We first met VOX POP in Part I, in which we discuss cyber performance, accidental bondage, becoming a billionaire, and WTF VOX POP actually is.
I’ve always admired how upfront you are about your style and your creative work. Being open with something that others could criticise or fail to understand can be difficult. How did you become so comfortable?
Furmaan: We’re all fame hungry attention seekers?
Benaissa: I never really used to put a lot online, in public anyway – I used to be into Tumblr because it was more anonymous. Only in the past year I have started to use my Facebook or Instagram as a platform for my work with confidence. I find something nice in posting something publicly because I stop thinking about it once it’s posted. I overthink a lot within my work, so when I’ve posted a picture it’s like “ok, that’s that”.
Dylan: I definitely feel like that sort of confidence in your own identity comes from surrounding yourself by supportive and likeminded people. I like to talk about work I’m making with my friends and peers at art school, and their insight is always so valuable to me. I feel like my personal work tends to focus on relationships and identity and the people that I respect, admire and love are my main source of inspiration.
I think that’s what’s so great about Glasgow. Because it’s not a huge city, you get to know so many people so quickly and everyone is so supportive of one another.
Furmaan: I think that being queer has a huge part to play in it. We’re being judged in every aspect of our lives daily. I can’t go outside without getting stares of disgust and sometimes people heckling me in the street or on public transport. Because the way non-conforming people look threatens heteronormative existence so much! If I can deal with that on a daily basis, showing my artwork to the world isn’t as much of a big deal. It’s something that I am completely in control of – it’s actually quite empowering.
Fucking gays! Can’t you just be queer quietly and not IN MY FACE??? *watches 1000 romcoms about straight couples* *aggressively fingers GF on the subway*
Dylan: Omg hahahaha. It’s funny because I think there’s actually a really strong separation between ‘queer’ and ‘gay’ now, because even gay culture has become heteronormative in a way and people who express their queer identity can still be subject to abuse/negativity from other gay people.
Benaissa: Also, a lot of heterosexual people identify with the term Queer.
Dylan: Yeah, we’ve definitely got a lot of heterosexual friends that I’d include in what I consider my queer community.
Benaissa: We’re in a state of flux at the moment where the gay community isn’t really a thing and the Queer community has no guidelines so we all kind of sprinkle across the two. I do think there’s an issue with using the word Queer for everything, because at some point the word will be meaningless and it will mean ‘someone that isn’t old fashioned’.
Where you do you see the boundaries of queerness? By definition it’s something that defies/rebels against boundaries and it’s generally been associated with an ethos of inclusivity, so it’s an interesting concept.
Furmina: I really don’t know what the boundaries of queerness are, but whenever I think of the word queer I think of the word Unity, like a sisterhood or something. And also of revolution – queer used to be an insult and then we reclaimed the word and now we find power in it which is really exciting!
Dylan: Well, I guess by kind of expanding on that definition, the queer community consists of people who have struggled to fit in throughout their lives and find support in one another. The gay community is so vast and varied now. Because it can be so heteronormative, a gay person can feel like they don’t fit into that community and will probably find more inclusivity in identifying with the word queer. I generally feel more at home in spaces like the Art School and the Poetry Club [both nightclubs] than the more commercial gay clubs and bars in Glasgow.
Benaissa: I agree, but the Poetry Club in my mind is a Queer club. It has so much Queer history attached to it!
I think that the Queer community is an extension from the Gay community, the progressive thinkers of the LGBTQIA communities. People who are pioneering development and discussion to improve everyone’s way of living. I guess it’s also the rejects from those communities, the ones that don’t fit in with the usual gays.
Furmaan: Yeah, the gay community is not a very inclusive place at all. It’s very corporate, heteronormative and white. Queerness is all the people that can’t and won’t fit into heteronormativity.
Dylan: Reject and proud!!!!!
What do you think of so many aspects of gay/queer culture moving into the mainstream? I know some people very strongly about, for example, straight girls going to gay clubs and everyone watching RuPaul.
