Marchioness > Archive > Volume 1 > Eau d'Bedroom Culture
Words by Lara Delmage
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Eau d'Bedroom Culture

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Item Description: Lara Delmage delves into bedroom culture and why these sacred spaces are the ultimate creative work haven for women.

 

“How’re you doing?”

“I’m okay, not been sleeping well recently.”

“Have you been working in bed again?”

“Yes, but that’s not it - before you say.”

 

We’ve all had an exchange somewhat like this one at one time or the other. I remember the first time someone told me that bed-working stimulates something in your brain that causes you to associate your bed, a place of rest, with a place of work, triggering sleep loss. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a logical, science-y bone in my body and no I haven’t actually googled it (stubborn), and while I can see there being veracity to this — like a tiny dog in a turtleneck digging its paws into the pavement when it would rather be carried than walk — I persist. I persist in bed work.

 

Sometimes you wake up and you’re like: you know what, I’ve got a lot of shit to do and I don’t want to go anywhere, see anyone or even get dressed to do it. I find that with creative writing, doing it in the morning in bed allows me to come up with my weirder ideas without overthinking it at my desk. A desk is so serious, so clinical; a space that recalls faceless-cog-in-the-office-machine energy that isn’t always conducive to creativity. There’s something inherently creative about the space in which you sleep, make love, dream, have god-awful nightmares and seek refuge in when it's all been a bit much. I know that I am not the only one who thinks this. 

 

So let's talk working in bed, specifically, women working in bed. I’ve payed homage to the feminist punk icon extraordinaire Kathleen Hanna’s gorgeous Le Tigre track Eau d’Bedroom Dancing for the (seemingly random) title of this piece. I butchered the name of the song because it pays tribute to the creative freedom and euphoria one feels when dancing alone in your bedroom; ‘no one to criticise me then / No one to criticise.’ Listening to it made me feel as though the bedroom as a place of work, or play, is a space of unabridged self-expression. When you dance alone in your bedroom, you’re not thinking about how you may or may not look like an idiot - you can revel in your idiocy. This track also addresses the safety women feel when expressing themselves in their bedroom alone with no unwanted male attention — no horrible bastard grinding on you from behind. When you’re creating in your bed, yours is the loudest voice in the room; there’s no fear of being undermined, lessened or interrupted. 'There’s no fear when you’re in your room / It’s so clear you know just what you want to do / All day bedroom dancing.' Whilst being an outspoken, inspiring, take-no-shit-from-the-patriarchy intersectional feminist, Hanna also sought refuge in the solitude and safety of her bedroom. 

 

In her documentary, ‘The Punk Singer’ (2013), Hanna received equal amounts of hate as she did admiration for her activism. An onslought of death threats and hateful allegations ensued from the media, the price to pay as frontperson for Bikini Kill and instigator of the creative femme force that was Riot grrrl. From the fallout the toll took on her psychological and financial well-being (she famously left with only $400 to her name once Bikini Kill disbanded), Hanna turned to the solace of her bedroom as a welcome shelter from the misogynistic world, and it was from there that she created her first solo album; July Ruin. In Bikini Kill Hanna addressed all the asshole cis males who were fucking the world up - with July Ruin she spoke directly to other women, empowering them to join the battle against the patriarchy. Not only did Hanna leave Bikini Kill, but she also said goodbye to the punk community, entering the realm of low-fi, electronic music. This album was entirely written, performed and produced by Hanna in her bedroom. The raw, unadulterated, unfiltered aspects of both the lyrics and sound remind me of my own frustrated diary entries — the poems I’ve written but never shown anyone, dreams I’d only ever keep to myself. But Hanna didn’t keep her art to herself; she broadcasted her thoughts and feelings from her bedroom for the world to hear. Doing so was an act of activism against all those who have sought to silence women for so long, who have forced us to retreat to the safety of our bedrooms as the only place where we are truly free. Hanna turns this concept of the bedroom space as a site of escapism on its head by encouraging women everywhere to be unafraid to express themselves; the true, untainted selves who they are when they are alone dancing, singing, writing, creating, being in their bedroom. Hanna’s bedroom was the perfect stage for this change, echoed in the lyrics of her song 'sounds like there are human fingers all over it. It sounds like bedroom culture. It sounds like a record a girl made in her bedroom'.

