MARY KATHARINE is a freelance writer, who’s published works include articles in Dazed, Vice, The Guardian, and Bitch Magazine. During university she worked as a sex research assistant at The Kinsey Institute and she now writes about female sexuality, art, and queerness in her feminist column, Banging Berlin. I sat down with Mary Katharine to talk about creativity.
DT 500 MAG: – Do you identify with a certain creative scene in Berlin?
MARY: -No. Every creative scene that I’ve checked out – the literary scene, the avant-garde BDSM scene, studio art people, even English comedy – they all take themselves way too seriously.
” I’m a pretty serious person, so I need to make sure that I hang out with people who aren’t so heavy all the time. “
DT 500 MAG: – What motivates you to write?
MARY: – Rampant, global misogyny. It’s 2015 and people don’t know how to get women off. A lot of people think that women orgasm from vaginal sex because we think of sex in terms of straight male pleasure.
” I want people to know about the clitoris. I want people to know about open non-monogamy and sexual fluidity. I want us to get away from a politics of difference. We need to stop identifying with sexual orientation models, with sex and gender binaries, with anything that limits and policies our desires.”
“Kindness motivates me too. The behavior and the singer.”
DT 500 MAG: – Who else inspires you?
MARY: – The other day, I was having a drink with a friend in a crowded little French bar and the two people sitting directly beside us were making out like the world was ending for the entire time that we sat there, for at least an hour. It was early, the bar was calm, and they weren’t drunk. Two more people came and sat down on the other side of them and they didn’t stop. It was hot. That kind of being – completely in the moment – and not giving a fuck about what other people think, that’s beautiful.
DT 500 MAG: – Any people we might know?
MARY: – People who think outside of current ways of knowing, like Meg-John Barker. People who spread the gospel of the clit, like Sophia Wallace. And people who take siestas! (Laughs) I’m gonna do that one day when I learn how to relax.
DT 500 MAG: –What is the goal of feminism to you?
MARY: –It’s not being equal with men in the same way that I don’t think same-sex marriage is helpful. Or multiple marriages. Extending privilege to some is not really changing anything. Queer couples were excluded from marriage. Now they’re invited. Thanks, but I’m not interested in assimilating and becoming a respectable queer citizen. I want progress for everyone. Progress is not equality with white male heterosexual privilege. Men aren’t equal. There are class and race and lots of other inequalities that men face. Progress is when every person has rights and these rights should have absolutely nothing to do with who we fuck and love. We need a radical change in the way we relate and structure family and relationships. The compulsory monogamous couple and the nuclear family aren’t good for women or their children. They’re good for capitalism. I don’t want equality with the status quo; I want liberation.
DT 500 MAG: –What do you do when you feel stuck creatively?
MARY: – Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate. One time I tried using Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies“. (Laughs.) Do you know it? It’s a box of cards with aphorisms and suggestions on getting unstuck, but it didn’t work for me. Wouldn’t that be great, though, if you could just pull out a card and find a solution to your problem? When I get blocked I sometimes run it by a particular friend, or I try to go out and get new impressions.
“I’ll take a walk or go to something social. I get away from whatever it is and then when I come back to it, maybe I see something new. If it’s more a matter of a momentary loss of faith in my ability to create, that can be more difficult.”
DT 500 MAG: – What do you do when you feel uninspired?
” I get out and get around people. Spontaneous interaction! For positive energy or frustration. Both can push me.”
DT 500 MAG: – Has religion influenced you?
MARY: – Absolutely. When I was a child, I had two idols, The Madonna, virgin Mary, mother of God, and Madonna the 80’s pop star who fucks a black Jesus and has no regrets. Herman Hesse was fascinated by the idea that there’s a conflict between spirituality and sensuality and I was taught that too. I suffered from this idea because I was a devout Catholic who was also very sensual from as early as I can remember. I believed in heaven and hell and feared to go to hell for masturbating. It was such a deep shame and guilt for such a small person!
” I was seduced by the Catholic decadence – the costumes, the Latin, the rituals, the mystery and the iconic art, this idea that you actually eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ – that all appealed to me very much.”
DT 500 MAG: –And now?
MARY: –Today I know that the sensual is spiritual. That God can be sex. And sex can be God. I was so moved by Pasolini’s Teorema. Sex as salvation! The non-writing projects that I’m working on are all about this.
DT 500 MAG: – Let’s talk about Berlin vs. New York City.
MARY: –I’m not one of those people who are in love with Berlin, but as, let’s say, a female-bodied person, it’s definitely a safer place than New York and the US, in general. When I lived in Brooklyn, on the walk I had to take every night from the subway back to my apartment, I was very conscious of keeping my body safe.
” Here women have more psychological space, more time for being creative because they can think about safety less. I don’t think people mention that very often.”
MARY: – There’s a lot of physical space in Berlin too. It’s a very relaxed city. You can ride your bike everywhere. You can hear the church bells. Whereas NYC is just pulsating with noise and intensity. You can feel it on the street. So many people are doing something there. They’re trying hard, and it’s inspiring, but also tiring. Berlin is much more sleepy, a lot of people aren’t doing much. This can be good and bad for creating. But I’ve never identified with any of the cities I’ve lived in.
DT 500 MAG: – What does your creative process look like?
MARY: – We’re always creating and destroying and processing. I like to make everything beautiful, from the way my towels hang in the bathroom or the way the fruit is arranged in a bowl to the way I love and long. I’m not consciously shaping my loving and my longing, but they still come from me. And if I remember to look, I’ll notice – maybe the skin of an old woman’s hand next to the texture of her dress – that there’s beauty all around us in the mundane and every day. If you’re perceptive to sensuality then everything can be art.
DT 500 MAG: –Will Berlin always be your home?
MARY: – No. Berlin is not my home. I’m still searching for that. I think it might be somewhere in the middle of nowhere in South America. It’s a place where there are the sun and warm people and no Internet. People say that your home is people and it is, but there are very different ways of living. The city is too violent for me and I’m not talking about physical violence, I mean the concrete and the cars. I want to live in the country and visit the city.
DT 500 MAG: – What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
MARY: – Well, the things I’ve made that give me the most lasting pleasure would probably be my gardens. My first garden was in the countryside in Connecticut, down the road from an old grist mill, beside a nature preserve. Then we had one in our backyard in Bushwick, before Bushwick was the “cool” neighborhood with loft parties on Girls. I had one on a hillside in rural Australia, with a view of the ocean surrounded by giant gum trees with pink and gray cockatiels and wild turkeys. Then I made one on a rooftop in Friedrichshain, and bees, birds, butterflies and moths came. And now I just have my little balcony with zinnias, physalis, and monster cherry tomato plants. I love it. You start with a tiny seed, then the green seedlings pop out, and after careful attention, if you’re lucky, you get something to eat or something to give someone or to put on the table to make your home more beautiful. Oh, and I kissed Nick Cave.
DT 500 MAG: –When did you kiss Nick Cave?
MARY: – When I went to see his movie premiere at the Kino International. I gave him a miniature package of gummy bears and asked him if I could kiss him on the cheek. Maybe I’m the only person who ever gave Nick Cave gummy bears!
DT 500 MAG: –What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
” Jack Halberstam said, “What we really need is complete and utter social transformation.” I’d like to help with that.”
If you’d like to know more about Mary Katharine, find her on Tumblr: http://marykatharinetramontana.tumblr.com and Twitter: @BangingBerlin.
Interview + Photos by ANNE CRUYS
COPYRIGHT BY DT 500 MAG