The following is a transcript from an online conversation between Tine Semb, the innovator behind *Karmaklubb, and London-based artist Adam Peacock.

 


PLANNING THE INTERVIEW


Adam: ‘Saturday is perfect! What time suits you? X’

 

Tine: ‘If wine, def afternoon. But I’ll ask u back — what’s suitable? I’m working anyway, so. Should have synchronised the funky wine though … why not you suggest me and I’ll try to fix it here? Maybe not the most obscure one — make it simple / fun / worth the time, ha ha’

 

A: ‘Sync the wine sounds like a perfect idea! — That said, I don’t have a very sophisticated pallet, so you can throw me anything that’s not vinegar and I'm down [blink]’ [heart response]

 

T: ‘Ha ha ha I am a sucker for everything that is wild, and if not wild, then a pleasure … or somehow unforgettable. [Do not like indifference or mediocrity.] No, go to your wine shop; send me some images and I will fix the same if possible, or something related’ [heart response]

 

A: ‘This is excellent and mad in same measures — I love it’

 

T: ‘But, OK … go for something funky — natural-ish … chalky clay grounds … dusty... red, white or whatever. I prefer red. [A bit later:] — Or, a guilty pleasure: A totally buttery oaky Chardonnay!!! Let me know. Wine and time. I make it easy: Buttery Chardonnay style OR clay and chalky red. I found two potential ones which are not crazy but hopefully fun. [‘Pannonia Natur 2017’ — red, fruity, dark berries, violet: leather, woo, licorice, length — versus: ‘Bread & Butter Chardonnay 2018’, supposed to be very vanilla, mineralistic, full-bodied, and buttery. Also, I like the name. Very British, indeed. Although the wine is American. “Creamy (...), indulgent (...) Endless notes of vanilla bean, almond, pineapple and peach.” We’ll see, then!] Speaking about site-specificity, Norway do not sell alc in shops Sundays, so I’ll need something from you before that [blink]’

 

A: ‘Is there anything I should prepare, other than the wine [Bread & Butter, of course]? And I’ll see you online at 5 PM my time, 6 PM your time’ [heart response]

 

T: Images. Perhaps even personal ones. ADAM QUEER LONDON’ [heart response]

 

A: Lord. [cat in love] [heart response]

 

[...]

 

Day of conversation, 30 August 2020, 17:42 CET

 

T: ‘You have some wine right??’

 

A: ‘Yes!! I have the “bread&butter” ready [blink] Now, go enjoy your wee [blink; kiss]’

 

T: ‘For sure’

 


LOGGING ON


T: You are based in London, I am in Oslo, and we have never actually met. So, to introduce our relationship, Adam, it is because I run something called Karmaklubb* — a nomadic queer ‘conversational platform’ and club concept — and you have been developing the residency ‘Perfection/Speculation’ with PRAKSIS, Oslo, which we will be collaborating on alongside the Vigeland Museum. This was meant to take place this summer, but, due to the coronavirus, it has been rescheduled for August 2021. This conversation is part of us kick-starting it all, thinking ‘yes! Now we have 12 more months to work together!’ As Karmaklubb*’s origin is celebrating art, people, nice conversations, queerness, accompanied by ‘grape juice’, I invited you to the same, although taking form as a screen-to-screen-conversation — a virtual wine tasting — for obvious reasons. In this residency, however, you will be investigating the ‘site specific queerness’ of Oslo, so I thought it would be proper to start today with the point of departure and location of quarantine: a city south side of an island called Great Britain. This cluster of people is of course London.


A: This is my kind of video chat; synced up with the same bottle of wine, a real good one. Is this the future of Saturday nights? 


T: Let’s hope not. Also, I called this one a ‘guilty pleasure’ because it’s very oaky, like butter, with a lot of vanilla. Quite different from what I usually drink in the ‘club’ which is more hardcore natural wine. With a lot of funny smells. This is very … kind.


A: Wonderful. Smoky, you said?


