A Conversation With Alice Sparkly Kat
Fandom as submission, trying to unstan, and the relationship between our values and pleasure.
Guilty Pleasures is a monthly interview series, featuring a conversation with one artist about their so-called guilty pleasure.
For this month’s Guilty Pleasure interview, I spoke with Alice Sparkly Kat. Alice Sparkly Kat is an astrologer. Their goal is to bring reconstruction and historicism back into astrology and to bring mysticism back into storytelling. Their astrological work has inhabited MoMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Brooklyn Museum. They're the author of Postcolonial Astrology. Their website is alicesparklykat.com.
Janet S. Frishberg: So I want to hear about this April obsession that you mentioned.
Alice Sparkly Kat: Okay, so I got into BTS before the pandemic, through erotic fanfiction that I became completely obsessed with. Then recently, Min Yoongi’s been going on his solo tour, and you had to be an official ARMY member to even be in the running to get the code for maybe being able to buy a ticket.
I didn't get the code, but a friend of a friend did. I ended up paying like a whole month’s rent to see Min Yoongi live. I got up at 6:00 AM and went to the venue, and there were people camped out with tents. Apparently the cops were coming to clear people the whole night too, so these are the people who really stayed.
There's three lines, no signs. I got a floor ticket, so I wanted to try to get really close and just got in one of the lines. A few hours later, an employee of the venue came out and everyone stampeded them. There was this dangerous crowd situation. I was kind of in the middle of it. No one was moving.
People had unofficial wristbands, which apparently were fan distributed. Everyone was confused; there was no staff. It was also raining. We were all wet. Then they sent a new notice through email, telling us to go into this plaza. And they penned us in there for several hours, in the rain.
Eventually they started pulling groups out randomly to receive an official wristband, and people were cheering. It was like the rapture.
The whole time the staff were like, “No jumping, no running, no yelling.” I felt like a wild animal, we were still penned inside. Eventually, we got inside and I got pretty close to the stage, maybe ten feet away.
JSF: Wow, that’s impressive.
ASK: Yeah. During soundcheck, he comes out wearing a tracksuit. His hair is undone. He does three songs. Then he takes time to stand on the very edge of the stage and look down at us with disappointment for how we behaved. After that, he just leaves, like, “See you later.” And we have to stand there, crushed with each other. Also, they made us throw out our water and weren't selling any water. And, we were going through sub-drop.
We’re all dehydrated. We're anxious. And I realized that we're his paypigs. He's like a findom. He showed contempt towards us and then gave us no care.
Then after three hours, he performed. It was crazy—someone in the audience had passed out and as soon as the music started, she came alive again.
So, that was my experience. It's a guilty pleasure because it's like, God, I didn't know that side of me. I just wanted to be humiliated. Through the distance, but also the money, because I paid like a whole rent to have this experience. It was very intense.
JSF: Did you feel different afterward?
ASK: I felt so different. Usually I like to be in control of things, at my own schedule. But for this, I had to reschedule my whole life to come see him. He actually said, “I want you to take a break from your life to come see me.” It felt like I was giving up all control to be there. It's a submissive experience. So it's enjoyable because of that.
Afterwards, my client work actually improved a lot because I was more willing to be with someone else's power. So yeah, it really made a difference.
JSF: How has seeing him live changed your relationship to Yoongi, and to the music?
ASK: Well, Yoongi’s been my bias ever since I got into BTS. I picked him and stuck with him. I guess it intensified after the show. When he performed in Oakland [after LA], I stayed up watching the live stream. It's his last show in the U.S. tonight, so he might go live after, and I'm gonna stay up pretty late, waiting for him.
This is also why it’s a guilty pleasure—it's such a time suck. Like, he wore a t-shirt, during the last day in LA, that was kind of big on him. And I spent so long hunting down pictures where his armpits were exposed (laughs).
JSF: That's amazing. Is this an everyday thing? Or is it more like a reward when you finish a project?
ASK: Well, it's not a reward because I don't have enough discipline to create that structure. I'm kind of helpless. Like…someone took a picture under him where you can see his belly and I’ll just stare at him for a while.
I'm trying to unstan consciously. But it’s very hard to, especially with him touring. You're swarmed with these images of him and he's so sexy.
JSF: But long-term you’re trying to unstan?
ASK: Yeah, or just take a break. I have to unstan because he's going to mandatory military service soon, and I’m assuming he won't be releasing new content as regularly while he's doing that.
JSF: If somebody wanted to get into your guilty pleasure, where should they start?
ASK: It depends on their personality. With BTS, Map of the Soul is kind of their opus. I also recommend starting with HYYH, which is a whole project about youth.
JSF: And if somebody wanted to get into Yoongi, specifically, is there a specific song to start with?
ASK: In the show, he does things backwards. He starts with his most recent stuff and it’s very large and theatrical. But then throughout the show, he strips away his platform, the stage gets smaller and smaller, and his makeup is melting. By the end, he's just wearing his own clothing, without makeup, and he’s performing his earliest work.
It's like a rewind experience. The last song he performs, as an encore, is called “The Last.” In that song, he becomes like a possessed person.
He does such a great job. One of the lines in the song is: “The root of my creativity is han.” The song's about his suicide attempt.
After he does that song, he just leaves. He walks off and all the lights come on. It's another drop moment. So, I recommend that song.
JSF: Do you think you’ll actually have a break from this obsession when he goes to military service?
ASK: I'll have a break. I won't replace him with anything else. Before this…what was going on? I was really busy at my nonprofit job. I wanted to get into BTS. And as soon as I saw Yoongi I was like, this is the perfect idol for me.
JSF: Why? Are there qualities in him that you want to embody more?
ASK: Well, his stamina is really impressive. He's doing three shows a week for like two months! It's relentless, the pace of the shows. In his works, he's talking about his traumas, like his near death experience when he was hit by a car and dislocated his shoulder. Also, he had addiction when he was a lot younger. And I did too.
With some other boy bands when I was a teen, they were more culturally ambiguous. But with BTS, especially Yoongi and Namjoon, they talk about regional cultures more. I really appreciate that.
There’s something about him that I’m really into. Sometimes the pleasure is just something that makes you feel a certain way physically. And I guess it can be okay, every now and then.
JSF: I agree. Did you always have this relationship with pleasure or has it evolved as you've gotten older?
ASK: It's hard to say. When I was into boy bands as a teen, I didn't have money, so I wasn't going to see them or buying anything. But now, I can go see him. That changes the dynamic because it feels a bit more self-destructive.
JSF: But also more personal. It's a way to feed it.
ASK: For sure. It's a little bit like religion too, where you pay towards something.
JSF: You were like tithing to the church.
ASK: Yeah. When you spend a lot of money, you get a high. That's part of the experience. But then in retrospect, for years I've liked him and I didn't spend any money. So if you span it out…well, I don't know, that's me justifying it.
But, you do feel a little bit high because the amount is extravagant. I think that's part of why they charge so much, to make people feel that high.
JSF: You sound like you don't have a lot of guilt about it. But maybe you do, and you're just playing it off?
ASK: It is guilty, because it's like a paypig experience, if I can call it that. Again, he's so rich. He's like a multi-millionaire. Why are we just throwing him money?
ASK: It's against my values. But my horniness doesn't know that.