A 14-Year-Old Rapper, Some Candy, And Ryan Trecartin's Weirdo Suburbia


There was a closing party for Ryan Trecartin’s show “Any Ever” at the Museum of Modern Art’s contemporary space, PS1, on Wednesday night, co-hosted by the museum and an online magazine called DIS. There was candy, and an open bar, and Trecartin’s incredible video installations, which are about capitalism and market research and reality TV and the suburbs and youth the ways in which the contemporary environment makes us human beings complicit in — or even seek — our own commodification. Does that make it sound really boring, or not funny? It is actually very funny.

This is the step and repeat. Click any photo to enlarge.

Lauren Boyle and Marco Roso, two of the folks behind DIS, were holding court at the party. When I got there, Marco was taking people’s pictures at the step-and-repeat, where two very tall people were standing around posing in white sneakers, athletic socks, and skintight white zentai suits. The zentai suits were covered in appropriated sponsor logos — Home Depot, FedEx, Vita Coco, Under Armour, K-Mart, the breast cancer ribbon, Apple, none of which had underwritten the event — and it took me a second to realize that these were, in fact, people wearing white jumpsuits, and not plaster mannequins stickered with logos. My friend Dana compared them to the smiley-faced figure on that show Community that results when Greendale tries to give itself a sexless, age-less, racially unmarked mascot.

Lauren was wearing a white tennis outfit — not the vintage-y, preppy kind, the athletic kind — and she came over to tell us to be sure not to miss M.C. Glass Popcorn. “He’s like 14,” she said. Or maybe she said 15, it was loud and I couldn’t quite tell. I also mis-heard his name as “The Last Popcorn” or possibly “Last Popcorn,” which is what my friends and I continued to call him until later, when we were leaving the party and saw it written on a sign. (From cursory Googling, “The Last Popcorn” is still available as a rapper name.) I should probably mention that I have written for DIS, been photographed for DIS, and know Lauren and Marco socially. We’re not like bosom buddies or anything, but they did come to a party at my place once, I think it may have been my birthday party because I have this memory of someone eating tiramisu in the kitchen, even though I live in Harlem and they each live in Brooklyn, I think. They stayed ’til well past when the express stops running, and I appreciated that.

My pretty crappy photo of Glass Popcorn and Spicee Cajun on stage.

In the museum courtyard, Glass Popcorn was standing on a parked black Cadillac Escalade, rapping about “my swag piece” and Ed Hardy. Then he climbed off the car — his real name is Will Neibergall, apparently, and he seems to be from Tempe, Arizona — and got on stage. There’s video of him doing the “Ed Hardy” song, I am not making this up. Glass Popcorn was very serious, in the way that teenagers can be when everything is new and important and must be carefully considered before it can be assimilated as an experience. Before anything is rote. He threw candy — Twizzlers, mostly — into the crowd but his expression never flickered from stern.

According to his Facebook, Glass Popcorn is inspired by Sandra Bullock, Sandy Bullock, Sandra bulock, bandra sullock, and the rapper Gucci Mane. DIS first mentioned him in one of two thoughtful posts about very young teenagers who’ve paid, Ark Music Factory-style, for professional-looking music videos. I guess having a music video is the new posing for family photos in front of the fake christmas tree backdrop at Sears. There’s a blankness, a suburban prefab sameness to those videos with their formulaic production and vaguely framed lyrics, but there is also a not-fake teenaged earnestness to them that I find strangely compelling. They fit in well with Trecartin’s work. I don’t think Glass Popcorn did that, paid for a video I mean, but all I could really find out about his music online was a couple blogs arguing about whether he should be properly considered “witchhouse,” “dubstep,” or possibly neither (CBS went for “Avant-garde hip-hopper”) and that a collaborator of Trecartin’s named Ryder Ripps wrote “Ed Hardy.” Ripps says that “the newest people (glasspopcorn) seem to consume culture in the most honest ways.” (Glass Popcorn and Glasspopcorn both appear to be acceptable variant spellings.)

A much better photo of the event, from Erez Avissar on DIS’s Facebook

At some point, two drag queens got up on the Escalade. One was wearing a purple see-through hooded dress I think I might have once seen Pamela Anderson wear at a Richie Rich show. Next to Glass Popcorn on stage was a mesmerizing back-up dancer whose name turned out to be Spicee Cajun. She was dressed in black lace tights, a black vest, and a black-and-white bikini in a heart print. She was working it. Spicee Cajun moved in ways and places that seemed physically implausible, and for that reason she was very impressive. Although it was well after sunset, Glass Popcorn dropped his hood to his shoulders and put on sunglasses. The price tag swung from the hinges. I got another glass of white and wrote “The Last Popcorn 14 15? Ed Hardy what is he wearing?” in my notebook. (Glass Popcorn was wearing a skintight silver suit that turned out to be Under Armour beneath a silver hoodie and shorts. He had fastened a large gold-tone watch over his sleeve.) Onstage, more Twizzlers, more dancing, more straight-faced rapping. Two female body-builders posed on platforms above the audience. Someone said that later, the world’s first high-definition boys’ band was going to play. They did, and there were fireworks afterwards, but I missed them because I thought they were fake, or just a recording, and by the time I realized they were actual fireworks they were over.

