The Self as Muse
The Self as Muse
Labanna Babalon boasts a cult of high profile pals like Brooke Candy and Grimes, her very own Vice article and perfect bodily proportions which she uses to spread love, feminism and something about a new world order.
Watching her YouTube channel queues up cultish ‘related’ conspiracy videos. Labanna babbles on like gospel, covering topics like deliverance, ‘whoreship’ and her ‘777 ritual’ (a.k.a, putting seven hits of acid in her vagina). She recites poetry in a facemask proclaiming of an “underground new age order, I dreamt of it last night”. In ‘INCANTATIONS OF THE SENTIENT INTERNET’, Labanna tells of how she came across her ability to ‘motherbox’, which, to my understanding, is the practice of using your vagina to control technology.
It stems from the idea of the computer as a ‘fatherbox’, which projects masculine energy and spreads hate. Motherboxing causes feminine energy to flow out of the computer, spreading love and acceptance.
Labanna Babalon is the daughter of two successful artists who, according to her interview with Animal New York, approve of her content as an artist but not the free platform (usually YouTube or newhive) she exhibits it on. Fellow internet artist, Petra Cortright, created a piece titled ‘Video Catalogue’, in which she devised a system of pricing her works based on the number of views each had. Considering her youtube account has hundreds of thousands of views, Labanna could be raking it in on this model but she chooses to make money from live twerking and musical performances instead.
Her most viewed video ‘Th3R3s R3ALLY NO1 LYKE M3’ was inspired by a rumor of Lady Gaga bathing in blood. She and her girl friends chill at what looks like the Marriot Courtyard with bits of weave stuck to their nipples as they eat pizza in a blood bath. Lyrics include:
“I am that bitch with good intentions so you better start to listen, and yes I do sell sex. Don’t hate what you’re fed from hashtag tits”.
In many of her online interviews she speaks of the ‘paranormal’ experiences she has had – due to the LSD I am assuming. If your parents were professional artists you might have been lead to believe that all the ‘darnest’ things you said were ultra profound. However deluded she may seem, she still comes across as fun, likeable and dare I say, ‘down to earth’ in her videos.
She is an artist but calls herself a muse – the most humble statement I’ve read her make. From a feminist standpoint she emphasizes the importance of musing in art, where historically, most of the artists are male and the muses are female. A closer analysis of her glittery antics reveal a subversion of feminine tropes, her long nails, done up hair, makeup and towering heels are all there to seduce but also to confuse. This is rather fitting as ‘Babalon’ is derived from the Hebrew word bilbél, to confuse. This freaky yet sexy imagery brings to mind wider trends in pop culture and music. Reminiscent of the intimidatingly feminine styles of Janet Jackson and Madonna, this over-the-top diva look has been around for a while but takes on new levels of freakiness in recent pop culture.
Better known acts like Die Antword, Odd Future and FKA Twigs have shot similarly freaky music videos. In FKA Twigs’ new video for ‘Glass and Patron’, she is seen in a white van in an eerie forest giving birth to colourful ribbons and some voguing dancers. The sexuality and bassy beats of these videos attract a large audience for these artists.
This freaky sexy image is about women owning their sexuality and not letting it be projected through male gaze to reach an audience. However, this look and twerking are also considered articles of black culture, which some artists have come under fire for appropriating (*ahem, Iggy and Miley). But it seems from her interview with Irl Mag that since featuring as a back up twerker in Brooke Candy’s videos and her video, ‘LA PORSHCA’ (a piece Labanna posted of her braiding all of her hair into colorful extensions) Labanna has realized how an over saturation of white twerking rappers could be problematic. The problem lies in the appropriation of ‘ghetto’ black culture as high concept art only when performed by a middle class white person. Labanna says in her Vice interview that she’s gets lots of messages online about her “booty meat”, such as, “I love yo’ booty meat, lemme get some of that booty meat!” But surely if your audience is only paying attention to your “booty meat” they don’t care that you are covered in pizza or blood, or why this might be you’re attracting the wrong audience? Just sayin’. My male peers have expressed confusion over the idea that women posting pictures of their asses on instagram might be considered a form of feminism. The common opinion is that showing your flesh is a form of self-degradation.
As a feminist myself I have often pondered, ‘is it cool to spread my legs to spread a message? And does that actually work?’ To this I have decided that if anyone could harness the power of my nether regions it was going to be me, and me alone. As Labanna says in her Animal New York interview “if you can’t beat them, join them. The entertainment industry has to change if it wants to continue to exist”. There are going to be sexualized images of women, demand for them has always been high and this is not going to change anytime soon. The essence of this 5th wave digital feminist movement is giving our own sexualized images away for free. Perhaps eventually, men will no longer be able to profit from female bodies and nude images of women shot and edited by themselves will outnumber the amount of airbrushed and objectified parts. Female bodies may even fall out of favour as the West’s favorite marketing ploy/commodity. This message is potent in a world that has destroyed too many young girls and women using sex. Moreover, posting nudes of oneself, as obnoxious as it may be, promotes body positivity and confidence, traits which continue to elude many young women.
Predators have exploited the immediacy that digital media provides through unearthing ‘private’ material and making it viral against the owner’s will. The shame that this places on the girls whose images are revealed can be immense and has resulted in suicide. Amanda Todd killed herself because of sexualized shame and the online spread of illicit photos took Rehtaeh Parsons’ life too. The Internet even threatened to post Emma Watson’s nudes as a backlash to her UN Speech on the importance of feminism. I can see where Labanna is coming from, the Internet is a hostile place for women, but it’s just a mirror of the world. We are living in a modern society with archaic and repressive views on sex, still tainted by the misinterpretation of centuries old texts and the consequences are dire. We can’t avoid male gaze but we don’t have to fear it. My understanding of Labanna’s work is that she poses nude in defiance of shame. Let them look, let them leer, shame is a choice afforded by the sexually enlightened woman.
Written by CJ Lockwood
From Incantations of the Internet, above.
Yes, that is a rainbow boob pattern on the side.
This piece was in collaboration with Molly Soda and Alexandra Gorczynski as part of “Proof Of Work,” a show that took place last year in San Francisco.
Labanna Babalon photographed by Emma Kathan in NYC