(SPAM Cuts) Jazmin Bean’s Instagram
In this SPAM Cut, Audrey Lindemann looks at the aesthetics of Jazmin Bean’s Instagram through the lens of the Gurlesque, the monstrous and theories of punk and performativity.
> The instagram of Jazmin Bean luxuriates violently inside the horny nightmares of hegemony. The musician and artist is a self-identified ‘genderless monster’ — a descriptor which became fodder for numerous clickbait campaigns all throughout 2019. Jeffrey Cohen’s ‘Monster Culture (Seven Theses)’ would have us realise that, in fact, the monster is deeply dependent on their ability to be clickbait; Cohen notes the etymology of Zeitgeist (Time Ghost) to illustrate how ‘the monstrous body is pure culture,’ embodying (literally, becoming the mutated corporeal dumping ground for) the collective anxieties of a specific moment.
> To the tune of Lara Glenum’s Gurlesque theory, Jazmin Bean makes literal the violence implicit in cuteness. From Ngai’s The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde: ‘in its exaggerated passivity and vulnerability, the cute object is often intended to excite a consumer’s sadistic desires for mastery and control as much as his or her desire to cuddle.’ On Bean’s insta, these tensions manifest in collisions between gore and camp— Jazmin wears a babydoll dress stained with blood and carries a pink gun, the caption reads ‘I went 2 pixie war 4 chu !!’; Jazmin cradles a tiny cyclops puppy in a chintzy nun costume, the caption reads ‘I can bear the heartbreak to nurture a one day lasting life 🍼★ミ.’ These contradictions (the adorable soldier, the childlike parent) coincide with Glenum’s notion of little ‘girl’ aesthetics as embodying not the innocence of pre-adolescence, but the abjection of complete subordination. Adorable, bloody, sexualized bodies present a crisis of what Cohen calls ‘simultaneous repulsion and attraction’ that follow the Gurlesque dictum to make ‘the spectator complicit in their crisis.’
> Where Gurlesque aesthetics ruminate in the abject language of little girls as a hypergendered refusal of masculine ‘high art,’ Bean further terrorises the establishment through the self-identification ‘genderless,’ stirring up a desperate traditionalist cling to the gender binary. Kitsch costuming— i.e. the burlesque, which is ‘always about the body on display’ via its gendered surface— is paired with digitally manipulated images of their semi-naked body— i.e the grotesque, which ‘engages the body as a biological organism’ (Glenum). Through these altered nudes, Bean becomes ambiguously neutral in both age and gender. Certain comments ask ‘what are you???’ or call them ‘sick’ ; to hegemony Bean represents the slippery slope, the extremes, of perceived cultural shifts. Their ambiguity thus becomes monstrosity through its confused reception on the internet— monsters are terrifying inasmuch as their ‘externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration.’ And, according to Cohen, it is precisely this wallowing in différance that grants the monster’s polymorphous ability to ‘escape’ every time, shapeshifting in tandem with the perpetual reincarnation of Culture’s Worst Nightmare: ‘no monster tastes of death but once.’
> Bean’s curated persona physically manifests these fears through identity doubling, an insult to hegemonic notions of selfhood as not only gendered but singular, self-contained. The perceived contemporaneity (they was the Merriam-Webster 2019 word of the year) of these identity transgressions are mocked through flippant post-Internet energy— Bean holding their own head with the caption ‘#tbt to the time I killed myself lol 💗’ or multiple Jazmin Beans in their bedroom with the caption ‘Watching myself have nightmares lol.’
> Bean straddles a Butler-ian understanding of performativity and a Zoomer drive for authenticity— making content from their IRL persona, refusing to reveal their ‘real’ age to interviewers— in keeping with Cohen’s notion of the monster as ‘an alter ego, [an] alluring projection of (an Other) self.’ Like their riot grrrl and Gurlesque predecessors, Bean offends elitist conceptions of artistic labor, this time #online. Self-publication, instapoetry, memes/imagetext, curated persona… all of these constitute an absurdist ‘e-punk’ rejection of established, vertically oriented, pay-to-enter art platforms. A comment on one of Jazmine Bean’s posts accuses them of ‘smashing random samples together’ which is ‘not music, just like how throwing up on a canvas should not be considered art.’ The comment describes Bean’s account as ‘putting shit on [their] face and pretending its edgy,’ a rewording of Daniel Tiffany’s facetious description of kitsch as a ‘Luciferan swerve from cosmos to cosmetics.’
> These critiques on Bean’s process reflect a discourse on punk as old as the art and music ‘industry’ itself, yet internet platforms provide an even more direct channel than anti-establishment mediums of old (cobbled together zines, analog collage, underground scream shows, etc). Dick Hebdige on punk, from Subculture: The Meaning of Style: ‘the definitive statement of punk’s do-it-yourself philosophy… “here’s one chord, here’s two more, now form your own band.:”’ This do-it-yourself philosophy is a grave insult to the aspirational bourgeois conception of art-as-canon and artist-as-career-genius. If the labour that goes into Jazmin Bean’s Instagram is art, what next? What about ‘serious’ artists🥺? Again the monster reveals a cultural crisis, the added horror of the post-internet artistic platform. Re: Cohen, the monster is a double narrative composed of 1) how the monster came to be and 2) their cultural use. In other words, the monster demarcates ‘the bonds that hold together that system of relations we call culture.’ If hegemony’s darling is a masterpiece years in the making, the monstrous artifact is an ambiguous genderless child (?), editing their selfies and ‘putting shit on [their] face,’ posting their work for free onto their Instagram account.
Text: Audrey Lindemann