Elizabeth Jaeger is a an artist working in Brooklyn. She has held solo exhibitions at Jack Hanley Gallery in New York and at And Now in Dallas, and has exhibited in group shows nationally and internationally. Additionally, she co-runs the publishing group Peradam, which specializes in perfect bound artist books.
Jaeger’s jam-packed Consumer Report takes her from Northern California to Alaska for a polyamorous wedding. Despite a self-imposed social media ban, she manages to consume all sorts of media, from the Sculpture and Touch collection of essays to Cam’ron’s aughts rap classic Killa Season. Also: an Alaskan Tinder scene report, which contains many men holding fish. All this and much more, below. —John Chiaverina
Tuesday, August 11
I’ve just woken up after a night of going to Death Guild, San Francisco’s best goth night, at DNA Lounge. I reach for my phone and remember that I had resolved to delete both Instagram and Facebook the night before. So I answer a text from my sister, and an email. I put my phone down and think about the goths: all the amazing bondage outfits, the top hat monocle man stomping around on stage, the scantily dressed women in gas masks, and the league of Magic Card players sitting in a circle trading cards and eating pizza. Then go back to sleep—I am on vacation.
Wake up, check my phone again. Call my sister. I receive a reminder email from John Chiaverina to start my consumer report—the irony that I’ve just deleted my two most addictive social media platforms. I have a pact with Loric Sih; we’re not getting them back till September.
I listen to Hype Williams’s Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite and Start Being Real while thinking about Souxsie—I left my music hard drive in NY.
I’m starving and I leave the house.
I actually leave the house. I drive the 30 minutes to Sausalito to have lunch with my sister and her kids. Windows down, radio blasting, always. Here it’s 106.1 KMEL. I know the words to every song. Blaring car radio has been my biggest pastime for over a decade. I’ve always known the words to every song.
Shorty on my mind
I wish I was a little bit taller
Give it to me / that funk / that sweet / that nasty / that gushy stuff
When I move / you move / just like that
It could have been us
Bitch better have my money
I’m in the building and I’m feeling myself
I’m gonna shine homie until my heart stop
I’m driving an Acura Integra. I’ve had it since I was 16. Its quasi sporty design makes me drive like an asshole. It’s so easy to accelerate and swerve and my favorite feeling is speed. I’ve always driven like a dick in this car—it’s amazing I’m not dead.
I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.
I think about Jonathan Zablotny, a kid from my high school, throwing himself off of it in 2005. I think about him every time I drive across, which right now is everyday. I used to tear up and worry my impaired vision would cause a wreck. Suicide mecca of the world—these fucking tourists, mulling around and taking pictures, they have no idea. This time though, I just think about all the cool girls Jonathan could have played his Magic Cards with last night at Death Guild, had he just kept walking. Those girls were hot.
While eating lunch, Chris Lux texts me the link for:
An interesting hit from the night before.
Check email. NYABF is coming up so we’re getting all kinds of insane requests for jobs and publication submissions, this one starts with:
How are you? I’m doing alright—just a college girl wandering through life looking for a Fall internship.”
I like her honesty and slight sarcasm. Peradam is run by one of my best friends and me, out of his office and from my basement, so I’m not sure what I can offer her—I probably won’t respond.
I take a nap in my father’s bed. ( vacation ) ( lunch was Chinese food. )
I wake up startled. I dreamt I almost spilt red wine on his white bed sheets. Even in dreams there’s no escape from family dynamics. I make a coffee.
My 9-year-old niece and I make cyanotypes in the sun.
The TV is always on at my father’s house. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily consuming it, though. It’s on silent, usually with stocks scrolling at the bottom. I’ve never been sure if he watches it either, although it’s placed in front of his desk so that he faces it at least 6 hours a day. Behind him is a view of the entire San Francisco skyline.
I arrive at my mother’s house with a box of old things I randomly decide to place around the house to entertain myself.
My phone buzzes. I look up from starting my new collection of essays, Sculpture and Touch, to read a text from Aidan Koch—a picture of a sunset from our porch in NY. We text each other all day everyday, an ongoing dialogue spliced with selfies and random photos.
