This is the first part of a multi-volume post on the constance past and mixtape series.
There was a special moment [one of many in a storied history] in the arts and music scene in New Orleans that somehow succinctly connected with and corresponded to the positive online energy of the tumblr era. Concurrently, a time in which the city had been in the media for some years from Katrina, dealing with its recovery/non-recovery, a renewed DIY energy built throughout communities around the arts biennial Prospect, as well as the Saints Superbowl win and the inevitable morale it had provided for all of us.
A channeled well-spring of collective forces seemed to have found one another in this frenzied moment that gave a ‘rebirth’ to fresh ideas, in attempts to re-imagine, and somehow look at New Orleans in another light—and the inexplicable feeling of arrival on the global stage. While it may have been faux-grandeur that much of the city felt, it nonetheless drove a united psyche that seems a bit unimaginable in this current climate.
In the year of 2011, the second edition of constance, an arts and literary publication that I collaborated on with Patrick Strange, had been out a few years previous. The publication opened many avenues into working with and documenting the cultural arts of the city, leading to the relaunch of my personal portfolio site, and alongside it, a tumblr-run arts blog that showcased the happenings of this re-burgeoning art scene. The sharing of information and collective energy demanded a more instantaneous approach, rather than the long-process of creating an archival document, such as the journal. With the creation of the blog came other interventions in ‘post-publishing’—a term that I was unaware of the time—that actively supported and book-ended much of what constance was to become.
And while I wanted to share this newly created blog with our readership through a monthly emailer, an odd feeling crept in, followed by many questions. ‘Should I expect people to simply read some sort of newsletter about random monthly going-ons at our nebulous studio, without a ‘thank you for taking the time to do so’?’ / ‘I don’t care so much for newsletters, so why should someone else care?’ It all felt like advertising a ‘please look at me’ moment.
This feeling of guilt led me to believe some sort of reward should be made available to those who lost a few minutes of their life reading about constance. To my surprise, many friends in the arts and music community felt it made sense to share one another’s momentum, by offering their time and energy to creating a soundtrack to capture this particular moment.
Initially with the help of close friend, Joey Buttons, we were able to begin a monthly calendar that invited friends, djs, artists, musicians, and characters in the city—all to contribute the thing that was driving them musically. It wasn’t meant to be a ‘finger on the pulse’, but rather an honest and natural bedroom mixtape sort of thing that brought a unique perspective and particular rawness. With it came a quick cover art creation that seems now more of this tumblr-era than anything capital D design. Many of the images were hastily thrown together, often with archival or found imagery, hand-written quickly, all in attempts to create something that was unique to the efforts of the contributor.
Below are the first 6 of the series, of nearly 50 total, that were made with deep love in mind.
However, after many consecutive months of mixes, the series eventually lost steam around the same time that tumblr had become a ghost town in 2015. The lasting effects of New Orleans post-disaster capitalism loomed large, the energy of the local arts scene went through its own fits and starts, and the Saints weren’t making it past the playoffs.
Despite all this, the efforts in the creation of the arts/literary journal, the arts blog, and the mixtape series were all made possible with the selfless aid of friends and colleagues who believed in this amorphous zeitgeist. I am forever grateful to have been a part of it all.
Simultaneously, an arrival in a mental shift from the focus with online/agency work that I desperately needed to stay afloat, towards the more precarious nature of the print/cultural sector in small city, was the only thing that made sense at that moment. The pseudo-philosophy that I had constructed for myself at that time, was to keep life as unstable as possible, allowing for chaotic new ways of thinking and outcomes. Ultimately, it provided me the richest opportunities in artist collaborations—and more than anything, it was being in the right place, at the right time, and on the right wavelength, however financially underwhelming and destabilizing life had become.