Benaissa: I feel very passionate about this topic. I think that in one mindset it’s great because we are reaching people we could never reach before, BUT the main issue I have is that these people aren’t involved because they love it and appreciate us and want to celebrate us. They come to the club and watch Ru Paul because it’s a novelty. We’re a comedy show for them. Throughout history gay men and women have been a punchline that was constantly dismissed but I don’t think we should dismiss it anymore.
Dame Edna and Paul O’Grady are drag queens/comedians that were very famous on television and the only reason is because the straight world can laugh at them. We need to defend our people and our human rights. We are not a joke and I am not here for your entertainment.
Dylan: I think that visibility is so important, and anything that can be done to increase awareness of gay and queer culture is essentially a good thing. At the same time though, a lot of this culture came from a place of oppression, as a coping mechanism or a way of finding a voice.
The problems arise when people take only the good and the glamorous and don’t recognise the struggle faced by people who actually identify with that culture. This is our everyday lives, the good and the bad, and we can’t shrug it off and go back to fitting into the mainstream and going unnoticed when it doesn’t suit us anymore – which is what some of these people do.
Furmaan: I think it’s problematic because to have our culture come into the mainstream kind of says we have settled for what we have and that we embrace the culture around us.
We’ve seen gay marriage become legal, seen two gay lovers on a bank advert, or even RuPaul being shown on a mainstream TV stations, but these people don’t care about us, or our struggles. They aren’t going to try and help get trans youth of colour off the streets, or help stop the fact that there are gay executions happening right now.
Queer culture coming into the mainstream is just a commodity, a means to make money while seeming diverse and progressive on the outside.
You worked hard to ensure that Vox Pop was a safe space for all kinds of people. What do you think of the idea that our generation just isn’t ‘tough’ enough?
Benaissa: I agree in some ways that you’re not going to like everything in the world and you do need to deal with that, but safe spaces are needed for people who are in danger when they go out. Not so it can be the gay club or whatever, so that people can go out have a drink and not fear they will be spiked or raped or worse. People know entering mainstream gay clubs or straight clubs that they could be dealing with a whole bunch of shit, and we allow that to happen as soon as we walk through those doors. Some of us would rather stay safe.
Furmaan: I think our generation is tougher than ever, the fact we’re demanding safe spaces and places to be liberated from patriarchal and misogynistic systems of oppression is a fantastic thing.
Dylan: And the ability to talk about the things that are painful in our lives, issues such as mental health, takes a lot of strength. People who have that “man up” approach just don’t understand the strength in these things.
Furmaan: I think we’re a generation that’s more educated and aware than ever before, and this idea of “toughening” up comes from fear. And fear is usually derived from not being educated enough!
I feel like the internet has accelerated the process of education – we have so much more access to different modes of expression, and so many ways of understanding other lives and subcultures.
Trans recognition is a great example. Ten years ago no one batted an eyelid at things like Little Britain’s ‘I’m a laaaaydeeee!’ sketches – now they’d spawn 1000 thinkpieces in an hour. What do you think of the progress we’ve made so far?
Benaissa: I think it’s great but I also think we haven’t come that far. We are trapped in our own bubble surrounded by like-minded people, but in reality, people outside of our social scenes may not think anything different about the Little Britain sketches. When they see a trans woman/man in the street a lot of people do still get shocked and point and laugh like they’re at the circus. We have a long way to go but I’m glad we live in a generation where the youth are so passionate about what they believe in politically.
Dylan: Yeah, I think it’s amazing the progress we’ve made in such a short time, and it really shows the power and moral integrity of our generation. At the same time though, it has its downfalls, these important issues become trends in the media. These issues don’t just go away once Dazed and Confused posts an article on it and you share it on Facebook. That’s not to take away from how things like that raise awareness and tackle these issues in their own way, but there’s a definite tendency to absorb all this information and not actually do anything with it.
Personally, I feel like it’s important to give power to the voice of the people who have lived experiences with such important things, because that’s what really resonates with the public and the media can often distort or capitalise on them. And as Benaissa said, there’s also a lot of media that contributes negatively to how people see these issues, and a lot of people absorb that information.
In general though, it’s such a progressive age in which to be a young person and with all the information and resources available to us, there is a definite feeling that we are able to make a difference in the world we live in.