T: — Oaky! A lot of wood. Very smooth, right?! If you close your eyes now, where does it lead you?


A: … I feel like I’m sitting next by you, by the fire. Delicious.


T: You know, we gathered, brought home strange wine from various places, talked about the wine, about love. Life. But of course in the same room, which was sort of the whole point; being together with people.


A: I feel like we are in the same room now.


T: Let’s jump straight in. I haven’t been to London since ‘pre’ my own queerness, so to speak. I don’t know what is typical for London, neither was you would hoop into the term ‘queer’. And your queerness is very different from mine. Please let me in: its strengths; lacks and weaknesses, what’s missing; what kind of issues are going on … 

 

A: First, to me queerness is a human state both important to understand, and extremely positive: The break of the confines of what society defines as normative, not necessarily homosexual, I just think that means other. I think there’s been a large margin of ‘other’ over the past twenty–thirty years as we’ve been incoporating more consumer-based technology in our lives, helping us to be more true to our needs and wants as ‘complex consumers’ — moving away from a standardised heteronormative culture and towards a life-style that actually suits our non-uniform personalities, characters, needs, wants … It doesn’t necessarily means polygamy either, just defining what’s right for you — that’s queer

— I remember moving to London when I was 18 [around 2006] to, let’s just call it an ‘up-and-coming’-area [laughing]. I remember walking down this street with friends, who were a mixture of non-binary people — heels, glitter — feeling a bit weary that we were gonna run into trouble. I remember being fascinated — and relieved that people that I would have instinctively been cautious of, didn’t even look at us twice … In comparison, in Leeds where I grew up, the north of England, one occasion of wearing a pink T-shirt on the main high-street provoked verbal assaults. I was expecting for that to continue, but found quickly, that one of many great things about London, is that you can just be who the hell you wanna be, and it’s OK

 

T: I just love when that happens! It is even more powerful when it happens in a place where it is not expected. Gives hope for better times … [Cheers!] 


A: Oh, there’s this new club night that I wanted to talk to you about, and it’s fucking great! We have a big Jewish population in London, and over the last few years Buttmitzvah happened; A queer Jewish night. I went with one of my best friends from growing up, Max, who was pretty moved by it, because it was the first time, both his Judaism and queerness were in one room, and celebrated. We’re all in our 30’s but the whole night brought us back to when we were 13 again, when we originally went to our friend’s bar mitzvahs [coming of age celebration in Judaism; bar for ‘boys’, bat for ‘girls’]. So, they were playing Backstreet Boys, Britney, with print-outs of of famous queer Jewish people covering the walls in the toilets — it was perfect! This time a religious ritual taking form as a big homo fabulous party … I think that Max left feeling proud to be Jewish and gay from the party — just really, really nice … filled with humour, even slightly satirical, but a truly warm celebration of contemporary identity. 

— That’s one of the many nice stories that come out from London; this great big, liberal, open and multicultural smoke. But, to give you the real overiew, I have to talk about the negatives of ‘Queer London’ that Londoners need to navigate around to access the positives. But firstly, I want to recognize that I personally don’t represent the breadth of queer identities, voices, opinions that exist here, but that maybe I like to dip into a lot of different flavours of scenes, but not really exist in any of them: London is really great for that; you never have to commit to one thing — it’s all here for you to taste and enjoy.

— Maybe I’m even queer to the ‘queer culture’ … [laughing] — Fucking hell. I am consciously trying to keep myself in the periphery, no one wants to become the stereotype, do they!? I’m probably some kind of art-liberal queer gay bear-cub-gorilla.

Behind the Scenes: The Genetics Gym. Illustration development (2017). Photo by John Duff. Copyright Adam Peacock, 2017


T: Some of the advantages of a larger city, still challenging feeling completely at home … (How come all this stigma is still there … just observing.) 