I also usually have large group texts going. Right now, one with all my friends living or visiting SF to help us make collective plans. The other, with girls I know in NY who also have cats, not necessarily to make plans.
Back over the bridge, radio still blasting. I turn the heat on so I can keep my windows down.
Show me good loving / make it alright / show me a little sweetness in my life
I don’t wanna play no games
Don’t leave me hanging / show me love
Let’s just be honest / let’s just be real
Started from the ground / now we blasé blasé blasé
I am a sinner / who’s probably gonna sin again
Trick don’t kill my vibe
I’m still driving like an ass. I’m headed to Precita Park, where several of the SF text contingent are BBQing.
I’m on ketamine in the dark.
My friends are playing a game they’ve named “Hat,” where they toss a wide brimmed hat around like a frisbee? I’m trying to keep up an interesting conversation with a woman who is a painter and a philosophy teacher at a city college near here, but I seem to keep asking her the same questions over and over again. I manage to tell her I’m also a teacher and an artist, and she commiserates with me about how ketamine is maybe not my thing. I can’t stop sneezing. The only other person on ketamine here is giggling and seemingly having a great time—he was just broken up with by his GF.
I’m in bed and reading Sculpture and Touch. This essay is about touching votive sculptures, and the role of the miniature in relaxing the viewer by slowing down their perception of time. I notice I feel more relaxed than I have in years, and remember my last and only other experience with ketamine was when it was used as an anesthetic for my cat.
I give up on reading and go to sleep.
Wednesday, August 12
Wake up from a bazaar dream where everything goes my way. It was amazing, everyone was ecstatic/it was messy, it was slightly pained. I check my phone, answer some late-night texts from friends, write this entry.
Wake up, swiped away some emails, text with Aidan.
I lay in bed daydreaming every morning. On good days, I think about the work I want or need to make and let my mind wander until something makes sense. Most of my ideas come from these morning meanderings. On bad days, I worry about asinine concerns and just check Instagram until I starve and the hunger forces me out. Today I think about vases, and the stands they would be on—today is a good day.
Open my computer to actually address some emails. Fill out a W9.
Read Freud’s On Dreams. Feel skeptical.
I impulsively decide to wax my legs. Waiting for the beautician I impulsively decide to cut my hair too. The hairstylist seemed nice, sensitive, and aptly pointed out I had split ends. So I take his offer—60 bucks. His name is Victor. Getting my hair cut is the one time I face my own image in the mirror for longer than a minute—I hate this.
Music is playing.
No matter how far away / I will always love you
No matter what I say / I will always love you
I’m sitting in an armchair staring at myself. I think I have a double chin?
Victor takes his time. I like him. He tells me about his son and his rich ex-boyfriend and their breakup. I tell him about how I’m a workaholic and don’t want to settle again, I love loving being alone. I love loving.
I have a blowout now.
Waxing, on the other hand, is terribly painful. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve suffered this. There’s something desirable in it, though. The pain is real and goes away instantly.
I read People. Some teen girl killed her family, the headline reads, “Was it because she was obsessed with death!?!?!?” “What would Freud say?” I think. Then, “Do I even care what he thinks?” I close the magazine.
“Ouch,” I say to the beautician. I am twice her size. She replies, “Pain for beauty,” and winks. I reply, “Beauty for no one,” and wink. We laugh. She gets it—this is torture.
Tuna melt, coffee, and Sculpture and Touch. This is breakfast.
I email my psychoanalyst friend Ezra. I’m organizing a class about intimacy and sculpture at BHQFU (Thus the Freud readings).
I call Jarrett Earnest to talk about our upcoming classes—I’m nervous about the potential feigning of authority that happens when you take the role of the teacher. We talk about ways to flatten this dynamic. Who the hell am I to teach a class? We also talk about Victor—he replies, “That’s so human.”
