Wildabout in conversation with Travis Alabanza on childhood dreams, healing through performance, and being unapologetically black and queer.
Wildabout: Can you tell us a bit about you and what you are working on at the moment?
Travis: Hi! My Name is Travis Alabanza, I am a performance artist that lives and works in London. I grew up in Bristol, and I come from a big family that is predominantly African American and Filipino. I guess I’d describe myself as hella-black, hella-queer, hella-trans, and carrying a femmeness that is powerful, soft, harsh, bold, quiet, anxious – and heavily inspired by trashy pop that should have never been released. I’m currently one of the 2016/17 Artist and Residences at the Tate, and I run workshops there with youth every week, doing workshops around drag, performance, and playfulness in the gallery. I’m currently working on a new solo show called BURGERZ that will debut at Hackney Showroom on the 27th of March, which is looking at the harassment I faced in 2016, and the act of silence in bystanders. I also just started a queer boxing class and that is pretty fun too.
Wildabout: Why do you feel the need to create and for whom? Has that changed with time?
Travis: I guess my reason for creating has always been really self-centred. I need it to survive, to be my whole self, to express myself, and to create stories for myself that I never got to see. I think this has changed a tiny bit with age, now when I’m creating (although still very much focussed on myself and my healing), I have became a lot more aware of audience and who is watching the piece. I like to create work that will give other QTIPOC a reflection, or some of a reflection, but recently I’ve also made work to challenge and to provoke. But ultimately, I start with self, I create so that I can find new ways to be. In a world that tells me to be a certain way, look a certain way, and punishes me for not – creating and being on stage and making art allows me to create my own rules.
Wildabout: What is one of your greatest achievements?
Travis: That is actually really really hard. I think it depends what achievements we are talking about. Not going to art school, being young, and being picked as an Artist at the Tate – was pretty cool. But I think it’s still tied up in an institution that is oppressive. I think my biggest achievement was teaching two summers in a row, young students of colour in Boston, and pushing past a lot of challenges to show them examples of Black queerness in the classroom.
“…my reason for creating has always been really self-centred. I need it to survive, to be my whole self, to express myself, and to create stories for myself that I never got to see.”
Wildabout: What was your wildest dream growing up?
Travis: I’ve always wanted to travel the world in a family-musical, that features all my family. lol.
Wildabout: What has brought you joy in the past years?
Travis: Community. Falling in and out of love. Being surrounded by examples of Black queer excellence. Wearing a perfect dress. Performing on stage. Being able to buy my mother a birthday present. Celebrating survival.
Wildabout: What have you learnt on the way that you wish you’d known then? What advice would you give to your younger self?
Travis: I think everything I’ve learnt I needed to know at that point. I guess I’m still learning to pause more. Pause before I react, think, speak – take more pauses in the day / life. I guess my advice now would be the same then – everything can be a bit slower if you want it to be, there is no rush or path you have to run down. Oh, and don’t rely and search for white validation.
Follow them on twitter: @travisalabanza and their website: travisalabanza.co.uk
Find out more about their show BURGERZ here: https://www.facebook.com/events/372159183165012/
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