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Photos by Rebekah Campbell, courtesy of Ondine Viñao.
Ondine Viñao is an artist and filmmaker born and raised in NYC. We went to college together, and I always thought she was one of the most intelligent and self-realized people around — one of those students who you just knew would go on to do something cool.
We’ve stayed in touch over the years, and I became a big fan of her multidisciplinary art practice, particularly her 2019 solo show Holy Fools. The exhibition reimagined Bruce Nauman’s infamous Clown Torture (1987) by employing female clowns to explore trauma, gender tropes, and the very well-chosen term “juvenescence.” The nine-channel video installation blew my mind all over my face — despite paying homage to a well-known artist and work, Holy Fools felt like anything but pastiche (an admirable feat if you ask me!).
Viñao has continued her art practice and exhibited work around the U.S. and abroad. She can also take a mean photo. Currently, Ondine’s working on a fresh video art piece, as well as doing pre-production for her first narrative feature. She’s keeping the plot specs vague, but I’m certain it will be a home run like the rest of her oeuvre.
Ondine also has an interesting relationship with weed, as her use of the plant only started to blossom in the past couple years. She wasn’t much of a smoker until the pandemic, when partying was obviously not on the menu, and her boyfriend began growing bud in their backyard. Slowly but surely, she began using the plant to help unwind in the evening, as well as aid her writing, brainstorming, and mood-boarding for her various art projects.
In a long and fun interview with Cash Only, the artist and filmmaker discusses the homegrown grass she was rolling up throughout quarantine, details the very specific (and hilarious) Pinterest boards she makes when deep in the haze, and then GOES IN on her recommendations for movies to watch while stoned. Finally, Ondine outlines her very amazing dream blunt rotation involving the feminist scholar Catherine MacKinnon and iconoclastic actress Hedy Lamarr, which may be the best response to the question I’ve received to date.
Big ups and big thanks to Ondine! And an additional thanks to Rebekah Campbell, who took killer new photos of Ondine just for this interview!
What was your first time smoking weed like?
Ondine Viñao: My first time smoking weed? Um, probably horrifying. I smoked salvia before I ever smoked weed. I was in high school, maybe age 14. St. Mark’s Place sold salvia and my friends and I would do whatever we had access to. So we would either get salvia or we would go to this one hookah bar in the East Village that didn’t card. But salvia was the first thing I smoked. There was a couple month period beginning in freshman year when that was popular — once again because of the accessibility. I can’t remember the first time I smoked weed, but I was never really a weed smoker — at least up until the pandemic.
So quarantine sparked your relationship with weed?
Mm-hmm. Pre-pandemic, my weed smoking was mostly limited to myself, or sometimes with a best friend or my dad. And I’d only smoke if I was in for the night and it was right before bed. I couldn’t even take out the garbage afterwards cuz I would get too anxious or paranoid about potentially running into a stranger [laughs]. But during the pandemic I got into it. My boyfriend had a garden in the backyard at our old apartment; he’s not a weed smoker at all, but he does like to garden and he likes challenges, and growing weed is kind of a fickle business. So he decided to grow weed in our backyard for the fun of it. And then he’d give the weed to me and friends or whoever. So, that kind of accelerated my weed usage.
It always scared me to smoke and then socialize, so the pandemic removed that fear and led to me smoking more. I felt more comfortable getting stoned, knowing that I had nowhere to go. And then weed started meshing better with me than it had before. I started using it like how I would recreationally use alcohol, like as a nightcap or whatever. I still occasionally drink, on weekends or at parties and stuff like that, but now I’m never really having alcohol at home. I’m using weed instead.
How was the weed that your boyfriend grew? Did you like his homegrown?
Totally. I hope I’m gonna recount this correctly. He grew two types. One was an autoflower. The other wasn’t an autoflower, and I think it was an Afghan strain. They were very beautiful plants, too. They grew very tall because our backyard got wonderful light, so he was able to harvest a ton from it. We had a bunch of our friends over when the plants were ready to do all of the clipping.
The weed was great because it felt a lot lighter than other weed that I’ve tried. I like to smoke joints or spliffs kind of like a cigarette. Maybe I’m putting it out like two times throughout the joint. I’m not into taking one big hit and then putting it out. I enjoy the act of smoking, so his weed was nice. You wouldn’t get too obliterated. But we’re out of his weed now sadly.
I feel like I should know more about the differences among strains and whatnot, but I kind of have difficulty really sensing the differences… with the exception of weed which is really indica heavy. I try to steer clear of that. I like to smoke and do things, even though I only smoke at night. I don’t wanna stare at the wall. I wanna watch a movie and pay attention. I wanna be able to read, I wanna clean, you know? I don’t want to be bedridden from smoking [laughs].
Does weed enhance your creativity? Does it help inspire you with ideas that benefit your art practice?
100%. There are drawbacks, too, but that’s one of the benefits of weed for me. The majority of my art process or my filmmaking process is writing, and I can sometimes struggle with “pre-judging” whatever I’m about to write. And that can kind of paralyze me creatively, and prevent me from actually writing anything at all. I overthink things, and weed can kind of relax that for me and allow me to brainstorm and write without too much of my own perfectionist (or control obsessed) tendencies getting in the way. Because then, at least, I can always tell myself, “Oh, I was stoned when I wrote this.” So if it’s trash, I can just throw it away and blame it on the weed, but then if it’s good (or if it could be good), then great, look what I did! And I was stoned [laughs].
So outside of relaxing or the creative brainstorm, do you have any particular activities you like doing once you’re really high?
