Three Prompts and Six One Shots about Nadia/Jonas: Rea McNamara
The following text contains what some readers may consider strong language and mature content.
Three Prompts and Six One Shots about Nadia/Jonas
**DISCLAIMERRRRR** I don’t own these characters or *Betazoid in a Fog* but lol, I wish I did!
When I first see Nadia at Erin Stump Projects, she’s at the far end, in front of ceramic wall tiles and a fire exit, silicon lily-pads gliding across white wood flooring. I’m in love.
The next day at work, I fact-check the work for a gallery round-up. After losing my job with ARTINFO, I fell into content farming for the The BiWay Art Foundation’s Centre for the Future of Journalism, the online publishing platform of the discount chain’s foundation.
Yes, I am a beneficiary of private philanthropic largesse: for Art Basel Miami Beach, they did a beach towel collaboration with Art Metropole. Absolut and Canadian Art Magazine sponsored a flashy opening night party co-hosted by Solange, Walter Scott, and Dan Levy, all of whom later popped up in the @bwAF Instagram party shots.
Further, The National Gallery of Canada was in the midst of finagling a big donation to cover repairs on the Canadian pavilion in Venice. But there was a sticking point. The bwAF wanted to set up a recreation of one of its 1980s store models within the main installation space as a heavily branded immersive shopping experience. (I know this because I had to write the curatorial essay!)
Let’s be real then about why I do this work: it’s easy and well-paying. I don’t have to chase after accounts payable. There’s travel, even if I have to service journalism global art fair round-ups.
This was why I was looking at Nadia again, in .jpeg form. Even though Nadia was the top image on ESP’s exhibition page, the white fire exit and pistachio green wall overwhelmed her. Here was this yellow, white, and black artwork, hidden yet again in the background. Anyone you talk to who stans Nadia sees this installation image—interpreted in so many ways by the fandom’s transformative artworks, running the gamut from fanfics to cross-stitch fanart sold on Etsy—as testament to its beloved underdog status.
She was always going to be lost in this show about legs, about gut feelings, and the scaly hate-lizard, but the fans would love her more for it. Talking up the gallery attendant about what artworks sold confirmed Nadia wasn’t truly being recognized in her lifetime; only the works on paper sold, because they’re figurative and comic-book-esque and the closest a collector has to owning Wendy.
But what about Nadia?
OTP Prompt 1.6 A Struggling Artwork AU.
Following the exhibition run of an artist’s first solo museum show supported by the BiWay Art Foundation, the sculptural artworks Nadia (tote bag, silicone, wood, metal rings, cord, acrylic, 44 x 8 x 16”) and Jonas (wood, hat, t-shirt, hair-tie, metal, 17 x 46 x 12”) are sent to a storage facility near the Aberfoyle Antique Market in Puslinch, Ontario. Together, with the help of a Sambos-collecting antiques dealer and ragtag crew of racist antique objects looking to be acquired by the Jim Crow Museum, they hatch an escape plan. Along the way, Nadia realizes Jonas might be more than a baby blue bucket hat from the Value Village.
One Shot 7.1 A Nadia/Jonas fic exchange to help promote writers to write more Nanas and to help bring more Nanas fic into the world! (Closed, Moderated, Unrevealed, Anonymous, Gift Exchange Challenge.)
No Archive Warnings Apply, Nadia/Jonas, Nadia, Jonas, Benevolent, Tonight, gender performance, femme! Nadia, Unresolved Sexual Tension, Recreational Drug Use, Mutual Pining, Found Family, definite slowburn, blow jobs
Nadia always feels self-conscious about her figure. She’s wispy and unwieldy, dangling with the lightest breeze. Her femininity is tangled in those big gold hoops. She’s tweeting an Angela Bassett Revenge GIF in support of the ongoing GoFundMe campaign set up to get that work done.
But with all the work done so far, her material memories are fragmented. Tonight and Benevolent tell her that’s the case for everyone here. Day in and day out, they are the sculptures looked at and talked about—seen from so many different angles, but rarely heard. No one cares about where they come from. The artist left them behind in this temperature-controlled gallery, alone with these transient viewers and bored gallery attendants. The last time she was touched was when the installer positioned her, far away from the tilted white platform Tonight and Benevolent stood on.