Read, and listen to Siouxsie on YouTube—I’m meant to be packing for Alaska. Read another chapter of Sculpture and Touch. This one is about Narcissus and the perceptual plane as the thin layer of water that makes up his reflection. Before finding his mirror, Narcissus neglects all touch and shutters away from it, specifically from a woman named Echo. Now, he is stuck plunging his hand in the water trying to touch himself, only causing his image to disappear as the water ripples.
To touch is also to be touched. The barriers between self and other break down in touch. The desire to touch is also the desire to be touched. Touching sculpture is implicitly also the desire to be touched by the sculpture. Hot. I think about having had to stare at myself in the mirror while Victor intimately touched my scalp, while sharing the sensitive details of his life. I like him, he touched me—how touching.
I pack by rolling up all my clothes into neat little blintzes. I’m going to try and bring a ’90s sleeping bag with me on the plane – it’s unnecessarily huge and space is tight.
I check in and download my tickets to Passbook, I love Passbook. The Souxsie YouTube mix is still playing. We’re on “Sin in My Heart—Live 1981.” Next up, “Killing Joke—Eighties.”
Dinner with my grandfather and my parents. Jack Jaeger is the reason I’m out here—he just turned 95. I think of him as cat tail on the edge of a sprawling lake, swaying in the wind, teetering as if threatening to break and fall in at any moment. He shuffles so slowly it forces you to be present to the feeling that time is passing as you walk with him. He also doesn’t really speak anymore, aside from an occasional “likewise” when you yell to him you love him. He has dementia, but I’m always suspicious he’s just faking it to avoid a fuss. My mother loves pointing out how I apparently haven’t learned this yet. ;-(
I escape home to pick up my pants I left at my friend’s parent’s house. I had been trampled by a wave as we flung their dog’s ashes into the sea at Ocean Beach a few days prior. Milo was hit by a car last Saturday.
Amy and Jeff are the parents all kids flock to in SF. Their generosity is contagious and we all love being a part of their expanding family composed of SF artists, creatives, and their sons’ friends. Their dog’s funeral was beautiful—at least 12 people were there, incredible for a dog. They invite me in, hand me my pants and a glass of wine, and we talk about art and teaching and pets in SF and NY until we all grow sleepy, and I leave them to drive home.
Thursday, August 13
Arrive home and finish packing. Starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow my media intake will fall to even less than this. I’ll be in Juneau and probably camping—apologies for the inevitable “live journal” aspect to my entries—every adult gain I’ve made on my own in NY crumbles into a pool of restless depressive angst when I come back to SF. I can’t be trusted to be mature, patient, or understanding here. My mother also loves to point this out. Sry not sry, gawd, just leave me alone!
Wake up and get an Uber.
Arrive at gate, text with Aidan and Anne Kunsemiller. I’m meeting Anne and her girlfriend Katie in Seattle on my connecting flight.
Aidan sends me #turtleupdates, which means photos of my cat named Turtle doing her thing at the house.
Flight is delayed.
Read Sculpture and Touch.
Arrive in Seattle.
Anne and Katie miss their flight. Read more Sculpture and Touch—this one is about how museums should have more tactile exhibits for blind people.
Pick up car—Toyota Matrix. Red. Put on a burnt CD from high school—turns out to be Killa Season.
Arrive at hotel…
This place isn’t even cheap.
I talk to the manager. The other people checking in don’t seem to notice the plastic trash bags covering the walls and that there is NO ENTRANCE. Not to mention literally a bulldozer pulling up cement all around the property. The manager, a tall, strangely smiley, attractive older man, pulls me aside towards the end of the desk. Upside down and backwards he writes : ILL GIVE YOU $25 OFF / NIGHT. His handwriting is cryptic and I can’t keep myself from laughing. I say ok, fine.
Shower and text Anne. She’s drunk in the airport in Seattle. I’m googling “what to do in Juneau” in our hotel room—I haven’t thought about looking into this before.
There’s an island with more bears per square mile than any place on earth.
Botanical gardens featuring “flower towers?”
Some rapidly receding glaciers.
And something called Nugget Falls.