This is tough to answer because a lot of the stuff that is an activity, I would consider part of my creative practice. Like, watching movies, for example, is something which I like to do when I’m stoned. I like walking and listening to music. It sounds pretty obvious and maybe kind of corny, but music truly is the one thing that I think sounds 100% better when you’re stoned. Weed makes cooking a little bit more fun for me. I love to bake but I don’t really love to cook. But smoking before or during cooking can help and makes the process more enjoyable.
I also go on internet holes in all the directions. I love using Pinterest when I’m high. And I have two reasons I’ve been into that recently, and they’re very different reasons [laughs]. So, I’m in pre-production for a short film slash proof of concept for a feature. I have been so focused on everything film-related that I thought I should have a platform devoted entirely to “fine art” inspiration. I have two boards on Pinterest and one of them is of visual art inspiration for the short I’m working on. And it includes paintings, video art, photographs I like, anything that I think could come in handy when deciding how to compose a shot, or something that might make a good kind of insert for the project. I’m trying to get out of just looking at “film stuff” and make sure I’m also pulling inspiration from less traditional sources. My board helps me focus more exclusively on visual art.
And the other thing I use Pinterest for is… haircuts [laughs]. It’s funny because I only get very minimalist, normal haircuts, and it’s always a version of the same thing — at least for the past five years. But I still believe that my perfect haircut — the one that’s gonna make me the best version of myself — is out there. I probably have at least 300 pins in the haircut folder. It’s particularly insane and neurotic of me. They are all variations of a bob. Every pin is a variation of a collarbone-to-chin length brunette haircut. If you looked at all of them, you’d think they’re probably all the same haircut. But they’re not! [laughs]
What type of music resonates with you when you’re baked?
I listen to the same stuff when I’m stoned as when I’m not stoned. I pretty much listen to the same music I listened to in high school. Recently, I’ve been listening to The Magic Flute chronologically. This sounds pretentious, but it’s my honest answer. My dad is a classical music composer, so this is the kind of music that I have been exposed to on a very consistent basis since I was a baby. It’s comfortable to me, though I realize that maybe intense classical music might be overwhelming to your average stoner. It’s not overwhelming for me because of how long it’s been a part of my life.
What is something you like to watch while you’re really high?
I have a couple suggestions. The first one I think is perfect for someone who is stoned because weed puts you in the right headspace to accept the information you’re being given — and it’s a short film, so it’s great for those with weed-induced ADHD. It’s a David Lynch short from 2002 called Darkened Room. You can find it on YouTube, though the quality is bad. It’s great and it’s very bizarre. It kind of has a rhythm to it if that makes sense. You don’t really need to take a magnifying glass to the plot. You know how David Lynch movies function; they’re already kind of existing in an alternate reality. So I think it will resonate with someone who’s slightly incapacitated.
I also cannot miss out on an opportunity to sing the praises of one of my favorite films ever, Showgirls. It’s great to watch when you’re stoned or sober. I could, and have in a sense, written dissertations on this film. It is amazing, and not in a “so bad it’s good” way. It’s a wonderfully-made, smart movie about topics that I care a lot about — like the pain of being a woman, and the entertainment industry. It’s a highly intentional feminist masterpiece. I don’t think it’s camp or ironic or anything like that. I think that it gets misinterpreted or at least did in the past because it flopped at the box offices when it came out, and it ruined the career of the lead actress Elizabeth Berkeley — who was an A-lister prior to 1996 (the year Showgirls was released). After this movie, her agents wouldn’t even return her calls because of how much everyone hated the film.
So then I have one more movie suggestion, which could either be perfect or terrifying, depending on the person. It depends on how they interact with weed. Mirror by Tarkovsky, which is kind of like an extended video art piece to me. It’s a collection of memories. Some seem to exist in the real world. Other ones seem more like dreams. It’s real artsy like that, plus the visuals are gorgeous. I tend to think that things that are aesthetically pretty are good things to watch when you are stoned. And this applies to Showgirls, too, which is an aesthetically beautiful film.
One last question — who is in your dream blunt rotation? Alive or dead.
How many people do I get?
As many as you’d like, it’s your party.
Okay. Let’s start with alive. I’m gonna say Catherine MacKinnon. The lawyer and feminist scholar. She was part of my entry point into becoming a trans-inclusive radical feminist, and thinking about society in terms of how it treats women and what it means to be a woman myself.
Kanye West would also be there. Nicholas Cage. Paul Verhoeven. Chomsky before he’s dead. And then I’m going to throw Pope Francis in there because I have to rep Argentina. Also, Cornel West, so we have two Wests. Then, let’s add Lars Von Trier. I think this crew would be really fun. I like that they all have strong personalities, but I wonder if anyone could get a word in?
Amazing. Who would be in your dead sesh?
I know for certain I want Hedy Lamarr in my dead blunt rotation. She is the coolest person ever and had the wildest life I’ve ever heard of. She was a very famous movie star back in the day. When she first debuted in an American film in American cinemas, there were reports of people literally fainting over how beautiful she was. She also was an Albert Einstein-level genius. She helped develop what would eventually become Bluetooth and WiFi. For fun, she would fix Herbert Hoover’s planes (they dated briefly). She was married like seven times. And she was jewish, but her first marriage was to a Nazi who was best friends with Mussolini, and she escaped him by drugging their maid and putting on the maid’s clothing and taking the maid’s bicycle and running away.
In her middle age, she got addicted to plastic surgery and they didn’t have all of the procedures that she wanted, so she invented them herself and then the surgeons would perform them on her. And they’re still plastic surgery techniques that are used today. At the end of her life, she was a full hermit and would only communicate with people over the phone, including her children. She lived the wildest life out of anyone, and therefore Hedy Lamarr’s at the top of my list for my dead blunt rotation. Then I want to add Stanley Kubrick and my dearly departed grandparents (both paternal and maternal), for good measure.
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