Jun 15, 2017 12:36AM

Juliana Huxtable On Getting Personal And Finding Her People

Art star.
Multi-legend and truly smart human Juliana Huxtable is boarding a plane to Hobart rn, where she'll play Dark Mofo & Red Bull Music Academy's Transliminal party. It's an event that fans of art and the internet (and good times) are understandably flipping out about.
 
Aside from being a DJ and NYC club scene oracle, Juliana works in performance, poetry, video and photography, at the moment, and runs at all mediums full force. Ahead of Transliminal, we had the total honour of getting to know her…
 
So early in life you've got a story that's really very intense to learn. What does it mean for you to share it? Is your background a motivator for giving yourself a platform? 
I don't think that that's necessarily a motivator of why. I think my primary motivation is kind of intuitive. Since I was little I've always wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a painter and a poet from when I was young so that urge has always been there. I think the urge to express to a certain degree is part of who I am, for whatever reason. In terms of talking about my personal experience, I have a complicated relationship to it. Sometimes I don't want to share that because I don't like when things become too much about reading biography into everything. I do think that it's important that I share it, though. More than anything it's about other people being able to find something that they can identify with or learn from. But I think also it can create a situation where, if I'm making work and someone sees it and they know something about me… it's almost like when people get too much into a psychoanalytic mode of thinking. Like, "Oh, she did this thing and this work because she's trans." It's a complicated relationship. But I think my story is a seperate thing from what motivates me or what my work is about. Not that they're totally unrelated.
 
It seems like House of LaDosha saved you in a way…
It's just finding people that you click with. I think for people like myself, or people in the house, there are so many things that have simultaneously happened. We're all just, first of all, from whatever context we come from, we're really bazaar. So it's already dealing with — whatever you want to call it — freaks, weirdos, whatever. So you already have that sort of sense of isolation or outsiderness that a lot of people generally feel, but then there's all the racial stuff. And most people, I believe, don't have the capability to navigate people whose personhood or identity is that complicated, without being reductive. So for me it was about finding a space where people understand the full breadth of who I am and can sustain and support me. A lot of what the house has done for me is about developing a language that we use among ourselves, that comes out in different passageways through performance or art or curation. The house has been like sustenance for me in that sense, at least in terms of creatively. I could go on, it's my family. They cover a wide range of things.
 
How did you find that family?
I was in college, I used to book shows and help organise conferences and also threw parties where we would have performers. And so I found them on Myspace actually, and they played this party that me and a few of my friends were co-planning together. And I would make mix tapes and send them out to the groups that I was a part of, and I put House of Ladosha on one of the mixes and then we brought them over. That was my first introduction. Just tracking them down, because they're really difficult to reach, required me and my best friend to go to parties to find Antonio and Adam so we could talk to them. And then, honestly, when I moved to New York there was no intention of trying to be friends with them. But then I would see them at events and it just made so much sense. I got closer and closer and became more a part of the world. The idea of a polymath is just inherent to everyone in the house. The nature of everyone in the house immediately resonated with how I operate and how I think about the world. It's not about category, it's not about genre, even asking that is kind of redundant to everyone. So I was like, these are my people. 
 
Had you found any way of belonging before that? Was there anyone who encouraged you to do you?
My best friends from school, we called ourselves 'The Darkness'. That's who I did parties and booked shows with. And now when they come to the city they hang out with everyone at Ladosha. I guess I've always sought out to find people, but the first time it happened was in college. 
 
You practice so many art forms. Do you get different affirmations from music or poetry than you do photography or video? 
There are people who know me more as a DJ or know me more as an artist. That will always be so. But I think that that's just kind of contemporary to how people live now. The difference is that everything that I do is more visible. There are plenty of artists that I know that are also bar tenders and maybe have a weird creative day job, but the things that aren't art don't necessarily come with visibility. All the things that I do generate audiences, so it just makes the nature of how I'm doing what I think most people are doing, more highly visible. I just do what I love to do. Each thing is just a set of ideas to explore and stretch and navigate. 
 
A lot of people look to you and your voice for guidance and strength, is that responsibility daunting?
I don't think of it as a responsibility. If someone chooses to look to me as a source of strength, I think that's great. I think I'm a strong person, if nothing else because I've had to go through a lot to get where I am. My responsibility is to myself, to my friends, to my art and to the things that give me sustenance. If someone else gets something from what I'm doing, I think that's awesome but I don't take it on as a responsibility. Some people do, but I feel like it would be really toxic if I tried to do that.
 
Who is it that gives you strength?
Mostly my peers, friends. My friends are all amazing. I rely on them for so much. 
 
You're coming to Australia for the first time, is there anything you're anticipating… both positive and negative?
The biggest factor for me when I'm travelling is racial dynamics. So that's probably the biggest worry that I have, like how will people receive me, how will I navigate the histories of like colonialism and imperialism. That's something that I have to deal with. I become aware of my position as a traveller in relation to indigenous and aboriginal people. Those are always factors no matter where I go, but especially in countries that are direct results of colonialism. I've had really intense racial experiences travelling, so I'm used to them. I'm not traumatised or triggered, but I do worry about it. But I feel like, and I hope, that the people that follow me and my work would be inclined to be aware of those things too. That's what makes for a cooler experience. 
 
Can you give us a taste of your RBMA Transliminal gig? 
You'll just have to hear it to find out.
Photo: Courtesy

Hayley Morgan