venus x sounds off on the end of GHE20G0TH1K
After the lights came up on the final GHE20G0TH1K party this weekend, i-D spoke to founder Venus X about the night’s legacy.
Photography Maria Jose Govea
Venus X is real. In 2009, the then 29-year-old New Yorker established a series of events called GHE20G0TH1K as a way to include the disenfranchised, regardless of their reality. It quickly became an essential night for anyone - whether you got off a shift at the bodega or an international tour - where everyone was treated the same. M.I.A., A$AP Rocky, and Alexander Wang frequently attended, and were charged the standard two-dollar entry fee. Alongside her closest friends, including Hood by Air's Shayne Oliver, Venus and GHE20G0TH1K ushered in a new era of New York nightlife.
GHE20G0TH1K might have celebrated its final show this Saturday at the Red Bull Music Academy, but its message is needed more than ever. With riots breaking out in Baltimore, Venus explained that this week's event was about putting power back in black hands. As she leads GHE20G0TH1K into its next incarnation, we talked with Venus X about celebrity appropriation, reality vs. the internet, and staying true to yourself. And if you're looking for a soundtrack, press play on her exclusive i-D mix!
How did GHE20G0TH1K begin?
In 2009, I started DJing - my friend who bartended at a small bar gave me a monthly night. From there, it grew every month and became weekly, then we moved to a warehouse. It snowballed little by little, but it felt very fast being in it. GHE20G0TH1K has become the way people define New York's youth culture globally, but it just started as a place for people to express themselves.
You've described GHE20G0TH1K as "extremely political." Could you speak about how it acts as a political movement?
Obviously people are opposed to saying anything's political that's entertainment-based, but everything's political. Everything we do has consequences - it's challenging something or going along with the status quo. To pretend like these things, whether it's music or what's happening halfway across the world, don't affect us is bullshit. GHE20G0TH1K is about being honest. Why isn't there a space in nightlife that engages with our reality before we enter that club? As much as people want to get lost in a fantasy, they still have to go home and deal with their lives. GHE20G0TH1K doesn't negate anyone's life.
What does GHE20G0TH1K have to say to the world today?
Today, we're dealing with the riots in Baltimore and violence against young black men. GHE20G0TH1K is trying to remind people that black lives matter, especially in music. We want to put power back in the hands of the people and give them what they're due.
Why end GHE20G0TH1K now?
It's hard to exist in New York if you don't have a lot of money; GHE20G0TH1K as it existed in 2009 is not possible today. Also, with mass-appropriation - from pop stars to the underground - it's too competitive for the wrong reasons. I'm not going to pretend that it's this little party anymore. We want to continue to push the ideas and grow - it's just ending this chapter so we can evolve.
GHE20G0TH1K was once a small event with $2 entry, and is now a recognised institution. Similarly, Hood by Air is being recognized by companies like LVMH. What do you think made these brands so successful?
At the core, they've been around for a long time. GHE20G0TH1K has been around for six years. Hood by Air has been around for almost ten years. You have to ride the wave and understand that people are going to get it, and then they won't. What makes these brands special is that they're not trend-based - they're autobiographical. No one can deny you if you're just being yourself.
GHE20G0TH1K lends itself to and appropriates elements from many subcultures. How do you feel appropriation can be used successfully?
Appropriation is great when you're engaging with the people you appropriate from. That's where appropriation from celebrities isn't handled successfully, because they don't want engagement; they want to take your ideas and pretend that they created them.
From a different perspective, life is about appropriation - everything we experience is appropriated into our lives, through conversations and ideas we share or images we see. But are you giving back something? Is this about personal service or community service? We always need to be thinking about the bigger community at large.
In 2014, you retired from music after Rihanna appropriated GHE20G0TH1K as a style called "Ghetto Goth." How did you decide to continue making music?
I never really had a choice. You want to protest and say, "No, I'm not going to continue being your stylist's inspiration," but I don't have a record deal. I have to work. Do we have a choice but to be ourselves? Absolutely not.
You've said that the internet is the "problem." How do you feel the internet has affected our generation?
It's affected our generation in so many ways. Without the internet, GHE20G0TH1K would not have been possible or impacted anyone around the world. It's also created a situation where we value brief aesthetic pleasure over real experiences. There are so many ways to falsify your story online, and so many ways to become popular just based off how you look. I think that's wrong - it means everything is going to be pretty and maybe nothing will be important.
What do you think we can do to change?
It will naturally flush itself out, and people will be forced to deal with each other one-on-one again. Being on Instagram promoting your daily life isn't going to make the world a better place. Someone abusing the internet won't change the world, but the world can change that person - it can force us to move back into the reality.
Just because something seems okay on the internet doesn't mean it's alright. We have to riot - we need things that we're not getting. People need to get into reality.
Text Benjamin Barron
Images courtesy GHE20G0TH1K