Gabby Bess - a virtual rolodex of self-inquisition shaped by boredom, horror, aspiration, fear for future, wonder, lust. ‘Is anyone moved by the plainness of raw skin anymore?’
Gabby Bess, Alone with Other People, Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2013.
“What Gabby Bess captures with her words is the beauty of a fragile time and place. In this collection, she evokes what it means to be young, to be a woman, to have both feet firmly planted both in this world and the virtual. She asks fascinating questions like, ‘Is anyone moved by the plainness of raw skin anymore?’ She makes you trust she has the necessary answers with intelligence and confidence. In this book, Bess builds an identity for herself and tears it down and builds herself anew. It is breathtaking to behold.”– Roxane Gay
“The poems and prose pieces in this smart and complex collection illuminate the shape of a new, 21st century webcam feminism—one that questions its own ambitions, knows the shape of pornstar mouths, and doubts the sanctity of individuality when pitted against the existential. Gabby writes with radical uncertainty about illusions of control, the limits of identity, and what it means to still want to kiss another human amidst the screenshots. This is a book that invents its own female gaze and then, like a bad bitch, breaks the lens.”
“Don’t take me for crazy when I say that the verse “Hahaha, am I alone here?” is the one that best sums up Gabby’s incredible debut book, because it’s true. Through each and every page that makes up Alone With Other People, the author manages to head out into the world with a sane, witty and protesting laugh. A laugh about the strength of woman, of youth, of poetry. When Gabby says hahaha, it also starts to unravel before our very eyes a series of texts that first and foremost find beauty in the mundane, followed by the universality of intimacy, and lastly (and most importantly): the sensation that with this book, we will never, ever feel lonely again.”–Luna Miguel
“Gabby Bess’s Alone With Other People orchestrates an impressive catalog of young human want with a uncompromising style. In the span between its first phrase The sex can be rough and its last sentence, Panic., the reader forward through a virtual rolodex of self-inquisition shaped by boredom, horror, aspiration, fear for future, wonder, lust. There’s a lot of intense light coming off this book full of screens and suns and large black dots.”–Blake Butler
“Of-the-moment, brilliant, and triumphantly sad, Illuminati Girl Gang leader Gabby Bess’s debut Alone with Other People is a post-feminist, hyper self-conscious teen swansong of the Internet age. The line between girl body and Macbook is collapsed in these vignettes that riff from blog posts, text messages, and tumblr memes, and what emerges is a “modern tragic figure who would sacrifice herself for whatever.”–Kate Durbin
“Alone With Other People deftly deals with relationships in a highly mediated age–one that twists our perceptions of self and others. Gabby shows us how we can be simultaneously complicit in this culture but still have the desire to fight against it.”–Ann Hirsch
Bushwick Review: 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.
Gabby Bess: 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’.
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.
BR: 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.
GB: 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.