Trecartin’s show was laid out in seven rooms of the museum. Each had the recognizable elements of a room in a particular kind of (wealthy, spacious) suburban house: there was the bedroom, the living room, the dining room, the deck. But things were all wrong. The furniture was strangely featureless — I recognized a lot of things from Ikea — and purposefully generic. Cupboards had no handles, drawers had no pulls. Mirrors had been smashed, perhaps by the sledgehammer sitting there on that cinder block. What few personal effects were present were left in the wrong places, suggesting the people who lived in this house were going through some issues. I spent a while worrying about a purse I thought someone had accidentally left behind one of the living room couches before I realized it was, you know, part of it.

In each room, one of Trecartin’s video works played on a big screen: his videos are hyperkinetic and Internet-y, but in a strangely dated Windows ’98, too-many-dialog-boxes-opening-when-you-go-to-Lycos kind of way. In each work, kids wandered through off-kilter, parentless (mostly) domestic environments, making announcements (or parroting announcements back) to each other like, “I am starting not to trust the house,” and “I love redistributing myself to those who haven’t experienced me yet,” and “I can’t expect your age group to understand my personality.” (I wrote each of those down in my notes.) The audio is sped up and altered, giving the characters a Chipmunk unreality. In one film, two teenaged girls argue and throw BlackBerry phones into a swimming pool where an office chair already floats uneasily. One of the girls is painted silver, and there’s a boy there with red hair and eyebrows, like a bright red not like a ginger, and they call him a fag. Then three girls found a band, and spend a lot of time talking about their other friends and who can and cannot be in the band. (That reminded me of Standard 2, which I guess is kind of like the American 4th Grade, when I was briefly a founding member of a club dedicated to performing good deeds — I think our leader decided we would operate under the name the Good Club, rather straightforwardly — with the three girls at my primary who sometimes ate lunch with me so I didn’t have to eat alone. Until one day I was definitely not in the club anymore and moreover none of the girls was speaking to me, and I spent every lunchtime thereafter in the library where there was no reason to be lonely because when you are in a library it is acceptable to be alone. I earned three whole pizzas in Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! challenge that year.) Only these girls in the video are also plotting to kill their fathers in a bedroom with a cracked Ikea mirror and a pile of clothes on the floor.

DIS did this fun thing where they had the cast of Trecartin’s video The Re’Search pose for a parodic fashion spread about trends. Their caption reads, “When listening to the stereo, laughing with your friends, and sitting at the beach with the ragtop down just isn’t telling the world how incredible it is to be young, these message tees will send an added ‘Just so you know…'”

In the gallery (which used to be a public school; I presume the courtyard where Glass Popcorn performed was once a playground where kids his age went for their recess, assuming they were not hiding in the library) a group of flannel-pajama-clad performers wandered through the rooms, pausing to meditate. “Feel your breathing,” said the young woman leading the meditation. I wrote down, “strange generic language of yoga.” The cool thing about Trecartin (well, one of the cool things) is that you can watch his work online. (And the cool thing about the party was that it was open to anybody with $11, which is a steal considering the museum costs $10 to get into normally.) You can, for example, see all of The Re’Search, the film I was mainly talking about above, at DIS.

I spent a long time watching the videos. When I left, and started walking towards the Pulaski Bridge with a couple of friends, we noticed Spicee Cajun standing at a gas station on the corner, trying to hail a cab. Cabs kept on pulling over to get gas, and they’d ask her where she was going, and because cabbies never want to take you anywhere that’s not between, say, Canal St. and 59th St. in Manhattan (even though cabs are a licensed and regulated division of New York City’s mass-transit system and the privilege of a taxi medallion obligates any on-duty cab to take any paying passenger to any address within the five boroughs) every one of the gas-pumping cabbies pretended not to see her as soon as she said, “Brooklyn.” (About once a month or so when drunkenness or laziness or or lateness or feelings of unearned profligacy motivate me to take a cab I try to get in, close the door, and fasten the seatbelt before announcing the least-girly voice I can muster that we will be going all the way uptown and taking the FDR to get there. It’s when they want to know where you’re going before you’re in the car that it’s going to be a hassle.)

“You were great,” I called out to Spicee Cajun as we approached the intersection. She had on these enormous glasses with no lenses, and at close range, her nail game was impressive. She thanked us, and we started talking about the party. She said maybe she’d be able to hail a cab easier with us, I think the implication being because we were white. I asked her about Glass Popcorn. “He’s what, like, 17?” she said. “The whole time I was up there, I was like —” and here she put her arms up and began to remind us of her moves on stage “— I was thinking, ‘I’m going to jail. I’m going to jail.'” We all laughed. “I like his swagger,” she said, “but he’s so serious.” She also said to check out her YouTube channel, Spicee TV (“S-P-I-C-E-E”), which is a recommendation I whole-heartedly second, by the way.

I noticed this afternoon that Glass Popcorn Tweeted his thanks at Spicee Cajun the morning after the show. As of this writing, she has yet to Tweet him back, but I feel like she probably will.

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