Tea and Apathy

Devan Diaz on Martine Gutierrez’s “Apathy”

Martine Gutierrez, Apathy, 2018, digital video still.

SHE APPEARED IN MY LIFE at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Thirty-Seventh Street, the star of a billboard advertising “Martine Jeans.” The seductive arch of her back evoked a nude—but she was completely covered. I wanted that mien for myself.

A quick Google search revealed that the jeans did not exist—the image was the product. Overlooking Manhattan’s Garment District, the artist—also the model, photographer, and stylist—used signifiers of fashion ads to confront the public with fine art. Two weeks later, I saw her again. This time it was a portrait by Inez and Vinoodh in Candy. My eyes focused on the name printed in the corner: Martine Gutierrez. Opening Instagram, I DM’d her to ask if she would be my friend. It worked.

Two years later, I’m in her Brooklyn living room–turned-studio as she does my make-up. She ignores calls from her gallery as she studies my face in her hands. She’s fresh off the successful debut of Indigenous Woman, a self-produced magazine in which all Martine’s versions of herself exist: 124 pages of editorials, beauty campaigns, interviews, and a letter from the editor—all starring Martine and a troupe of dapper mannequins. Now she’s stepped into the role of director as she prepares me for the music video to her song “Apathy.” She declares me an actress for the day, and I believe her.

When Martine began the video project three years ago, she didn’t know what it would be. She wanted to appear glamorous and rich, things she was not (yet). Shooting in Brooklyn, Tulum, Oakland, and Miami, Martine constructed a place of impossible beauty, a place only apprehended by her images. While applying lipstick to my mouth, she says that this location is more idyll than reality, but then quickly takes it back. Everything in the video is as she sees it. Martine views the video from the inside, watching over girls in a haven that exists only inside the song. They are all dressed as her, but with the freedom to be themselves.

We watch the girls crowding around bodies of water, nourishing one another. Grief and loss do not touch them, though the lyrics suggest otherwise. That burden is carried by the woman who watches over them. Martine and I both played this watcher-woman, my face painted to resemble hers. As I now see this video of myself alongside the other women, it is clear that there is no distance between the fantasy and our real-life personas. Martine uncovered this for us. As the video fades to black, we are left with the image of the girls still playing in the water. Somewhere, it all still exists.