 

The importance of bedroom culture to girlhood, womanhood and general personhood is something that is often ignored. Our bedrooms, beginning in childhood, are the centre of our universes. I, like many others, do not feel at home in a new space until I unleash all of my tat upon it, like some sort of identity tidal-wave. Even the decision not to define your space with prints, photographs, and weird cat figurines (guilty) speaks to something of your personality. Photographer Adrienne Salinger explores this through her work In My Room: Teenagers in Their Bedrooms (1995) wherein she captured teens in their bedrooms alongside interviews. Through this project she sought to dismantle the preconceived idea of teenagers as the one-note stars of sitcoms; uncomplex beings fuelled only by their hormone dictated desires. In her awareness of how the stereotype of the teenager has been constructed through an adult lens (probably also white, cismale one too), Salinger addressed her power as a maker, stating to i-D that as an artist depicting a subject, “you become the insider while they become the outsider, and create a way for your viewer to see them”. Through interviewing her subjects and inviting them to collaborate on the construction of the image, Salinger gives agency to her youthful subjects, something that they are not afforded until they are ‘of age’ and ready to be ‘taken seriously’ as real human beings. This is synonymous with capitalism, that people are only taken seriously when they have something to contribute to society - thus it is not until teens become working adults that they ‘have a say’, which, as we adults know, is a myth. What the pairing of interviews and photographs show is the way your preconceptions of the figure on the photograph are quickly dismantled. A person who looks like your quintessential ‘don’t care’ attitude skater boy is also very interested in femme culture. Someone who looks like your classic golden girl with her violin and trophies stacked behind her has a rebellious streak. What Salinger unearthed is that teenager’s bedrooms are unlike our adulthood bedrooms. Many teens have the same bedroom from when they’re young children to young adults, so all this life experience is condensed into one space, (note the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling or poorly chosen deep purple feature wall). Salinger states, “Teenagers have everything they own in their bedroom, past and present, and they’re changing identities all the time.” Teenager’s bedrooms carry all the markers of experimentation with different identities, a physical representation of the cultivation of a self. Salinger’s work shows the multidimensional nature of these young people, championing the notion that “These are people. The way teenagers are reduced to a one-liner is such an error in the way we look at things.”

 

Speaking of activism, one cannot discuss the role of the bedroom space and women artists’ work without an honourable mention to Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s (not a woman but allow) legendary ‘bed-ins’. And yes, I understand that John was not a women, but let's just let that go for the sake of this argument, as I feel most would agree that John seemed like a good lad. For those who don’t know, instead of jetting off to the Bahamas or whatever people do for their honeymoons, Yoko and Lennon invited the press to their bedroom to stage an open conversation about world peace, specifically targeting the Vietnam War. The media allegedly all but piddled themselves with excitement because they thought that the couple were going to “make love in public” which, according to reporters, wouldn’t have been unimaginable seeing as they got nakey for the cover of Two Virgins. I digress. So, from 9 in the morning till 9 in the evening each day, the couple chatted about all things peace, love and harmony. While John dismissed the importance of the bedroom space in spreading their message, saying that “We would sell our product, which we call ‘peace’. And to sell a product you need a gimmick, and the gimmick we thought was ‘bed’. And we thought ‘bed’ because the bed was the easiest way of doing it. After all, we’re lazy”. But we see you! We see the bed’s associations with unity, peacefulness, togetherness, vulnerability, humility. This may be a bit much but all human beings do need to sleep, so spreading their message and engaging in conversations about their activist agenda from a bed was perhaps the perfect stage for their performance; a middle ground. 

