Aim Ren Beland
by The Bathtub Project
Date of Interview: October 10th, 2017
Name: Aim Ren Beland
Location: Chicago, IL
If you were an underwater creature, which would you be?
Any underwater creature? I’d be those little crabs that have no eyes that live next to the ventilation ducts in the ocean, the little white ones, you know, that feed off the weird phytoplankton. Maybe that one. They’ve adapted to live so uniquely to their environment, and they are so a part of their environment that if you remove them from that context, they literally cease to exist. And not just in that it kills them kind of way like a fish out of water, like a very literal– they can’t live in any other water or in any other space. It’s a very unique situation. I like that [laughter].
How often do you bathe or shower?
I shower twice a day, once in the morning to wash, once in the evening to rinse off from the day, and then in the winter, I bathe more because it’s like a warm comfort, a fetal womb kind of feeling, but otherwise I don’t bathe [laughter]. The wash-off and rinse-off is my way to decompress. I have a lot of anxiety, and I like to find little tactics to manage it that aren’t destructive to other people or myself. So I shower at the end of the day. You usually shower alone, so it’s your own space. You can’t do anything else besides just be in the water, so you have to tune into your head and your body, and then you have the good sensation of getting clean so that when you go to your bed or wherever you go to next, you’re really coming there fresh and revived.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the arts and whose voice gets represented in the arts. I’m from up north, and there’s a lot of focus about the environment and the arts there, but the arts community there is predominantly white, middle-class, and straight. I intentionally moved away from that community to Chicago because I felt there were no voices but the stated prior being represented in the kind of art I was seeing around me. So I came here to experience more narratives and grow and see the world through lenses of other people and hope it helps me and my work mature. To find missing pieces of my voice in others. I’m mostly a visual artist, so a lot of stuff I do is drawing or print. I’m really involved right now in the comic scene, so a lot of zines, and I love zines because they’re accessible. They’re usually extremely inexpensive to produce and buy. Almost anyone of any class, creed, whatever can partake in zine making, buying, sharing, so I find that’s a good way to get art into the masses and to spread various messages of not only the current things that are taking place in the world but also the human experience.
What is one of your main thoughts or memories when it comes to human experience?
Things that stand out in my mind about the human experience… I’m still young enough that my childhood plays a large role in my perception of the human experience, so a lot of it is the different things like nature versus nurture that impact you as a person, whether from your parents or the community you grew up in, or the academia that you become a part of– so that’s a significant role. Going into the larger role as an adult and taking on other narratives, I am always more conscious of the ways that the universities and the other infrastructure around us impact other people’s narrative, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
How do you think you impact your community’s narrative? If you do.
Yeah. I think everyone does, whether they intend to or not. And right now, I am still coming into this particular community, which is Chicago– queer Chicago, as relatively an outsider. I’m still kind of a newcomer. I’m queer, but I’m definitely not from Chicago. I don’t know the infrastructures as well as other people, so right now, I’m kind of taking a step back and trying to listen to other voices, especially those that came here before me who understand the infrastructures at hand. And most of my work right now is purely introspective because I feel like I can speak on myself. But as I become more part of the community, I feel more comfortable taking in the various narratives I’ve heard, and with the guide and consent of those voices– putting that back out into the community.
What does the word community mean to you?
Community, to me, means a large group of people working together for a common cause. And as a queer person living in Chicago, those roles are mostly– just having the rights to various infrastructures [laughter]. Just having rights to infrastructures with the acknowledgment of the various privileges we all hold, I am white and I am from a predominantly upper-middle-class background, so I’m aware of those privileges. And using those privileges for good, and not just feeling guilt because guilt doesn’t make change. So using the privileges I do have to foster the voices that are otherwise not heard or not seen. You know what I mean? Just taking it in and listening, and when you mess up, apologize.
What are our thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, and familial, and do they overlap?
Yeah, tying back into my thoughts on community, I feel like community is built through those relationships, whether it be sexual, platonic, familial, I feel like the backbone of a community is good relationships of varying scales. And my current social circle, I try and build that sort of effect. I have this large circle of friends, lovers, roommates, coworkers, collaborators, and they all sit in this very misty area where they kind of switch roles in my life, from one to the other. But the people never disappear. Do you know what I mean? Other than an event of moving or some other grand thing, the people stay in my life no matter what space they’re occupying, and I like to manifest conversations and communities that help build those bonds instead of tearing them down because they don’t fit whatever need it is at the time.
What are you looking forward to?
What I’m looking forward to– it’s a mix of apprehension. So I’m young. I’m 26. The future is so way ahead of me. The world is a really scary place right now, so that means a lot of changes happening very quickly and it’s really easy to feel powerless. But at the same time, I feel very fortunate to be in a city like Chicago because the communities that do exist know their power and they know their worth, and they know what actions they have to take to see what kind of change they want to happen, and it’s not just talk it’s actual action. So that makes me super excited, and I feel super fortunate to be a part of that community in an artistic sense, and welcomed into it, and to be able to take a part in it.