Sydney Shen is an artist living and working in New York. She recently held her first solo exhibition at Interstate Projects in Brooklyn and has been a part of group exhibitions at venues including Lock-Up International, Frankfurt; Springsteen, Baltimore; and KnowMoreGames, Brooklyn. Shen is the coauthor of Perfume Area, a book of prose published by Ambient Works. Her video game, Master’s Chambers, is available to download and play on multiple platforms.
Shen’s Consumer Reports is teeming with a range of expert media choices. We are talking everything from 19th-century poetry to talk radio to ultra-contemporary video-game walkthroughs, often viewed passively at work. There is also a series of somewhat abstract eBay searches, a heavy-metal Spotify workout playlist, and plenty of time on the fast-rising Nintendo-created social-networking app Miitomo. Plus quite a bit more in this episode, below. —John Chiaverina
Sunday, April 3
Get to Metrograph early to see Titicut Follies. The usher is one of the Wolfpack brothers, and I have the theater completely to myself.
Monday, April 4
Arrive at the photo studio where I work as a retoucher. I listen to WNYC until Brian Lehrer’s white guilt becomes intolerable, then switch to WQXR. Listen to the Reply All episode about the human breast milk economy as I lengthen the hems of flare jeans and transmute silver into gold.
At my job, watching stuff on your auxiliary monitor while you work is allowed within reason. I try to use this as an opportunity for la perruque, skimming video games and movies that I should see but don’t necessarily need to watch closely. Several of the YouTube gamers I subscribe to are playing Quantum Break so I put it on in the background.
Resist the urge to listen to my garbage karaoke Spotify playlist and put on Monteverdi.
Listen to my favorite karaoke song, Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” during a smoke break. Two strikes against impulse control. Self-shame by tweeting an account of this indignity.
Comb eBay for cheap lots of Metal hurlant magazines and Ah! Nana, the latter of which was basically the only comics publication of that sci-fi/fantasy/erotica milieu with nearly all female staff and contributors.
“Are you still considering Antique Ob/Gyn Table, Hotdog?”
A message from eBay.
“Good news. You’ve got another chance to win item Museum Quality Human Child Skeleton”
Another message from eBay.
Watch a walkthrough for a game called Abandoned Waste Tunnel.
Play Miitomo on my phone. Watch a “Genderbend & Multilanguage Fandub” of a scene from The Evil Within.
Listen to Arvo Pärt.
Watch a couple episodes of a walkthrough of Rule of Rose. I’m looking for the rat-on-a-stick torture scene, and also the onion sack insect torture scene, but I can’t find them so I just let it play.
On the train. It is a short ride, so I just read the part where she eats the photograph of her unrequited love so no one will ever find it even if she dies from Zuürn’s Cold Spring. Jonathan lent this book to me a couple of months ago and I have already reread it three times. It has the most brutal concluding scene.
At spin class and the instructor is playing high BPM Top 40 of course. The cooldown and stretch is to Enigma which is tight lol. After class I run on the treadmill then use the rowing machine because long bouts of cardio is the only way I can keep existential anguish at bay. I listen only to Nathan’s Metal Gym Spotify playlist when I exercise.
Play Miitomo on my phone while eating dinner. Open a package from Amazon that contains a used copy of Noon: 22nd Century by the Strugatsky brothers, and hundreds of billions of beneficial gut flora.
Respond to a few emails. Write a bit about some scents and flavors for an upcoming Perfume Area project with a certain meal replacement company. Lacking a perfume organ, I make do with the surface of my desk. I read some perfume reviews on Fragrantica.
Browse eBay again. I look at incense, carta d’Armenia, pipe organ parts, clock movements, fly-shaped ashtrays, pet coffins, coffin-shaped portable ashtrays. This is a mix of stuff I want to have and stuff that I will use in the studio. I guess a lot of that is the same stuff. Looking at eBay sometimes helps me understand why I like an object so much, because to navigate the interface well, you have to be or become familiar with the characteristics of a thing and its proximity to other things, and what that relationship is about.
I add this souvenir Afghanistan ashtray to my watch list (too expensive and not quite beautiful enough to impulse buy) with the intention of emailing the seller after a few weeks with an offer they can’t refuse.
Tuesday, April 7
Get to work. Listen to WNYC, followed by WQXR, and Reply All. Read about the Panama Papers.
I put on King Hu’s wuxia epic, A Touch of Zen.
Check the Met Opera rush tickets page.
Check schedules for the week for various movie theaters and add screenings of interest to my calendar. Looking back on last month, I saw eight movies in theaters.
Watch The Walking Dead season finale. It is underwhelming and the cliffhanger is hamfisted. IMHO.
Stuff saved on my work desktop.
I compose a tweet: “lay your grasp upon my cloak.” I save it to my drafts.