 

But back to women! One's bedroom can be a refuge from the perils of and pressures of school, work, university, of poor parenting and relationships, of feeling misunderstood or alone. Lost in a crowd of people trying desperately to fit in, no matter what age we are. Our bedrooms can also be a space of darkness, where our loneliness takes physical form, four walls closing in. Tracey Emin famously explored this in her very polarising installation ‘My Bed’ of 1998 as a response to the deep depression she has felt, unable to leave her bed, covered in a sea of cigarette butts and dirty tissues. People were (and still are) downright outraged that this woman had dared to present a soiled bed as art; lamenting that age-old criticism “Anybody could do that,” to which Emin rightly counters “Well, why didn’t they?” If Damien Hirst can put a bloody taxidermy shark in a tank and call it art, why can’t Emin submit her unmade bed? Emin’s piece is raw, personal, and endlessly relatable, whereas Hirst’s is very, how should I say… my shark is bigger than yours? If a man had done the same, would the reception have been different? Would it have been ground-breaking, a reflection of the human condition? One’s bedroom is not only a space of prospective productivity, a safe space where you can be free, but is also a space of unquenchable sadness and isolation; a space of acute unproductivity and fear. That Emin turned this space into art is inspiring, a statement to people everywhere that you are not alone, that many of us have had periods wherein we don’t get out of bed in the morning because what’s the point?

 

However, we’re talking about 90s bedrooms here. Gen X bedrooms are purportedly a different ballgame. In her article for AnOther, Claire Marie Healy laments the metamorphosis of girl’s bedrooms due to the rise of social media. She discloses that as young women are concentrating on curating their online persona, they are less interested in expressing themselves through plastering their wall top to bottom in The Cure posters, which is reflected in the stark bedroom of Euphoria’s fabulously flamboyant Jules. While I do agree that this does seem to be the case, I doubt that social media would discourage women putting their own personal stamp on their own space. Yeah, young people may be more concerned with ensuring that their grid is just right aesthetically. This is a public, not private space. It is hard to compare a bedroom to Instagram, because all that is posted is tempered with the knowledge that it will be viewed. A bedroom is only viewed and experienced by those who have the pleasure of being invited in. With this in mind, I have no fears for the decline in bedroom culture. If anything, social media may have strengthened bedroom culture, as now people don’t have to even leave their rooms to engage with the world; both inviting it in and shutting it out with a simple swipe. This is a whole other kettle of fish — having the world accessible at the click of a button. Infiltrating your private space can be detrimental to the privacy of the bedroom that makes it so special to the individual.

 

That all got a bit dark there, so do you know another woman who is really fucking cool and is a self-professed bed-worker? Claire Milbrath. Milbrath has been running the ironically named Editorial Magazine from her bedroom in Montreal for years. In an interview for Tissue Magazine, she said that “People imagine an editor going to photoshoots or doing studio visits, but I never leave my house to see anybody, I never do meetings or anything like that.” As well as being the big boss of a artsy mag, she's also an artist herself, and likewise prefers to paint in the comfort of her own room which she feels is like a microcosm of her brain: “dirty, cluttered, paintings drying against stack of magazines and boxes of clothes piled up to the ceiling.” Her artwork dwells in the realm of the home space, celebrating the beauty, as opposed to the banalty, of the everyday.

 

So, while Viv Albertine laments the money she spent on and time spent in her bed in To Throw Away Unopened, she also champions the magic of bedroom culture in the same breath. Discussing childhood fantasy and escapism she depicts ‘Whole worlds in beds, bed you never had to leave. I’d rather lie in my bed and stare at my wall than go to a party’. The whole world’s in beds. Let’s just savour that line for a second. Lest we not forget how the whole world isn't in a bed, that many don’t have the privilege to sleep comfortably, safely, privately. So, next time someone @’s you for working in bed, spending too much time in your room enjoying your own goddamn company, let ‘em know that some badass fucking women did so too, and slayed the game doing it.