. But —

If you’re asking what *I* listen to when working on OS stuff… how much time do you have?

I’m very inspired by Brian Eno’s approach to music, and I listen to a lot of Boards of Canada when I need to get work done. Spotify says I listen to a lot of hard bop and “post bop.” “Passages,” a Ravi Shankar – Philip Glass crossover, is one of my favorites. All the Ethiopiques recordings, The Bad Plus, Hiatus Kaiyote, D’Angelo, Blonde Redhead, Thundercat, Dirty Projectors, Kamasi Washington, Bonobo, Message to Bears, Ali Farka Toure… my cat really likes jazz piano. I also just will put on WXQR or WBGO — classical or jazz radio — for the whole day. When I run a workshop I like to play Nino Rota’s Fellini soundtracks and other gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt stuff. It’s got great circusy-play energy.


Find The Operating System here and here.


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.