Last night I went to see Tavi Gevinson deliver a keynote as part of The Melbourne Writer’s Festival. I know, right? How lucky am I?! I took my friend Kirsty and jumped the long queue that snaked down Swanston Street and around the corner to The Athenaeum. I know that seems rude, but Michelle Mackintosh urged me on (she was already IN the queue) and I always value her opinion, so jump I did.
The place was packed. We all swarmed in the door (waving at Carly from Smaggle, surging past Jo from Frankie, thumbs-upping Carly and hello-ing to Lorelei from Women of Letters) up the stairs and into our seats on the very TIP TOP level. It was quite woozy up there. VERY high and I felt for the people in the first row of this level. It was entirely possible that gravity might pluck the from their seats and send them plummeting down on to the Tavi fans below. Still. I adjusted and got used to the view, remembering to look out and not look down.
And then it all started. I had seen Tavi on The Project the night before, so I was completely aware of how composed, thoughtful, smart and cute she is… Still that did not prepare me for JUST HOW REALLY composed, thoughtful, smart and cute she is. At this point, most people feel compelled to mention her age (17). I DO think age is important because it obviously defines a HUGE part of what Tavi has shown us about herself. But really, this is about a lot more than age. This is about just being a really insightful, hard-working, interested-in-the-universe person.
I don’t want to make light of the whole teenage experience in any way. A lot of people tend to dismiss the things teenagers say and think and that’s a grave mistake. I think just listen to the person and see what they’ve got to impart. So let’s not refer to that whole age chestnut, for now.
Here are the things I most loved about last night:
Tavi talking about how being derivative is a big part of her world. This makes complete sense because of THE INTERNET. How can we not reference others? They are swirling all about us. She thinks it’s not only inevitable but a great way to pay homage to our heroes, especially if we do it in ways that are unique to us. Which we do. So that’s that.
Tavi thinks it’s okay to be a bit of a dorky, excited fan-girl. Even if it involves One Direction or Taylor Swift. Just own it. Fangirl on. Love what you love.
Tavi likes to watch New Girl and The Mindy Project. Also The Virgin Suicides, Ghost World and The Royal Tenenbaums. And she really likes David Attenborough.
Tavi mentioned this TED talk about being creatively paralysed because you idealise your heroes and super critique yourself. She wants you to try to do stuff anyway.
She showed lots of great journal pages featuring song lyrics and lists and things. I really loved these for a whole bunch of reasons:
+ They seemed like they were cracking a personal code.
+ They featured all kinds of patterns (wordy, experiential and visual) only their writer/drawer could document.
+ They were, in some cool way, a kind of handwritten version of how the internet works. i.e. This sign reminds me of this song which reminds me of this place which reminds me of this person which reminds me of this other song. If we choose to see them, there are threads that link everything in our lives together, even the things that don’t seem alike to the outsider.
+ The very act of writing all that cool stuff down not only documents a time in your life, but also rewires the way you think and hacks your brain into all kinds of new creative thought patterns. #winning
She talked about a few books and writers who influenced her or fitted into the keynote:
Mr Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder by Laurence Weschler
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
And a bit about how great her Dad is and how she fits stuff in by prioritising the things that are important and stepping out of the things that are not.
She listens to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours a lot.
She talked about critics/criticism and how she deals with it. Her advice is to ignore. And that it’s often more about the critic than their target (especially referring to older fashion types who thought she did not deserve her seat at various fashion week events.)
She chatted about how she preferred blogging and spending hours on Style.com to sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week. And that she’s kind of moved on from all that anyway. And that it’s okay when things shift.
She talked about feeling inauthentic by trying to be authentic.
And about how the art/things we need to find will find us at the right time. (SO FREAKING TRUE!)
She spoke about break-up and how sad it is. And about being diagnosed with depression. And also about how she keeps ‘special’ moments to herself, but shares important parts of her life online (in a general, non-detailed way) if she thinks the shared experience will be of value to someone.
And she talked a little bit about going shopping in Melbourne (hello Alpha60 and Kinki Gerlinki!) and hanging out with friends. And taking the Rookie show on the road from New York to LA (with this magic mountain bonus!)
And that’s all I can remember and have processed so far! Phew. So great. So glad I went! Tavi’s got all kinds of good things to say and she’s super professional and nice when people ask her dumb questions too.
After Tavi we went to Victoria Mason and Emily Green’s exhibition ‘Safety In Numbers’. It’s super great. You should TOTALLY GO!
THEN I walked home and Ari and Cam made me some toast and tea. And some chicken tikka and rice. How blinking nice. Ari and I watched videos of deep sea creatures and mermaids on YouTube after that. It was really fun. The mermaids are so crazy. They are totally NOT mermaids, I repeat, NOT MERMAIDS. The deep sea creatures on the other hand are amazing:
Did you go? Can you add any extra things you got out of this in the comments?! Are you a Tavi fan? Tell me about that too!