This one goes “right in the feels”. Pardon us but we couldn't help but stick our noses into your FAMILY BUSINESS. And now the consequence of our actions are haunting us all. The article is accompanied by a whimsically plushy animation by illustrator and animator Charlie Spies.
“This song reminds me of my childhood and all the damage it done to me as an adult. Still bring tears every time u hear it.”
“44 years old, celebrating our 1st grandchild and STILL cry every single time I hear this. Childhood trauma sticks the hardest.”
“I remember being 4 when I first heard this and felt it so deeply growing up in an abusive household. She was my motivation and her music was literally my therapy. She’s an inspiration.”

These are just some comments left under P!NK’s 2009 heartwrenching video for ‘Family Portrait’, a cross-generational ode to a traumatic childhood. The song’s narrative arch escalates into the pleading bridge: “In our family portrait, we look pretty happy. Let’s play pretend, let’s act like it comes naturally.” The Technicolour American-dream nuclear family is an outlier that has very little to do with the lived experience as blood relations don’t necessarily guarantee a content and meaningful connection.

For example, ‘family’ has a wealth of meaning in the queer world and many who occupy it know that the importance of a ‘chosen family’ cannot be understated. For some, family means community and for others, community means family. Finding and creating your inner circle brings struggle, challenges, and estrangement but also and foremostly joy, grounding and a sense of belonging. These processes and journeys are firmly planted in the SWARM Mag manifest. 

Thriving communities are vital (not only) for the art world. Rivalry should not be the driving force behind the artistic scene, no matter how niche, seemingly crowded, and competitive it can be. The layered issue that is ‘family’ resonates with the artists we are going to present to you under FAMILY BUSINESS through a myriad of different lenses. Such as exploring the theme of couple intimacy after having a baby, searching for your flock in the digital world or the binding power of shared fashion style and traditional clothing.

Next, we have the artistic appeal of Mary and the whole Holy Family, paintings empowering women by exuding power and mystique, photography challenging existing boundaries and taboos surrounding the themes of gender, sexuality, and trauma, and how the notion of ‘home’ can be impacted by political regimes and mixed-race family backgrounds. You will see strange objects initiating dialogues in places of worship, a life of two parents in Odesa, Ukraine, humanoid figures in intimate and melancholic scenes, civilisational ailments embodied in sculptures. You can also look forward to painted ceramics exploring human failings, aspirations, dreams and eccentricities, illustration series showing uncomfortable social situations in the presumably relaxing holiday settings or finding out how the success of one game developer studio stems from its community.

I would like to end this piece with the words from a light installation by my friend and artist Gabriela Procházka: “A FORM OF REVOLUTION: TREAT EACH OTHER WELL.” Let’s imbue ‘family’ with meanings of our own, maintain relationships, and keep a seat at the table for those in need.

Work in progress video by Charlie Spies.

For your listening and reading pleasure:

P!NK – Family Portrait

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Byli jsme tu vždycky by Filip Titlbach

Paris Is Burning by Jennie Livingston 

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jullian Tamaki 

The End of Eddy: A Novel by Édouard Louis and Michael Luce

Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art: Family Tree: Pebbles from North & South America by Edmund Carpenter

Skrze tebe vidím sebe: Dialogy o portrétu by⁠ Anežka Kořínková, Kateřina Sýsová

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus

Ascher: The Mad Silkman: Zika & Lida Ascher: Textiles and Fashion Hardcover by Konstantina Hlavácková

Lepší než člověk by Allen Buchanan

Lagom: the Swedish art of balanced living by Dunne, Linnea

Social History of Art, Volume 1- 4 by Arnold Hauser

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel Hardcover by Ocean Vuong

Art Patronage, Family, and Gender in Renaissance Florence by  Maria DePrano

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before by  Dr. Julie 

Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Social Symbolism of Grief and Mourning by Roger Grainger

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Art and Social Theory by Austin Harrington

Art, Marriage, and Family in the Florentine Renaissance Palace by  Jacqueline Marie Musacchio

Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

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ANIMATION AUTHOR / Charlie Spies (she/they) is a Hamburg-based illustrator and animator. Their work is exploring the medium of frame-by-frame filmmaking and its potential to make space for traditionally erased perspectives. Her current project “Gutopia” examines the dissonances revealed at the intersection of chronic illness and feminine self-embodiment as well as the expression of hyper-femininity as a subversion of gendered norms.


Text / Františka Blažková @st.feral

Animation / Charlie Spies @charlie.spies

Animation – Background designer / Raman Djafari @ramandjafari

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