Cabin Fever, Shir Cohen. London

I missed another day in the studio this week, this time due to a COVID-19 scare. Everyone is okay, but my plans have been skewed quite a bit by being forced to stay home. It’s now been three months in this studio, and I wanted to share a batch of works I’ve made for my online degree show, back in July.

I started weaving because I had to leave my school studio on very short notice and managed to grab my embroidery equipment, a bit of canvas, and that’s about it. I was also unable to work at one of my jobs, which was on-campus, delivering library books. I’ve sectioned a large piece of canvas for an ambitious embroidery project, and couldn’t afford to get more of it. So I started weaving with the embroidery skeins I had left over.

Starting with the March lockdown, my time was consumed by trying to fid things to do in my bed while I was making textile work. Some were enriching and important, others were turning my brain into mush – I had, by the time I moved out of that flat, watched about 200 episodes of the American 4Kids Yu-Gi-Oh dub. Here is an example, for context. My reading habits weren’t much better.
I started reading “Hunter”, the book by Neo-Nazi write Andrew McDonald, after finishing his more famous work, “The Turner Diaries”. The latter came up to me in emails Steven Miller of Trump’s White House sent to a reporter in Breitbart, but it has also inspired several Neo-Nazi American terrorists. “The Turner Diaries” is not a good book, and apart from one funny line, in which a mob shouts to “kill the honkey cat”, at a white cat, there’s very little to be said about it. “Hunter”, however, is a very different matter.
“Hunter” is the story of a man who is already a white supremacist (we begin in media res, as he shoots mixed couples in abandoned parking lots), but he is still on the fence when it comes to Jewish people and revolutionary ideas. This book actually takes up the task of explaining McDonald’s work view, and as you may have heard form my readings, it’s an interesting one.

It’s hard to say what is the best way to fight white supremacy. What I tried here is a series of juxtapositions – between my textile work, and the caring nature it holds, the texts from “Hunter” in their violence, and the cartoon-villain voices, inspired by the bad anime dub in my head. The videos, limited by my living conditions, were filmed and recorded on phone, and edited by my friend Alina Orlov. Even the movement in them is supposed to be intimate, contrasting their sound. This way, the quotes become those of villainy, but not the cool kind. “Hunter” becomes a text uttered by someone who can be defeated in a children’s card game.

It was an attempt to bring a viewer into not just my practice, but also the space in which I worked at a time, both physical and mental. Looking back, it was probably the only thing that could have come out of me in that situation, and speaks to a very specific part of my life. I’m happy to be in a very different one now, but to this day, these works have been the ones that integrated to the fullest the different aesthetics I care about. There is something very authentic about them. I don’t tend to share older works, and even though only six months have passed, the turnover in my studio is so fast, I can already see the flaws in these videos. Having said that, they are still the most concentrated representation of my work and research.

This is a rough subject, and I refuse, again, to end on a low note. Peter Schreier, one of my favorite singers, is also a conductor. When I saw this Mozart special he conducted, I thought it would be a beautiful and solemn affair. It is, instead, a great selection of comical pieces, performed charmingly and provided me a lot of comfort over time. If you’ve ever wanted to hear a duet between a husband and his wife who can only meow, I highly recommend it.

What do you think about this?