Miranda July’s New Book is a Healthy Reminder to be Experimental

Miranda July’s latest book, titled Miranda July, was published in April 2020 by Prestel. Image courtesy of Prestel.
Me and You and Everyone We Know directed by Miranda July. Image sourced from the artist’s website.
The underground film network for girls and women, Joanie 4 Jackie, was formed in 1995 by Miranda July. Image sourced from the artist’s website.
Learning to Love You More is both a website and series of non-web presentations comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher. Image sourced from the artist’s website.
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CoBo Social Market News Reports

Acclaimed artist, filmmaker and writer Miranda July has released an eponymously titled publication that highlights her expansive mind, original voice and prescience through a myriad of unconventional personal and creative experiences from her life.

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

Miranda July’s latest book, titled Miranda July, was published in April 2020 by Prestel. Image courtesy of Prestel.

 

Often described as a multi-hyphenate or a prolific polymath, Miranda July’s latest publication, released in April this year, attempts to capture the layered creative, intellectual and emotional existence of the 46-year-old. Titled Miranda July, the colourful book comprises oral history and scrapbook worthy archival materials such as collages, script notes, film stills and letters, laying out a retrospective of the American artist’s work since she was 18 years old.

Quotes and accounts from people who worked with her or shared her life intimately such as Rick Moody, David Byrne, and Spike Jonze fill the coffee table book, lending a heartfelt look at an artist reportedly perceived as “fresh out of prep school and hopped-up on DIY arts ethic and self-actualization.”

In fact, there are very few contemporary artists as prolific as July—this mid-career retrospective is just the latest string to her bow. She has written four publications, directed three feature films and worked on numerous art installations and performances. Yet she is not one of those creatives who dips their toes in every single pond for the sake of faux trendiness. It is through this condensed publication that we realise the true motivation for her voracious and diverse creative output—human connection. This has also been a recurring theme in her work across the decades.

Moreover, July has proven to be formidable across disciplines, with a bestselling novel (No One Belongs Here More Than You, 2007); stories in the acclaimed New Yorker and Paris Review; performance artworks in major international museums; and films such as Me and You and Everyone We Know, and The Future winning awards at renowned film festivals such as Cannes and Sundance.

 

Me and You and Everyone We Know directed by Miranda July. Image sourced from the artist’s website.

 

While considered a household name in the art world today, July still stands in stark contrast with the conformity and materialism of this social space, making her narrative even more relevant during these murky and isolated times. This especially holds true in her disarming confidence to follow her inner truth and expand in all sorts of ways that does not tick any boxes.

July’s open and experimental outlook is evident, coming across in one of the early chapters of her book when she shares how she came to design shoes because “increasingly a project in one medium led to projects in another.”

In 1998, July made three pairs of amateur shoes in collaboration with Richard Greiling, of Greiling Brothers Shoe Repair Shop in downtown Portland, during the many years she lived in that city. This idea arose because she realised “not one shoe in the history of shoes quite suited her.”

As a result, she created a new pair specific to her requirements: white nurse Oxfords with custom high platform soles along with another pair comprising bandagelike wrappings going all the way up her calves. As her best friends, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Doris and Clarence Malo, described in the book, July fully invented her own queer flair in misshapen leotards and tiny fake fur coats. “For a few years she wore black horizontal lines stretching out from either corner of her mouth, drawn with a Sharpie if nothing else was available—she called it her ‘mustache’,” Bryan-Wilson added.

The artist, who is currently living in Los Angeles with film and music video director Mike Mills and their child, Hopper, recently spoke to the Guardian about how she evolved as an artist and person: “In my 20s, my rebellions were not always that enlightened, they were for their own sake. And it maybe took a little while to realise: look how radical you could be in how you do your work, all that energy can go into this. This is a great place for it!”

Her new publication captures this growth. It also showcases her uncanny prescience. During a time when such a thing was seen as “crass,” July launched mirandajuly.com in 1998, buying the URL of her name. That was the same year Google was launched. The American artist went on to create another website, joanie4jackie.com, in 2000, archiving a secret feminist movement the artist spearheaded in the 90s.

 

The underground film network for girls and women, Joanie 4 Jackie, was formed in 1995 by Miranda July. Image sourced from the artist’s website.

 

The internet was a world of infinite possibilities for her. Learning to Love You More (LTLYM), was a website and a series of exhibitions composed of work made by the general public in response to assignments by July and Harrell Fletcher, an artist known for his work in the field of social practice. Assignments included climbing to the top of a tree and taking a photo of the view, feeling the news and making an educational public plague amongst others.

Participants who accepted an assignment would be able to complete it by following simple but specific instructions and submitting the required report in relevant formats such as photograph, text, video or more, which were then posted online. In 2007, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art bought the entire work comprising an archive of almost 10,000 “reports” for its permanent collection.

 

Learning to Love You More is both a website and series of non-web presentations comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher. Image sourced from the artist’s website.

 

Fast forward to 2020—when asked about her thoughts on the long term impact of the current global pandemic, July said, “I have this fantasy that we’ll somehow think of social media and the online world as pandemic tools after this. We’ll be so grateful for them: we’ll understand that we were brilliant to have thought of this thing that is going to help us survive the many, many pandemics to come, but that we won’t feel quite as beguiled by them when there’s not a pandemic, because we’ll have this association.”

The kind of insightful, creative and expansive mind July possesses has never been more exigent than in these times. Hopefully, this publication of her work and life can create space and set the tone for more of such diverse voices in the art world and beyond.

 

 

 
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