Kayla Guthrie is an artist working in writing, song, and visual mediums. She recently released an EP, Blue (Mixed Media Recordings), and a book, Sunsets Working (Bodega), and has performed at various locations, including Greene Naftali and Off Vendome in New York, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, and Sandy Brown in Berlin. She is the founder of Intra Phenom, a New York City–based performance series highlighting female artists in live mediums.
A week in the world of Guthrie includes a daily tarot reading, EDM workouts at Pure Barre, and DJ mixes listened to on static-electricity-fraught earbuds. Guthrie also takes in a performance from power electronics master Prurient and watches the stone-cold classic Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster for the third time. We conclude with a Bolt Bus–fueled road trip to Baltimore with fellow artist Sadaf in this very full week, which includes much more, all below. —John Chiaverina
Monday, April 11
Wake up after hitting snooze for about an hour. I was up late last night working on my taxes for a meeting with my accountant today. Make breakfast and read my tarot cards, as I do every morning. I always pick 3 cards at once. Today I receive a rather paradoxical grouping:
6 of Disks (Success)
2 of Swords (Peace)
7 of Disks (Failure)
I use Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck, which is an updated spin on the Golden Dawn, a traditional (formerly secret) ceremonial magic deck. Crowley assigned his own titles to each card, which can come across in flamboyant ways, as in today’s spread.
I have a lesson with my singing teacher in Greenpoint before I see my accountant. Still have some expenses to tally so I sit at the bus stop with my notebook and iPhone calculator app while listening to a mix by Morgan Louis posted on White Material’s soundcloud. It’s amusing to see where my money went. $568.26 on concert tickets in 2015? $720.29 at Flatbush Mall Guitar Center? I have no regrets.
I’m super late for my singing class but I ask my teacher if we can just do some quick exercises for half an hour. We work on breath-related drills and everything is really hard today for some reason. Even though my teacher is totally encouraging and awesome, I feel like I’m awakening some learning-related trauma from childhood and I just want to crawl into a hole and hide. I know by now that this is part of getting better, though. At least it’s a short lesson today.
I finish meeting with my accountant and celebrate by buying a ticket to Diamanda Galas at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival next month. I badly want to see Anohni at the Park Avenue Armory too (and half of the other RBMA shows, TBH), but my bank account wants me to chill for now.
Pure Barre in Williamsburg. Among the many things that keep me coming back to this place are the curated pop-EDM playlists that are perfectly synced up to the pace of the class. The exercises are really hard and the gabber beats building to climax during thigh-burning intensity are even harder. I’m convinced Pure Barre headquarters selects, licenses, and distributes music en masse to the franchises (it’s a national chain of studios) and refreshes them on a seasonal basis. The music is just way too freakishly consistent to be chalked up to the owner’s/instructors’ personal taste.
I’m in Manhattan at Max Fish watching my friend Joe Heffernan perform for a Monday night experimental show. First Joe beats on the drums and sings, howling in a deep voice. He’s a virtuosic conservatory-educated musician who also spent years touring in metal bands, and has performed in galleries and museums with artists such as Emily Sundblad and Juliana Huxtable (the latter alongside his partner Sadaf). The histrionic, constantly peaking structure of Joe’s songs makes me feel like I’m caught in a penultimate loop, an almost-denouement that never really ends. He jumps up and begins playing insanely fast, concert piano–style on a keyboard with truly impressive skill. It’s really infectious to watch someone play with such passion.
At home, I make pancakes and watch a vimeo version (with what appear to be Norwegian subtitles) of the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, which I’d started last night around 3 a.m. in the midst of taxes. I’ve seen it at least twice already at different times in my life (it came out in 2004). The first time, I thought it was mortifying. The second time, hilarious. On this third viewing, so far I feel neutral. We’ll see if I end up finishing it again.
Tuesday, April 12
Queen of Wands
Prince of Wands
3 of Cups
The Queen of Wands is one of my favorite cards. She’s often depicted with a little black cat next to her. In this deck, she’s with a cheetah. I keep a silkscreen on my wall that I bought from a tattoo artist in London that depicts a woman in a cheetah-print one-piece walking a black panther on a chain and smoking a cigarette. I think of her as a hybrid of the Queen of Wands and the Strength card, which shows an image of a woman holding open the jaws of a lion. In the Thoth deck, the Prince of Wands is pulled on a chariot by a lion. I’m still fuzzy on the role of Princes, to be honest: they don’t appear in all decks, and in the hierarchy of tarot court cards, they correspond roughly to the position of Knight, but if there are already Knights, why do we need Princes too?
