Shoes Off with Milah Libin
Tell me a little about yourself, what you’ve been working on, where you’re from...
I’m from Brooklyn and I still live in BK now, I currently have been focusing a lot on Dizzy Magazine, which is an art publication that I started with Arvid Logan a little over a year ago. But I do a lot of different things, I’ve directed a lot of music videos, and done photography, and I actually work a day job at this space called Picture Room. I program events there, like poetry readings and book launches, so that’s a nice thing to do a few days a week. I’m trying to not say yes to everything now, and trying to find more time for myself and the magazine. Just trying to be creative and travel a lot. I was just in Japan and I feel like right when I graduated from Sarah Lawrence, I guess that was three years ago now, it wasn’t too far from the city, I actually lived in Brooklyn my senior year and commuted, which was kind of crazy.
Sarah Lawrence is upstate, no?
Well it’s in Bronxville, which is in the Yonkers area. Yeah I really don’t know what I was thinking, but I really wanted to kind of jump start what I was doing here because I had already started to make a lot of videos with Destiny and generally just had a lot going on. I was also only taking classes a couple days a week. So commuting from home just seemed to make more sense at the time, but it was a lot. So right out of school I just started really hard right away working and doing all types of stuff. Now that I’m a few years out I’m starting to be like, wait a minute, I’m still really young, I don’t need to get to serious, because I am a very ambitious person and I want to be successful and do as much as I can do.
What’s your sign?
I was just about to ask because I saw you had a scorpion (tattoo) on your forearm.
Everyone thinks I’m a Scorpio because I have a scorpion tattoo, but I’m an Aquarius. I’m definitely at a point now where I’m trying to reconnect with some of the stuff I did when I was a kid, like writing. I’ve started writing more. But Dizzy is what I’m really trying to cultivate because I am kind of all over the place and I have so many different interests and in a way, it helps me kind of contain them all into one project. I get to do writing, and photography, and video, and curating and design and all these things but it all has one outcome, so it's been really nice for me to do that. That’s where I’m at these days.
What childhood memory instantly makes you smile?
So I grew up in Brooklyn, and I grew up across the street from a school, 282, and there was always an ice cream truck outside. So just the sound of the ice cream truck always gets me so excited. Because I would always run out barefoot across the street on the pavement and get ice cream, and that was really fun, that makes me happy.
What’s the last book or movie that you saw that really resonates with you?
I just read this collection of short stories called “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpha Lahiri. It was amazing, the author is Indian and the stories were all really different. I really like reading stories from women authors from various perspectives. I’ve been reading so much lately. I also just read this book called “The Summer Book” by Tove Jansson who actually illustrated the Moomin Cartoons, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with it, but they’re really cute Swedish cartoons and that book was so sweet because it was about the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter and it took place on this island in Finland, and it was reminding me so much of being a kid and the magic of creating stories; making a little fairy house out of wood, because I had a backyard growing up so I would do that kind of stuff.
I like what you said about the grandmother and granddaughter just because I feel like that’s such an important and distinct relationship that you don’t have with any other member of your family. But the way it comes across in a lot of movies is just really kitschy and not as deep.
Right! And I also just feel like the parent-child relationship is explored so much more, and your grandparent-child relationship offers such an interesting dynamic because you really came from them. It’s so crazy just thinking about your great grandparents, your great great grandparents, what you inherited from them.
And you often find that qualities and characteristics that you can’t place with your parents you’ve actually inherited from your grandparents.
Well there’s actually this joke that my grandpa tells all the time: I just wish I knew so that I would have had grandchildren first, and I’m like alright grandpa, kind of corny, but beautiful.
I’ve seen your Instagram and have looked into a lot of the work your produce. I feel as though you're in Tokyo a lot.
I’ve actually been twice, but I definitely posted a shit ton haha.
I see that influence on you, though, especially in terms of your aesthetic, even looking around your house. How does your location influence or inform your work and stylistic choices?
