Sidney Prawatyotin of Siduations Talks Memes and Making People Laugh
Memes are images rooted in social awareness—they bank on the premise that their viewers are educated in the current cultural conversation. We find them funny when we relate to them and we scratch our heads when we’ve missed the coded joke. If we catch on to a meme at the end of its circulation, we've missed the point entirely: Pepe the Frog silently transformed from a comic book character to a symbol of hate used in white nationalists’ tweets. But does a meme have to be made with the intent of being a meme to be considered one?
I first came across Siduations, the fashion image project by former publicist, Sidney Prawatyotin, a little over a year ago. I saw images of a young Cher superimposed onto a Balenciaga campaign, which at the time was shot by Harley Weir. The collection featured plenty of spandex and screamed eighties-workout-apparel, so adding Cher in eighties workout garb was a nod and a wink to what people may have already been thinking when viewing the Balenciaga campaign. This is why Siduations is great: It takes a high-fashion image or persona and places it in an everyday context—something austere and something actual. I spoke with Sidney, and while he doesn’t necessarily feel his creations are memes, I feel that the relatability of his content offers a similar success: we are laughing at ourselves.
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How do you define a Siduation?
It’s Sidney and situation. Siduations made sense: placing the fantasy of fashion into reality. That might sound like such a stretch, but clothes are designed for real people. In LA, people don’t walk around too much but when you’re in a strip of luxury shopping you see that one person dressed to the nines it feels so weird, no one in LA is walking except for that one person. It’s so out of place.
It’s like a Siduation is uncanny situations we don’t foresee.
It’s humorous, but why is it humorous? I remember in high school I was always the alternative kind of kid. Tights just under ripped shorts, green hair and then pink hair— whatever the color of the day. Everyone else in high school would be wearing a varsity jacket. I’m a Siduation. I remember sitting at the football field on the bleachers in my Dr. Martens with a few punk kids. That’s a Siduation.
I wanted to ask you about your artistic practice? Did you have any formal training as a maker or as a retoucher?
I never had any formal training in photoshop. In high school it was a prerequisite for one of the art classes I had to take, but I didn’t really do much with the skill after it. However, I’ve always done things in the creative field—mostly things that were visual. I started a clothing line, called United Bamboo with a friend once. Prior to that I was assisting with styling or assisting with film direction. I have always liked the creative side of storytelling and that really helped when I was a publicist. Creativity was always the common denominator, whether it be through visuals or story telling. I don’t really know how to use photoshop, it’s just been about practicing every single day. And you know what they say, “practice makes perfect.” Not that I am perfect yet. It’s so funny because sometimes I will be working on an image and a friend will come up to me and be like “oh you should use this tool,” but I’m self taught so I’m scared I might be slowed down. So, I am totally doing it the wrong way, but I’m doing it.
Would you say Siduations is intentionally in conversation with meme culture? Or do you feel like that is something that has happened inadvertently?
Once people started talking about Siduations they lumped me in with the meme makers and I don’t mind that at all. It’s cool to receive recognition, but I didn’t even know what a meme was—not in its true definition. I used the word and I threw it around a lot but I never truly knew what it meant. So, when I dug and did some more research on them, I realized that I’m not necessarily a meme maker. I don’t know why they lumped me in the meme department. It’s so funny. It’s interesting. I would like to know why that is and I don’t mind it, I just don’t know how I got included in that category. When I think about it I’m just making imagery no different from a fashion editorial—maybe funnier.
I think at this point the definition of a meme is so broad and memes themselves are so ubiquitous, we can consider any image that lives online and has an element of social awareness and irony as a meme. Memes are culturally intelligent—they scan what’s going on. I think because of the way that you composit images together so strikingly people almost put your work in that genre, because of the fact the images you are making are a phenomenon—a fashion phenomenon and a political phenomenon.
Yeah, current events, pop-culture, things that are happening that people can relate to...I mean, like I said, I’m totally grateful. When people ask me what my aesthetic is or what Siduations is, I really don’t know. What it is is just me creating images and posting them online. I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen so I’m just going with the flow. I started doing this when I moved from New York City to LA three years ago. I was a publicist back in New York and when I moved to LA I didn’t want to do the same thing. I really had no expectations, so, it was easy to give up and start something new. What that was—I didn’t know. In LA, as you know, you can get trapped. If you don’t try you’re pretty much home all the time. I felt like I was in a retirement home and I needed to get my brain working if not my body. So, I did something creative everyday and playing with images was just one of those things. I wouldn’t really post what I was making but I would send them out to friends in lieu of a text conversation. The images were a sentiment. Like, “Hey how are you, here’s a funny picture of ya.”
Were these composited images at the time?
Well a lot of my friends are part of the fashion or arts industry. It wasn’t like I was discovered by all these street style stars or celebrities or whatnot. I already had some kind of connection with those folks. When I started the account that’s who I followed and that’s who followed me back. A lot of the initial images were of my friends so I would take photos of them and put them in another situation. It is a lot of fashion because that’s where I came from. I don’t want to be making fashion accessible for any income bracket per sé, but why can’t you wear a full on look from Miu Miu at the office by the water cooler or at McDonalds? Is high fashion for people who only work in fashion or who go to Paris, Milan, London and do very luxurious things, or, can fashion be Middle America, or in the middle of the road somewhere? If you take the clothes out of their context and put them in a background like In-n-Out Burger, it sounds weird, but it shouldn’t be weird when it’s for everyone. I always go back to the one image with Balenciaga in the classroom. People think it’s funny and I agree it is humorous, only because we’ve never seen that. But why haven’t we seen the teacher wear Balenciaga to the classroom? Maybe because they don’t get paid those figures. So bringing fashion to the everyday, putting it in everyday situations, hopefully will inspire people to express themselves differently through clothes.
Do you think you are creating a fiction world where fashion isn’t necesarily a hierarchy?
I think people are laughing at themselves. We need more of that. We need to not take things so seriously. The models in the images are ‘liking’ [the posts] and putting laughing Emojis on there and I like that. The same goes with designers too, and that’s a good place. It’s more inclusive than exclusive.
In lieu of humor, do you feel like that is the main thing giving you joy in this project?
No, not primarily. What is giving me joy is that I’m creating something that people are relating to. I’m connecting with people over images. I’m connecting different topics. Like, how syclicle fashion is, or how fashion takes inspiration from current events, movies, music, everything. The main objective being that different people takeaway different things from imagery.