Joshua Byron: Become Visible
I want to capture your attention. I once wrote a poem where I said “i want to capture someone’s attention”. It was a call for something, anything in me to capture the interest and gaze of someone else, whether digitally or physically. I don’t know if I’ve grown to be this person, or if I always was.
There are many ways of being visible. I can see your body physically or your Instagram digitally. The third visibility is spiritual, to be seen wholly and fully. These are gazes coupled with mind games, and the revealing of longings and of secrets.
Friends are the love of our lives, our soulmates as Charlotte says. I want her to be right, maybe not always for selfless or compassionate reasons. It resonates with the feminist part of me I want to hold on to. It resonates with the escape I need from a gaze of expectancy. The gaze of needing another person to complete myself. The gaze I long for even as it eats me alive.
To dig into my desire for being seen, by crowds, by men, I would have to inevitably think about my childhood. So, I choose to think abstractly about what it means to be seen and to see. I want to be seen because it validates my choices, because it is my own reproductive future instead of a child, because I want to be adored by someone besides myself to know it is true. It is because I have a drive to be known, to be worth something, and art is tied to worth is tied to self is tied to… the ties that bind are heavy, the crown is heavier and always wants more, yet I want more. My crown would be glittery, golden, loveable.
I am told my art is good, I should submit to festivals. This does not translate into likes but it does translate into visibility, so what does it mean to be only physically visible as at a physical film festival or gallery show? Not digitally visible? Is that not success that doesn’t require you to Google me?
I told myself I would mine my feelings, but the naïve thirst I have feels too personal to reveal, even though I’m sure we share this kind of desire. In my own art, I thought talking about men would be enough, would be viral enough. And it is. It is something. But it isn’t all I want, to be visible also encourages participation. I want to be a digital cloud seen over and over, endorsed, shared, clicked on, thought about.
It is not inseparable- romance and the longing to be loved by adoring crowds- something more lasting. It is a cagey acceptance of balance, if only in longings and denial. I once read a Harry Styles fanfic about orgasm denial. I too wanted to be denied pleasure, to be under someone, to be the source of pleasure that is taken and held and kept. The objectified, the pleasure, not the pleasured.
The digital is so corporeal. So poignant. We want, we crave, we eat, we look, we gaze, and the screen becomes our reality. This has been said over and over. But why? Why do we want to be seem as pixels even more than as bodies? Do we see a global self as better than a physical self? As one worth more? If my art does catch on, does this create a better sense of self or a better life worth living? Will I stop if it doesn’t?
Being digital does not relieve me of my bodily anxiety, if anything it only links and latches onto it. Florence lets me feel my body as she sings about the cosmos, but when I have the cosmos at the tip of my hand I feel dread- can anything I do compare to those that “do” something”? I wonder what it will matter when time and space collapse.
Yet I want my Youtube videos to hit 1k views. As we all do, I suppose. Does it give us anything in return to be adored other than an ego? An ego protects, an ego resists, an ego responds out of itself. I cannot always do that.
Is something well received different than something that is unseen? Or from something that you cannot touch? Why do I want to obsessively document my feelings? Of all fucking things to want to obsess over, I fell into the diary world of the thinly veiled autobiography like Joni Mitchell or Nora Ephron, mining my life for material until I am barren.
Fiona Apple became my idol in high school. If someone as messy and difficult as her could be adored, I could too. Imperfect, angry, weird, bizarre, pissed off.
Everyone has a Twitter and Instagram, but do they only hinder me…? I think they are portals to me and to my videos, but what do they actually do… They are merely links to content and art. A Haruki Murakami novel web of traps and tunnels. To rely is to die.
How do we get seen without seeming needy?
I am needy.
I want to make more sense, to be more transportable, to be viral. But I am not easy. I am angry. I am weird pre-1990s, and scared. I am scared I am scared I am scared
just like a spider on the bathroom floor by your feet
Joshua Byron is a nonbinary storyteller based in Bushwick. They have produced over nineteen film works including, most recently, Idle Cosmopolitan. Their films have screened at Sarah Lawrence, Bennington, Indiana University, the Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Life Hack, the Wrong Biennial, and Forge Mag Presents. Their writing has appeared in Glo Worm Press, Bushwicky Daily, Water Soup Press, and The Body Is Not An Apology. They love Oprah, rose soap, and melodramas.