A: Being a gay guy in London is pretty complicated when it comes to the way that we become validatied, and accepted within our communites and social groups, everyone has a lot of ‘fight’ and ambition to begin with in this big city. One topic that I cannot skirt around is that, from what I understand, London is perhaps the epicentre — for the world, for chemsex [sex on drugs, typically ‘G’ (GHB), ‘Molly’ (MDMA/Ecstasy), ‘Coke’ (Cocaine), and, now a big increase in smoking and injecting Crystal Meth, or ‘Tina’ (methamphetamine)]. The issue of drug use and abuse within queer London is an issue city-wide, but, most specifically South London and in particular, Clapham. Which, I would say has taken over Soho’s identity as the main ‘gay village’, much due to rental economics and gentrification. Westminister council (where Soho is) has made a lot of legislative changes over the past 10 years, within reducing, or not granting new alcohol liscences to venues; even putting legislation in place that venues are to not be able to fly a gay pride [rainbow] flag from the building. — Now that the gays have come in, gentrified the hell out of it, they want them out so that property value can continue to rise. Historically, the queer nightlife then moved to Vauxhall, just south of the river nearby Big Ben (under railway arches make great club venues). So, Vauxhall was like a clubbing central for the gay scene from the late noughies [2000’s] into the early 10’s but has since become … I don’t know, something has happened; all clubs shut down and luxury condos grew all over the place, and property developers didn’t want clubs next to their developments with drunk people wandering around, puking on pavements on Sunday morning. Then the gay area moved further and further south, streching about 5 kilometres from Vauxhall down to Streatham. Clapham, in the middle, is a sort of middle class area, which, for some reason has attracted a large mass of gay men living there. During weekends, me and my friends call this area the ‘H&H zone’, H&H standing for, ‘high-and-horny’; a side of London where drugs drive the social interactions, lead to drug-fuelled sex parties that last the whole weekend, if not a week.

— To draw up a hypothetical image of what happens: Staying awake  maybe from Friday night to Monday morning, charging your iPhone in the Uber, battery dying from continued online chat with other ‘H&H’ guys, moving from one hook-up to the next, the whole time, never satisfied and craving more … It’s pretty dark. 


T: Only men?


A: Men only. Generally guys that are experimenting with steroids, who maybe validate themselves, and one-another based on how apparently masculine, macho or muscular they appear to be. So, this isan interesting one for me; I’m a man, I’m gay, I like athletic men, I like a bit of muscle mass, too … but I also have a distaste for the type of perfected body that has come about as an affectation of the fragile ego of ‘queer masculininty’. Maybe I could even go so far as to say that certain perfected bodies today signal a certain amount of passivity or submission to social pressure, and a fragility to be wanted, and be ‘good enough’ at all costs.

— There was a fascinating study from the Central YMCA / Centre for Appearance Research, University of the West of England, that said 1 in 7 gay men would be happy to give up 10 years of their life for their perfect body now. I think that this was referencing the issues around steroid abuse that exists, linking into self-worth and validation around body cultures and drug use. — As for myself: I have a beard, and I’m covered in hair like a gorilla, which gives me certain ‘cudos’ according to the metrics of superficial visual masculinity within the gay scene, but, I am not muscular enough to be considered appealing within that visual ecosystem … and even if I was, I’m too much of an anthropologist/thinker to ever really get any enjoyment from it — I think I would probably need to get high as a kite — because the metrics of visual judgement is so harsh … like, a subconscious tally with the cumulative score of the size of your biceps, shoulders and dick decides whether you’re rejected or accepted. In one way, this kind of visual-based interaction is beautiful for how animalistic, and clear of a transaction it is — but, harsh because it doesn’t factor in the many qualities gay men might have beyond these ‘qualifications’, or, the complexities of who we are as humans, and that the sexual brain is not simple. I think that a a lot of celebrated gay identity portrayed within new mediaillustrate men as highly sexualised machines, or muscular objects. Then there’s this British ‘shame’ lurking. Whick resulting, aspirational queer culture is pretty soul-less and creates lonely interactions, particuarly for those who are new to London and maybe don’t have set in place good, genuine human connections and friends.

