In Episode 104 of Subway Takes, comedian Stef Dag coined the concept of the Candid Girlfriend™ (she said to trade­mark that). In a heated debate that unfolded around her take on TikTok, people dissec­ted and ran their mouths. They analy­zed the male gaze imposed on a type of woman “with babybangs” that is easily turned into a muse, an empty screen of projec­tion that “loves pomegra­na­tes” and looks perfect for analog portraits in “#35mm”.

The candid is uncon­scious. It’s not staged. It’s being unaware. Natural. Well, or maybe, candid is preten­ded purity. The candid might just be a mask put on fully conscious of obser­va­tion while acting undeter­red. There is no more random­ness the moment you choose to freeze it in a frame. Or a phrase. 

Sarah Kürten came of age when hushed glances gradu­ally hardened into constant obser­va­tion. Fleeting memories became perma­nent records. Imagination turned into data in a free upgrada­ble storage plan. Being a woman means performing. And her forth­co­ming artist book against a shadowy treeline offers a glimpse into this perfor­mance through poems from the last two years told from a first person singu­lar POV

When study­ing litera­ture, the first thing you learn is to never confuse the poet with the poem’s voice. Quite a chall­enge when words are overlaid with self-portraits. The mind of a 2020s emojis-and-iPhone-using person puts a 1960s analog lens on life around her. 

person /​ˈpɜːsn/​, noun, english: a human as an indivi­dual, from Latin persona ‘actor’s mask, charac­ter in a play’, later ‘human being’. 

Creative blocks, loneli­ness in company, compul­sive self-compa­ri­sons, and constant self-diagno­ses are narra­ted so perso­nally and yet so relat­a­bly. Sarah chooses surreal words the weight of which is physical. 

Isn’t the analogy of an amateu­rishly oversi­zed insect oddly kafkaes­que? A plane crashing into a break­fast bowl brought 9 /​ 11 to my mind and the back and forth of bitter and sweet in the poetry of Etel Adnan. When Sarah claimed that tulips were flowers on life support remin­ding her of women, I had to stop and just sit for a while. When she mentio­ned sweaty palms, I couldn’t help myself but mumble mom’s spaghetti under my breath. Sometimes, I am tired of making sense of perso­nal moments through foreign snippets and samples. Depth lies in between well chosen words. But OUTKAST already said it, Y’all don’t wanna hear me you just wanna dance.

Sarah Kürten’s artist book against a shadowy treeline is to be published in summer 2024 in 100 copies via innum­bers publishing.

Jennifer Braun
The Gen Z Art Critic