Skip around on walkthroughs of Slender: The Arrival, Layers of Fear, The Evil Within: The Consequence DLC, Silent Hill: Alchemellia, Firewatch. I’m not really paying attention though and am intermittently startled by the gamers’ screams. None of these games are really that interesting. I’m still chasing the high that I felt watching PewDiePie play The Last of Us, which kept me looking forward to going to work every day in the summer of 2013…
Someone’s YouTube avatar.
Put on a walkthrough of DreadOut: Keepers of the Dark. Actually looking forward to watching this, because DreadOut Acts 1 and 2 were so good (kind of like Fatal Frame—schoolgirl exorcising ghosts with a camera as her weapon).
I am one of two people to like a pic of a dog’s dick on Instagram.
Read House of Incest by Anaïs Nin on the train.
Listen to Metal Gym at the gym.
This is the last photo saved on my phone. it’s a wreath made of diapers.
My request for membership to the closed Facebook group “The Serious Wet Specimen Collectors Buyers And Sellers Group” is approved. I look at some recent posts. There is a woman selling octopus carcasses encased in glass globes. Another member hawks “humanely obtained” pyrenees paws…
Wednesday, April 6
Last day of work for the week. WNYC, WQXR, Reply All.
Update my Peach for the first time with found fanart of anthro Stephano chained to a wall. I especially appreciate the small trickle of blood down his chin in the rendering. Stephano is the name given by PewDiePie to a small gold statue of a kneeling man in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. He is a popular subject of PewDiePie fanfiction, along with Barrel, Piggeh, and Chair.
Skim my saved eBay searches. No new listings for “Schwein (Bindenverbände,Wandkarte,Rollkarte,lehrkarte,schulwandkarte,schulkarte),” but there are three for “real human leg.”
Look through the Posey medical restraints catalog on my phone. Put on a Spotify playlist that I’m using to compile and organize parts of a mixtape for Mixed Media.
Walk to Clara’s, buy white tulips on the way, and continue listening to the Mixed Media playlist.
Arrive at Clara’s. We order dinner, and watch several episodes of The Heart, She Holler and Strangers with Candy.
I love this scene with dozens of Big Mouth Billy Basses singing in unison.
Also, this scene where Hambrosia Heartshe has maniacally covered everything in the jail with crochet.
Back home, I watch Kwaidan, a collection of five supernatural Japanese tales. My favorite is Hoichi the Earless, about a blind virtuosic biwa player, who becomes possessed by the very subjects of his most tragic song. Priests paint Hoichi’s entire body with characters of the Heart Sutra to conceal him from the spirits that visit him nightly. But they forget to paint his ears… hence his sobriquet. This moment of the ears floating over the biwa:
Make my own Stephano fan art with the found fan art from earlier. I use Line Camera to edit the photo with my Miitomo likeness as his captor. I post it to Instagram and a different version of it to Peach.
Consider changing my Peach handle to official_stephano.
I wake up and can’t tell if the wailing is a movie or in my head.
Thursday, April 7
I am roused by a succession of alarms.
Get ready, put on water for the coffee, drink two glasses of water, and rotate the plants. Check Miitomo and post more of both found and my own Stephano fan art to Peach and Instagram. In the latest iteration, I am the captive.
Smoke a cigarette, drink coffee, and read Pasolini’s poems Reality and A Desperate Vitality on the fire escape.
Read the entries for Salvatore Quasimodo, Deborah Kerr, and the word “threnody” on Wikipedia.
Order a collar on Etsy.
I buy the “raggedy dress” with my hard-earned coins for my Miitomo character. I wear it with my steampunk top hat and striped tights.
Send two birthday texts. Answer emails about some projects and an upcoming studio visit. Check Miitomo.
It’s Studio Time! I look at solar-powered bobble heads, search free 3-D libraries, write, and make some mock-ups. I search online Pepakura libraries for lace-up boots and find instead paper models for an old stone well and a hearse.
I change my Peach handle to “official_stephano.” Post Stephano fanart to Peach. The foundation image is if PewDiePie and Stephano switched places.
I unsubscribe from the Steinway & Sons e-mail newsletter.
I am rapidly losing focus. I clean my extremely messy desk and come across the business card of a person who I talked with about Controlled Bleeding, when Adriana and I DJ’d at the Ace Hotel last weekend (lol). One cool thing is that he played in a band with Otomo Yoshihide, but that’s about it. I also realize that he wrote “I Love You” on the card so I throw it in the trash can.
Studio Fatigue has completely set in after a mere 4.75 hours and I can no longer work. I am feeling rather agitated, in fact. I go on a run and listen to the Metal Gym Spotify playlist. I take my short route which is just a straight shot north on Woodward Ave. Both the short and the long routes involve traversing cemetery grounds, which “““feels some kind of way””” when you are listening to Convulse or Obituary.