— I used to live up North London, Islington, like 45 minutes by tube to get to South London. I think I could go so far as calling this my safety net. Because it’s a bit of a trap, you know … like a drug. And I’m not gonna leave those kind of parties feeling happy about myself.

Behind the Scenes: The Genetics Gym. Staging the shoes (2017). Photo by Isabela Branca Gygax. Copyright Adam Peacock, 2017



T: I still wonder, though: This trauma, the ‘shame’ that you are talking about, the struggle being sufficient enough — what lies behind these socio-cultural mechanisms … 


A: The Victorian sensibility of body shame is something that is sort of a hangover in British culture. ‘You should be ashamed of being satisfied’, and apologise for recognizing that you have a body with sexual needs. This prudeness, intense modesty — is so ingrained in what it means to be British, and within how British class-systems work. Resulting in bodily shame; shame being gay, of sex in itself.

— And that’s why it’s so urgent that artists, writers, thinkers, philosophers, queer liberal whatever, keep building dialogue to explore why culture has evolved to this specific place; and whether there are any alternatives, hopefully a bit more healthy, not drug related — sex-positive — away from it. This is not where I want British culture, queer or normative to evolve toward. 


T: I have to ask you; how ‘gendered’ do you feel the queer culture of London is, and is it defined?


A: Well, gay girl venues are really not that accepting for [gay] men, at least from what I’ve experienced. I’ve always had to join a gay girlfriend to get access. I went a while back with my girlfriend to the Clam Jam (great name!) in Dalston, East London — and was fascinated to observe the territorial social dynamics that seem to happen between girls looking out for other girls. I think that the tribes, groups and hierarchies that exist within the gay guy London are really exaderated within gay girl London. Gay men and women both share the same sexual minorty ‘tick box’, but there’s a lot of differences within how our differently hardwired cognitions drive our behaviours and cultures — super fascinating … Although, I don’t really have the artistic liscence to be able to discuss gay girl dynamics, so, I have to ask you the question: Whether you think gay guy dynamics and gay girl dynamics are similar, or fundamentally different? 


T: First, I absolutely have the impression (from my friends) that the dominant arenas for ‘guys and such’ are more directly on to the sex, more cynical, and way rougher. Some are very unhappy about it, too. For the rest, I can only speak for myself and my experiences, primarily in Oslo — and I don’t have much antennas … there may be things I just don’t see, I don’t necessarily know when I am in a ‘territory’ challenging it, or being hunted for. But what I do know is when I’m interested in someone … But, of course: Womxn are seductive creatures, some enduring and cunning. I have observed (and later eaten by) dangerous foxes, entering a room with their movements, glances, playing their tricks … [A: — Dangerous foxes, I like that!] — But I like to think aspects of these mechanisms you are talking about, are ‘in flux’ — a rather radical renewal of the whole ‘scene’ when it comes to a ‘generosity’ and to actually offering alternative platforms, particularly for nightlife and dating. All good things in my eyes, which I first of all believe has to do with a shift in generation/age (the hunting was harder only a few years ago, competition rougher; things are opening up, more fluid). Another related factor is geography and access: The higher the exposure and the exchange of ‘queerness’ (and ‘otherness’), the less you think in boxes and binaries — at least that’s a thesis of mine. A hope. It’s perhaps not far fetched assuming these impressions have something in common with London, or could be convertible to other Scandinavian urban clusters. And this last one is important; things are a lot different outside the larger cities and in certain regions that for example are more religious. For the foxes, they will always be there. And should.

