The “C” Files with Maria Brito

FULL EPISODE

Juliana Huxtable

Maria Brito and artist Juliana Huxtable discuss gender fluidity, trans identity and the intersection of different disciplines in Huxtable’s practice including performance, DJ’ing, photography, music, painting and writing. Taking place in various parts of Brooklyn, including Huxtable’s studio, the episode includes interviews with artists Christopher Udemezue and Walt Cassidy.

AIRED: November 06, 2019 | 0:13:35
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TRANSCRIPT

Juliana Huxtable is one of those amazing artists

where she goes to places where people normally

don't want to hear, they don't want to go to

and she takes us there with humor and with brilliance.

She is at the intersection of many dialogues,

and she is also opening up

this entire conversation around gender.

And what I love about Juliana is that she's so prolific.

She can DJ, make her own music, make film,

she paints, she takes photographs.

she performs, she writes poetry and prose.

She is good at everything, and I'm so intrigued

and fascinating about her own persona,

and how cool she is.

Hello. Hello.

So good to see you. Nice to see you.

Thank you.

Brito: When do you know that you wanted to be an artist?

When I was a child.

When I was three I told my mom

I wanted to be an artist

or that I was an artist,

not that I wanted to. I told her that I was.

How was your time aboard?

Because I have heard it so many times

that you said that the teachers were not supportive

and that you were trapping your identity according to them

and obsessed with putting your identity out in the work.

And as far as I'm concerned, that's what artists do.

They work with their identity

because it's the first thing they know.

All art is about identity.

Anyone who is making work it's like naturally

their identity is going to be woven into what they do.

But I think women, queer people, people of color

unfairly share the burden of being told

that what they do is identity,

even though it's not necessarily more or less about identity

than what anyone else does.

And so, are you totally over the trans conversation?

You don't want to ever like talk about it?

I'm not over that the trans conversation in so much

as that's always a part of any conversation

that I would have.

But I don't like when things become like pathological

or deterministic when people are like.

"Oh, you used pink hair because you were born a boy

and now you are a woman, and that means that you like

pink and that is why you have pink in this portrait.

That's like clinical, really suffocating,

uninteresting way of talking about art work.

Like, to me, it's like why I like art

is because it doesn't have to be a literal.

I want to be to be imaginative about thinking

about what trans could be as a category.

And so that's kind of more interesting to me,

and I think maybe my aversion

to the more literal trans conversation

is an interesting way to motivate

how I think about my work or something.

One of the pivotal moments for me

was when I saw your work at the triannual in 2015

because you were author and muse at the same time,

because we have that amazing 3D sculpture

by Frank Benson.

And When I first saw that work I was thinking to myself,

"She must feel very vulnerable."

The way that that sculpture is made

is your own body turned into an object.

And how do you feel about all the hoopla

around it and the attention?

Yeah.

Well, I think what most people don't realize is

that the sculpture was not made for the triannual.

When I agreed to do that sculpture,

it was going to be shown in one gallery in New York,

one gallery in London.

It's a very specific context,

And I never thought it was gonna be in a museum

with thousands of people seeing it.

Very early on in the sculpture,

It wasn't even going to be fully nude.

It wasn't even going to be in those colors.

Those colors for the sculpture with an adapted

because those were clothes that I had already been using

on myself, and new Nibiru portrait

in new museum was part that character

I had already been developing for years.

And so there were earlier portraits that I had done

in a similar vein with a similar sort of painting,

and that painting was adapted on

to the sculpture after the fact.

At the time, you know, I thought,

"Well, I guess probably more good

will come out of this than not."

And so I never really felt super sure about wanting

the sculpture to be in the show,

and then after the show opened,

I think my relationship with to the sculpture

got a bit more... complicated

is one way of putting it.

It's been, sometimes, it's been a source of stress.

And I'm happy to be at a point

where that sculpture has its own life

and I have my own life.

♪♪

The topic of Denver is something that

fascinates me and a lot of people

because it's so ample and there are so many nuances,

and it's not just one thing or the other.

What have you been discovering lately with gender

that adds to your practice?

I've seen great portraits that you've created recently

that are interesting for people to think about gender.

Gender, to me, is like...

It's a lens. It's a tool.

It's something that can be as complicated

or as basic and reductive as you want it to be.

And I think that what I find really interesting

is like even the sort of like --

There's so much thought

if you're thinking about gender theory.

There are so many ideas and thoughts

and concepts and movements that fall loosely

under the rubric of like feminism

or gender studies or gender activism or queer theory.

And sometimes I think that those labels actually

short sight the overarching nature of what's being said.

