hat made you decide to become an artist? Is it something you knew you wanted to do from a young age?
My mother told me that when I was about five years old I spontaneously began praying aloud, “please God, let me be an artist.” Divine intervention did not come, so I got more proactive about three years ago when it started to feel problematic that my ideas never migrated beyond my diary. At that point, I decided not to waste my time any longer and I put my art practice above all other commitments.
Your performance work ‘Dreamboy’ features a somewhat dysmorphic figure, with a prosthetic nose and lips on the back of its head and hair covering its face. What is this work aiming to awaken in the viewer?
That performance was very uncomfortable, which was obvious to the audience; this figure is struggling, intensely concentrating on trying to make their body move in the way they want. Lack of control over one’s body is a universal experience – whether you are self-conscious of your weight or shape, entering orgasm, or you are temporarily or permanently disabled or sick – we are all familiar with that sensation of having our vulnerable body exposed to others. Dreamboy is a condensation of that sensation, from a transgender lens. That raw sensation of being witnessed is tempered by agency, because dreamboy shares his philosophy explicitly by writing a statement. In this way I tried to set up a compelling tension between physical constraint and self-sovereignty.
“Lack of control over one’s body is a universal experience (…) we are all familiar with that moment of having our vulnerable body exposed to others. Dreamboy is a condensation of that sensation, from a transgender lens.”
From left: Archie Barry, Dreamboy (17 August, 2016) photographic still from performance at Victorian College of the Arts. Blood, Take a Bow (2017) photographic still from performance at Studio Brunswick, collaborator: Max Milne. Image courtesy of the Artist.
ou mention on your website that your work is about ‘envisaging alternate possibilities for ever-evolving architectures of personhood’. As a society, it seems we have a long way to go in understanding gender and letting go of rigid stereotypes. What would you like to see happen in terms of rights for transgender individuals?
When all people have the right to explore gender as a malleable resource, then the stigma and abuse that transgender people experience will lessen. Gender is policed by regular people in everyday social scenarios, and it is that level of policing (not just legally ratified policing) that creates real barriers to human needs, such as the need to belong and feel real.
Can you describe a real-life situation that has influenced your work?
An ex-boyfriend once taught me a psychotherapeutic process that involves having conversations with parts of your own body. I’ve used this strategy numerous times as a method to locate new directions in my practice. I remember a dialogue I once had with my jaw that resulted in a performance where I sang a duet with a tiny synthetic mouth.
“Gender is policed by regular people in everyday social scenarios, and it is that level of policing (not just legally ratified policing) that creates real barriers to human needs, such as the need to belong and feel real.”
ou are currently completing a Master of Contemporary Art at VCA. How has your practice changed over time throughout your studies? Have you always been interested in exploring gender?
My work has always been about sexuality and bodies. I have always had a steady drawing practice, and when I look back on the bodies I drew ten or even fifteen years ago, I can see myself thinking about the gender spectrum in a non-linguistic way. Before 2016 I had never made performance art, but I spent a lot of my teenage years writing music, singing in bands and making strange short films with friends, and I can identify the threads of those more informal experiments in what I do now.
What has the proudest moment of your career been to date?
Seeing people in my audience cry.
Archie Barry, Bum TV (2015) photographic still from single channel video, 2:44 minutes. Image courtesy of the Artist.
Favourite book? The Shaman’s Body by Arnold Mindell
Favourite film? Nånting måste gå sönder (Something Must Break)
Favourite band / musician? Princess Nokia
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? A despondent writer
If you could change one thing about the world today what would it be? Education about trauma for all