INTERVIEW with GABBY GABBY of ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG
I AM ALT LIT said, “Gabby Gabby is pretty much ‘the shit’. her writing never seems lazy & neither does her magazine ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG”. I couldn’t have said it any better. ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG is a publication for female expression in the arts that is curated by Gabby Gabby. Since its inception, IGG continues to build its presence and support female-identified artists in their creative output. The latest issue, Vol. 3, is out now. You can read it online, or buy it in print. It features work by Júlía Hermannsdóttir, Molly Soda, Chelsea Martin, Grace Miceli, LK Shaw, Brittni Collins, Molly O’Brien, and many others.
I’ve loved the diversity of styles and mediums in all three issues of ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG, as well as its overall excellent design and aesthetic. All the contributions feel personal in a way that, with each piece, I feel I get to learn a little about another woman’s creative life and world. As someone who started my own literary and art zine, The Bushwick Review, I’m interested in and admire other women who start their own publications. I wanted to learn more about Gabby Gabby's experience creating ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG and her own individual perspective as a female artist, so I was happy she was down for doing an interview.
KRISTEN FELICETTI, editor of THE BUSHWICK REVIEW: What were your reasons for creating Illuminati Girl Gang? What are your goals for it?
GABBY GABBY, editor of ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG: Illuminati Girl Gang is both a print and online magazine to showcase female perspectives in art and literature. My reasons for creating IGG are very simple and, in a way, selfish: I saw a void, a lack of what I wanted in the world so instead of passively resigning to not having what I wanted, I decided to make it for myself. I would look at the literature that was being presented in most lit mags and it just wasn’t for me. But then I would look at my Tumblr feed and I could see young girls, like myself posting their work or writing texts posts that expressed themselves so bluntly and in such a refreshing way. I thought that I needed to capture that and present it in a way that could reach a wider audience in the context of an ‘official’ magazine. I wanted to start a lit mag for young girls that were creating things that seemed more exciting to me than what was being presented in traditional small press or ‘indie lit’ mags. I wanted the main focus to be on writing but also decided to include art. I liked the idea of someone like Molly Soda appearing in the same forum as someone like Roxane Gay. I liked that juxtaposition of points of view as well as the common threads that became highlighted.
One thing that makes Illuminati Girl Gang stand out as a lit magazine is that it has a nice design and aesthetic. Was there anything specific you were going for in its design and look?
I always refer to IGG as a gallery in a book. I wanted the art and writing to be presented alongside each others as equals, as conversation partners. I chose a minimal design and clean aesthetic, over something more kitschy, to let the work just stand on its own without added noise. I fell in love with the font Futura and that seems to be the official IGG font now. I remember looking through fonts for hours and trying out all of these more ambitious fonts just to mix it up but I couldn’t part with it. I am all about celebrating femme-ness and femininity and using that to subvert the traditional ideas of it so part of me just wanted to make IGG an in your face explosion of glitter, pink, and glitz but I think that the work that I chose for the magazine is that in itself.
Is there a type of work you favor from potential contributors to Illuminati Girl Gang?
I like work that has a strong point of view. For example, I was really attracted to Grace Miceli’s work because it expresses such a clear point of view of light, fun, teen-nostalgia while at the same time being empowered and subversive. I’m interested in pieces about how an individual experiences life. I like pieces that feel personal but offer something to the reader in terms of allowing them to feel connected to a woman’s experience. Usually I’ll read something once and think, “This needs to be in IGG.” If I’m on the fence at all then it’s not right. I go with my instincts to try to put together a magazine that I feel 100% excited about.
You have said that, “Both my writing and my art centers around the self [female] in relation to the external… I feel as if the female self is always under a certain pressure to perform externally and often her internal needs/wants are sacrificed to play out this role that she is cast in.” I am interested in this statement and would be interested in hearing you expand on it, if you wanted to.
I think the best way I can elaborate on that statement is to link you to this video of Nicki Minaj talking about the concept of ‘bossing up’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpt8WkyW4Pc
I think that its still true that women have to work harder and do more to be perceived at the same level as their male counter parts. I love when Nicki says, “You have to be a beast. That’s the only way they respect you.” I think that writing from a female perspective is so valuable because it is still under those constraints. It is constantly proving itself. It is trying to go against being thrown into the ‘feminist art’ ghetto or the ‘chick lit’ ghetto. I look at the line up for most lit mags and I see maybe three or four, if that, female writers sprinkled amongst the men. What is their excuse? We’re not hiding. We’re not hard to find. We’re here. As anyone can see by looking at the 25 female names on the contributors list for Illuminati Girl Gang, we’re right here.
It breaks my heart at the end of the video, after she completely slays everyone and comes across as such a badass, so intelligent and aware, when she says, “Don’t use this footage. It’s just going to make me look stupid.” She has this look of exhaustion on her face and I just want to hug her and say thank you.
Can you mention some favorite female writers and artists that have been on your mind recently? Can be living, dead, close friends or super famous.
Lately I’ve been really getting into Tracey Emin. She was recommended to me by my friend LK, another hard-working lady who edits the lit mag Shabby Doll House. I love Tracey’s installation work, particularly Everyone I Have Ever Slept With (1963 – 1995), (1995). I just love that piece because it explores themes of intimacy, voyeurism, and sexuality in a very open and honest way. Which I feel I aim to do in a lot of my work. Through the medium of a tent the piece creates a ‘private’ space within the public context of a gallery which I think really speaks to the notion of women having to always carve out their own little safe spaces.
As far as women writers, I just went on an amazon binge and felt really proud of myself for supporting my contemporaries and only slightly bad for spending $100 so quickly. I just bought Ana Carrete’s Baby Babe, How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti, and Green Girl by Kate Zambreno amongst some other things. I read those three within the span of two days and they all made me feel very good to be a woman writer.
I am fascinated by how other people move through life, what they decide to do each day and how they structure their time. Especially other ambitious and creative females, like yourself. How do you move through life and structure each day with the different things you do? Working on your writing or other various projects? Working at Target? Being on the internet? Friends? Romance? Eating? Sleeping?
Well, my work schedule is very erratic and not disciplined at all. Lately, I’ll wake up and stay in bed until 1 pm. I’m working on editing my book that’s being published by CCM later this summer so I’ll wake up and go straight into. Its funny because I’ll be laying down very casually but working really hard. The thing about being a writer or an editor of an online magazine is that you can work very hard and efficiently while laying down without pants on. I work nights so I can edit, do website upkeep, send emails (I spend most of my time sending emails), all day before having to be a person in the real world. While I’m editing I listen to either Jay Z or Kanye West as ‘pump up music’ to prepare me for greatness. When I get really into my work I usually don’t eat all that much. I’ll make coffee in the morning but I won’t have my first meal until around 2 pm. I’m not sure if I have friends or if I sleep. I think the answer is sometimes.
Along those lines, can you speak about the things you are working on next? Whether that be future creative projects, or future issues of Illuminati Girl Gang, or something more immediate, like organizing your bookshelf or making a smoothie?
I’m looking forward to expanding IGG to publish chapbooks by individual artists and writers. I think that is the next step. I would also like to focus on collaborating with contributors to create IGG prints and artist t-shirts. It is my goal to create a collaborative atmosphere where artists can use IGG as both a resource and outlet for their work. To accomplish that I’m currently applying for grants and funding for IGG. Immediately, It’s about 2:30 pm right now so I need to shower and get ready to be a person.
Thanks to Gabby for a great interview. Now everyone go support your local girl gang by checking out their work at IGG.