— But this is a bit off London, we will have to talk more about this when you get here in 2021. You shall go dancing with me


A: We will be dancing in Oslo, summer 2021 — for sure, Tine, COVID permitting! I think your observations are really fascinating — and you know, I think it’s interesting that actually the whole notion of gender can be deconstructed. When you look at scientific diagrams illustrating the difference between a clitoris and a penis, you see that there’s a link between the way genitalia is formed from the same components when a foetus is developing. Equally, it’s really interesting to observe the role and function of testosterone and oestrogen as chemicals both affecting physicality and cognitive behaviour, maybe even sexuality, both when we’re forming in the womb, and when we’re developing as humans across our lives … it gets very complicated here! Things like brow dominance, nose, jaw line, neck width and so on can all be adjusted with different mixes of testosterone or oestrogen — artificially, or naturally, and gets even more fascinating when you start to delve into the gendered brain debate — whether men have different brains from women and visa versa, which still today has two different sides of argument. I think that we’re all the same bags of meat, just with different mixes of testosterone and oestrogen running through them, and living within a society that still expects men and women to be different. I also think that sexuality is a sliding scale between homo and hetero that each person lands on differently, and that — ontop of all of that — theres a hell of a lot of unexplained magic still to find out about humans, gender, sexuality, et cetera. 


T: Yes, magic! The unexplained … the grey zones. Thank, god. 

Behind the Scenes: The Genetics Gym. Staging the shoes (2017). Photo by Isabela Branca Gygax. Copyright Adam Peacock, 2017


A: So, in bringing that back to London, and where the construct of gender expression is going on, perhaps it’s interesting to mention a club that recently closed down, called XXL, which was like a ‘central spine’ to London’s gay scene for ‘as long as I’ve been gay’ … which means probably late noughties [00’s] untill a couple of years ago when they closed. XXL was a men-only club, for ‘bears and their admirers’ and they came under a lot of fire recently because a guy turned up in heels and wasn’t allowed in … and it’s like; ‘wait a second, this guy might actually be more realistic to his own identity than half the men in macho drag in the club — bringing to light that contemporary masculinity has a lot of different facets’. XXL replied with some bollocks about wanting more stereotype masculinity. This caused a polarised response from the gay community — primarily, highlighting how outdated the club concept was, representing a type of mindset not relevant for queer London today. I don’t think that it was that argument that closed the club, though — I think it closed because of luxury developments near the venue (the eternal issue for London). I remember the first time I was there, I was about 20 years old; excited, but a bit terrified of being eaten by these big guys. ‘What have I let myself into?’ And inside, these massive, pumped guys, dancing to a Kylie-remix in the corner. In a way it was like a parody of the drag of masculinity and trying to fit in, or be accepted.

— I think so much of the gay scene in London that is just a big farce … My ideal for the future of London is having a series of differently flavoured/textured ‘queer spaces’, allowing all interpretation of what being ‘XXL’ might be across the spectrum of male identities today. I personally also like the option of being able to bring along girlfriends to the club, too! 

— But at the same time I remember having conversations with my Swedish gay friend, living in Stockholm saying that Sweden is so tolerant that it actually damages the gay scene’s identity — so, perhaps there’s also a limit to tolerance before cultural identity gets diminised. ‘— We don’t have a space anymore to be gay because everywhere is just gay-OK’, and I can understand that. 


T: — Unfortunately a familiar issue. What your Swedish friend is pointing out is absolutely true, though — but when it comes to Karma*-events I refuse to exclude people from events gender-vice (which I really cannot judge), only after their behavior (which I can actually have an opinion about). And that is a principle and one of very few ‘rules’ I insist that are kept and followed.


A: Good! Good behaviour is important; everything else is just texture. I think that when it comes to London we need an enormous injection of positivity, even before the downers of Brexit, and COVID-19. I think we are losing a lot of great energy, minds, talents to cities like Berlin and Lisbon, and that now we are left with a lot of bankers and lawyers, who we need, but only as component to the larger texture of London. Point is we need more energy behind making sure the full spectrum of thought and mindsets exist in London to become a fair ecosystem. Or, maybe it’s just time for energy to move on somewhere else … 


T: I think that’s Oslo. [Laughing] 


A: Absolutely! Maybe Oslo is gonna capture my heart …

Behind the Scenes: The Genetics Gym. Body silhouette development (2017). Photo by John Duff. Copyright Adam Peacock, 2017


T: But, London; where’s the fun?