Furmaan: Without the internet we wouldn’t have the resurgence of things like the trans movement. It’s helped so much with visibility – just look at the number of trans YouTubers that have appeared online telling their true stories. It’s such a great tool that has helped build support networks for people all over the world creating a more global community.
How do you use social/curation/creative platforms currently? I feel like when you get the right tools it can really help ideas come together.
Benaissa: I use Tumblr as a big research tool for my work and when I was younger it was inspiration for looks and style.
Dylan: The only one I really use is Instagram, which I think is really useful as a creative person. I don’t really use it as “social media” I guess but more as research for my own work.
Furmaan: Yeah, I’d have to agree with Dylan. Instagram is one of the most useful tools for a creative person. Because it’s so instant you’re seeing exactly what’s trending and where, and you can infiltrate groups of people and what they are doing – it’s kinda like Facebook stalking but for artists.
Benaissa: Super inspiring things come along like Matieres Fecales [link] and you can’t ignore the influencing looks or makeup or just general creativity. I think we all see a part of our own work or inspiration in them. They are real artists.
Do you have any other favourites?
Furmaan: Anything Nick Knight posts is always great. Also @filipcustic – He’s bringing surrealism to fashion styling and it’s fab.
Dylan: I really like @scottramsaykyle. He does all this collaging and embroidery with gay porn, which is kind of similar to the work that I want to make so it’s v #inspiring.
Do you get most of your influences from other artists similar to you, or are you inspired by other forms of art?
Benaissa: I am inspired by anything and I notice myself change quite often – sometimes it’s really dark and then it gets really sparkly and camp and then it tries to be intellectual and it doesn’t work. It goes through phases. I am inspired a lot by music – music and film are my main loves. A film I’m loving at the moment is a documentary about Homocore/Queercore (https://youtu.be/N2bLLVA_TGk) Yes, that is Beth Ditto as a teenager.
Furmaan: Politics, fashion and history of art are really inspiring and are where I usually look for inspiration.
Dylan: I think it varies for me, it comes in waves. I’ll go a few months without looking too much into other artists’ work because I want to develop my own sense of style, and then I’ll go through a burst where I absorb as much information about other artists as possible. Just now I’m really inspired by choreography and work to do with the body, like feminist body art and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Robert ❤ ❤ Patti is my all time hero!
Furmaan: Fun fact! Patti Smith did a small private gig in the Poetry Club where we hold Vox Pop. So did Prince. It’s got a lot of history. One of our friends that works at the bar made Patti a cup of tea.
OMG NO WAY [LENGTHY HYPERVENTILATION INTERVAL]
Dylan, I totally relate to your idea of creativity happening in waves of intake/output. Is that something you all experience, or is your practice more balanced?
Benaissa: I find myself getting very invested in research to the point where I don’t want to start because I want to know more. It’s basically just procrastination, but once I get into making it’s super natural and research comes hand-in-hand rather than staying up till 5am watching videos and searching through Tumblr.
Dylan: Yeah, like 90% of my creative process is just lying in bed listening to music and thinking about the work I want to make.
Furmaan: I have a strange way of working but it always gives me the best results. I prefer to just overthink my ideas in my sleep and leave any concept or physical making till the very last minute. In that moment when I have a deadline, or a show, that’s when I create my best work. There’s an element of excitement and danger in maybe not getting the work finished in time, and the fear of how it will be received – this really drives me.
Doing things last minute makes your work a lot more spontaneous – I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Dylan: I definitely put more value in the ideas behind my work than the final outcome. I start to feel a bit bored and restricted when I’m working on something that’s format-specific.
Benaissa: It’s funny because when I make clothes it’s quite the opposite. For me it becomes more exciting towards the end because you have something you can interact with that started from nothing.
How have you found art school?
Dylan: I’m in second year studying Communication Design at Glasgow School of Art. It’s been great because the course is so open and I can make any kind of work I want. It’s intense though, I think people think that art school is a breeze and you just fuck about making cool stuff, but it’s pretty relentless. You don’t have a break between projects so you’re constantly producing work, but it’s interesting to reflect on all your work and see such clear progress.
