This is *literally* me
Wellness, a strange buzzword sweeping through the internet, one that seemingly encompasses everything from Gwyneth Paltrow’s vaginal eggs to Frankensteinian sounding placenta facials. It’s expensive and exclusive. That is until Gabi Abrão got her hands on it. Born and raised in West Los Angeles, Gabi is the brains behind @sighswoon, the Instagram dedicated to making funny and, most importantly, relatable wellness memes. In one post, Kermit the frog is lying on his back legs akimbo, surrounded by the obligatory trappings of wellness - a healing crystal, some incense - accompanied by the caption: “When you tidy up your room, put on dreamy nostalgic music, light some good smells, and thoroughly enjoy the heaven that exists in this intimate, personal space of your own design.”
In another, two opposing pictures of Penelope Cruz - in one she smokes anxiously, hair all dishevelled, in the other she smiles happily, empowered and carefree - with the slogans: “Obsessing over the negative, unfit parts of a person or situation that you have lost as a means of letting go and healing” vs “focusing on only empowering yourself, the vastness of time and space, and the positives of your new situation after a loss as a means of letting go and healing.” Using the iconography of popular culture, Gabi debunks the myth that wellness is the preserve of the privileged, and in doing so hands it back to the masses. “Through making memes and creating an Instagram community based in positivity, wellness, and humour, I am creating something I find constructive on a platform that can be shrinking,” she says. Here we speak to the meme artist about spirituality, meaningful connections and the importance of humour in her work.
How has your background shaped who you are?
Gabi Abrão: My father is a Brazilian immigrant who came to LA in the 80s, and my mother came to LA in the 80s from Austria. My father brought major spirituality and mysticism into my life, as well as teaching me the importance of self-sufficiency and awareness. My mother taught me to always have a world-view and embrace the simple pleasures of life like laying in the sun or getting/giving massages in front of the TV. Growing up in Los Angeles has made me feel like I’m in on some little secret. To be a native in such a major city with so many expectations thrown at it is such a perceptive trip. I am in constant awe of being alive.
What is it you do and why do you do it?
Gabi Abrão: I make paintings, drawings, and art videos, I run an alternative art space and digital gallery platform with a group of great friends, I make memes, I write spells, and use Instagram to connect with people and their work.
Through making art and showing other’s art in conceptual shows, I am constantly creating a space for questions and theories. Through making memes and creating an Instagram community based in positivity, wellness, and humour, I am creating something I find constructive on a platform that can be shrinking. I love bridging the online dimension with the tangible, 3D dimension, so it’s important for me to engage with both.
How did you get into it?
Gabi Abrão: I honestly don’t know, it mystifies me how things just happen and grow and all of a sudden it’s “what you do” and you’re deeply engaged with it. It’s incredible. I believe these mediums showed up as a result of deep love and respect for my interests and the process in general.
Can you tell us a bit about Sighswoon? What came first the brand or the Instagram?
Gabi Abrão: The name “sigh swoon” came first. When I was a teenager, I used to wheatpaste posters with the phrase “sigh swoon sigh“ on them all around West LA, on electrical boxes and concrete walls. The “sigh”s were in simple, bold type and the word “swoon” was in a whispy italic. My whole concept with that phrase was that life was full of sighs – passing day-to-day moments and a general confusion – with some swoons sprinkled in – moments of deep connection and euphoria. It became a flirty little mantra to express my beliefs, and an excuse to run around at night.
How did you get into wellness, beauty self-care and positive affirmations? What role do they play in your life?
Gabi Abrão: After being a fairly reactive, impulsive teenager and 21-year-old, I noticed that a whole lot of drama and negativity ensues from not being in a self-aware, loving conversation with yourself. I then committed to a life of intention, awareness, and detachment more than ever before. I believe indulging negative thoughts and triggers is a natural, habitual impulse and it’s in our power to pay attention to our anxious patterns in order to recognize and release them.
I am 24 now, and being more self-aware and accountable has changed my life drastically - whether it saves me from saying something that may damage a relationship, or helps me fall asleep. I can now say I am on a constant quest for better ways to feel, better ways to live, and better ways to de-stress, but always wrapped in the energy of humour and unconditional love.
When did you start making memes, how did you get into it?
Gabi Abrão: When I began the page, I was coming out of a specific phase in my life where I was dating like crazy via Tinder, making tons of sexually-charged paintings, and partying a lot. Finding myself reflective and slowing down, I loved memes and had so much niche material floating around in my head. What started as playful starter packs poking fun at failed tinder dates and types of people at whole foods slowly became highly reflective, personal content. Memes turned out to be the perfect medium.
How important is humour in your work?
Gabi Abrão: Humour is everything to me. Humour is healing and humbling, and an essential ingredient in any conversation with the self.
What inspires your memes?
Gabi Abrão: The strange visual experience of the arbitrary digital plain mixed with my analytical, excitable mind.
What do you hope to achieve with them?
Gabi Abrão: In the future, @sighswoon will serve as a vast archive of my struggles, realizations, and experience in my 20s, in a medium specific to our times, and I adore that. In the present, I want these memes to inspire others on a similar path and create connection and community on a platform that often lacks it. I believe that the simple and humorous medium of memes makes worldwide, widespread self-reflection possible because any idea in a meme is presented in this distant, vague energy that allows anyone to project their personal experience onto it. Memes are sneaky and sweet. Widespread self-reflection is IT.
Can you tell us a bit about your interest in cyborgs?
Gabi Abrão: I am highly interested in the relationship between the digital internet dimension and the tangible, physical dimension. Born in the 90s, I grew up right when the internet started being a staple in every household. I was around for the beginning of social media platforms. Hearing my elders heavily criticize the smartphone generation and going through phases of fearing technology myself, I am now in a place where I am fully embracing the two as a unified force. I am on a continuous quest for balance and benefit in the two. A cyborg is half human, half robot, and I believe we are too. We are robotic entities when we turn on our GPS, strap it to our dashboard, and let it guide us to our destination. We are human entities when we arrive at our destination, and hug everyone at the party. We are robotic entities when we use an advanced search engine to figure out what food is within a 2-mile radius of our apartment, and we are human entities when the food finally arrives and we eat it in pure bliss. It’s a whole system. I recommend reading Donna Harraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” which furthers this concept.
What are you most proud of in your work?
Gabi Abrão: I am most proud of the path it has kept me on, and the meaningful connections made through the content. I am also really proud of this beautiful sofa I got recently in exchange for making three memes for the brand. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. (Thank you, Burrow)
What meme sums you up most?
Gabi Abrão: The “vs.“ meme template which compares two conflicting ideas and two conflicting images to conceptualize duality or a change in perception. Which is basically what’s going on in my head all the time.
What are you working on at the moment?
Gabi Abrão: I live in a house with four other artists and together we are opening this alternative art space in mid-city Los Angeles. It’s called DELI. The space is an actual Deli, slicers and scales and stainless steel counters and all. I’m so excited. I love putting on art shows more than anything. I hope people from the @sighswoon community come by the art space and engage in the physical dimension with me, too.