 

A: It’s a complicated status, and I’m not necessarily sure I’m even optimistic on the future of London … but what I do feel is a responsibility as a Londoner, who’s enjoyed the fruits of the past 15 years to put the ‘juice’ back in a bit! [Laughing]

— There are some important changes that affect queer culture in general on a structural level. And that is not only because of higher rents and how gay clubs effectively have been used to gentrify areas, but also has a lot to do with new social communication, including dating routines: phone hook ups and the Internet. During the years I’ve been living here, only a quarter of the nightlife is left … It’s actually insane, and quite sad. That said: Most the clubs that used to be in the centre have closed, and new clubs have opened on the outskirts, and in fact there is quite an interesting scene happening up in Tottenham, north London — a lot of warehouses with raves, but also clubs and other experimental places, but it’s progressively just getting further and further out. The result is the whole central London just turning into homogenised commercial slush

— Our left-wing Mayor, who I think is quite Brilliant — Sadiq Khan, actually employed an official nightlife Czar for London, Amy Lamé. Her role was to keep London’s nightlife thriving, and stop all the best nightlife leaving London; which I understand is a tricky task faced with property developers and changing urban fabric dynamics. Her role has come under a lot of fire though, I’m not sure what she’s really done for London — but, at least the intent is in the right place.

Behind the Scenes: The Genetics Gym. Casting and initial tests, Character 1 (2017). Photo by Adam Peacock. Copyright Adam Peacock, 2017.


T: OK, how does all this tie in with your artistic work on ‘ideal bodies’ — guess there’s a rather robust irony involved. To me, they look like freaks, don’t they? (And I couldn’t avoid noticing these images that you sent, ‘behind the scenes’ … do you always look so hot at work, Adam? I mean, for now we have only met through Zoom, so … I think what I am asking is: How important is it for you to look good?)


A: — I mean, thanks for that! I’ve got hours of unused ‘behind the scenes’ footage of my project’s developments, so, I’ve definitely given you a selection that doesn’t include me gurning ... To make conscious decisions on how I look is always a bit complicated for me because I exist inbetween a highly visual ‘market-place’ of queer London, and, my work is all about decontructing the semiotics and meanings behind people’s visual choices. The Genetics Gym is the most recent main output of my constantly evolving, and developing ‘lens’. Perhaps I’m trying to make sense of my reality — exploring how the Internet is affecting me, the people that I’m around on a daily basis, both in real life and online life — IRL/URL. 

— The bodies — that I developed within the project were based upon the idea of having five very different characters, all with various genders, sexualities, ethnicities, tensions, anxieties, and imagining what five different brand ideologies might suggest they change, if the ability to change their bodies with genetic technology. The bodies that me and my team developed (through post-production, prosthetics, et cetera), referenced narratives like the muscle-bear culture that I had been observing in London, alongside the beauty standards embedded within facial filters for women today. That’s how they ended up ‘freaky’. My favourite body that we developed was a curvy female body, with the narrative illustrating sculptural forms of body fat; celebrating her body type, and exaggerating it further, rather than diminishing to fit narrow views of what an ideal female body ‘should’ be. The reason the project was called ‘the genetics gym’, is because the main aim of the project was to get closer to understanding how visual culture, through internet dating, social media, pornography and so on, is affecting us. To do this, the project attempted to uncover how the human brain ‘computes’ faces, bodies, signals and semiotics of people; sartorial aesthetic judgement.


T: Trying to rewrite the ‘logics’ of modern body aesthetics and ethics, huh?

