Writer and photographer Jane “Pain” Chardiet is a staple in the punk/hardcore/noise scene that houses the likes of Sacred Bones Records, the Ascetic House collective, and Chardiet’s sister, Margaret, better known as Pharmakon. Chardiet profiles the best and most compelling bands in the genre, both through various media outlets like Noisey and Impose, as well as her own website, and has also long visually documented the scene through her film photography. The New York based artist also recently revealed some of her more conceptual work here in Los Angeles in a show called “Why I Use My Body.” Chardiet displayed a powerful collection of staged photos of women inflicting pain upon themselves using various objects, or in her words “A photo series that explores self-inflicted corporeal punishment as a response to trauma” at Mata Gallery.
Recently as fate or nickname would have it, Chardiet experienced some severe medical problems while on tour with Pharmakon, resulting in an invasive surgical procedure. Without health insurance, the artist’s bills became astronomical, and the scene has banded together to help Chardiet raise funds to pay them off. The Los Angeles Jane Pain fundraiser event is Saturday May 23rd at 605 E 4th St and features live performances by Pharmakon, Institute, The Holy Drug Couple, and Chardiet’s own band, Appetite, as well as a DJ set by Antwon. There will also be art work for sale from Emma Kohlmann, Alexis Gross, Sonya Sombreiul Cohen, Cali Dewitt, Nina Hartmann, and more.
I caught Chardiet for a brief interview before the event:
How did you get the name Jane Pain?
One of my best friends Molly used to playfully call me Jane Pain. I started DJing and needed a moniker and Jane Pain seemed so natural and fitting and was also the only nick name I ever had that I liked. I used it on a couple of flyers and it stuck to me like glue. Before I knew it more people knew me as Jane Pain than Plain Jane.
You are a writer and a photographer, and though you use the two mediums rather differently, you employ similar very personal approaches to both. How important is it to you to include parts of yourself in your work?
This is a hard one. I suppose I feel that everything I have to do must be deeply personal or it serves no purpose to myself or anyone else. What’s the point of doing anything if you are not putting yourself into it?
Do you think it’s easier to get subjects to be more vulnerable in words or in front of the camera?
The only fair way to ask someone else to be vulnerable is to make yourself vulnerable as well. My practices in writing and photography are pretty different but one thing that unites them is intimacy and trust. If you can establish that with a subject, no matter the medium, a mutual vulnerability tends to erupt. The more you show and share, the more your partner with show and share. Creative connections should be romantic bursts of mutual understanding. So neither is easier than the other, in my personal experience. Different means to an end. Always starts with obsession on my part though.
Is it easier for you to be more vulnerable in words or behind the camera?
I find it way easier to take photos than to write. I find it way easier to share my photos than to share my writing. I’m working on that.
How do you choose your subjects, both for interviews and photos?
For interviews, I have to be utterly possessed by my subject. I’ll pore over it for however long until the questions I have are like a pimple I’ve got to pop and then I ask for an interview.
With photography, I tend to capture a lot that says what I need to say just going about my business. When I’m working on a series I will approach friends who I think are perfect for the part or do a “cast call” on Facebook or Instagram. I’m not so interested with working with people I do not know personally when it comes to photography projects at this point. This is only because I see myself as a sort of casting director and the subjects I prefer to work with are personal. I need to know that I have common ground with a model in terms of content and intent.
What are your feelings about “selfies” in a greater cultural context?
Selfie culture in a broad sense is pretty boring but fascinating. I’ve wasted hours cruising weird hash tags in astonishment. Cheapest anthropological dig.
I take em them all the time. I share them sometimes. We all like attention, it’s empowering in this sort of pathetic but undeniable way. We’re all obsessed with ourselves. Just do your feed a favor and try to make it interesting.
Can you tell us about the benefit show at Jewel’s, and about the medical problems you dealt with recently?
It’s a pretty long story but made short: I was working a warehouse job that wasn’t right for me and I was in a bad place but kept the job for health insurance. My sister invited me to go on tour with her and I couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately a few weeks after losing my insurance I was hospitalized in Seattle and learned I needed emergency surgery and was across the country from my friends and family. I had to fly home for surgery. In that time a grapefruit sized cyst that was detected wrapped around some of my internal organs a few times cutting off oxygen and then burst. Bills piled and I was unable to work or lift anything over ten pounds for seven weeks.
I posted something about needing non physical based work (the only way I’ve ever earned income) after the ordeal and my friends sprang into action to support me and help me get through this. It’s been an incredibly humbling and incredible experience I can’t really put into words. I feel differently about the world now. I am still reeling at the support I’ve received. It’s unbelievable to me and I only hope I can help my friends in the way they have helped me when they need me.
You recently put together a body of work called “Why I Use My Body” which featured very visceral images of women “engaging in self-inflicted corporal punishment as a response to trauma.” What made you want to explore this particular idea?
I am working on a book of the same title with other performance artists about the use of body in performance in a musical setting. While trying to sort my ideas I felt that I had to process my own experiences and performances in a controlled setting. The series became an opportunity to collaborate with coconspirators. I never felt less alone. It meant the world to have women willing to participate. It allowed me to connect with friends on a level that is usually difficult to obtain in any organic way.
Do you feel any differently about your own body since your recent medical problems/surgery?
My relationship with my body has always been complicated. Since the surgery it’s worsened. I used to use my strength as my livelihood and now I’m doughy and weak. I’m taking medications that made me gain significant weight. I feel lethargic and not like myself. I don’t want to let it bother me, but of course it does. I also feel like my body has become a public figure. It doesn’t mean that I’m not appreciate of the help and love I’ve received, I just feel like the elephant in the room when I see someone I have not seen since the ordeal.
What’s coming up next for you in terms of work, and life?
I’m in a band called Appetite with my best friend of ten years. We’re working hard on new material and hoping to tour soon. My sister is bringing me to Europe. I have a photo show in Japan. I have a lot to look forward to. Hopefully I’ll get some good pictures along the way.