Then I google “best bars in Juneau.”
I walk outside and into downtown and immediately see everything I’ve just googled.
I walk to the 1881 Russian Orthodox Church—it’s closed. So I sit on the baby blue bench outside and open Tinder. I’ve downloaded it last week in San Francisco to try to convince a friend of mine to dump her boyfriend—there’s so many other fish in the sea. It backfired immensely, as each smiling techy appeared worse than the one before. I didn’t know men still spiked their hair like Backstreet boys. Other notable hobbies include apps, beer, working out, and boats.
The first Alaskan profile loads, and it’s the bride. I’m here for a polyamorous wedding. I screenshot it, text her, and giggle alone on the bench facing the chapel. I’m totally a creep now.
Perusing a bit more, it seems that while men in Alaska don’t all spike their hair, they also all enjoy apps, beer, working out, and boats—and noticeably all seem to be holding fish! Tons of fish in the sea, literally.
Tinder is like shopping at a thrift store. You get such a good sense of a city by looking at what other people have thrown out. Or thrown back in, or what’s available to take home, or what’s on sale? I try to justify my cruel thought when I realize I’m now on it too.
Help the brides, also known as bibs, make their wedding decorations, a million tassels, eat pizza, and talk about Montreal. They explain how their polyamorous relationship works and I am impressed.
Pick up Anne and Katie from the airport. The bibs and I race side by side as I blast Killa Season from the Toyota Matrix.
As we pull up to the airport, a very soft-spoken police officer kindly informs me that it’s a $150 ticket if your music can be heard more than 10 feet from a car…mine can. He’s just letting me know, though. I realize I’ve never met a soft-spoken police officer before.
Check email and watch TV.
Naked and Afraid XL is on. I love this show. Every gender stereotype comes out in full force—these people haven’t had a real meal in 10 days and they’re living naked, and afraid, in the fucking Savannah—there are no filters.
This season, four teams are pitted against each other. One is composed of three men, another three women, the third two men and a woman, and the last two women and a man. The funniest and the saddest is the two men and the woman—they gang up on her and she responds “hysterically.” Not her fault, but Anne and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable as she throws all of their tools into the river, thus sabotaging their chance at surviving 40 days. On the other hand, the three women get along and talk profusely about their feelings. The three dudes is a total tailgate in the forest. And the two women are definitely excluding the one man, who keeps climbing trees and then cutting them down, while they sit in the shelter and giggle at his expense. Exasperated gender binary stereotypes at their best.
Friday, August 14
Wake up and answer texts from NY.
Wake up again from a dream about a creek—swimming naked with bears, the bears just idly watching and drinking from the stream. Anxiety that they might eat us. An obvious mash-up of what I googled and what I watched on TV. Anne wakes and dreamt of a creek as well, but she was an inmate surrounded by inmates—definitely deeper, I hope she doesn’t feel stuck here.
Answer emails. I’m booked to go to Puerto Rico for a show in October. The three of us spend two hours getting dressed.
Bagel and lox.
We buy hats, many hats. Seven hats to be exact. Mine says “K Magic—when does the fun begin?” Bought as an ode to my complicated night with ketamine.
We arrive at the wedding picnic, an open air cabin on the edge of the ocean, which looks more like an enormous still lake.
We gather for a large group photo. Afterwards I lead the making of a 5-by-7-foot cyanotype as my wedding present for the bibs. The making of cyanotypes is both stressful and peaceful. We quickly have to unfold the pretreated fabric and get everyone on it before it’s exposed too long in the sun. Each guest participates by including an object of their choice and their hand on the edge. The bibs lay in the middle, Al’s arm around Sar.
We have to stay this way for 10 minutes—someone starts to hum, and soon the entire group is humming around them. In the last two minutes we’ve held our positions so long that our arms start to shake. This feels important. All the wedding guests shaking and humming in a circle as the bibs lay in the middle with their eyes closed. Apparently someone said, “I think they just got married.”