A: Within a Darwinian, evolutionary psychology perspective, what is termed ‘strong genes’, we call sexiness or appeal. Or, to illustrate this using me as an example, when I’m looking at a guy, through photography online, or from a distance in real life (this is just about visuals, it gets more complicated with pheromones, body language, voice resonance, personality, character, et cetera). So, visually — if I found a guy ‘visually attractive’ — my brain is telling me that if I was to reproduce with that guy, we would produce strong, healthy, well-balanced offspring. Where it starts to get a bit complicated and fascinating is that my own cognitive attraction, my homosexuality, will never result in offspring from the way my brain percevies genes/genetics within other guys. Where does that fit in when we’re talking about evolution, or existential purpose? That to me is absolutely fascinating; and has absolutely driven me to explore in the way I have done. Particularly that, to really understand how the Internet is affecting us today, we need to understand how the human brain reads and perceives genes and genetics. So — all of a sudden, to try to answer those questions, we’re in a space talking about the combination of fashion, social-science, anthropology, genetics, computer science, evolutionary psychology, and consumer psychology.

T: You also write about ‘love, validation, and acceptance.’ And regarding one of your projects [The Validation Junky, 2011–2014]: ‘lives and identities are continually guided by technology and where individualistic contentment becomes a focus within an increasingly competitive, over-populated social context, self esteem and socially inflicted anxieties.’ And we’ve already swiped briefly through the shame and extreme pressure. Sounds traumatizing. 


A: Yeah! this stuff is pretty traumatizing if you spend a long time thinking about it — but, very worthwhile … and I think amidst a sea of bullshit jobs, this is something that really needs to be looked into, and I’m doing my best to wrestle with it — whilst being one of the humans I’m exploring at the same time! The name of that project is actually a phrase that I have borrowed from American clinical pyschologist Alan Downs, in his book The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World (2012) [T: What a title …] where he describes the anxieties of gay men, resulting in their identiy expressions: ‘By the time a gay boy becomes a man, he is well-practiced in the art of achieving validation for his actions that may be praiseworthy, but are inauthentic to him. He is to speak, a validation junky.’

— Firstly, I love having ‘Adam Peacock — The Validation Junky’ written on formal things, it really makes me smile! I’ve borrowed this phrase as a name for experimental design output, because I felt that it perfectly framed the relationship between consumer psychology and deep-rooted anxiety within what makes us human; and how that results in the way we navigate the world. Although this whole project started out as an investigation into the drivers that exist around me, today as a gay guy, the lens that it’s uncovered is not limited only to queer culture, but to a wider society, within uncovering how designed technology and new media is affecting human behaviour.

Behind the Scenes: The Genetics Gym. Model being staged; fluffy shoes and wind-machines included (2017). Photo by Isabela Branca Gygax. Copyright Adam Peacock, 2017


T: Just a paradox, speaking about new media and such … I have read you called dogs the ‘secret to true happiness’, explaining it with research on serotonin and dopamine levels and so on, the reasons why you are curating your Instagram with poochies instead of ‘show-offs and people having “forced fun”’. First: Do you have a dog in London? Second: What do you mean by forced fun … And, it just crossed my mind that Instagram itself is pretty much based on AI, triggers of various kinds — attention, recognition and validation, stress, and anxiety for not getting these. ‘False’ impulses that we, well, actively choose to seek for. (I feel it’s time mentioning this Netflix documentary that ‘everyone’ speaks about, The Social Dilemma [2020], which you have probably already seen and is much better than the previous one I sent you …) 


A: Dogs are (mostly) pure little souls. I don’t have one yet, but it’s in the plan, for sure. It’s also interesting to consider that dogs are only so wonderful, because they’re the result of hundreds of years of controlled evolution from their wolf ancestors. As in we (humans) have chosen which dogs get to have puppies, and with what other kind of dog, to ultimately design these perfect, furry creatures who make amazing companions, make you feel good, wag their tail; but who wouldn't be able to survive if they hadn’t been picked, nurtured, and allowed to reproduce by us. This format is actually exactly the same as the rise of the validation junky generation; now technology is allowing us to observe and calculate exact metrics of human validation, and allows people to quickly manipulate and edit themselves and their behaviours, with the aim of being more liked, more loved, and more needed. It’s exactly the same as dog evolution, but applied to humans!

