Toward the end of 2013, Tierney Finster and collaborator Niko “The Ikon” Karamyan won the DIScrit 89plus challenge, an online survey of artists born in or after 1989. The prize, a stipend known as the Re Rebaudengo Serpentine grants, gave the two, who’ve been friends since the 6th grade, enough money to fully realize their gonzo vision. That vision is a trilogy of retro-soaked R&B music videos directed by Finster on grainy VHS, the first being a remake of former teen idol Tevin Campbell’s video for “Can We Talk,” which stars the two of them as lusty, would-be lovers. With Karamayan’s vocals and Finster’s visuals, the result is sultry and romantic, yet perfectly abstract. Where does the 22-year-old see herself in five years? “I hope to be writing, directing, and acting in my own movies, as well as continuing to collaborate with others who are doing the same. I also anticipate expanding my other writing work, telling stories in multiple ways via multiple platforms.”
Where were you born?
LA – the San Fernando Valley
Where do you live?
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Fun-loving, site-specific, frisky.
How did your career get started?
I don’t know if it really has yet. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling and performing, and I’m fortunate that there isn’t a major distinction between my personal and professional lives. I finish college this month, so I look forward to having more time to devote to my own work and ideas on a deeper level. I’m also still interested in creating a good side hustle.
Where do you hope to be professionally in 5 years?
I hope to be writing, directing, and acting in my own movies, as well as continuing to collaborate with others who are doing the same. I also anticipate expanding my other writing work, telling stories in multiple ways via multiple platforms. I feel blessed to be connected to a community of artists so special to me. I want to contribute to the conversation surrounding their lives and work, adding context and helping to facilitate the type of appreciation and analysis I think their projects merit.
What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
I am most proud of my relationships with the people I love, many of whom I get to work with. Nurturing these relationships gives me the most lasting satisfaction.
What famous person dead or living do most wish you could have as a roommate?
I don’t know if anyone would be suitable for a full-time situation. Missy Elliot might work. I’d love some girl on girl (bonding) with Anna Nicole Smith and Blackout-era Britney. Deep and meaningful moments with Dave Chappelle and the writer bell hooks. It would be a dream to speak candidly with Yasser Arafat. I’d also really enjoy it if Mannie Fresh were next door to provide me live, motivational soundtracks.
What is your favorite driving music?
I tend to be in the passenger’s seat, so I don’t always get to choose. I love everything Niko plays, and am always happy to experience Matthew Marble’s mixes while cruising in his car. My favorite rides play CDs from start to finish – Britney’s Blackout, Lil Wayne’s The Carter, everything Jack White, and the Bad Boys II and Training Day soundtracks. Lately, a lot of IO Echo’s Ministry of Love, Kelela’s Cut 4 Me, and DJ Mustard’s Ketchup mixtape.
Whose career would you most like to emulate?
I like Norman Lear, he was able to challenge and disrupt collective consciousness in ways mass audiences found entertaining and digestible.
If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
Or World War II-era, its atrocities opened up some exciting new opportunities (and burdens) for the women left at home.
What activities do most enjoy doing alone?
Writing, dancing in the mirror, watching Showtime, recording myself.
How do you wind down before bed?
Sleep clothes, Aquaphor and body oil, ice water on my bedside table.
When are you most relaxed?
At the beach, in the water.
What kind of person were you in high school?
Goal-oriented. I wanted to go to college and I wanted it paid for. I also wanted to have as many fun experiences as I could. I was vice-president of the School’s Site Council, presiding over monthly meetings with the principal and vice-principal, dean, and a group of teachers. I was president of Model United Nations, and in Student Government for four years. My school was a humanities magnet within a big L.A. public school, and the curriculum and environment were both perfect for me. I learned a lot and exercised my positions of power for as much good and bad as possible. My party-girl interests also peaked during these years. I would go out at least a few times a week, wearing a lot of glitter. Often, it was still caked on for class the next morning. It was a very hectic, “live fast” lifestyle that I’ve distanced myself from over the last few years.
Do you have any phobias?
I’ve never loved climbing mountains or riding roller coasters but I’m slowly acclimating to each.
Which artists inspire you?
Niko, Matthew, Ryan Trecartin, Kesh, Shakespeare, Rothko, my many family members (who would probably never identify themselves as artists).
What’s a serious side of you that people are unlikely to know about? Either in terms of interests, hobbies, or personality?
I am very much for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I have spent time in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan, and have attended national conferences on Palestinian rights and the current boycott and divestment movements. I love the Middle East and hope to return as soon as possible. The legacy of Orientalism is stronger than ever in our current culture of American terror – it is of critical importance that our media begins to contain accurate, humanistic portraits of Arabs and their multiplicity of identities, and for Americans to publicly recognize the Israeli apartheid that our country supports and funds.
What most bothers you about life in Los Angeles?
I wish places stayed open past 2 a.m, but I think everyone should get to bed earlier as it is.
What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
I’m hoping to begin Arabic lessons soon. I’d also like to learn some sort of self-defense or sport.
How do you hope to grow as a creative person?
A little by little everyday, to places I can’t yet conceptualize.
If there was a phrase that you think best sums up your approach to life what might it be?