Like, I think some of the most things

that have fundamentally changed the way that I see the world

have come or fall under gender theory,

but they're really using gender and using questions

of gender and sex as a way to interrogate

fundamental questions about society,

power, race, culture.

And so I think that one of the potentials of art and visual art

especially is to do a similar thing where it's using gender

as like a trope, but it's not just about gender.

It's not like I'm just making work about being

myself in the world.

It's a way of provoking questions about identity

and how identity functions and how style

and fashion and counter culture

and like identity on a much larger level exist

in the kind of contemporary moment.

And so it's about exploding gender or thinking about gender

as something that's not just self reference.

How do you get into the nightlife?

And you know you deejay and you also throw parties

or you used to shock value but how did that happen?

I mean I've always been obsessed with nightlife

since I was a kid. -Why?

I don't know, it's one of those things that's just like

I found and fantasized about nightlife

as a space of liberation.

And I think that for me church was really important to me

growing up, I loved the music. I loved the community.

I loved the glamour of church like Southern black Baptist

like people you dress up and so

but I think that church had a lot of shortcomings for me

in the sense that it was like

could be very conservative, socially.

Clubbing to me was almost like an all like a form of church

but a much more free. version of that or something.

And so it just made sense to me

that I would start deejaying and throwing parties

and being more involved in the creative side.

Everything feels impossible right now.

♪♪

Why don't you tell me about the House of Ladosha

and how it started and what it means

and what happens when you go there.

So House Ladosha is a family, at the core.

It started at-- in dorm room in new school.

Fast forward many many many years later that family

is only just grown.

How are your creative collaborations with Juliana?

We've done so many different things that,

I guess it depends on what the project is.

We've done parties big parties together.

We've helped each other with each other's work.

We've worked collaboratively on stuff for House of Ladosha.

As hectic as it may seem on the outside, and sometimes it is,

it's always seamless because we know

that we have each other's backs and we have the same goals.

I love the project that you did with her and the new museum.

-Oh, yeah. -For Traeger.

Yes.

and that also I love the idea of using art

for social activism in connection with gender.

Everything we do is always in some way pointing to politics

but we should kind of put a camera or mural against that.

And then also celebrate House of Ladosha

and the work that we've been doing.

So, how do we kind of shake people up to be like,

Look, yes things are dark now but they've always been

kind of intense. Especially for queer families.

And the best thing you can do is.

Like not forget that.

That it's important to keep the people

who you love closest to you,

especially if you're queer to, like, like hurdle up.

Because it's, even if it does get better,

and hopefully will, it's not going to be easy overnight.

[ Cheers and applause ]

You were a total pioneer because now

is that we're seeing that non binary

and the fluidity of everything is actually becoming the topic.

Yes. It's great. So if you did this 20 years ago...

Yes. People weren't so obsessed with language back then

but the LGBTQ community it was sort of us and them.

That was it. That's all you needed to know.

And so when I started developing my look and my identity

I was gender neutral and I was fluid and I was

not interested in committing to any kind of box.

So I would do public events and there would be pageants

and people would say the M.C. would go

Are you a boy or a girl. And I would say neither.

That's the only answer I have was neither.

I couldn't say, "Oh, I'm fluid." or, "I'm non binary."

or I didn't have that language and and people celebrated

that just that notion of not knowing.

How did you meet Juliana?

She was hanging out with the House of Ladosha

and they were a band at the time

♪ I guess I'm carrying Bradshaw, Royston, fashion, genefac ♪

And so I had seen her performance

and she was just on the side go go dancing.

And I saw this amazing person

on literally on the side of the stage

and I was like "This is all great,

but she's the star." And actually there was,

someone from publication there that night

and I made some declaration I was like

"Oh, that girl. She's the new it girl.

So whatever she's got going on, you need to look at her."

I was just drawn to her. I find that a lot with artists.

Who are operating within certain networks.

It's like you just recognize it when you see it.

It's almost like meeting an old soul.

Like, I've known you forever even though we've just met

and we had that connection.

What inspires you about this neighborhood?

-I think the diversity. -I love Bushwick.

I mean it's very cool.

I mean I'm also like moved here as an artist.

Like, I moved here because I liked being in the neighborhood.

And so it's weird to see people that move

and don't want to see black or Latino people.

I find that to be weird

but that's something that's kind of happening

where even like me or Chris we'll walk into a bar.

And people get nervous and weird and it's like. "What?"

It's like why would you move to Bushwick,

if you want to just put beard wax on?

I think that for what it is worth

at least you keep producing amazing music.

And photos and videos.

Out of the neighborhood.

It's been lovely. Thank you.

♪♪

♪♪

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