Artist Zoe Chait’s latest show NOISE opened recently at Ramiken in the heart of Brooklyn’s industrial rave scene. Ramiken’s white-walled interior is filled with images that conjure mixed feelings of magic, sensuality, mourning, and joy.
Among the works in NOISE are a number of photographs and videos of the late Scottish musician, record producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ Sophie Xeon, known to the world simply as Sophie, made by the artist between 2017 and 2019. It was during this relatively short period that Chait and Sophie transitioned from housemates into romantic lovers, and then finally into intimately close friends. “It was a very curious, playful, and beautiful period of time,” Chait recalls, “Sophie was so fucking cool.”
The exhibition, conceived and created before Sophie’s tragic passing with her collaboration and support pays homage to the musician’s rebel heart, peeling back the layers of Sophie as icon to reveal Sophie as friend, lover, and all things in between. Below, Chait opens up about a few moments, immortalized in the photographs on display, that she spent with Sophie, and the process that led her to exhibit them.
soft, juul, 2017
“I never would set up a shoot or anything. We would be together and I would take a few photographs. Out of 36 images on a roll of film, there would be three of Sophie. And those three were all these one-off moments that existed. It was before she released “It’s Okay to Cry,” before her essential person was out there in the world. She was an enigma before. We got to know each other as friends and became really close.”
what dream, 2021
“This is a still from the video, which is shot behind the scenes of the “Ponyboy” shoot. At the time I was working on this other documentary project where I was shooting only using the DV camera, with mini-cassette tapes. It’s standard definition and it has an insane optical zoom. This very sexy, glossy, bouncy kind of dream. I call this one what dream, not wet dream. Maybe it was initially called wet dream or something. It reminds me of her building this character, which was her in so many ways. It was definitely one prism of who she was.
I think the question of ‘what dream?’ feels to me so Sophie and it also feels to me what I started to think since knowing her; this question of, ‘What is real to you?, What do you want to be?’ I chose to print with this reflective surface, it is dye sublimation on aluminum.”
“This is one of my favorite photos. I was in upstate New York, with my sister who was living up there. Sophie was in town for two days. I took the train and I had less than four hours that I could be in the city because of family obligations. I just walked into the apartment, and we barely even spoke. It was just this really beautiful flash of moments. Her brother Ben was there who I was close to as well.
She feels so comfortable in her body. I saw her go from feeling very uncomfortable with being seen to being very comfortable in her own skin. This was definitely a moment where I was like, ‘There’s some part of you that has arrived in your body, in your mind. She just felt very at peace with herself, in a way.”
“This was actually the last time we saw each other in person. This is at Echo Park Lake. I made so many prints of this image. And they just didn’t have the dimensionality that I felt like you needed to really be there. We tested a bunch of different things and kind of came to this, which is organza, so it’s this very transparent material. Super delicate. It’s stretched over this angle iron, a very hard industrial material. In terms of feeling with what that memory is it just feels like a fleeting thing. You can never really hold onto it. It’s like a tissue. These two photos are from the same day.
projection reflected, 2017-2020
“This was at the height of Sophie’s glamour. From the first one to here, I was like, ‘Wow, you really entered into a new relationship with the camera.’ I was filming her getting ready on the monitor. She was looking into the monitor during the shoot for the Louis Vuitton runway show. This video piece as a whole, the point is that you can’t always see it. It changes based on where you stand. They’re different moments from the last four years, including video of myself. After you spend so much time filming other people, you question the relationship between seeing and being seen.”
“We were actually working on putting everything together and releasing this show potentially last fall. Sophie saw all the photographs and was aware that we were going to do it. Like when “It’s Okay to Cry” came out, we were lying on her bed reading all of the Twitter comments come in, and she was so nervous that people were gonna hate it. We were both crying, reading the Twitter comments. I was obviously being there for my friend and being so proud of her and supporting her, and I remember I was so impressed by the bravery that it took. I think Sophie was so fucking cool.”