On the bus to Jay St Metrotech I listen to a mix by Baltimore/Philly artist Marcelline, This Woman Is A SnakeLioness… which is the audio accompaniment to a new performance piece. I’m a big fan of Marcelline, whose words and presence are coolly blistering and deeply felt. She presented an amazing work for my Intra Phenom series this January at Signal in Bushwick that incorporated elements of video, movement, sculptural props, and costumes she calls “skins”; it ended with her weaving through the audience in gracefully hardcore spins and leaps.
My friend Camille Beinhorn sends me a video of a performance I did in a dark barn on her family’s rural cattle ranch (San Ysidro Ranch) in West Texas in March. The way the videographer, Yulia Zinshtein, captured it is beautifully raw and minimal. I upload it to my YouTube channel, after crunching it with my new best friend, HandBrake, a program I learned about yesterday that reduces the size of media files. I’m excited because I’ve been sitting on tons of footage from Intra Phenom over the past couple of months that I’ve been dying to upload, but it was too big for my vimeo account limits. Now I can start to unleash it on the world.
At dusk I head over to acupuncture in Fort Greene, listening to new tracks by Angels in America, a band that feels like a missing link (or spectral ghost) between a pre-Internet DIY underground and the geographically fluid and genre-shifting present day.
Thinking about a trashy Courtney Love doc that I also watched while deep in late-night taxes. I was drawn to the story of how she recited Buddhist chants while trying to get a record deal, and at the same time got a nose job, believing her looks were holding her back from being famous. She got the record deal, she said: “So, the chanting worked. Or the nose job did. One or the other.”
At home eating dinner and back to watching Some Kind of Monster, the scene where drummer Lars Ulrich visits with his father under the supervision of the therapist the band has hired. The elder Ulrich comes across as insanely critical and negative: at one point Lars plays him some of the new material Metallica have been working on in the studio, and all his father has to offer is, “I would delete that if I were you.” In a later scene, Lars and therapist meet with Dave Mustaine, the disgraced former guitarist of Metallica who was kicked out of the band in the ’80s before forming his own extremely successful group, Megadeth; onscreen, he still seems very much broken by the experience. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” says Mustaine.
Evening meditation. I’ve been studying Kundalini yoga and meditation slowly and steadily since I first tried it in Vancouver ten years ago. It’s suggested to work on a daily practice for 40, 90, or 120-day cycles, and I’m always at some point in one of these cycles with various meditations and mantras that I pick from my yoga book collection. If you’re curious, Hari Kaur Khalsa’s books for women and Gurmukh’s “The 8 Human Talents” are great for beginners.
Wednesday, April 13
4 of Wands (Completion)
Very “naked dancing pagans” vibes here.
Walk out into the sunshine listening to some new tracks by Umfang.
Online, I get submerged in a clusterfuck of email and social media, opening a million windows: recordings by White Gourd, who’s performing at an upcoming event organized by my friend Barkev Gulessarian, AKA Bernard Herman; an interview with artist and musician James K; Mousse magazine’s newsletter (pieces on MPA/AL Steiner/AK Burns and Max Hooper Schneider/Sam Lewitt look interesting); an announcement for Cecil Taylor at the Whitney (sad to learn the concert is sold out, but mental note to go see the exhibition). I share a video on Intra Phenom’s FB via Sex Magazine, of experimental Baltimore rapper Grey Dolf performing at Intra Phenom at Picture Room two weeks ago, and then I get the hell off FB.
Text with Intra Phenom’s graphic designer, Oliver Apte, about a project we’ve been working on. Oliver’s been responsible for all the awesome posters and graphics made for Intra Phenom so far. We make a plan to meet up next week.
Slowly reading the James K interview in bits over the course of my day. She’s performed at Intra Phenom in the past and I respect her so much as an artist because you can feel how all of her work is built on a foundation of integrity, which is not so common these days. Also, her honesty in speaking about her music is powerful.
