Justin Vivian Bond's LIVE IDEAS Series 'Mx'd Messages' Reimagines a World Without Binaries

Justin vivian bond
Photography: Michael Hart

Running this week is New York Live Arts' 2017 LIVE IDEAS festival, which features a series called "Mx'd Messages," curated by queer icon and trans-genre artist Justin Vivian Bond. The event includes panels, workshops, keynotes, installations and performances from global LGBTQ artists including Hari Nef, Macy Rodman, Kate Bornstein and Severely Mame, among others.

Related | Trans Pop Star Macy Rodman Lashes Out Against Fascism in New Video

Mx'd Messages aims to reimagine the world without binaries, looking at how that affects gender, politics, theology, sensory perception and race. After events running from March 14 to 19, Mx Bond's series will end with a queer punk rock dance party. Her curatorial effort falls in line with New York Live Arts' "annual humanities festival of arts and ideas," which explores the "ideas, controversies and thinking informing a different bodily-oriented theme each time out."

OUT caught up with Mx Bond to discuss the event's different participants and how queer art can have a powerful influence on our current cultural climate.

OUT: Do you have any earlier festival experiences that influenced "Mx'd Messages"? 

Justin Vivian Bond: My entire perspective on life changed at an arts and music festival at the York Theater on Mission St. in May, 1989.  It was a two-day festival called "Homocore," and it was my first exposure to the queer anarchist scene that led me to become the performer I am today. Two of the people I met around that time were Kenny Mellman, who I went on to collaborate with for many years in the cabaret act Kiki & Herb, and Lynn Breedlove, of the now legendary seminal Queercore band Tribe 8.

Tell us about some of the participants in your LIVE ARTS series. 

Lynn is the founder of Homobiles, San Francisco's queer ride service, which is now also the name of their latest band. The Homobiles will be making their NYC debut at the closing night of the festival's Ostara Ball, our punk, pagan, welcome-to-spring dance party, along with Cristy Road and Macy Rodman. There was no question that I needed to have Kenny and Lynn kick off the festival, as they completely understand the philosophical and cultural underpinnings of what this festival is about, both artistically and historically.

We rounded out the key note panel with Cristy Road, who is the personification of the punk queer aesthetic, and the amazing Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras. I’m also really excited to present the world premiere of Brontez Purnell’s new dance piece, Chronic: A Dance About Marijuana, which is a double bill with Oakland-based trans musician, pop singer-songwriter Star Amerasu, whose music is beyond fabulous. I’m really excited to introduce Star, whose current musical project is called AH-MER-AH-SU, to our NYC crowd.

What were you looking for in films and performances to include?

Dirty Looks’ Bradford Nordeen has been programming really adventurous and exciting films and events around the city for the past several years, and he’s never failed to thrill and surprise with his taste and accuracy in being on-point in any circumstance. All I had to do was give him a few lines on what the festival was about and he programmed the film series to perfection. I couldn’t be happier.

With regards to performances, it was very important for us to find work that was embodied by non-binary performers and which simultaneously approached the subject matter in terms of content and presentation in non-traditional ways. We are delighted to have a “Re-MX” of a brilliant piece I saw a few years ago called RoosevElvis by The TEAM, created especially for the festival. We are presenting a performance created by Trajal Harrell at Participant Inc, which will get us out of the traditional theater space for one of the Prime Time events.

How has binary thinking impacted your own life?

One of the greatest challenges of my life has been the expectation that I would lie about who I was in order to fit into a pre-ordained category so that I might be treated with dignity and respect.

What is art's responsibility in this political era? 

To shine a light on the truth, to give people a sense of community and that they are not alone, to make life more bearable, and hopefully encourage people to own their own power so that they can feel confident to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

What would you say to President Trump directly if you were in a room with him?

"Should we start out with a prostate massage?"

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