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Goth Shakira

Around 2016, Goth Shakira invented the “long-form confessional meme”, a social-media-specific artform taking place adjacent to the personal-essay boom of the period and which ushered in a new internet era of word and image. Goth Shakira is, in her own words, an “ongoing digital performance”, a persona that understands the internet as a tool, a job, a forum, an artwork, a conversation, and a channelling medium. A unique reader of the sociology of the internet, Goth Shakira maintains the page in conjunction with her work as a digital director for clients in the realm of luxury fashion, music, fine art and technology. Here she speaks to TANK on the cusp of launching her own digital agency, Quantum Rave.

Interview by Nell Whittaker
Portrait courtesy Goth Shakira

NELL WHITTAKER I reached out to you after I read this, from critic Tom McCarthy: “it is funky architecture firms, digital media companies and brand consultancies that have assumed the mantle of the cultural avant-garde.” What do you think of that idea? 

GOTH SHAKIRA Corporate and brand-focused entities can be at the fringes of the space that we would call the avant-garde, simply because they have the capital to hire a creative team – but of course, the most groundbreaking art isn’t being made by brands. Having worked in fashion now for the better part of a decade, directly and indirectly, I have seen that ideas at that high level are always five to ten years behind the true avant-garde – independent artists and their respective communities. Corporate and brand-centric entities are really barometers of where we’re at as a society, as they have the most capital to execute a creative vision – however, they are conceptually and pragmatically restricted by investors, sales goals and brand guidelines, that seem at the surface level to be the antithesis to art-making. But that’s why I find “high fashion”, whatever that means, interesting to work within and with as a medium, because it is inherently restrictive and contradictory in an almost vulgar sense. It therefore presents a certain kind of creative challenge.

NW What are your thoughts on the idea that, to continue in McCarthy’s words, digital agencies “seem to be performing writers’ essential task of working through the fragmentations of old orders of experience and representation, and coming up with radical new forms to chart and manage new, emergent ones”? 

GS Since at least 2019 – emphasis on the “at least” – we’ve been experiencing a kind of “hyperspacetime”, wherein the density of information generated and transmitted through the internet itself accelerates trend cycles, which resort to self-cannibalism to sustain their need for fresh content. Brands may try to build off their own legacy or the history of the house to capitalise on the widespread desire for nostalgia, but that has an expiry date. Mental health professionals tell us that, understandably, people are only now processing what happened during the pandemic. We’re in a very strange place, and brands are echoing a lot of this back to us in the form of presenting marketing and sales tactics through the lens of concurrent nostalgias – so now, our consumptive habits are inextricably tied to our collective traumas being sold back to us in the form of life before Covid. It recalls the 1950sera Sawyer’s Viewmasters and the reels sold in tourist shops across America that allowed travellers to revisit the places they had been in analogue 3D. I see all of this as a precursor to a total breakdown in how we live and act creatively and artistically. I know that’s a bold statement, but it’s one that Pluto’s transition into Aquarius requires – an astrological harbinger of massive upheavals in power structures, technology and humanitarian crises. We’ve reached a fever-pitch vibration of so much nostalgia versus so much nihilism versus the looming and impossible future of genocide, climate change, AI singularity and more. This is the last stop of a late capitalist train before something, or some things, transform drastically. I feel and see it happening already. The revolution, I fear, or I hope, will not be one apocalyptic event – it will be, and is, agonisingly gradual. We can see these possibilities now in something as trite, or as momentous, as street style – the shiny neo-Y2K cyber revival of the mid-to-late 2010s has made way for recession dressing and “Dunecore”, with less logomania, clothes that look purposely worn-in, distressed or dirty, thrifting as virtue-signalling. Aesthetics and values coalesce here. Human beings continually curate and adorn our avatars in ways that are consistent with performance, and we alter these avatars in a way that’s consistent with the messages that we’re receiving and generating.


Wielded in a certain way, social media can be used as a tool to accept the inherent imperfection of the present moment through which we find its divine perfection, over and over again


NW Those forms of knowledge are often held to a binary in which the spiritual is organic and the commercial is artificial, but there’s crossover. There’s certainly a witchiness to trend forecasting. 

GS Absolutely. I use astrology when making digital forecasting predictions. I draw up my clients’ natal charts and the charts of their companies, and look at the aspects of their charts relating to technology, communication, and commerce to craft a bespoke digital strategy for them. I use elective astrology to determine auspicious launch dates. I use astrology when making investment decisions, much like how cryptoastrologers – another pandemic phenomenon – analyse the birth charts of companies and currencies to determine when to invest or divest. Fashion, at least after the 1920s, was and has been historically feminised, so there has been more leeway for ways of knowing that have been conceptualised as “feminine”; i.e., not involving the hard sciences. As an artistic medium, there is not just room for feeling, emotion and impulsivity, the practice necessitates it. That allows for a greater permissiveness within fashion. Trend forecasting, however, has been interesting because I find myself in rooms with mostly men. For futurologists, there’s a scientific interest in data collection – consumer data, market analytics, social media analytics – yet data-driven analyses and “pseudo-scientific” analyses are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Both mathematics and astrology were invented by the Sumerians, and we owe many mathematical and hard scientific innovations to the Muslim world – that is, belief in a governing spiritual force and acknowledgement of the hard sciences have been historically inseparable. The divorce of reason from intuition is a relatively post-postmodern invention.

