Tappa Tappa Tappa

Tappa Tappa Tappa is a collaborative zine project between myself and the genius Chicagoan artist Jessica Harby. The work below was one of the first I saw when we began plotting projects together....

We'd been chatting about a collaboration for some time and an opportunity presented itself in the shape of her first UK solo show earlier in the year. We decided that a zine would be a much more fitting, tactile, responsive endeavor than me just writing a text about her work so we set about sending things to one another. We both fairly trepidatious but it actually turned out that our brains are the same and the end result (hand folded over several hours with the aid of gin and cheeseburgers) was something we were both pretty proud of. Plus we got to play with some fun stationary.....

We made the first issue under the title "Pretty Girls Doing Horrid Things" (the title of the exhibition) and collaged together writing and imagery that had featured in and illustrated our discussions and shared passions. Jessica's work employs fine and fair media such as pencil drawing, water-colour and needle-work to brilliantly dark ends. The exhibited series took gangster/heiress Patti Hearst as its poster girl and, in her words, explored "the danger of teenage girls and the social construct of villainy." Read more of Jessica's thoughts and words here 

In short this was one of the most fun things I've done in ages and I can't wait for the next one. For now, here's my text; 

Unruly girls, who will not settle down, they must be taken in hand….

Sometimes the girls get mad and things get nasty. The perfect porcelain of the epidermis is peeled back to reveal the skull beneath the skin. From unblemish to blemish. When the girls are unhappy - things get broken.

Teen girls in gangs and cliques garner power from their secrecy - the alchemic qualities of their gathering precious objects on vanity tables; their plotting in diaries and their formation of rogue languages and quiet codes…these delicate universes hinge on the dialectic of the unexpected.

But at the root of the polite aesthetic of girl-dom is a dichotomy of enforced gentility and barely concealed suspicion. The possession of beauty is essential and the subject of worship – but the fine qualities of a face give rise to accusations of duplicity. Quiet obedience is the age-old model - but a placid surface must surely conceal a tumult of trouble.  

The normative corseting of young girls into empirical modes of femininity engenders nothing but the possibility and desire to break free. The ripping of seams and the unpicking of cross stitches. So why this surprise when she suddenly goes off the rails? She was always such a good girl – or so they said.

In Greek philosophy the figure of the female is consistently allied with misrule. Ecstatic music that strays, in unbridled joy, from the word of the law (of God or the father) is equated with a dangerous femininity –becoming the seductive agent of anarchy, temptation and disarray.

The Sirens on the rocks sang such a perilous ballad and wrought doom and death out of beauty. What was their motivation? The behest of some ancient spell? Some folly of the gods? Perhaps the thought of another day in static repose and another boat load of sailors were too much to take…maybe they just flipped…?

The machismo of garage music appropriated by girl groups in the 1960’s gave rise to some interesting re-workings of classic pop cultural narratives “my mamma told me – you’d better shop around girl” but as well as swathes of Alpha females heading things up with a more androgynous self – there were others pushing the limits of textbook femininity – pushing them over the edge with a candy painted nail and a siren song.

Shammy and the Ruis Family’s breathy rendering of the off kilter ballad “I’m just a little Girl” for example, is saccharine to the point of sinister. A toxic coquette persona curls the words of a well worn tale …I need someone to hold my hand…around its little finger, before snapping that finger and going in with sharp teeth.

What will she do next? … That good girl gone bad…
There are echoes today of this tendency, not to crack the mould of empirical prettiness, but rather to embody the dark dichotomy of enforced perfection. We might think of the hyper-feminised monsterism modelled by Nicki Minaj – a day-glo, living doll whose flawless face flickers moment to moment from a manic smile to a primal snarl.

First things first she’ll eat your brains – then she’ll start rocking gold teeth and fangs……
The social constructs which strive to align young women with a palatable type, which damns with the same hand that pets – only serves to push them further into biker jacketed arms; in front of a crowd toting a pistol or before a camera flipping the bird.

Barbarism (or might we call it Barbie-ism) begins at home.

Issue Two of Tappa Tappa Tappa will appear in the next few months. To register interest or to get hold of a copy of Issue One email: tappax3@gmail.com 

Oh...and take a look at Jessica's Tumblr here. It's pretty hot. 


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