A few nights ago, as I was watching "Justine Joli: Lost" for review, I became suddenly aware that I am totally in love/lust with, and amazed by, Syd Blakovich. The woman is amazing, and has a power and presence on screen that captivate me... I took the plunge and e-mailed her, hoping for an interview, with fingers crossed and breath held... And holy crap she got right back to me! So not only is she beautiful, talented, intelligent, and ice-cold cool, but she's also accessible! How did I get so lucky? Anyway, here's what we talked about...
Miss Lagsalot: First of all, let’s talk about the letter “y.” I’m assuming that your name is a stage name… Why’d you go with the “y” instead of an “i”? Are you a fan of “y” as a vowel rather than a consonant. Are you an anti-consonant activist?
Syd Blakovich: It's actually a lot simpler... my father wanted to name me Sydney but my mom ended up picking my name (Shawn) instead. So it's a little bit biographical and a little bit of fiction.
Lag: On a more serious note, you are a powerhouse performer with a background in fine art. Do you apply your art background to your performance?
Syd: I believe so. I have my degree in photography and digital media, which paved the way to many of my early jobs in the adult industry doing PR and marketing-related things. However, I did a lot of self-portraiture when I was in college and I feel like that was a real gateway for eventually getting in front of other people's cameras. There was also a 4-year period where Jiz Lee and I formed a performance art duo called twincest based on our relationship at the time which blended porn, art, performance and drama. I would certainly agree that the art education I received influences my career in porn and the fabrication of performed personality.
Lag: Do you plan to start your own production or other kind of company in the future?
You’ve worked in many areas of the queer community, from magazines to production studios. What companies do you work with right now, and in what capacities?
Syd: I am lumping these two questions together since I am heavily involved with Pink & White Productions and have been since the beginning. I initially came on board as a PR person and talent, then briefly as a web manager, but I have always been a co-producer. Their first project, The Crash Pad, was my first DVD I performed in and has received international acclaim, screening at various film festivals. It was also the recipient of the first Feminist Porn Awards "Best Dyke Sex Scene". I am still involved with Pink & White and really look forward to assisting in their upcoming projects: Heavenlyspire.com which is the new gay site and Point of Contact which is a more intimate collection of videos created by the people who perform in them. I helped set up the CrashPadSeries.com site which is currently up for an AVN nomination this year for "Best Alternative Web Site".
Syd: It is very interesting indeed seeing what the economic climate and technological developments have brought to the world of porn in the last few years. Financially, the industry as a whole was really put through the wringer and the number of companies operating pretty much was cut in half in a matter of a year. There just isn't the same amount of money being thrown around and consequently a lot of the dime-a- dozen companies went under. Add in piracy and file sharing to the mix and companies are seeing way less profits. What remains are the big blockbuster companies with huge budgets that stick to their tried and true formulas that people have grown to expect and make steady revenue, and pockets of indie companies with shoe-string budgets taking creative risks and squeaking by with some fiscal ingenuity. Overall, I am not sure what the future holds for the industry as a whole. During the Great Depression despite economic hardships, motion pictures did very well because they provided a means of escapism. Will porn see a similar financial success in the face of economic crisis? It's possible. However, I do not think money is the only means to measure success. You have things like cultural currency and impact that cannot be quantified but merely talked about in retrospect. Queer porn is such a new genre, I doubt we will truly be able to assess its impact or prospective future until we are far beyond it.
Lag: Do you think there’s a space being created in the larger society for these ideas, which porn is helping to create? Or do you think the conservative backlash going on right now in the form of politics and Tea Parties and the like will keep it down?
Syd: I believe porn is a very subversive medium to work in, for one because it is already so outside the space of social acceptability. I think this actually allows it to speak about many ideas that are contrary to conservative censorship agendas and can be potentially radical. It brings them right into the home in a very intimate setting which can be more effective than any pulpit or soap box. This is why the internet is so interesting and dangerous, because it has the potential to create a democratic means of generating media that is not controlled by a select group of media moguls, and can be used as an avenue of public dissent. I have called queer porn the great queer Trojan Horse because of this. Obviously, this form of media is not perfect because there are still limitations to access ruled by class, amongst other things.
Lag: So what’s your private love life like? Do you practice polyamory? Monogamy? Open relationships? None of the above?