Eventually, I found my people: the Instagram fan accounts. They kept me up-to-date on Nadia, sharing choice crops of the Erin Stump documentation with captions like, “How is she real? How is she perfect? How am I still alive? How is anyone still alive?” My favourites were the image manipulations placing her in the Brandhorst, Guggenheim or Hermitage.
That’s how I found out last summer Nadia would be appearing at Remai Modern as part of Betazoid in a Fog.
In my stan group chat we analyzed what other works would be featured with her, and if Walter would finally give Nadia her rightful place.
The museum picked up on the fandom, even indulging the stans by livestreaming the install, which I had to miss because Hrag of Hyperallergic asked me to write an essay on the fandom. He pushed me to think about Nadia as a gendered object. This led to a once-in-a-lifetime chance to interview Sara Ahmed and talk about Nadia‘s relationship to queer use, the support systems emerging around the work, and how this image of a sculpture made from a tote bag, silicon, wood, metal rings and cord could be considered a displacement or an occupation of the art world, institutions, colonialism.
At this point, I was already part of the BiWay Art Foundation’s Equity Committee, and spoke off-record about Nadia being a both useful and useless gateway to feminist and queer histories. After the phone call, I wept with the realization that maybe Nadia didn’t need her rightful place at all. She was already becoming a canonical artwork in her own right, even without the fandom behind her. The Whitney and Tate Modern were fighting to acquire her; she was even fêted last month at the artists’ breakfast Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach organized during Frieze Week at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.
OTP Prompt 2.3 Omegaverse: “Their world is just like ours… except… in their world, there are two types of nonhumans. One is the alpha, and the other is the bitch.”
One Shot 5.3 Imagine your OTP as an escapist fantasy you preoccupy yourself with.
When the Remai show opened and footage from the donor preview walkthrough leaked, the shipping began.
At first, the big ship was the OT3 that was Nadia, Benevolent and Tonight. Shipping them though felt too canon, especially given the repetition of their forms. Then I fell into the YouTube click hole of fanvids for Nanas, otherwise known as Nadia/Jonas. My favourite was set to Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat”, pacing the video to a split-screened stirring violins climax where the art works seemed to be not just side-by-side but together.
The Nadia/Jonas-tagged stories on Archive of Our Own were even better. The source-text varied; sometimes there were stories from the Betazoid in a Fog era, with flashbacks to Bad Paleontology. Then there were the crossovers with the Wendy-verse, where Screamo and Jonas were best friends in their Brandon Walsh and Dylan McKay dynamic or Winona makes Nadia question if she truly belongs to Jonas. I came across writing prompts inspired by the curatorial text, or subcategories of stories reveling in a misunderstood Jonas, finally being redeemed for his rumpled black shirt. There were genderswaps, tentacle sex, or stories tagged “struggling 2-dimensionality” where everyone is flat. The interpretations were endless, creating a sub-reality of multi-faceted fannish materiality that altered my viewing of the works with truths and half-truths.
Last fall, Walter reached out to me asking if I would contribute a text about the show. Despite winning an Arts Writer grant for my Hyperallergic article, I lost my gig at the BiWay Art Foundation due to outsourcing. Further, my partner broke up with me because he felt I was becoming too obsessed with Nanas. I moved back home with my parents in Guelph, supplementing my writing income by working as an Equity Consultant for the Aberfoyle Antique Market.
We met up for a coffee at the Red Brick Café on a weekday afternoon. He was on deadline for a New Yorker piece, and we agreed to disagree on why Nadia wouldn’t be included in the solo show at Macaulay & Co. Fine Art.
“I have one condition,” I told Walter. “I want an all-expenses paid trip to Saskatoon and the chance to write a cycle of Nanas fanfics.”
Walter laughed. “Rea, the show’s closed, but Rose can send you the exhibition package. I honestly don’t care what you do, but I have a small request.”
“I want a struggling artworld AU.”
OTP Prompt 2.7 Enemies to Friends to Lovers Frat AU: “Jonas’s a player. All he does is chat everyone up. And guys like him are just—so ugh. He’s got that arrogant, self-assured smirk plastered to his face all the time. Always smug and stupid, like he could get anyone he lays his eyes on. All he does is make me mad and laugh all the time like he knows something that I don’t. That is so annoying.”
