GENEVIEVE BELLEVEAU EXCLUSIVE – Navigating Tech Through Solitude in the Mobile Monastery

by JC Gonzo

Photo by Angelina Dreem

Photo by Angelina Dreem

Known as an internet guru, virtual goddess, and crust-monk, artist Genevieve Belleveau has earned many titles building an already prolific body of work. Considered a leading example of the New Aesthetic, an art movement that interrelates virtual and physical realities, Belleveau explores what it means to be human in the Information Age. She enacts practices not traditionally associated with cyberspace, often (but not solely) tied to Christian monasticism. Online or off, themes of divinity, ritual, connectivity, and spiritual revelation, run through her work. Past pieces like The Divine Online and The Church of georgeousTaps included social gatherings following a dramaturgical structure of the Lutheran church, offering java script as sacrament and practiced online trolling as altruism.

Recently, Belleveau shed her offerings of enlightened seminars and transcendent emoji-art for a cross-country journey known as the Mobile Monastery. The crowdsourced RV sanctuary, fondly named St. Anal Banana Blob, was fashioned for self-discovery with motives that fall somewhere between Kerouac and Walden. “I have been in a period of deep research into cenobites, hermits and monastic life and believe walking the walk can only aid in talking the talk,” she states, leaving behind her urban lifestyle and constant connectivity. We are left with occasional blog updates, lessened social media presence, and a cloud of wonder as to what the cyber-monk is up to.

Photo by Rebecca Smeyne for PAPER Mag, stained glass by Andy Kobilka.

Photo by Rebecca Smeyne for PAPER Mag, stained glass by Andy Kobilka.

These questions where conducted via e-mail.

Now that you’ve gone mobile and even uprooted from NYC for a while, do you feel that place (cities, countries) is tied to your personal identity? If so, is it inherent or a choice?

GB: Everyday I feel more acutely that the world is my home.  This fact was particularly apparent during my sojourn West when I broke down on the side of the road for 2.5 hours waiting for AAA to come with new tires.  I realized I COULD get upset and impatient but sitting in my RV I was in fact already home, there was nowhere to be but exactly where I was.  I left NYC the supposed “queen bee” of the Brooklyn art scene, whatever that means; and in part did not want to be in a place where my identity was so closely associated with a scene, zeitgeist, aesthetic or movement.  I now refer to myself as an RV Based Artist and could really be anywhere to do what I am currently doing which is the simple act of purely Being.

You’ve been cutting large qualities of web time out of your life and are much less present virtually than before. Do you believe there’s a way for the virtual to convene with the physical in a harmonious way?

GB: That’s good to hear that I am less present, actually.  It’s been more circumstantial than deliberate really.  My computer died within a week of me moving into the Monastery and I have had to cut back on certain social media sites purely because living without WiFi means eating up my phone data usage more quickly than I thought possible.  I absolutely think the virtual and physical can and must learn to co-habitate and will become increasingly entwined in the next 5 to 10 years.  My job, in incidentally being less present online, is to observe and examine my personal state of solitude and silence so that I may interact with new technology in a way that is completely authentic, integrous and accounts for a mindful navigation of the complex machinery of desire that is the modern dependence on machine.

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Photo by Miss Megan Trosclair

Where do you happen to be now and where have you been? How is your adorable cat Cuckoo handling the journey so far?

GB: I’m still in Altadena, a pleasant, green, spacious neighborhood North of Central Los Angeles.  It has been a distinct struggle for me to remain here as long as I have as I am always trying to remain sensitive to the next call to movement.  I have been feeling the pull to move to another neighborhood for the increased proximity to other people, social scenes and job opportunities, yet at the same time feel a deeper sense that I am meant to be just exactly here right now; still immersed in solitude and especially aware of the abundance of plant life and nature surrounding me in this foothill neighborhood.  I think the time to reintegrate into the colony has not yet arrived and the comforts of electricity, running water, a toilet and fenced parking space are meant to free certain concerns that I may focus my energy on other inquiries at this time.  Also the space I am currently parked on has a huge yard that Cuckoo can freely run around in all day to hearts content and seeing her have that freedom is of incredible importance to me.  She is a great traveling companion in that she seems to really enjoy the movement of the vehicle, but having her cooped up in the small RV space for days on end does not seem like a fair deal for such an adventurous little animal.  I try to consider Cuckoo’s needs in addition to my own when it comes to my location and freedom of movement.

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As an adopter of monk-like principles and practices, what has the significance of food the process of eating taken on during your journey?

GB: Great question.  When I was in New Orleans I had the pleasure of my propane stove being the only working appliance in the entire rig so cooking became a central part of my daily routine.  I was able to spend only $40 a week on groceries and ended up dumpster diving a lot of amazing produce towards the end of my stay.  I have never chosen to use food as a point of ascetic departure in this project.  Now my propane tank blew an o-ring and I haven’t had use of the propane in over a month and food takes on a different significance.  I am on food stamps now, out of financial necessity and the way I am eating is markedly less healthy, wholesome and loving to my body.  I am working with heat and fruit flies and a refrigerator I don’t want to plug in (for no good reason) and food is more than anything a sort of barometer for my mental state; how indulgent I am when I am feeling imbalanced (Ben & Jerry’s instead of whole grains or produce; a comfortable reminder of my previous life of late night bodega runs and NetFlix binges)  Lately I have been getting these amazing macro-biotic meals at this local health food store that accepts stamps for prepared foods and that has been another lovely perk sort of reminding me to be still in this place and enjoy gifts Altadena has yet to reveal.  In short, no, food has not been a super conscious part of my ascetic practice; I have never been one to diet or think to profoundly about food for fear that consciousness could become obsessive or unhealthily regimented. I think I will eventually find a stasis for my diet that is natural, wholesome and right for me at this time.

From Genevieve's Instagram, "gorgeousTaps"

From Genevieve’s Instagram, “gorgeousTaps.”

Has the nature of your work and/or process changed since you’ve moved into your mobile monastery?

GB: “My work” is a funny thing because it is generally formless and bears a closer resemblance to social sculpture and relational aesthetics than any physical or material based practice.  Because I have been in a relatively solitary state I have less of the social material I am accustomed to working with and have been creating more physically substantive works, such as the Illuminated Manuscripts paintings and a series of karaoke video meditations.  Having a surplus of free time and little external distractions has necessitated the creation of more material output; relics in the unfolding paradigm that is the merry little LARP I’m on.

Photo by Emma Kathan

Photo by Emma Kathan

Any details on the top-secret video shoot in Texas you can share?

GB: We didn’t do the shoot! Couldn’t find a ride so Angelina Dreem and I went with our friends in Blood Orange to Coachella instead.  That’s a whole OTHER trip, the strange economy of “cool” and industry of cross promotional branding I observed there. DESIRE DESIRE DESIRE!!!

Where would you like your mobile monastery to end up, or is it an open-ended journey?

GB: I think it’s an open ended journey; I have learned from past projects that the more I try to strictly control the outcome of anything the more expectation sets you up for total surprise.  I have made peace with surprise as a religious practice and believe there is a great mystery that knows better than I how it’s all supposed to shake down.  I will say that I’d love to see the RV itself occupy a gallery or event space eventually, possibly as a stationery structure where documents of the trip can be viewed or as a hub for community based explorations of meditation and outreach.  Until that gift is placed in my path I am just living in the old rig 🙂 Day by day has been the motto since this strange adventure began.

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You can keep up-to-date with the Mobile Monastery via tumblr.

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