Syd: I am kind of a love and let live person and believe that people should follow their hearts and be open in communication. I have been in monogamous relationships and polyamorous ones as well. I believe that every relationship is unique and it's about navigating within it. I am a generally open-minded person and I try to be true to the moment. During the beginning of my porn career, I was very out about the fact that I worked with my real life lovers, but over the years I think I have grown more private. I give a 110% when I am performing, so when I go home I like to have a little something special just for me which I think is why I have become more private, reserving a piece of time and space that I don't share with the rest of the world. I love working in front of the camera, but it can be very energetically draining, which is why it is so important to do self-care.
Lag: You are genderqueer, and you identify as female, yourself. But you have two different on-screen personas, “Syd” and “Shawn.” Are they different in their orientations, personalities, or ideologies?
Syd: I used Shawn in the beginning when I started doing queer porn because I felt that I was creating work that reflected who I really was. Syd was created around the same time when I was working more BDSM / fetish work. Syd became a highly fabricated personality that was 98% total fiction down to the bad fake accent I used (on request of one of the directors I worked with). When Champion came around, I decided to merge both characters since Syd had a pretty good following that enjoyed sexual athleticism and Shawn had a good presence in the queer porn scene. At this point I only go by Syd, who is this hybrid of fiction and biography and incredibly cliche at times, which I enjoy. Shawn is no longer a performer, which helps me delineate between professional and personal life.
Lag: You’ve said that it’s vital to make images of people exploring their sexuality: why is that? Is it that “if there are no pictures it never happened” idea? Or something much deeper? Or both?
Syd: I think there is some truth about creating a document to provide testament to sexualities and I also think that it's better to speak for yourself than to let other people do it for you. This is one of the problems with media monopolies. When a select group of people control media, they control the message that is being told through it, which often is used to keep that group of people in the upper echolons of society and maintain their privileges they have... ie. in religion and politics we can see this at play and take note of who the dominant groups are. I believe it is absolutely important for people to take media making up in their own hands in order to provide dialogues of support that benefit the communities which they represent rather than creating and reinforcing stereotypes which are used against them.
Syd: These discussions are completely elitist and ruled by the tyrrany of academic jargon. Admittedly, I went small liberal arts college where I learned about these things. Had I not had access to this level of education, I would probably not be doing what I am doing now. This is where I learned about queer and art theory. This is where I came out. I also think this is one of the most challenging things about these topics because the language around them is not accessible so how are we suppose to talk about them in inclusive ways? One of the beauties of porn as opposed to art, is that it is incredibly accessible. Some people watch it for academic purposes, cultural studies etc... and some people watch it to jerk off to... sometimes both. One of my favorite quotes is by Larry Flynt who said, "The newsstand is the poor man's art gallery." I absolutely believe this, and this is why I have a romance with the "low-brow" and pop culture to some extent. Because it is inclusive and isn't that the point we are trying to make?
Syd: Funny, but I didn't really start reading (for fun not for work or school) all that much until this year. Since I have been traveling, I have a lot more free time and enjoying Murakami very much. I also admit that I love Pema Chondron too. Typically though, I like reading tech manuals, function over form I guess.
Lag: You are heavily into visual and performance art inside and outside porn. Who are some artists, performative and nonperformative, that you like?
Syd: You know I've been out of the art "scene" for several years however I do occasionally do a little work for Aorta Magazine which is a queer/feminist art magazine featuring some pretty amazing artists. I just interviewed NYC based artist Lynne Chan for it. I do have art mentors, such as Erica Cho and Keith Hennessy and several peers who are making art work around sex work like Jiz Lee, Madison Young and Sadie Lune. I am sure I will think of more artists later as it is 4 AM now and I am a bit tired.
Lag: Would you say that you break boundaries, or ignore them?
Syd: I like making them then breaking them, but I usually trip and fall on my face in the process.
Lag: Also, what’s your favorite type of cuisine? Cause when you’re in NYC next, we are SO going to dinner to talk about this stuff.Syd: Well since I have been living in Thailand and Japan, I've been getting some pretty amazing food, but I do miss burritos. I go off and on this ridiculous diet due to my strict martial arts training and competing, so usually I eat veggies and meat, simple stuff. I like to eat healthy but can enjoy some good junk food too.
Check Syd out on her own turf: http://SydBlakovich.com