all about the boychild

Boychild is a performance artist, a contemporary vision of cosmic freedom and proof that artists speak of the eternal in the language of their times.

by i-D Team
13 November 2013, 1:55am

Wire wreath Matthew Josephs.

Studies show that lovers often unconsciously sync their heart rates and breath when in the same room. Upon hearing their baby's cry, a mother's breast often begins to express milk. How many more of these unseen physical and emotional connections between our bodies remain unknown? The visionary Californian performance artist, known to her legions of followers on Instagram as boychild (correctly typed with all lower case) has begun a voyage to explore and expose these subtle, yet powerful, interpersonal negotiations with total strangers. Whilst touring with wild-child rapper Mykki Blanco, boychild has performed in nightclubs and music venues across Europe and the USA creating sacred spaces and ultra-modern churches for multiple luminous futures. Stripped of religion's oppressive structures, spirituality is given new optimistic form by simple means. boychild's tool is a wide-open mind via a contorted body. With invisible fingers that reach deep inside the bodies of the audience confronted, blockages are removed and our emotional organs are reconfigured to flow freely. If the entire universe is a vast interconnected web of love, then within this galactic landscape, boychild is creating mountains and the deepest ravines. We are going to get high together.

Hoodie Martine Rose. Holster and leg braces Nasir Mazhar.

How did you begin? Who is boychild?
My friend is an incredible dancer and he was studying for his masters in Berlin. He created this project and invited people to give birth to a character they had developed themselves. At this stage I had never performed or even thought about performing. I was a photographer. I somehow knew that I wanted my character to be a clown but also a kind of... healer. So I started doing all this research into the ways that clowns functioned in non-western cultures, medicine men, shamans, witches. Those figures were suddenly interchangeable in my mind. To me it makes sense that clowns in a community might use humour and knowledge (magic) in a very cunning way to heal those around them. The thesis performance eventually got cancelled, but I had hundreds of sketches of this character, her development had begun. boychild's physicality was then birthed, nurtured and inspired by the drag scene in San Francisco, specifically by a performer named Dia Dear.

Was there some new power or something in particular that drew you into performing? I feel like I can express myself and speak a language with my body that I can't with words. The drawings are my way of putting my thoughts down on paperandyeah; they then become alive in my performances. Ultimately I can tell people so many things in a performance that I can't in other ways.

How do you think people perceive you initially and does that change once they see your performances?
It's complicated because my (trans) body is intrinsic to my work and my life. I think people are fascinated by the androgyny at first. But it's not specifically about gender.

Top Dolce & Gabbana. Wire wreath Matthew Josephs.

Is it frustrating if people read it in that way?
No, I try to be patient.

How do they experience your performance in contrast to their assumptions?
Something I want from the audience is for them to feel themselves in their own bodies, in that moment. I think that if people don't, that's totally fine too. I don't want to force anyone to feel anything they don't want to, or that they're not ready to. People often say that they see the beauty in my performance, which is surprising to me. Sometimes it can visually be very dark; there is a lot of pain and vulnerability. No one sees an image the way they see (feel, experience) a performance... there is so much movement. You don't see my tears in a photograph. There's an anguish that I think is very visually expressed but there is also so much joy and so much freedom. There is not a greater high.

Is the work ever meant to be truly dark?
My work is about love. Darkness is not something I'm trying to achieve; I think it just is... as light wouldn't exist without darkness and vise versa. I wouldn't say that I'm aiming to make dark work, but with a reflection of light and bliss, comes darkness and sorrow. Without sorrow joy wouldn't taste so sweet.

When you present people with an image of freedom, they intuitively understand that it exists as a potential in themselves. The reality of facing that truth and then activating it within their own lives is massive.
Am I the image of freedom? I love that statement about reality of facing truth and activating it.

Jumper Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci.

Is capitalism part of human nature?
I think fear is.

What do you fear?
Fear, because fear breeds anger and hatred. I'm really on a love kick right now. LOVE.

I recognise a spiritual consciousness in your work. When we made that video together I felt that you were showing me a new language of prayer. It was a very intimate thing to experience with someone I had just met. Were you in a trance? What was happening in your head?
Lots of thoughts... actually, no thoughts. I go somewhere else... completely. In the moment of performance I basically have to trust myself with you, or however many people are in front of me. I try to be as respectful as I can with the people sharing that space. I give full trust and honesty with them, because I ask for that back. I am flipped inside out, from my heart and soul.


Do you think people are conscious of this spiritual aspect in their everyday lives?
Maybe sometimes. Some people are just hella psychic or tuned in... many people are completely closed off to everything starting with their own souls, minds... bodies.

Have you developed your own ways to encourage that connection within yourself? I believe that people of power find their own ways to meditate. Yeah! I absolutely believe that. For a long time, I thought I didn't know how to meditate, how the fuck does one meditate?! Then I realised that I do it all the time. I need to meditate before, during and after a performance, for example. Breathing is very important in my performance, seeing breath...

You should ask the audience to breath with you, make the whole room breathe in rhythm with you.
I think they stop breathing, that's what's important. Are you recording this?



Text and photography Matthew Stone
Styling Matthew Josephs
Photography assistance Rogelio Ramirez, Beatrice Lopez
Styling assistance Billy Lobos
Retouching The Forge
Interview assistant Christina Photiou

Mykki Blanco
Nasir Mazhar
Martine Rose
performance artist
Matthew Josephs
matthew stone
Dolce and Gabbana
the creative collaborators issue