THE PICK UP ARTIST
XIT-RM | Curated by Humboldt Magnussen
NOVEMBER 2 - JANUARY 1, 2017
The Pick Up Artist is an investigative art project which probes into the shadowy world of Pick Up Artists - a community of men who practice a codified set of strategies, many of which promote manipulation and misogyny, for the purposes of attracting potential partners and gaining sexual success. Using video, text and performance, with The Pick Up Artist, Laiwint aims to expose and challenge the strategies used by this movement, questioning traditional notions of masculinity.
Jennifer Laiwint is a Toronto-based visual artist who works across the disciplines of photography, video, text and performance. Her practice takes a research and process-based approach and explores the links between self-improvement culture and social performance. Jennifer has presented her work in galleries and artist-run centres across Canada and in the United States. She curated the performance and film event Fake It ‘til You Make It in Brooklyn and recently had shows at Xpace and the SummerWorks Performance Festival in Toronto. Jennifer is excited to be presenting new work at the XIT-RM Project Space, in partnership with YTB Gallery.
The AGM is proud to partner with Younger Than Beyoncé Gallery to present this exhibition. YTB Gallery is a nomadic, D.I.Y. gallery for emergent and experimental art practices. YTB provides discursive space for critical conversations and risk-taking through new configurations of audience, artists, and community.
The XIT-RM is a project space showcasing emerging artists in the Mississauga, GTA and 905 regions, made possible with the generous support of the RBC Foundation.
When I was 25 I dated a person who, midway into the relationship revealed he was a pick up artist (PUA). I had no idea what that meant. I soon discovered that there was an entire community of men who used codified sets of strategies to manipulate and seduce potential partners, and that many of these techniques had been used on me. A connection I thought to be real and true, was in fact the outcome of a series of manipulations, ones that had names and rules attached to them, ones that lived in glossaries and were shared by groups of men, largely in online forums. The discovery was deeply disturbing. I shut it out and eventually forgot. Years later, after hearing a radio interview with a notorious pick up artist, what I thought had disappeared, revealed itself once again. Memories returned and I as confronted with that experience of deep betrayal and all of the shame and anger attached to it.
We all have our ways of coping with trauma; strategies for gaining control over situations in which we felt powerless. Sometimes we need to return to the site of the wounding in order to heal it. One strategy of mine is to create alter egos. Creating characters allows me to escape into other worlds and, in the process, uncover something new about myself. As the memories of my relationship with the pick up artist resurfaced, so did a need to create a new character. This one was named Jay Lay. Jay is still elusive to me and perhaps will never be fully formed. What I do know is that Jay is a former pick up artist turned life coach for young men. He prides himself on being a sensitive bro and a feminist but doesn't really know what that means.
I created the character of Jay Lay in order to investigate the so called "seduction community." I wanted to know what it was all about. What kinds of conversations were these men having? What could I learn about this world where manipulation and deception is a key part of the community ethos? I wanted access. I didn't think any of them would listen if I spoke as Jenny, so in order to be heard and to potentially make an impact I became Jay. I registered as Jay in a Master Pick Up Artist forum, and so this project began.
In this exhibition you will see digital collages which present fragments of conversations I had on the forum. The video and audio works included aim to take the conversation outside of the online realm and into a broader context. They also illustrate the importance of communities of support. Many young men gravitate towards these online communities seeking a peer group and advice. I turned to my friends to help process my experiences and what I was learning as Jay. While becoming Jay, I got lost in conversations in which explicit misogyny existed alongside very relatable questions on how to connect, how to cope with rejection and how to communicate with others. I saw myself in their yearnings for confidence and authenticity and I found agency in giving them advice about how to attain it without using misogynistic and manipulative strategies in the process.
Banner image credit: Jennifer Laiwint, The Being, 2017, digital collage, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist.