TRAVIS ALABANZA IS IN REFLECTION AND IN GLORY
February 12, 2019
The image of the Black queer artist in reflection and in their own glory are my favorite images. This is what performance artist Travis Alabanza and photographer Faith Aylward created in their collaboration that find Alabanza in various warm and cozy settings in colorful and elegant styling. There’s a calm in the aesthetic that makes the images feel cathartic and healing, yet still striking. Still powerful. Travis Alabanza has been an integral part of my Black queer diet for years now. How they have used visual art and performance as a way to widen where Black queer expression and thought arrive, and I’ve marveled at the grace and talent for years. AFROPUNK caught up with the performer to see what they have in store for 2019 and how they’re dealing with all the bullshit in the world, and how they’re staying so damn cool and calm. Spoiler: it has to do with apologizing less.
What’s your relationship with art and performance right now?
It’s almost as if, right now, we are meeting for the first time again, but I’m not as shy. With a lot of the experiences I’m having now, and the new areas my performance is taking me, it sometimes feels like my first day on the job again — I’m so excited, nervous and inquisitive about it all — but just not second guessing as much. It’s nice. I’m exploring and seeing more art around me again, it feels like my eyes are open.
As you get older and more comfortable in your position as an artist, what are the changes you’ve experienced?
I think I feel a lot less pressure to rush, and a lot more invested in care. I rushed a lot of early things, and that’s not to say I regret that, it was clearly needed at the time — but now, I guess I know that I have time. It feels like my intentions are clearer. I’m also apologizing a lot less.
Has the current global political moment influenced your work in any significant way? If so, how?
Of course, I’m constantly responding to what is around me. Or more often in my work, the absence of what isn’t around me. My recent theatre show Burgerz was really in retaliation, refute or talking back to the current wave of trans art I had seen, and also the rise in work surrounding harassment. Both we’re missing out conversations surrounding (Black) Gender non-conforming bodies. I often find silence to be so loud, and so when things feel “global,” it’s easy to hear what is being missed out. My work often responds to that missing.
Today, how do you define Black?
I think Blackness is constantly refusing or fighting against definition.
As of today, how do you define freedom?
I want us to be able to go outside in our fullest self and know we can get home.
What are the projects we can look forward to?
2019 will have my theatre show Burgerz coming back to more stages and places — so I’m excited for the world to see that again. I’m also about to open an installation in London at the Free Word Centre called All The Ways We Could Grow, and I’m casted in an all-Black femme reworking of The Ridiculous Darkness which opens at Gate Theatre at the end of this month. Who knows what the rest of the year will have yet, we in February, right?