There will always be people who don’t like what you do. As a woman, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t… no matter what you do. Women aren’t allowed to have a sense of humor, to bring levity to our own hardships, experiences, or traumas. We’re not allowed to be too serious, forthright or ambitious either, or we must be a “bitch”. And when we stand up against our abusers — in this case a serial one — we always go to trial first:
“What were you wearing?”
“Why did you engage with him?”
“How come you didn’t come forward sooner?”
These artworks stirred a lot of emotions: some of which I anticipated, and some of which I had not. Controversy breeds chaos. I knew that when I hit upload. But this isn’t to say that I don’t take the concerns about this work seriously, as there is a lesson to be learned in everything.
What is important to you creatively about these artworks?
These are both art and technological artifacts. The ‘Armie DM TMI NFTs’ are symbolic NFTs, which make the best NFTs by marrying form to function. These works speak to the medium and were cathartic and impactful for me to create. It allowed me to take my power back from someone much more powerful than me, someone who targeted me in an abuse of power, and to transform my feelings in a way that felt meaningful and with a clear sense of purpose.
How can you prove these exchanges are real?
These are real because of the artistic process behind which they were created: I printed screenshots of my DMs onto vinyl screens and pressed them upon acrylic lightboxes. Their digital counterpart has been minted as a tokenized representation of these artworks. Such is the nature of authentication via the blockchain.
What do you plan to do with the money?
What I plan to do with the money is directly proportionate to the number at which these artworks auction. Obviously it would be great to reduce my exorbitant student loans from pursuing my MFA in screenwriting at USC. But I created these artworks to reclaim autonomy and truth for all survivors of sexual assault, humiliation, degradation, and abuse. For this reason, half or more will be donated to two organizations: Me Too and Women in Film.
Why would you seek to profit off an abuser?
In the 1990s, Joyce Maynard published the letters that her abuser JD Salinger wrote to her. Someone bought them, gave them back to Salinger… and people still hate her. When will we stop blaming women?
What are some of your influences for creating this work?
- I watched Emerald Fennel’s film, Promising Young Woman, recently and it left a huge impact on me. It pushed the boundaries of how far is too far, the limits of satire and how women can seek back their agency.
- I’m heavily influenced by French writer and conceptual artist Sophie Calle and her work ‘Take Care of Yourself’, in which her ex-boyfriend broke up with her in a letter, a communication which she then turned into art by asking other women to reinterpret his words — a major piece reflective of women and our contemporary feminist experience.
- I’m inspired by the satirical work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.
- Obviously meme culture.
Can you tell us about each piece and why you chose them?
Armie DM TMI NFT: Dibs on Ribs
I chose this exchange to signify the relationship between extreme wealth, privilege, predation, and abuse of power. Eat the rich. For real.
Armie DM TMI NFT: Caligula Triptych
In the Caligula Triptych, Armie reveals the existence of real sexual slavery among the royals and elite, casually referring to himself as ‘Caligula’: a violent tyrant with an insatiable appetite. At this moment, 100 million women and girls are missing around the world. Where are they? Their lives are lost due to domestic violence, sex trafficking, and because the lives of girls are valued so little in some places that we are either killed at birth, die from malnutrition, or are ‘married off’ in early adolescence. This is not discrepancy due to ‘cultural bias’. It is global and systemic oppression. The exposure of this violence is urgent and not new. The newsfeed reminds me everyday. These facts have been known for decades, yet nothing has changed.
Why a triptych?
I chose a triptych for the ability to tell a story and for it’s symbolism as an altar of worship — our fascination with celebrity — our celebration.
What would you say to men who have a negative reaction to these works?
I would ask them to reevaluate their views and treatment of women.
But isn’t it natural for men to want a lot of partners? Isn’t this just… biology?
This is a biological determinist argument, and philosophically well refuted. What separates humans from animals is our morality. But this isn’t about biology. This is about predation and abuse within our society, and what we are willing to accept.
Aren’t these private messages?
No. These are artworks and my own exchanges.
Why mint these artworks into an NFT?
Lots of millennial women have made art from their own experiences on social media. These aren’t my first: my ‘Lonely Girl’ series of paintings from 2016 highlight the absurdity of finding connection in the age of online dating apps. I’m here to make the most of our creativity and presence on these platforms. The NFT landscape is a new market for artists to explore their creativity and the potentialities of the blockchain.
Is this a meme?
In a way, yes. Memes can make you think about things in a new way and have become our memory of cultural relevancy.
Why come forward this way?
If I had to ask permission every time I felt the impulse to create a work of art, it wouldn’t be worth creating.
How is this #metoo?
Me too is inclusive. There’s no right or wrong way to come forward. Why do we feminists always form a circular firing squad? Would I need to have been physically harmed by this person in order to come forward? This point of view is unproductive and rooted in victim blaming.
I am grateful to those who spoke out when they did, as we (Armie and I) were in talks to meet up. I am certain that he would have hurt me and, as he is angling against these women now, use these conversations to exonerate himself. But he is a predator, plain and simple. Further, these artworks aren’t exclusively about Armie Hammer, myself or the many people he targeted. These artworks examine extreme wealth, privilege, and abuse of power — all major themes that gave rise to the #metoo movement.
But what about Armie’s ‘actual victims’?
Victimhood is not some sort of hierarchy. Trauma compounds. No one owns the grief around being targeted by an abuser, or can qualify it.
Isn’t this kink shaming?
This is a shallow question and misses the point. Women, men — people are kinky. We are allowed to have fantasies, explore our sexuality and enjoy erotic novels. Having desires and complex thoughts that negate each other is totally normal for a human being. But this has nothing to do with that. This is about accountability, manipulation, and consent.
So the NFTs are minted. When will the NFT’s be listed for auction?
I plan to list the NFTs for auction via Foundation starting Tuesday, April 27th, 2021.
- update: the NFTs are now listed on Institut.
Really though, what is your intention? Is it not financial? Do you think it’s wrong to profit?
My intention behind these artworks is the same as in all the artwork I create: to transform the things that happen in my life and in a way that makes sense and from my own point of view. Why should women risk coming forward without seeking to benefit? We should benefit. To think that we shouldn’t indicates we inhabit the mind of our oppressor. Believe women. Hire them. Why are we expected to just cower in a corner and suffer when we stand up for ourselves? This is what stops survivors from coming forward.
I still don’t understand. This is art?
Let me put it this way: Armie Hammer made himself into a meme, and I made him into the next Campbell Soup Can.
Is there anything you want Armie to know?
I could never live in a cage.
Here is a link to the auction on Institut: Julia Morrison // Institut.
Julia ‘Jelly’ Morrison is an artist and provocateur from Palo Alto, CA. Themes in her work include female empowerment and transformation, childhood and the discovery of Self.