Home Art Grace Joshua Byron Wants Us to Shift Away from Homonationalist Art

Grace Joshua Byron Wants Us to Shift Away from Homonationalist Art

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Filmmaker and writer Grace Joshua Byron (all images courtesy Grace Joshua Byron)

The month of June is a time to celebrate LGBTQ communities. It’s a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture of the queer community, as well as more recent advances made in the realm of civil liberties. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many queer individuals are navigating greater risks to their health, safety, and livelihoods.

Cognizant of the need to stay connected and elevate queer voices amid uncertainty, Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one queer art worker per day on our website and asking them to reflect on what this time means to them. If you identify as a queer art worker, we’d love to hear from you. Click here to learn more about how to participate. 

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What’s your name?

Grace Joshua Byron

Where are you based currently? 

Brooklyn, NY

Describe who you are and what you do.

I am a queer filmmaker, writer, and conversion therapy survivor. My work centers on thinking through the ways language, gender, and trauma inform each other — how is the body in a state of ongoing loss even after events are over? What prints do things like love leave? I created and starred in the web series Trans Monogamist last year, as featured in the Advocate and the Poetry Foundation via CA Conrad. I have written essays on queer art and dating, created lyrical video art pieces, and have a podcast currently being released titled the Nonbinary Carrie Bradshaw.

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From “David” (2020), dir. Grace Joshua Byron

Tell us about your greatest achievement or something you’ve done lately that you’re proud of.

I recently created a video, “a trap,” that wonders how love is a monument to the body, how queerness and gender are linked to loss. The video was one of my first pieces to directly confront the concept of conversion therapy, trauma, death, and gender in the same context, one where utopia is still possible with a torn flower. The video evolved out of a reflective weekly newsletter called “being sad is not a crime” that considers the possibility and relationship of repair, utopia, and pessimism.

Favorite ways to celebrate your queerness and community?

I love to have a night out with my gender non-specific girls and gays, talk late into the night at Queen Vic with a friend, or have an intimate glass of red wine or tea with a friend and cook for them. I love those small but macrocosmic moments where two people’s histories touch. The ways we offer support with language or food or an ear. I, of course, also love to go on dates, another conduit for learning about the self.

What’s been top of mind for you lately?

What are the possibilities for queer relationship that are not contingent on permanence and what are the limits of not having, for instance, monogamy? How do these things inform the world we want to take with us through the portal of the pandemic? — as Arundhati Roy as aptly puts it in their essay.

Talk to us about your immediate queer community/support systems. (Feel free to shout out other folks or organizations you think are doing important work.)

All of my friends are forced into queerness and interdependence, so much of my art practice is working with people I’m intimate with, romantically or otherwise. My friends are often throwing little parties in our apartments or going out together to inform safety. A common question: how are you getting home? Sometimes these little communities are enough, sometimes we have to interact with health-care systems — Apicha, Housing Works, and so on. There’s a growing connection to resource-sharing on Instagram in informal ways, through organizations like PSL, and various trans co-ops in NYC and Philly that are fighting eviction right now.

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Filmmaker and writer Grace Joshua Byron

How are you celebrating Pride Month this time around?

I want to go to the beach, alone or with a friend, high, in my body in a way that is visceral. I want to be in my body, and the life-affirming queerness of that. I also want to see people I haven’t seen in so long.

Are there ways you think queer artists and art workers could be better supported?

I think queer artists and art workers need to develop spaces of chance, mystery, and danger. There is not a huge co-mingling of different workers and media. It seems important to shift that — why are genres so stratified? Take even for instance writers and painters, why are they relegated to different events and physical spaces? These movements must come from within a queer art community, not necessarily to be handed out by a large gallery. What do institutions keep us from trying?

In the communities that you’re part of, what are you hoping to see shift in the future?

There should be a shift away from art that is invested in homonationalism or in uncritical lingering with capitalism. I’m hoping that more DIY spaces spring up and we question the ways galleries function and lack accountability. Why can’t we do it ourselves? What lack of resources do we have and where can we form that community and accountability? What artists offer this from the past — this mode of creating in and for ourselves unmediated by institutional work? People like Marcus Scott Williams are already asking this question in and through digital residencies.

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Filmmaker and writer Grace Joshua Byron

What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when it feels safer to physically gather again?

Head to Coney Island and listen to Joni Mitchell, pleasantly buzzed.

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