NW Tell me about Quantum Rave. 

GS Quantum Rave has been about ten years in the making. It’s three-dimensional-world description is that it’s a digital consultancy and strategy agency-studio hybrid, but it’s also a digital sequencing sanctuary based on the premise of constructing avatars. I view my work as world-building and storytelling, whether that’s for a company, an individual, or an idea or way of being. I approach it as channelling. I’ll conjure the natal chart of a client and look at the 11th house, which is an Aquarian house ruling technology and community, and therefore social media. I’ll look to where Uranus is, the planet of futures and innovation, and then I’ll look to the client’s first house to see what their natural day-to-day expression might feel like. I then synthesise all of these elements into a bespoke digital strategy that involves a modality of expression that feels most authentic – even knowing that the pursuit of authenticity is inherently inauthentic. This is a form of digital sequencing. There is so much discourse around the ills of social media, from mental illness to the decline of the integrity of artistry to actual physical deformities from lifetimes spent hunched over screens. I’m so grateful that these conversations exist, because I agree deeply with most of them. They’re the reason I constantly seek time spent in nature far away from any sort of reliable WiFi connection, and why I pursue rigorous practices of presence, such as analogue documentation and transcendental meditation, with the gravitas and discipline of a warrior preparing for unrest. Yet, social media is infrastructure. It presents itself as a necessary evil, in the sense that image-making and worldbuilding ultimately lead to revenue and profit streams. However, I also conceive of this world-building, storytelling and avatar channelling as an artistic medium that can have positive emotional outcomes – a sense of finally being able to project an image of oneself that feels in alignment with how an individual may want to see themselves. Identity-forging is an ancient human pastime, and this is one contemporary iteration, however imperfect. There’s such pressure to have a cohesive narrative and perfect creative direction for one’s online identity, in which your visuals are perfect and your text presents a point of view that radicalises but doesn’t alienate. But the only way to find solace in your relationship with your digital avatar is to embrace the perpetual incompletion of the process of experimentation. It’s very Buddhist, in a way – a cultivation of comfort from the discomfort of being forever unfinished. The archive is iterations, is all. Performing impermanence through the ephemeral medium of social media is, I believe, a spiritually beneficial exercise. Wielded in a certain way, social media can be used as a tool to accept the inherent imperfection of the present moment through which we find its divine perfection, over and over again.

NW How does it sit alongside your own social media, the “digital performance” of Goth Shakira? Has your relationship with that been troubled at times, or is it has it always been boundaried? 

GS When I started, it was an exposure therapy for myself around perfectionism. I had a deep-seated desire to engage with radical incompletion, because the circumstances of my life – eldest immigrant daughter, Saturn-ruled – had never allowed that. Now, the better part of a decade later, I continue to achieve what I initially sought to do, though the performance known as Goth Shakira has transformed itself over and over through commitment to the practice of constant experimentation. The experience of process and discovery is the most fulfilling and gratifying of all. There is no endgame, and how liberating that feels. Understandably, in a culture of voyeurism and surveillance, we can be very frightened of the implications of our “digital footprints” – a heartbreaking wariness around the expression of the basic human desire for connection. How did it come to this? The questions that I ask myself around the ethics of engaging with this medium and making it my livelihood always boil down to what extent is it safe, or unsafe, for us to express what we desire? This is why I believe that the future of social media is in forums, blogs and smaller communities that don’t necessitate such a monstrously inhuman performance of person-as-portfolio. When I first started this project, I knew that who I was expressing myself as online was certainly not who I was going to be in five to ten years – how could it be? To require that of myself, or of anyone else, would demonstrate a cruel and inhuman lack of compassion. I am at peace with the many different versions of myself that are available online, and that peace has been hard-won. There is a tremendous amount of power in taking responsibility for all the steps that were required to form the person you have become, and to openly acknowledge that what you are now is not in any way, and will never be, finished.

NW So to refuse what psychologists might call psychic integration, the incorporation of previous selves, is to maintain a form of psychotic attachment to the present moment. 

GS I have so much Aquarian compassion in my heart for the technological stress of performance that we put ourselves through. It’s so absurd, and even threatening, that we have incarnated at a time where many pathways to material, emotional, and social survival require us to translate ourselves through an uncanny medium whose implications for our long-term wellbeing we are only starting to understand. It can be healthy to witness and name divides between who we are online and who we are “in person”, a phrase that in and of itself has become nebulous and contentious, because are we not also people online? At the same time, I consider the work that I do with my clients to be a form of psychic integration. Can we make the process and experience of existing online a little less alienating? It’s an exponential function approaching infinity, but never intercepting an axis. We can find peace in accepting that we’ll never arrive. ◉