Two years ago our Creative Director, Darya Kosilova, interviewed artist James Gallagher for Issue 06 of The Lab Magazine. (Read past feature here.) Since then, the talented and unpredictable Mr. Gallagher has expanded into the world of publishing with the launch of his new magazine, Secret Behavior. Recently James and Darya, accompanied by photographer Evan Browning, reunited in his Brooklyn studio to discuss his unique new publication and, as per usual, some naughty secret behavior from the artist, himself.
DARYA KOSILOVA—It’s been nearly two years since you were last featured in The Lab. In that time you managed to release your own magazine. When did that happen?
JAMES GALLAGHER—Well I’ve been fantasizing about it for a while but never had the time. So, when I lost my corporate day job, in June of this year, I put a chunk of the severance towards starting the magazine. Within days I had found an editor, applied for an LLC and completed a trademark search. It happened pretty much immediately. Which is a good thing, because if I had spent much time researching the nitty-gritty of launching a magazine, I would have found plenty of logical reasons not to go through with it. Plus, I committed to the New York Art Book Fair at PS1 right away, which forced me to put an aggressive schedule together. That’s really why it happened. If there’s a deadline I will get it done.
DK—So what is it about?
JG—It’s a curation project for me essentially. It’s a physical continuation of my Tumblr. That seemed like a logical next step… to take the art I was posting on my blog, which is pretty intimate and sexual, and get a bit more in-depth and personal with it. I like to say that Secret Behavior is a contemporary art publication that is focused on the human condition. Each issue will be based on some sort of theme and the writing will have a personal quality to it. I didn’t want to do another art magazine that was full of intellectual insider artists’ speak. I just wanted it to feel a certain way. I wanted it to be intimate.
DK—When I got a hold of a copy at your launch party, afterwards I sat down and read it from cover to cover. I’ve got to say, it’s really ballsy man! It’s super out there! It’s interesting how it’s being picked up by all these mainstream curators, such as MoMA PS1.
JG—That’s because they haven’t read it yet!
DK—What kind of response have you been getting now that it’s popping up in all these public places?
JG—I noticed at the launch and the book fair that people either connect with it or are really uncomfortable with it. Either way the reactions are pretty extreme. But the people who like it are genuinely excited by it and let me know how refreshing it is to see something so genuine and personal. None of this really surprises me since I was looking to create something with a very narrow point of view. There are so many people doing magazines right now, which I think is great, and I myself am getting swept up in this print revival movement, but not too many of them feel unique. I am still trying to find the right voice and tone and I’m going to have to fine tune it a bit. It’s so early on; I’ll be interested in hearing more from people. I feel comfortable about what I’m doing but I do want to make sure that it’s not too “ballsy.” There’s a fine line between being ballsy and too ballsy.
DK—The story that really impressed me was the piece by Gabriel Martinez where he asked anonymous heterosexual men, found through an ad on Craigslist, to take pictures of their feet during an orgasm. And you went on to feature not just the photographs but also the replies to the ad by all these men. How do you go about your selection process for the magazine? Did people submit projects or did you already have an idea of who and what you wanted to feature?
JG—I had a list. I’ve already put together a list for the first six issues. I have a whole bunch of themes and people I want to talk to and my editor, Keith Newton, will be bringing in new writers too. Gabriel Martinez caught my eye a couple years ago when he showed the heterosexual men series in Boston. I thought it was really interesting and when I contacted him he turned out to be the most amazing guy. He took the bus down from Philly to the opening night launch of the magazine. We became friends instantly. He’s exploring this dark side of the gay anonymous sex scene in Philly. I thought it was really great that he was able to do it and he spoke about it so well. He gave me the Craigslist post and all the replies. I wanted to feature them as they were.
DK—Do you think the anonymous subjects are aware that their posts have been published in your magazine?
JG—No, I don’t think so. I removed the names, even though they were most likely made up to begin with. All of these people had their feet portraits shown in a public gallery. I think anyone who was uncomfortable with the situation has been weeded out. I was really thorough with clearing things and contacting everybody. I’m a first-time publisher so I made sure everyone was happy with what I presented.
DK—So why the theme of anonymity for this first issue?
JG—Anonymity is one of the biggest themes in my own work. I think it’s fascinating; especially how it ties in with us today with the Internet. The whole sex thing, and the message boards, people can interact so easily in an anonymous way. But! At the same time nobody’s really anonymous anymore. It’s an interesting concept for me and my work explores it very heavily. A lot of the work that I like has hints of anonymity to it. The next theme is family. I want to stagger the themes that seem more provocative. Coming up will be an exhibitionist theme, a muse theme and one about personal space.
DK—Recently a friend of mine discovered that her roommate, this young girl, wrote an online article about catfishing – she’d been taking on complex alternate personalities, both male and female, and then going to online chat forums and “fishing” for people to have intimate cyber relationships with. In the article, this girl described the traits her online personalities had in detail. And the one that I found most disturbing was that she posed as an adult male with a fetish for anorexia then went on to a children’s forum and began a relationship with a young girl who suffered from anorexia. Isn’t that just the most twisted and disturbing thing you’ve ever heard?
JG—You know, I think I reveal too much for The Lab Magazine, but when I was younger I had these “lost” three years of my life where I was trying to figure out my sexuality and I was in between relationships. I had an intense experience with someone who was not who I thought they were. I found out after months of very intimate, read: dirty, phone conversations where I innocently revealed every personal detail about myself to them, that who I thought was a woman turned out to be a man. I’ll never forget when she dropped her voice several octaves one day in mid sentence. I flipped. It was such a bizarre and scary, yet exciting, experience for me. This is really the first time I’m talking about it in relation to my work. I guess it marked the beginning of my interest in all things secretive. I really hope my parents don’t read this!
DK—So do you still keep in touch with this guy?
JG—No. This happened a long time ago, even before the Internet. Imagine what can happen now!
DK—For the people who want to find Secret Behavior, where can they buy it?
JG—Well right now it’s the first magazine you see when you walk into the MoMA PS1 book store!
DK—Are you bragging?
JG—Yep! But really, you can find it at places like The Strand, Dashwood Books, McNally Jackson, Printed Matter and The New Museum in NYC. Plus quite a few places in LA and the UK too.
DK—Anything else you would like to say about the magazine?
JG—Can I just use a little quote from Darya at The Lab Magazine? “I read it from cover to cover… and it’s really ballsy!”