Designer, roller-derby-player, and all-around great person Bec Mercer is a very interesting individual to know. She’s always my go-to person when I want to talk to a vegan about cannibalism, and she always asks me why I do whatever it is I do (and doesn’t let me get away with bullshit answers). She came around and sat for a portrait, asked me why I’m doing this at all, and answered some questions for all of our edification.
We first met when you were studying design. You’re now quite a few years into your career. Has your view of design changed over that time?
Very much so. When I went to study design it was a reaction to being in a strictly non-creative role and wanting creativity in my life. I was all about making things beautiful. As I’ve progressed in my design career, it has taken a wide arc towards my base values and ethics. I now see design as a problem-solving tool, a tool that has massive potential to contribute to a better world. However, day to day I’ve got to be honest, I’m a little disillusioned because our economic structure is dictating what has value. Big decisions are still based on how much money can be fed to the shareholders, not what is the best for the majority of people and the planet. Design is on the fringe of trying to change these values but we as designers need hustle to ensure that it gets a place at the table where we can actually effect change. The time has come for us to get off our asses and be political, not pay lip service to a system that doesn’t have our best interests at heart.
Give it to me straight: are individual designers able to make a worthwhile contribution to the world through their work?
I still haven’t figured this out. I’m torn, I’m eternally swinging between thinking that “of course we totally can” and “no way the tide against us is too strong”. Although, on the whole I’m an optimist. Let me know if you figure it out!
Don’t you think it’s weird that your cat hasn’t eaten your rabbit? I think it’s astounding.
My cat knows the house rules and seems to like that disgusting canned cat food and sleeping on my bed more than he likes fresh rabbit. Go figure.
What do you do when you need to turn the world off for a while?
Read a book. If it is pretty serious and I have time I go for a drive as far as I can into the country. If option A and B aren’t available then I think gin is pretty great.
Has there been any one particular book or film in your life that has profoundly shaped who you are as a person?
Ooooh, no. So many books and films have contributed in their own way over time. I used to love art house movies with misfits at their heart. Edward Scissorhands, Buffalo 66, My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy — that sort of thing. Also, I’m pretty certain I survived high school because of Daria and a magazine called Punk Planet.
Would you describe Blondie as a punk band, a disco band, or a pop band?
All of the above, that is why they are so incredible.
Could cannibalism be considered as part of a vegan diet? Show your work.
I know we have had many (some would consider too many) conversations that revolved around this topic. Short answer is no, however, I feel like in some ways and given very specific parameters it could be more ethical to eat humans than it is ever to eat animals. Basically, because we have the opportunity to give consent. If I were to die from old age or a car accident but had in my will “feel free to take your fill” that is a much more civilised scenario than say, killing a sheep, because that sheep can never give its consent.
Derby showed me that participating in sport can be about more than exercise. It can be a political act, an act that revolutionises gender roles and general assumptions about people.
You’re a very dedicated roller derby team member. What is it that you get from roller derby that you hadn’t gotten from other sports you might have played before?
Well for one I used to hate sports. I felt like I didn’t fit in, was too tall, too unfit, and nobody wanted me. I was one of those kids that did debating on sports days. It didn’t help that I was pasty as hell so wasn’t much of a fan of the Queensland sunshine.
Derby showed me that participating in sport can be about more than exercise. It can be a political act, an act that revolutionises gender roles and general assumptions about people. Derby is also a real community. Through derby I learnt that I could have real friend relationships with women, from a variety of backgrounds. We build each other up. Before that I’d found it easier to be friends with guys.
Derby has also shown me I can be strong, smart and athletic and know that without outside (society’s or men’s) approval. It is pure self-determination.
What’s something about roller derby that people who have never played it would never realise?
What most people don’t know is that Victoria has the number one roller derby team IN THE WORLD. They have beaten the derby titans of New York, Portland, LA, and Texas amongst others. They travel to the US at least twice a year all out of their own pockets, they don’t get paid anything for the sport and that is even more impressive considering a lot of them have part-time and low paying jobs. Our officials (referees and non-skating-officials) are also some of the best in the world doing the same trips with no payment. The entire derby community is self-run through entirely volunteer efforts.
Do you speak any languages other than English? If not, would you like to?
Si, pokito hablo Espanol… Actually not really. I’d love to learn Spanish and I’m at the base of the mountain in regards to learning Japanese.
What thing do you know that you should cut out of your life that you haven’t been able to do yet?
Tinder. That company is an expert at addiction for sure. I abhor gambling yet I go on Tinder all the time.
When you see a security camera in a public place does it make you feel more safe or less safe?
Less safe. I’m a paranoid fucker!
What gives you the most hope?
When someone smiles or cries or laughs with real emotion and no filter.