Adolescence is nothing if not an endless series of paradoxes. As a teenager you spend your days with packs of people, and yet often feel utterly isolated. You’re carving your own identity, yet are indelibly shaped by the influences around you. It’s excruciating, and magical, and formative, with highs and lows that are as devastating as they are delirious.
It’s also a moment when the body becomes alien to itself. We lose our physical bearings at the very moment we are granted access to the world of sex. We enter unprepared, misled, and manipulated by the adult world of gendered power dynamics. We get a first taste of the violence of societal expectations and scream a big loud FUCK YOU back. It’s oddly freeing, considering how it’s also the time our Saturn opposition hits and we are expected to learn how the world “works.” No wonder teens are the original rebels.
Queer theory understands categories of gender and sexuality as unstable, shifting, malleable, and contextual, and COVEN BERLIN understands adolescence along similar lines: a “not yet there” temporality that is an essential part of our political imagination. The same way the teenage body is imprisoned by its present, suspended in a moment of change, queerness thrives in perpetual becoming, of always existing in a utopian, just-out-of-reach future. As Jose Esteban Muñoz puts it, “we may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.” Adolescence, in this sense, is the space for utopia to become.
The concept of the ‘teenager’ was constructed by post-war US-American corporations, creating a new consumer demographic to whom white-washed Rock n’ Roll and soda pop could be marketed. With the creation of that demographic came its heightened visibility, the hyper-fetishization of youth, and the early sexualization and commodification of teen idols. How does the social construction of ‘teenagehood’ tie in to constructs of ‘generations’ generally, and what does age mean as an identity marker not only for kids but also for queer elders?
As a collective of hopeless millennials, COVEN decks the halls with the iconography of Millennial Teenagehood™, when the Internet was a baby and so were we. Sleeping over to practice kissing, MTV over homework, layering tank tops and bathing suits to build the perfect bra, pimples, heavy metal, basements, porn, piercings, stuffing socks down our pants, shag rugs – COVEN loves it all. We waft the smell of Axe Pulse Body Spray into your noses, reeking of budding (a)sexuality and pheromones. We want to re-appropriate it, fetishize it, mock it but, above all and strangely enough, we want to never forget it.
We don’t know who needs to hear this now, and we assume many of us needed to hear it then, but there is nothing wrong with you, and it’s OK that things are hard and confusing right now. Hang in there. Resistance, disobedience, and experimentation are your gift to the world, and the change you bring is welcome.
The first manifestation of AXE PULSE is the eponymous art installation we’re exhibiting at Villa Merkel, in Esslingen, within a show curated by Benedikt Seerieder, How (Not) to Fit In, about social perception and pressures in adolescence. Thanks Bene for the inspiration and support. We’ll also have a show at Škuc Gallery curated by Teodora Jeremić and Tia Čiček in Ljubljana in August, featuring an archive of objects used for masturbation, and deep dive into queer guilt and shame – the most adolescent of emotions. Stay tuned for more!
With this issue of COVEN’s online magazine, we welcome all your submissions, especially teenage Internet use. We want to hear about the online affair where you pretended to be a different gender and 5 years older with someone 6,000 kilometers away. Tell us about when you clicked on an eBaum’s World video you thought was the Simpsons, but instead saw Lisa and Bart doing something that made you feel warm and nauseous. Do you remember when your older sibling’s friend showed you a video of unspeakable violence as a joke? Do you remember how it felt? We want to know which fandom you wrote insert fics for (and dare I say, we want to publish that fanfiction?) and we want to hear about the time your parents put a keyboard stroke tracker on your family computer and printed out a list of all the shameful things you had written. Let’s examine that list of shameful words, without shame.