The internet is an art gallery you can visit whenever you want.
Alone with Molly Soda
Molly Soda is like Cindy Sherman, if Cindy Sherman didn’t dress up as anyone but herself. And unlike Cindy, Molly Soda doesn’t capture specific moments in history, but positions her self-portraiture in the expanding web of the internet. Cindy Sherman has never made a zine, either.And not all of Molly’s art is self-portraiture, so maybe they’re actually pretty different and I shouldn’t make the mistake of comparing two totally different artists just because they’re women who photograph themselves...
I shouldn’t need to: Molly Soda is an internet idol all by herself. Her Wikipedia page says she is responsible for the proliferation of seapunk. If you haven’t seen her picture, maybe you’ve seen teens who still fashion themselves after some of her prolific Tumblr posts from the early aughts. I saw one in Times Square just the other day: colorful hair, septum ring, Tumblr swagger.
I first formally encountered Molly Soda’s work through her ten-hour-long video Inbox Full in which she dictates every absurd message in her Tumblr inbox. Everybody online can relate to getting anonymous hate mail (Facebook’s Honesty Box app ruined my already weak self-esteem in high school), but seeing someone who has gotten way more anonymous hate mail made me feel less alone. Her transparent self-presentation is refreshing amongst tediously-curated online personalities. I can’t unsee her influence, in fashion and digital art. Other artists have used Molly as a muse, or put her in their music videos, or written songs about her. Across all social media platforms, I bet Molly has enough followers to elect her into public office.
The first time I met her a few years ago in my friend’s kitchen I was too shy and nervous to actually talk to her. Honestly I was star-struck. Then we were reintroduced in a better context, at Coney Island before singing karaoke. We were mutual followers for a bit. When she moved to New York, I asked if she’d talk with me for Mask.
When I made it into her apartment she asked me if I wanted some tea. I sipped my iced coffee and (knowing from her posts that she likes sweets) offered the open bag of wafer cookies my cab driver gave me. I was all dressed up and groomed to interview one of my favorite contemporary artists, my giant Unif platform boots clunking around her new sunny bedroom in Bay Ridge, which appears to always be decorated for Valentine’s day with red tinsel and heart lights. She told me she was looking forward to stocking up on more Valentine’s decorations later in the day, the adorable holiday aesthetic somehow perfectly matching that of her art. I sat across from her while she shared her couch with a tremendously oversized teddy bear.
Your recent gallery exhibition in London featured some of your webcam videos in a girly bedroom setting. How would you say “loneliness” plays into your art practice?
Being alone is the only way that I can make the work that I make, because a lot of it is about the things that we do when we’re alone, the way we sort of perform loneliness for other people, and what it means to put it on the internet. There’s something that happens when you turn a camera on: you’re no longer alone. Even if you are alone, you’re self-conscious. You’re aware that you might post it, or someone might see it, or you start being aware of how you look, or whatever it is. I don’t think you’re ever truly going to be able to capture that feeling, but I’m trying to get as close to it as I can.