Text with Sydney Spann, friend and artist in Baltimore who’s co-organizing an event there this weekend where my friend Sadaf, the multidisciplinary performer/producer, will be playing. Super excited to tag along.
Put on a mix by Bearcat on my way to a late yoga class in Bushwick; her mixes have energized me in many times of need this year.
L to the G train. I read Argot Of Inscription by my friend Eli V Manuscript, which I bought at a show at St. Vitus last week where his project, Humanbeast (with Maralie Armstrong), performed. There were projections of spiritual imagery from throughout the ages distorted strangely in sections, as if the compositions had been torn apart by a flight of energy escaping into the room. Meanwhile, Maralie layered vocals and electronics trancelike and Eli affixed a rope to a ceiling rafter, which he guided to draw an exact 20-foot circle in white chalk on the floor: a good old-fashioned invocation of the spirits.
Thursday, April 14
9 of Wands (Strength)
5 of Wands (Strife)
This one is definitely something about surviving the hustle like a queen.
Desperately setting up files to send by Wetransfer to recent Intra Phenom artists while at the same time trying to leave the house; my time management is really on the skids these days.
I love what I read in a press release for Mike Kelley’s shaped paintings at Skarstedt gallery:
“A source of Kelley’s rebellion was his formal art training at the University of Michigan, which emphasized the philosophy of Abstract Expressionism. Reflecting on his time at school, Kelley stated: ‘My education must have been a form of mental abuse, of brainwashing.’ Kelley explored ‘screen memories’ in his shaped paintings, delving deep into his unconscious to recover and identify the repressed memories of his trauma.”
I’m so with him on this; I had a different kind of art education, but still experienced the rebellion and the trauma. I also love that there are 13 paintings in the series, with the final piece meant to represent “the month that doesn’t appear in the calendar.” This series has me thinking about how working within established forms is inherently a form of submission, and it’s how you relate to your own submission and experience of that authority (including the history of your own, as Kelley puts it, abuse) that determines what could make the work great, maybe not the form itself.
Pre-gaming for Tim Hecker and Prurient at Warsaw in Greenpoint tonight by drinking tea and listening to Night Slugs on soundcloud while working on some writing.
My earbuds are giving me electric shocks so I buy some new ones at the bodega. But those ones shock me as well.
Prurient is perfect although not as gut-wrenchingly loud as when I saw him last year (when I had to leave the room because it felt like I was having a medical emergency). My friends joke about leaving Yelp reviews of the pierogis at Warsaw (spoiler: they’re not amazing). I leave during Tim Hecker because I want to pack for Baltimore tomorrow.
I finally google the earbud thing and apparently it’s “normal” to experience static electricity in “dry environments.” So, I can keep my old earbuds I guess.
Friday, April 15
6 of Cups (Pleasure)
10 of Swords (Ruin)
Art, pleasure, ruin…and that’s just for breakfast.
Meet Sadaf at the Bolt Bus on 33rd and 11th. I’m not a morning person so I’m a bit zombie’d out. We talk and nap on and off; I’m too out of it to read or listen to music but I Snapchat and write a bit in my notebook.
Get to Baltimore and find a place to eat, a local diner, where we run into my friend Alexandra aka noise musician TRNSGNDR/VHS. I teach Sadaf to use Uber in preparation for her upcoming trip to LA (she’s one of the last remaining NYC car service devotees). We practice by ordering a ride to the venue.
We hang out in Sydney’s bedroom at the warehouse, which is the size of most New York apartments. Sadaf shows me some images of recent artwork she’s been creating and I talk to Sydney about her upcoming MICA thesis show.
The night opens with keynote speaker Bilphena Yahwon, a Baltimore writer and social justice advocate. DJ Jacob Marley plays all night, between performances by Baltimore’s Bobbi Rush and 3:ion, Sadaf, and Rahel from NYC, while a video installation by artist Dwella lights up the wall. Co-organizer and MC, local rapper Abdu Ali, keeps the vibes bright and positive until well past midnight, when he takes over the DJ booth and the dancefloor is jumping with cuties of all kinds.
Part with Sadaf, who has an early morning flight to her next tour stop, make my way back up six flights of stairs and fall into a deep slumber in a comfy bed.