On Black Performativity and Finding Solace in QTIPOC Spaces: an Interview with Daniel Brathwaite-Shirley

QTIPOC

Daniel is a queer non-binary black artist whose pronouns are they. They are dedicated to creating work around and for QTIPOC groups. Their artist pseudonym is Ladyd.Daniel - Wildabout Magazine

Wildabout: Could you define your art for us?

Daniel: I would say my art is recording and exploring the experiences of QTIPOC people within London. A lot of it is about archiving feelings and emotions. I think allowing your emotional voice to be captured and appreciated as a genuine response to the world is very important.

Wildabout: How do you think your art evolved within the years?

Daniel: I’m a lot more honest and angry. The more I look into my art, the more I research about who I am and what kind of world we live in and the angrier I get. I just don’t give a shit about what other people think anymore. It’s more about what I can do for me and other people. Definitely the audience has shifted from a more white male gaze to a QTIPOC gaze and that’s something I think about all the time and have to think about all the time.

Wildabout: What are your inspirations or your influences when you produce art?

Daniel: An artist I’m looking at the moment is Isaac Julien who makes really great queer black films. He made a film called The Attendant it’s about BDSM and linking it to blackness. Also Jacolby Satterwhite an artist with a background in vogue who uses 3D images, his mum’s schizophrenia alongside his dance in his art. Beyoncé’s videos or Solange’s new album, a lot of pop culture and video games. And tennis stars like Serena and Venus Williams who are just amazing. As well as all my QTIPOC friends, shout out to Travis Alabanza, and Liv Wynter. A lot of my influences come from going to QTIPOC spaces and talking. Spaces like Batty mama and Pussy palace, or Reel Good Cinema Club open your mind to a whole new portal where you get new references that you just don’t find in ‘normal’ white straight spaces.

Be wary and scared of these helping hands.

Entrance is not acceptance

Lady d - Wildabout Magazine       

Wildabout: Why do you feel the need to create?

Daniel: I feel like if I don’t create I just go crazy. It’s like a coping mechanism. All these drawings I do enable me to archive how I feel at the time so I can look back and think that’s a genuine feeling and allow myself to feel that way. And I record things instead of just ignoring them so I can get rid of all that falsity of “I’m always happy”.

Wildabout: Can you tell of a moment in your life that was defining in your art?

Daniel: I think the first Bookie talk. Bookie’s my collective of QTIPOC people, we talk about issues to do with race, centring QTIPOC people and ideas. We did the first one in an all-white space and everyone talked over us for the entire time. We were offered a mike but we refused it. The point is that people don’t listen to QTIPOC voices, they don’t listen to people of colour talk. Some got angry or walked away making no effort to listen because they were not interested or couldn’t relate to it. That’s when we decided that performing for white people is just not what we want to do. We don’t want to perform, we just want to be ourselves and that’s enough. That’s radical in itself because black people are always performing.  I think that’s a turning point in my life realising I don’t have to perform for anyone.

Wildabout: As a QTIPOC in an art institution what has been your experience?

Daniel: Awful. It’s awful you’re always seen as the token exception. If you bring up something to do with race within anyone’s work, their instant reaction will be, ‘Oh here they go again’. And if you try to pose a question with anything to do with race it’ll be completely  ignored. I did this piece about supremacy and one of the comments was ‘I wish you hadn’t mentioned what supremacy was because I wanted to think about what I think supremacy is.’ They couldn’t even engage in a conversation about race. They are so fragile. They instantly take offense when you bring up that they are white and technically invisible to race and that they don’t ever have to think about it or even consider it.

Wildabout: And what change would you like to see?

Daniel: More checking of privilege and knowing when to speak and when it’s not your time to speak.  Also the fact that white men make up a trauma. They have so much privilege they don’t have trauma but feel the need to create one. It’s ridiculous. If you have a trauma it’ll come through in your work, if you don’t, you don’t have to make one up. We also need much more diversity in terms of teaching, of student body and recognizing marginalised voices. For instance, whenever someone who is QTIPOC comes in, they’ll say, ‘That was great to listen to,’ but will never mention them again. And you have to pander a lot to the white gaze. People have to stop making what looks like art in order to satisfy some white man in a chair smoking a fat cigarette. They need to make whatever they want to make.

Wildabout: Would you say your art is political?

Daniel: Oh yeah, everything, everything it has to be. If it’s not, I’ll cry. No it definitely is.

Wildabout: Are you reading anything good at the moment?

Daniel: I’m reading Octavia Butler’s works and Audre Lorde’s works which are fucking amazing. I’m reading a Strike! paper ‘Decolonizing your mind’ which is really good. Obviously all of gal-dem articles, and all of black girl dangerous, just a lot of QTIPOC centred things. It’s hard to say what I’m reading because a lot is just online, articles and people’s posts.

LADYD - Wildabout Magazine

‘I think that’s a turning point in my life, realising I don’t have to perform for anyone.’

Lady D - Wildabout Magazine

Wildabout: What are you listening to?

Daniel: Frank Ocean’s new album, Solange’s new album, Blank Banshee’s new album which is peng and 2814 by Hong Kong Express some ambient vaporwave album. Also Princess Nokia, Cakes Da Killa, Le1f and Junglepussy.

Wildabout: What are the boundaries of art for you?

Daniel: Don’t believe that you alone can and that your art will have an actual change on society itself. It’s about working with people. If you think you’ll change the way people think by doing a painting and putting it up on a wall, that’s not going to happen. It’s about actively continuously doing things. So I think there are limitations to what art can do if you just think of yourself in it. If you think about creating art in terms of forming communities, archiving everything you do, making history, then the boundaries are a bit more fuzzy. But I still don’t think there are boundaries.

Wildabout: Your favourite artwork at the moment?

Daniel: Massage the History (Infinite Mix visual art piece) or Isaac Julien’s The Attendant.

Wildabout: What are you currently working on?

Daniel: I’m working on this film about radical sex. The narrative is that someone hears the term ‘radical sex’ and is seeking a person to have it with. They find someone claiming they can give them radical sex but this person is actually using those kind of politics in order to get them into bed. It’s about the aftermath, how they deal with that. It’s not necessarily bad sex, they didn’t offend them or treat them poorly, it’s the fact you can use politics in order to fake something or to get your way.  In a seminar I used the word ‘decolonize’ in my art and someone mentioned they didn’t like that word because many use it who don’t decolonize. Decolonizing is checking up on your friends, it’s calling someone and saying ‘Are you home safe?’ It’s all these things but using these words doesn’t mean you’re doing shit.

Wildabout: What brings you joy?

Daniel: I think a good meal and good company brings me joy. And a QTIPOC burlesque The Cocoa Butter Club, I really want to go to that again.

Wildabout: And an ideal future for you would involve…?

Daniel: There are no ideal visions. Having an ideal vision already leads to problems because you have things that can’t happen in that ideal vision. I’d like people to respect people’s space and people’s emotions. The way we share valuable information should also be completely different. For instance, just because you are reading an academic article does not mean it’s smart or meaningful in any way. Likewise having a conversation at a small circle dinner does not mean it isn’t important or as valuable as the greatest academic article.

Bust of the great poc alien gem
A bust of the great poc alien gem

 

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