Blog: MCA DNA

In 3, 2, 1: Open TV Tonight

By Aymar Jean Christian

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Blog intro

Open TV is a platform for artists of diverse backgrounds typically not supported by mainstream television and film companies. Before they take over the Edlis Neeson Theater for their MCA Screen event—featuring sneak peeks of new works, Q&A's with the creators, and a live DJ set—Open TV's creator, Aymar Jean Christian, spoke with a few of the artists. The Late Show–esque program begins tonight at 6 pm.

Afternoon Snatch

Afternoon Snatch is a Chicago-based queer comedy about heartbreak and community created by Kayla Ginsburg and Ruby Western. The six-part series premieres in February.

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on Afternoon Snatch

How did you come of age as an artist? How did you come to your current practice?

Kayla Ginsburg: I’ve always loved film. I minored in college and after moving (back) to Chicago, I discovered the dope independent-film world that thrives here. That, and falling in love with the glitter beauty of the Chicago queer community funneled my dreams towards queer filmmaking. Filmmaking has always been a medium to do my favorite things: collaborate and portray the beauty/humor/complexity of sexuality and community. But basically my current practice is waking up every morning and asking myself, “What the eff am I DOING right now?” and never having an answer.

Ruby Western: I think I’m coming of age right now. That thing when you’re 14 years old and you’re totally excited about what you’re doing one minute and then completely horrified by it the next? Yeah, that. I have always loved writing, acting, painting, singing. Since I could wield scissors, I’ve put together shows and made (invited?) family and friends (to) watch them. I’ve been tinkering with what stories I want to tell and the best way to get them across. I’m still working on that. What I know is that I always want to make people laugh and I want to talk about love and queerness and tenderness and fucking. And part of this coming of age for me is listening more and supporting other people in telling their stories.

What was the inspiration for your Open TV project?

It started about three years ago. We knew we wanted to make a web series together—Ruby had just been through a big breakup and Kayla had just ended a year-long relationship with her senior thesis on the history of lesbian sex magazines. Ruby started asking herself how she could get over heartbreak and Kayla started asking herself what a lesbian feminist magazine would look like today, so when we started throwing around ideas it just came together: a breakup story set at a fictional feminist periodical—Snatch Magazine.

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Kayla Ginsburg and Ruby Western Image courtesy of the artists

on Afternoon Snatch cont’d

What’s next for you or your series?

Kayla Ginsburg: Afternoon Snatch is about to COME OUT, which is so exciting and I am just as proud as my mama was when I came out. I’m cooking up a couple short dance films with my partner-love Kaitlin Webster, but mostly I am starting a totally different venture with my little sister called The Radical Stitchery. We embroider and sew things and make journals—basically we’re trying to change the world one stitch at a time. Different medium, same political project as Afternoon Snatch: to portray the queer-feminist-radical-respectful-sometimes-angry-but-mostly-fierce-and-lovely world we want to see.

Ruby Western: Since we wrapped, I’ve been spending my time hosting live shows, doing stand-up comedy, and trying to bring politics into all of it. Let’s talk about IUDs at an open mic where I’m in lineup of nine cisdudes and I have to yell over six TVs showing sports! Yes! Let’s do that!

Brown Girls

The story of Leila and Patricia, two women in their mid-twenties from different backgrounds, and the importance friendship written by Fatimah Asghar and directed by Sam Bailey. The web series premieres February 15.

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on Brown Girls

How did you come of age as an artist? How did you come to your current practice?

I feel like I've had several coming of age moments as an artist. All of these small milestones changed me, made me the artist that I am. Like the first time I ever performed a poem. I was so afraid I had to sit down on the stage, I couldn't stand up. Or the moment that I totally forgot my whole poem in front of a crowded auditorium of about seven hundred people. Or the moment I tried to get a government job and realized when I wasn't writing I wasn't happy. I think that a few years ago, during a very cold winter in Chicago, I felt like something in my voice clicked. That moment was when I realized, in a lot of ways, the reason why I was a writer, why I was doing this. It was after a period of immense rejection, when I felt like I wanted to walk away or give up, and I found myself at the table again. Praise is a fickle little shit. We want it, but it can't be our fuel. If its our only fuel, we risk losing ourselves. I had kept putting myself and my self-confidence at the whim of other peoples praise, and I was destroying myself. I had to have a hard conversation with myself, about how I couldn't let anyone else tell me if I was good or not. If the work that I was doing was important or not. I couldn't let institutional acknowledgment define my idea of my success. Either, I was going to create or I wasn't. And if I was going to create, it would have to be for the communities that I came from, the communities that raised me. Once I had that, my voice clicked. I knew who I was writing for. I knew why I was writing, and what stories I was drawn to and wanted to tell.

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Fatimah Asghar Image courtesy of the artist

on Brown Girls cont’d

What was the inspiration for your Open TV project?

The inspiration for Brown Girls is my relationship with my best friend, Jamila Woods. My relationship with Jamila is one of the most important relationships in my life. I've never seen a relationship like ours represented in TV or media. Usually when TV shows depict two women of color from different racial backgrounds, they are usually there to serve in contrast to each other, or to tear each other down. That's never been my reality. That's never been where my politics are at. So I wanted to create something that felt closer to my world. Also, being a person of color in America is so hard. Theres always so much heartbreak politically. I wanted to make something that could bring my friends joy in a politically turbulent time. Something that showed the beauty of the communities of color that I come from, not just the pain or the turbulence.

What’s next for you or your series?

Our launch is on Feb 15! We are doing a huge Chicago release in partnership with the University of Chicago, and it'll be released online at the same time. I also just finished a draft of Season Two, so Inshallah we'll have that to look forward to soon.