Pulled pork on the side of the road – Anne puts too much hot sauce and almost dies. She can’t bring herself to vocalize this, so I take a bite too and almost die as well – the pain is searing and radiating from my mouth – we’re both in tears.
We take a break and watch Seinfeld and Family Guy in the hotel room. We’ve seen both episodes before.
Katie takes a walk. When she comes back she lays completely and delicately on top of Anne. Their faces mash into a beautiful composition that I can’t help but paparazzi from the opposite double bed. I feel lucky to witness these intimate moments. I’m definitely their third wheel here, but we like to think about it more like a tricycle?
We walk by the cruise ships here and down to Tracy’s crab shack. We share a crab bisque – three spoons one cup – tricycle.
We go to a bar and Katie and I leave to take a walk. We talk about vibing, and the homeostasis of fulfilling other people’s needs, tapping in and tapping out. I talk about feeling what role people want me to perform for them, how I resist, how I sometimes give in—being vulnerable when they can’t, being stable when they are, being the token artist, the teacher, the child, and the peddler of our tricycle in deciding what activities we’ve been up to.
Back to the bar, I talk to a psychoanalyst to-be. I can feel him analyzing me, I put up walls.
We’re back in the hotel and the girls are pendulum-ing each other. I am definitely the third wheel.
Saturday, August 15
Wake up and daydream. Delving into memories to live back through them.
Read everyone’s horoscope aloud from bed. Chani Nicolas.
Bagel and lox. Text with Hayden, Aidan, Maia, and Sam. Exchange pictures.
I send Maia a selfie with my bagel and she’s impressed by my hair—I still have a blowout, four days old and still bone straight.
Sam and I talk about business, and he sends his love to the bibs.
Drive out to the wedding past some glaciers. Reply to work emails.
Talk about mental illness and those people pushing you away. The mother we are driving to the wedding just found her son living on the streets. He suffers from schizophrenia. It took her five months for him to recognize her and trust that she wasn’t against him. Now he’s grateful. Love conquers all, we decide.
We walk out a long harbor made of boulders and shards. Katie and I lay down on the edge, listening to the ocean lap at the rocks contours. There’s no reception out here. I close my eyes and delve into recent memories that go nowhere.
Anne swims up around the side like a dog that’s fallen in—she’s panicked and she’s freezing in the Arctic stream. Once out, we all go topless like mermaids drying in the sun. Or more like sirens on the rocks. There’re boats in the distance and shallow water around us.
Fully nude now, Katie empties her diva cup into the ocean, and lays out naked, free-bleeding on a rock. Blood in the water will attract the sharks, we think. The guests begin to arrive.
We walk back to bridge and watch the salmon spawn.
Death and renewal—they’re traveling back to where they were born to breed and die. They’re literally bathing in death, flapping around on top of other rotting fish while loosening the eggs inside them. Their goal is to swim to the source of the stream, but it’s a futile and impossible attempt. The cruel irony is that the source is also where they’ve just come from—the ocean that has evaporated and become rain. So they perish on the rocks. Chum.
The bibs ask that there be no phones at the wedding so my media intake declines to a total zero.
In the afternoon sun, I’ll watch two people I’ve known for almost a decade walk back up from the same rocky pier we bathed at earlier in the day, to be married in the middle of a mossy circle of pines and friends. Whales will actually be breaching in the background. I’ll watch them pledge to be real and help the other be real in full tears, and exchange rings, rings attached to two pink and blue balloons that will have traveled around the circle and through everyone’s hands.
Later, the sun will drop and dinner and dancing will begin. People will give speeches, people will get drunk, people will get overwhelmed and upset as the wedding starts to unravel, as all weddings unravel after a certain midnight hour. At the end of the night, four women will be left crouching around a fire talking about the nature of love and commitment. One will yell into the night, “Love is bullshit!” and the wind will gust so hard that the dinner tent will blow over, the tassels we spent hours making flailing like alarm systems into the sky, and it will all fall with a crunch into the marsh.
But I will already be sleeping, smushed and pinned by my passed-out roommate, on a black leather couch inside.