Tavi Gevinson works across disciplines as a writer, editor, singer, and actress. She also works across mediums, predominately on the web, but also in print, sound, and film. She pairs her inimitable perspective with a well cultivated, muscular aesthetic and at the same time reveals in a sort of stream-of-consciousness curation of the movies, novels, photos, and magazines that both inspire and influence her texts and imagery. Below she discusses with me her feelings about blogs, the publishing industry, and the power of observation.
Thea Liberty Nichols: Lady Gaga has been quoted as saying that you’re the “future of journalism.” Do you think this is because of how you’ve approached things, as a talented “rookie” engaging in a dialogue with your readers? Or, do you think it’s because of the new media formats, such as personal blog and online magazine, that you’ve employed to get your ideas across? Or is it something else altogether, like simply the content of your writing itself?
TG: I think she was talking about the democracy of blogging and the influence somebody who hasn’t been working in the industry for years can have. There’s still a hierarchy within the community, though.
TLN: Since your writing has gone from the platform of personal blog, to online magazine, and most recently to printed, published book, can you identify some advantages and disadvantages to each? Do you prefer one over the others? I know the music industry, like publishing, has done a lot of soul searching over the past decade, and I’m curious if you think your generation, or you specifically, will invent a new format for media to exist within or be distributed by? For example, Beck seems to have looked backwards by publishing musical scores instead of recordings, whereas Björk previously issued a digital, app-generated album. I don’t know yet if I think one approach is better than the other, but they do strike me as two totally different answers to the same, maybe unanswerable, question.
TG: They’re each good for what I needed them for, so it would feel like an apples and oranges comparison. Blogs are great because the author-reader interaction feels very direct and it can be loosely structured, just scattered thoughts and musings. But they’re not taken very seriously. Online magazines usually feel like magazines that didn’t have enough money to be in print, but I think that’s changing as people take the Internet more seriously. I don’t think David Fincher would have directed a Web-only series a few years ago. But online magazines are good because you can publish more than you can in print, and that leaves more room to say what you really want—there’s no word count, you can be more immediate, etc. Print is good because of the aesthetic and sentimental value, and because it costs more money on behalf of the creator to put something out in print, so you can trust that it’s better than what you might find online, or at least a more thorough experience of the creator’s work.
TLN: Am I right in thinking Cadaver is your first film? You seem comfortable working across genres and disciplines, including fashion, visual art, music, feminism, and pop culture. Do you consider writing to be your main discipline or does your practice encompass acting and singing as well?
TG: I acted in a short film when I was 11, I think. I consider writing my main discipline just because it’s the only thing I do every day. I have Rookie editor duties I do every day, but it’s not the actual act of curating or editing or art directing. I think like an archivist, so being a writer feels more part of my personal identity than anything else. But I am also interested in how you can apply the stereotypically central characteristics of a writer to something like acting that is more about performing. I think acting is strongest when it’s like good writing, with its strength being in the subtleties not flashiness and with research done by observing.
Interview conducted via email March 2013. Thea Liberty Nichols is Blogger-in-Residence through March 29, 2013.