Talking to How To Dress Well About Feeling Anxious
BY: KYLE FITZPATRICK
The world is in a state of madness. And do you know what that makes us? Anxious.
Tom Krell has personal knowledge of this and, in his work as How To Dress Well, he’s explored the subject of anxiety and other contemporary woes over and over and over again. His most recent interdisciplinary project tackles this subject directly: he’s created an installation called We Are All Very Anxious that will be exhibited for a single night at ever-inspiring co-working space NeueHouse in Hollywood, followed by a performance and party.
Tom worked with writer Alexandra Kleeman and 3D artist Jason Ebeyer to craft an immersive experience intended to figure out how our spiritual, intellectual sides mesh with our pop cultural, social media leanings: it’s a navigation of the private and public, a crossroads articulated through sound, text, and video anchored to Tom’s song “Anxious” (which, obviously, is subject to a few new takes on his upcoming remix EP).
To understand his motivations for the project–and to get idea of what to expect of this hybrid experience—we spoke with Tom about his anxieties, capitalist expressions, and what happens after Friday’s party.
A lot of life in 2017 is fueled by anxiety. Do you think we’ve habituated—or grown comfortable—with constantly feeling on edge?
I don’t think you can really be habituated to anxiety, which is why it’s such a powerful mechanism of social control in this phase of capitalism. Every time it comes on, it comes on as an attack: it can’t be anticipated, it doesn’t really have an object.
Do you think anxiousness, in some forms, can be positive?
I obviously have turned sadness into a very positive thing in my life, as it does motivate a lot of my work–but I’m not sure anxiety can be sublimated in the same way. I think bonding together in groups to combat anxiety, connecting with other people to alleviate it, connecting with yourself in truly careful ways, that can be positive, extremely positive.
What makes you anxious?
Finances, terrorism, Global warming, Twitter…
In works like Care and Alexandra’s You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, self-care (or the lack thereof) are central to the work. Why do we often forget to take care of ourselves?
In the contemporary situation, the main way we were late ourselves is as subjects of a capitalist logic which demands that we completely neglect our true desires. Anxious contemporary capitalism wants us to use ourselves, to keep ourselves so on edge that we nearly lose ourselves, that we lose anything like character or personality or spirit or anything which would be even minimally intransigent. Contemporary capitalism wants us to be so plastic and flexible that it can dispose of us absolutely however it wishes. Also, the other meaning of disposable: Contemporary capitalism thanks of the individual human as essentially disposable, like a plastic water bottle.
So self-care helps us build character and resist the flow and rhythm of the contemporary situation. And above all else it builds in the self the awareness that you are not disposable, you are not repeatable or a replica, you are a very special and singular being, we all are each of us.
Do you see this collaboration as a means to care for the self and each other?
Yeah, I do. I also hope the installation itself is a space in which this kind of conversation can transpire and maybe help other people. But I don’t want the project to be totally didactic, which is why it is an art installation and not merely, say, a reading group.
Are there any other plans for this “anxious” collaboration? Or will the subject recur in your own, independent practices?
I want to take this show elsewhere, especially to Australia where Jason could be a part of the physical install.