That question is interesting because I definitely feel a very strong connection to New York with my work, whether it’s photo, video, or writing, everything, it really informs what I do. But in recent years I’ve been more open to the idea of living somewhere else or traveling more. I feel like when someone grows up in NY, they have such a specific experience and it’s so amazing, it’s diverse, its cultured; you just get something that people, at least in other places in America, really don’t get, and in a way you're kind of sheltered to the realities of the world. For so long I’ve been like, “I’m never leaving New York, this is my home”, but I’m more open to the idea now. Japan is an interesting place because it’s so different, and I think that it’s really important for people of all ages, especially young people, to have different experiences and perspectives on the world. So just for that reason alone it was a really amazing trip.
If you were a shoe, what shoe would you be?
Oh, damn, deep as shit ha. Well right now, I’m wearing velvet, ruby red slippers, and I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz ruby red slippers when I was kid. Lowkey I used to wear my platforms all the time but now I almost only wear sneakers, which is so lame but they’re just so comfortable. Regardless, I feel like ruby red slippers are my shoe.
Do you think you become your name, or your name becomes you?
Well I was named after a family member, my great great grandmother, so that question for me is interesting because I got my name from a fully-formed human being and feel very connected to it. I think I became my name in a way, because hearing the stories of the woman I was named after, she was super weird, rebellious, kooky, creative, and because I’ve been given that name, I think I’ve subconsciously embodied those qualities. I’ve never really thought about it that way, I like that question.
What do you think about the relationship between intention and reception as someone who works in a predominantly visual realm?
I think it’s important. I’m not gonna lie, I care what people think; with a lot of my work I intend to cause some sort of resonance with other women. I definitely think that relationship is something I bear in mind when I’m creating.
Cool. How much does language affect your work, or your thinking?
Well one of my first creative outlets was writing, that is something very important to me, so in that sense I feel like I’m thinking a lot about the poetics of images, and definitely thinking about it in a textual way. Language in my work I guess has more of a literary element, but I definitely think about language and its importance living in a place as linguistically diverse as New York.
Which fictional character would you grab a drink with?
Maybe Pippi Longstocking because she’s wild, and I feel like we would get in a lot of trouble together.
Fate, or chance?
I don’t like the idea that we are bound to a certain narrative, I like the idea that I’m in control. I’d like to think that there’s more chance involved than fate, I guess. I feel like the reality is that it’s fate, but I just choose to believe I have a choice!
What is something about yourself that you’ve always disliked or been embarrassed about, or just an aspect of your personality that you have recently learned to embrace, and that has actually been really positive and beneficial?
I actually have two answers. The first one is more surface-level and the second one is a little deeper. One thing that has been hard for me is something that I actually mentioned earlier, that I have so many interests and so growing up I was a little all over the place. I wanted to do all these different things, and I feel like maybe in a way this quality never gave me the chance to focus and really hone my craft in one area. But now, with Dizzy and just with the culture of creative youth, I definitely think that it’s helpful to have so many different areas that I am interested and involved in. On a deeper level, I don’t open myself to people a lot, but I’m really good at making people feel like I am.
Ok, now for some word associations:
Warm - Hot, haha oh jesus.
Texting - Annoying.
Home - Berkeley.
Universal - Important.
Spicy - Yummy.
Limits - None.
Hair - Powerful.
Power - Hair...no just kidding! Hmm, power...sexy.
Love - Boundless.
Window - I’m being so corny with my answers! Breezy.
Penis - Conflicted.
Smile - Teethy haa.
Mother - Heart.
Vanilla - Chocolate.
Ally - Important again, I guess.
Close - Working on it, haha.
Censored - Oh, one word is hard.
It doesn’t have to be one word, it can be a thought.
So bigotry should be censored, to an extent, but free thoughts shouldn’t, but if its hurting someone — racist, sexist, anything like that — then we don’t want to hear your shit. It’s so complicated now with free speech blah blah, but if your being a biggot, it’s not so simple. I don’t know, the internet is crazy.
Heavenly - Earth.
Childish - Forever.