As a post-studio, post-home artist during my career I have slept in a few relatives’ extra beds, ex-husband’s sofa, friends’ studios, an art school, some L.A. downtown mixed-gender nasty bunk-beds filled with pot smoke, and the list keeps on growing. Just to make things clear, within art, I have been mostly self-employed, so I am not apologizing to any future boss here.
The following are some avoidance techniques I mastered when I needed my headspace, refusing to engage in the emotional labour expected from me for being a #nomakeupday-approachable female guest. These are proven ways to create boundaries and help you to not lose your mind while being a cute guest.
1. Make sure your back is facing a wall
Whether you’re lounging in a sofa, dinner table or in bed, do it with your back close to a wall in order to reduce the possibilities of someone seeing what you are not-doing. Also, get some props at hand: water bottle, a coffee mug, a bunch of books, a notebook, USB sticks and hard drives. Don’t worry about the empty bowl of muesli you just had, this doesn’t affect the total, just don’t start piling.
2. Forget dress codes, indoors is all about body language
It’s not about the outfit, nor is it about whether you had a shower or not today, it is however, all about your body language. No matter if you are watching a cat video or forwarding memes, don’t do it from a device that doesn’t have a physical writing pad. Understand that you are researching, slowly but steadily. Take deep breaths every now and then, and cross your arms if you are watching a film.
3. Always appear to be in your own head with a sense of urgency
If you need to go to the fridge to make yourself a snack, or do anything around the flat, keep it moving. If your lovely host stops you for a chat, listen for 3 min, if it goes longer act restless. Do not be a pleaser and let them take you away from your alignment. Listen: You are the cognitariat, you are the post-Fordist worker, you are too precious to become an emotional support swan.
4. Keep your computer’s desktop with an overload of flashy JPGs
Lean on the pop culture belief that messy is a sign of genius. No one will know whether you are writing an essay, a funding proposal, a “sorry, it took so long” to your art Toy Boy, checking your Co-Star updates, secretly checking @gay_girl_inc memes, looking hairdos on @tuttiifruittiilondon, or reporting to your Bette Porter curator-bae on the charms and hustles of your new provisional living.
5. Use headphones, listening to music is totally optional
Noise cancelling headphones are extremely recommendable if you are hosted in Southern Europe or the Global South. Also, using them will win you time to relocate from the sofa to the bed if being a target of unannounced visitors. But please, don’t post selfies with them on… just don’t.
6. Practice headspace karma
If you are building a barrier to keep yourself sane, don’t ruin it by ranting to your host about the last message from that Australian cutie inviting you to share their Tim Tam storage. Be consistent, hold your horses, be respectful with other-people’s headspace, what you give is what you get.
7. At some point, open up for connexion with clear signs.
Early in the morning, whether you have brushed your teeth or not and when your host is around, take slow footsteps towards the window with a serious air, contemplate, stretch, make an open-ended observation on the contingency. Keep eyes on the outside while you speak. Now, genuinely engage with your host, this is a trailer, a promise of upcoming depth. Make them feel helpful, ask them for directions to the nearest store, agree on a time. Keep your promise, when they come home after work make sure the flat smells yummy of comfort food, pour them a glass of wine (do not buy the cheapest one). This will give you lounging-time credit. Repeat according to your intuition.
8. Make notes and drawings on an actual piece of paper
Envision crazy ass scenarios, complete turn-on art events, shows, just draw them. Where do they happen? Think of wet-dream places: ICA Miami, Kurimanzuto, MOCA, Transmediale, Berlin Biennale, Venice Biennale… CATBOX Contemporary, a flower store? You are the host of a concept party thrown by you and your art babes-gang. Think outfits, talk to your independent fashion designer friend, what flavour is the cake? (cause you gotta have cake!) OMG suddenly it’s a top-secret hijacking masterplan to take over the male-dominated art-scene, and it’s happening after a couple of messages and phone calls! (OK, that was actually working).
9. Talk to yourself in your mother tongue
If someone calls your name, try to ignore them. When they come close to you, say something to yourself in your mother tongue, look completely absorbed like you’re having a wild epiphany with your computer. Apologize and explain how art funding deadlines have your brains trepanned in translation.
10. Check your cell phone every now and then
Send voice messages in different languages, try to keep the laughing down, you don’t want to sound gossipy. Drop some DMs to marinate future Tinder, Hitch, Her, Grinder dates. Do this with a completely obsessed look, this will make you appear like you are commissioning or preproducing a new art piece.
Text by Carla Garlaschi (aka Princess Prada)