“But that’s just Jonas,” Benevolent shrugged at Nadia. “He doesn’t even try to flirt or anything. He’s just naturally charming, but that doesn’t mean he’s a player nor that he’s trying to get into everyone’s pants. He’s just friendly. And he likes you. He doesn’t usually fall for other sculptures, but he fell for you.”
“Oh, should I feel special then?” Nadia asks, shaking her golden hoops.
Jonas’s a frat sculpture who is head over heels for Nadia and Nadia wants nothing to do with him.
One Shot 7.3 Rea’s in some crazy prolific state, and we’re the beneficiaries. Her new (new!) story is an unabashed PWP, the sort that makes me wonder how that acronym ever got a bad name for itself. Beware, this could make your eyebrows sweat.
Jonas stares at Nadia. She’s seemingly loose, but still knotted, and therefore intense.
When he looks across at her, he thinks about how she’s not on the platform, and she isn’t black and she isn’t white. Her cord lines reach the most, striving to be figurative.
When you encounter Jonas in the exhibition space, he’s by himself, a full on solo documentation shot. Aesthetically, him and Nadia have in common the “black line.” It’s gestural, the most graphic element, a signature for the artist. Whereas Nadia is all kinetic movement, he’s upright, straight and narrow. He’s “blue.” An open communication, sodalite rock, albeit with a black doom metal rock tee and a blue bucket hat. He gets it: he’s the dude you maybe went to field parties with in high school. The blue drips, like the way he eats a burger or pussy.
So while they may not be positioned closely, when it’s dark and only the security camera light is blinking, they always somehow lock together.
“Tell me where I’m allowed to touch you,” Jonas’s speech bubble floats above, drifting toward her direction, vibrating. “Tell me where I’m allowed to go.”
One Shot 9.6 Curtain Fic:
No Archive Warnings Apply, Nadia/Jonas, Nadia, Nadia Recovering, Pining, Reunions, First Time, Jonas’s damn blue bucket hat, those gold hoops, Hugs are magic, Domestic
“This is your home?” asks Nadia at one point.
“It’s where I’m living now, yeah.”
Nadia comes home. Jonas is a little slower on the uptake.
One Shot 7.1 – “Zarry Fic Exchange,” 2018, archiveofourown.org. Accessed March 6, 2019.
OTP Prompt 2.7 – wildestdreams, “don’t make this easy (i want you to mean it),” 2014, archiveofourown.org. Accessed March 6, 2019.
One Shot 9.6 – napricot, “between everything, yourself, and home,” 2017, archiveofourown.org. Accessed March 6, 2019.
Author’s note: Any One Shots or OTP Prompts italicized are drawn from actual fan creations or artifacts. Since fanfiction is a social practice that is strongly intertextual and deeply communal, my selection of borrowed or reworked text is an attempt to utilize fanfiction tropes as a means of thinking through the relationship between art objects, a writer and her subject, and the excessive attachments that may arise from that. As a long-time member of the fanfiction community, this text operates largely as a form of autodidactic performative research, and is written with love and respect to the amateur and professional creators that have continued to stoke and sustain this collective imaginary. In keeping with the ethical best practices for fan studies, I have not provided complete URLs for fan works to protect the privacy of individual fans and fan authors.
Rea McNamara is a Toronto-based artist, writer, curator, and public programmer. She has developed an expanded practice that includes space development, image making, performance and critical engagement with networked publics. She has curated multidisciplinary projects for The Gardiner Museum, The Wrong Digital Art Biennale, and The Drake Hotel, and founded the limited-run art party series Sheroes (2011-2012), which engaged with the collaborative processes of fandom culture through music, performance, installation and internet-based art.
Her work has been presented at The Whitney Museum of American Art, the AGO, Nuit Blanche Toronto, and Moogfest. In addition to her art and curatorial practice, McNamara has written on art, culture and the internet for The Globe and Mail, Canadian Art, The FADER, VICE, Art F City, NOW Magazine, BLOUIN ARTINFO, and more.
This text was commissioned in association with the exhibition Walter Scott: Betazoid in a Fog (August 10 – October 21, 2018). Having gained notoriety for Wendy, a comic book series about a fictional young woman living in an urban centre who aspires to global success and art stardom, Betazoid in a Fog was Scott’s first solo exhibition at a museum and featured new works in sculpture. Contemporary questions of representation, cultural production, popular culture, fame and narrative construction are central to his practice.