Benaissa: I’m studying Foundation Fashion & Textiles at Ravensbourne, and after summer I will be starting Fashion Print at Central Saint Martins. My foundation has been amazing. For a design/tech forward uni, I’ve had what I feel is a very creative artistic/conceptual year where I’ve developed my work and my style into something I can honestly say is a real representation of me.
Furmaan: I’m studying Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in London. Art school has been really confusing for me. I thought doing a degree would help me find myself, but I’m more confused than before I started about my artistic identity. It’s definitely made me a lot more open-minded though. Studying in London has been an aspect that I wasn’t prepared for. It’s extremely competitive and there’s always this feeling of guilt and that time is running out because you’re not doing as much as the other people on the course.
Dylan: I had that a bit too when I started because I went directly into second year, and felt a bit lost like everyone was so much better than me. But I think that just comes with being a creative person, and that self-doubt is the only way that you’re going to progress and get better.
For our two defectors, how have you found the move to London? We’ve discussed how important community is, and you’ve got that in Glasgow in spades – what’s it like having to start afresh?
Furmaan: I’ve absolutely loved it. Moving to a new city where nobody knows who I am is so exciting, I feel like my life is a blank canvas again and I can be anybody I want to be. The fact that nobody knows or cares about me or my work here is sad, but it’s also a good thing – it means I need to work twice as hard to get myself noticed!
Benaissa: Yeah, it’s really exciting and refreshing. The scene here is so vast and so different from Glasgow. I’ve been visiting London for the past three years and living here for 6/7months but I still don’t feel like I’ve been into every scene or met enough people yet. I’m excited to expand on what I have now. So far I’ve had nice opportunities come naturally to me. I’m also looking forward to working creatively outside of education over summer.
What advice do you have for young people who haven’t found their community yet?
Dylan: I think that all I could say is to persevere, and it sounds so cheesy but just keep doing you. People will recognise what’s special about you, it might take some time but you’ll be such a happier and better person for it.
Benaissa: GO OUT! Yes you can make amazing friends via the internet but you need to get out of the house and dip your toe in every pool. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and do things you never thought you could do, because honestly, that’s the main way I made all of my friends in life and how I found my community.
Also, don’t think you or anyone else is above talking to strangers because that is also an important trait that builds confidence and great friendships. I met my best friend by walking up to her out of the blue and telling her I liked her hair. We are still best friends – case closed!
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to set up their own night like Vox Pop? Lessons you’ve learned?
Dylan: Don’t try to do it alone, ask for help! If you’re doing something new and exciting people will want to be a part of it. Make use of all your connections! You need to be shameless, force all of your friends to share it on Facebook.
Furmaan: Yeah, PR is a very important part of putting on an event like that, and it takes a lot of effort! You need to get all your friends involved. And don’t expect it to be a success. If it’s only your friends in the club, if they’re having fun then that’s a success in itself.
Dylan: Don’t be put off if your first night doesn’t work out, it takes time to build up a reputation and an identity but it’ll happen with time.
Benaissa: Deffo don’t do it alone, don’t aim to make money, remember this is for people to come and enjoy, have fun doing it and if it’s not fun don’t do it. Find allies in DJs and clubs – we are lucky to have the Poetry Club and I know a lot of people don’t have that so make connections, get friendly!
Finally, what are your plans for the future? What’s your dream life? World domination or just being a dom?
Benaissa: Survive uni and get a job and be happy if possible and maybe actually have some sort of relationship.
Dylan: If I’m being 100% honest, I just want to be in a position where I can make work that I’m passionate about, and be in a position that’s more live to work than work to live. All I can hope is that I can make work that people can connect with and find some value in.
Furmaan: Yeah, I think finish uni and then infiltrate and take over the Versace Institute or overthrow Kris Jenner as creative director of the Kardashians.
Dylan: Also a lottery win.
Thanks so much for talking to me, you’ve been amazing! Please remember me when you’re a new gen Kardashian. Oh, and LMK if you have any hilarious/scandalous titles for the interview.
Benaissa: “How to get rich and also die trying”
Benaissa: “3 Queer liberals die in boating accident”
Benaissa: “Donald Trump hired these guys to redecorate the white house!?”
Benaissa: OK done.
You can keep up with our favourite deceased sailors/presidential decorators on Insta: