Miranda July Wants You to Love Somebody

We’d be lying if we said we didn’t feel, upon hearing the news that Miranda July is releasing an app, a little frisson of hope that it would be a first-person, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood”-style glimpse into July’s particular motivations and social milieu. (“Miranda July: Silver Lake” has a certain ring to it, no?)

Leave it to July, with the support of equally ever-original Miu Miu, to come up instead with something totally unexpected: Somebody, an app that actually prompts—gasp!—genuine human interaction. The app uses GPS to triangulate interactions between users: send your friend a message through Somebody, and instructions for how to deliver it, verbally and in person, will be sent to the person standing closest to her. The app accounts for a variety of accompanying actions, too—”kiss,” “fist bump,” “tell your life story,” and more—to ensure your message really gets across.

ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: I tend to think of the most addictive apps as ones that pull me out of the world and cause me to ignore social interactions in order to stare at my screen instead. Was this app born out of a conscious effort to do the opposite?

MIRANDA JULY: It’s not just the lack of the connection with other people—but also with yourself. My phone tends to keep me in sort of a suspended state of waiting all the time. Somebody just has a different feel to it because you’re engaging with a more active part of your brain—you’re alert to the fact that this could go very right or very wrong, you don’t know what will happen next. This is a healthy state I aspire to, as an artist and human—good ideas come from this kind of giddy alertness.

SYMONDS: Do you anticipate Somebody giving rise to new relationships (between the deliverer and recipient), or do you think the third party message deliverer should remain a stranger and fade away as soon as the interaction is over?

JULY: Either way. When I help a stranger do something, like pick up fallen pears, I always feel high as a kite afterwards, like I’m one with humanity. I don’t need to date the person who dropped their pears. 

SYMONDS: You’re an artist and you’re well known enough that I would imagine sometimes people start conversations with you already knowing who you are—knowing more about you than you know about them. Do you think Somebody creates a similar dynamic between the deliverer and the recipient?

JULY: The deliverer does know a tiny bit, and they can play with that, make assumptions about the relationship and use it to activate their performance. But so often you don’t know—yesterday I delivered a message and had know idea if these two women were lovers or friends or making up or just beginning.

SYMONDS: What did you think of the scene in Her in which the couple hires a physical surrogate?

JULY: I love that scene—I read an early draft of Spike’s script and remember thinking that would be my favorite scene in the movie and it was. Given my interests I probably would have made the whole movie about the surrogate, but then I wouldn’t have won an Oscar.