Arrive back home. I was going to go back to the studio, but have not met my procrastination quota for the day and go to the gym instead.
At the gym. Lift the lightest free weights, go to spin class mostly to listen to Rihanna, listen to the Metal Gym playlist yet again while rowing the agony of existence away!
Leave the gym and walk home. I keep my headphones on even though my phone is dead by now. In a fugue state, I enter the close-out discount store Telco and browse the racks for a red camo mesh exercise tank that was on display in the window but find only ruched polyester and graphic tees.
I impulse buy used books (an anthology of poetry by Mallarmé, and I, Pierre Riviére, having slaughtered my mother, my sister, and my brother: A Case of Parricide in the 19th Century) on Amazon, and a dual-compartment dog bowl to serve houseguests with.
Browse eBay for a while. I look in vain for the perfect simulated python trench, and copies of the defunct Japanese BDSM magazine S&M Sniper. Search for a Vox humana organ stop button, but mostly find loose buttons for other stops, most frequently, something called hautbois. Oh, it is French for oboe. Look it up and find this image:
Look up “cleaver massage” on YouTube. This video has 61 views, which is a good sign. Wow, it’s so much better than I expected.:
Read Hawthorne’s short story Rappaccini’s Daughter from an anthology of horror stories about plants, and flip through old copies of Skin Two magazine, while sending screenshots of SCP: Containment Breach fanart to Adriana.
I tweet: I want a slenderman airbrushed t-shirt.
I update my tumblr for the first time since Nov 21 with this screenshot.
Reminded of things that I haven’t done since November, I look at the draft from my first attempt at a Consumer Report (full disclosure: this is like my fourth attempt…), probably one of my biggest abuses of the patience of others. This is the best part:
Friday, April 8
Wake up before my alarms. Listen to WQXR, make breakfast, and read two short stories from Mishima’s Death in Midsummer. I have three copies of this book and keep them all together on the bookshelf to confuse guests. The explanation is not an interesting one, though: One of them I bought, the other two belonged to exes. I read from the most worn copy. I think this is the one that is actually mine. Pay bills, do stuff around the house, answer emails.
Tweet: God Shelf
You can go to Buddhist Hell for eating meat. You can also go to Buddhist Hell for not returning borrowed books!
Somehow it’s noon already. I have lunch and read that Devin Kenny / Hito Steyerl interview. Read an interview with the makers of the game Soma (same studio as Amnesia) and an article on the six principal modes of documentary filmmaking. I was going to go to the studio……but I dawdled for too long and now I have to go to a doctor appointment.
Listen to Robert Greenberg’s How To Listen To And Understand Great Music classes on classical music that Libby recommended (today’s lecture: The Middle Ages) while walking over the Williamsburg Bridge into Chinatown to the appointment. On the way there, I buy tickets at Metrograph for tonight’s screening of The Blade.
Walking down Bowery. I kind of want to go back to the Anri Sala show again just to listen to Ravel in an anechoic chamber. That’s probably why I subconsciously put on his piano concerto for the left hand. See three shows: Valerie Keane at Lomex, Chadwick Rantanen at Essex Street, and Sojourner Truth Parsons at Tomorrow.
I tweet: First Chair
Get on the train. Listen to Scriabin, Broken Social Scene lol, and reread that NY Times article about Martha Stewart’s skincare routine.
I google “snail hole” to find a good caption for a Venmo transaction.
On the train back to Chinatown to meet Jasmine, Mark, Kaela, and Travess to see The Blade. I begin to read Maggie Lee interviewed by Wendy Yao in Artforum, but it makes me emotional, so I actually have to stop. Skim some things saved to my Pocket app: How To Avoid Being an Ita, and the wikipedia articles for: Macarthur Genius lolol, List of Rocks on Mars (there is one named Spongebob Squarepants), Sir Dystic d’Arcy.
We arrive at the theater. The Wolfpack usher isn’t there today. The Blade is insanely good. I run into someone I haven’t seen in nearly five years.
On the train home. I listen to Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons collection of songs sung by a boy choir. I think about castrati. I lapse into my favorite reverie, that is, a fantasy about being a highborn lady in dynastic China, or perhaps a demi-god in Legendary Times, imprisoned for an eternity in a pagoda, with my court of ladies in waiting and eunuchs.
I search Reddit for “snail immortality” to find a good caption for a Venmo transaction.
Something reminds me of the souvenir ashtray with the tarantula preserved inside of it. I look it up on eBay but am surprised to find that someone actually bought it. That’s OK, though, because now the seller has another listing up for a similar but vastly superior object—this one, with a pair of scorpions trapped inside. I add it to my watchlist.