— So, your question on forced fun … take a look at ‘Influencers in the Wild’ — @influencersinthewild; this is a great Instagram account documenting all the forced fun happening, ‘playing the game’ of online behaviour to gain traction from the metrics of validation; likes, followers. The Internet, and the rise of image-based communication is so fascinating, and we’re only 10 years into it (around the time of the front facing camera of iPhone 4, Instagram and so). It’s giving us the tools for new metrics of class-mobility, the ability to get your voice out there, be heard, but it’s also leading the rise of homogenised identities who, I guess, are the validation junkies of today.


T: Your work is rather controversial, but not at all more controversial or ‘evil’ than the actual stuff happening on slightly more subtle levels (AI; consumer psychology; fashion and cosmetics industry; not to mention ‘influencers’!!!) Rather the opposite … that’s sort of why we work together in the first place. But I wonder: What do you hope to achieve ...?


A: My best case scenario for the near future is that designed technology infrastructures sync up with a cultural vision of celebrating the endless possibilities of human identity and cultural expression. I think, in a way, London’s format of a place where you can be whoever the hell you want to be, is a good example of this. In the case of cultural development, I guess it starts with the way we treat children and either impose, or evolve onto normative cultures. I would love for every parent celebrate their little kid for who they are, and encourage them to grow up into to whoever it is, and relax into the fact that this child is going to show them parts of the world, and parts about being human, that the parents never knew existed … and just to enjoy that journey. I hope that with time people will gain some kind of humanistic middle ground away from pre-defined notions of what is to be expected from one-another … On with Karmaklubb*! On with The Validation Junky, Perfection/Speculation, and other projects exploring forwards into the unknown — these projects that illustrate the truth behind human beings …


— Having a platform for conversations, celebration, creating meeting people and having those conversations, my work is much about that … trying to create tools through mediums of art, of communications — we just need to keep going. Just part of a bigger evolution that we are just a small component with … I love this idea of leaving the world a bit better than we entered it in. But I also believe in trying to understand, listening to others, creating opportunities for dialogue and debates and cultural change. Some sort of catalyst to human evolution; that matters a lot, don’t it? 


T: Then I’m happy. I always like things to end in love.

Adam Peacock (born in 1988) is a British artist/designer with a background in architecture. His work builds upon his insights as a gay man in London, exploring the motivations behind body-modification specific to bodybuilding and the Musclebear culture of queer London — a lens that informs all his projects not limited to queer culture. Rather than reproducing given facts, he aims to work on collaborating methodologies, borrowing, and stitching together different disciplines. The Validation Junky, developed on his MA at the Royal College of Art (2012–2014), investigating the effects of the Internet upon contemporary identity expression and self-perception within image based communication, exists in the grey area between fashion academia, experimental architectural methodology, art, consumer psychology, genetic technology, cybernetic theory, and social anthropology. His projects have explored image-based culture as an evolution of the socio-sexual human brain (Post Industrial Brain, Royal College of Art, 2014), explored how an Artificial Intelligence might be able to be programmed to hold aesthetic intuition (Machines to Automate Taste, Visible Futures Lab, NY, USA, 2016). Most recently Adam looked at the complexities of genetics and memetics within online communication in Genetics Gym (2017), developed within the 2016 Design Residency at the Fashion Space Gallery, which has gone on to be exhibited and published internationally.

Queer Wine ‘Bread & Butter Chardonnay 2018’, Bread & Butter Wines, 13.5 % ABV, California, USA, Chardonnay only — vanilla, mineralistic, full-bodied, creamy, and buttery, they said. Definitely true. And straw yellow, thick, tropic fruits, but most of all … vanilla. And so overwhelmingly buttery and filled with warm spices is it almost unbelievable … Is it too much? Edging it. But this time just pure pleasure.