Luke I grew up in Cherrybrook, which is in the northwest of Sydney, near like, Castlehill, Kellyville … that whole area. I used to always jump on the train at Pennant Hill Station to get anywhere. So I grew up in an interesting place … very basic, homogenous, green. The kind of place where the people are like “Come see my new house” and you go and see it and it’s a rented cube, you know like all those houses?
I come from there. I have a Mauritian mother, so Afro-Franco Mauritian and an Aussie dad, just typical surfer suit bro … well, he loves surfing and he is a suit-wearing boy … so a surfer-suit bro (laughs). But that’s an interesting question, what do I currently feel as home at the moment .. probably the place where I live in Petersham. I think I’ve finally been able to make a place that feels like my home. I don’t think it’s common that that happens … sometimes it takes years and years and years.
How do you situate yourself artistically in Sydney?
Luke It’s interesting because I am quite a late bloomer. I grew up really Christian and I wasn’t comfortable with my sexuality or my intellectual curiosity, so I kind of suppressed my creativity. In year ten, when I shifted into year eleven … I dropped all of the visual arts, drama, and music, which I used to do really intensely and I just pursued an academic kind of trajectory. And only in the past two years have I come back and rediscovered that side of myself… I guess post becoming comfortable, and coming out and renouncing my faith and letting go of all of those constricting super, power structures.
Has that moment shaped your creative practice?
Luke I think it’s done a lot for me because I spent a lot of time like … in a chamber … in a womb … because I wasn’t producing that much, in terms of actual art objects and art pieces, but I was writing the whole time and so obviously writing was the main thing I was doing … my mind and my interior was very active and very vivid. I think there is an interesting relationship with the body and with brown bodies, because parallel to this is the fact that I’m half Mauritian, which is a whole other thing that comes into the equation, because you know, Mauritius was an unpopulated island, it has no native population so I can’t have a nativist conception of my race or my genealogy. There is none … it was just an island and colonial empires came with slaves and populate it and then everyone fucked each other … so I have Portuguese, Dutch, French, Indian, African, Chinese … all those are in me, so that also becomes part of my general approach.
I’ve always loved dancing. I always ran around … I’ve always thrown my limbs in whatever direction I please. It has been my main carnal physical escape and not only escape but statement for a long time. I started by dancing at clubs and getting more and more comfortable with dancing at clubs and more comfortable with getting crazier … and learning a very important skill which is to dance violently and not to hit people (laughs) … and then I started pole dancing and that was probably the main thing. I know that professional dancers, dance in front of mirrors all the time, but this was new for me and with pole dancing, you’re in mirrored rooms and I’d never perceived my body or seen my body as a body … you know … and seen its movements and seen it’s angulations and all those different types of things. So it became really big for me. And also pole dancing is sexually empowering. I wear eight inch heels and obviously coming from my background, they carry a particular meaning and they mark my body as this performative, sexual being … at least that’s how I feel … so then also moving and seeing my body as sex was how pole dancing really affected me to … and then starting to perform on top of that … and I just love it … I love it.
Can you discuss the inspiration and ideas behind your poetic zine series?
Luke In those kind of visual poetic zines or booklets … I’m really interested in memes and I’m really interested in I guess the cultural production matrix of the internet… so looking at interface paradigms, looking at vernacular and how new linguistic forms have come into existence. Understanding the different image structures and the image macros of the top and bottom text or if it’s the simple, left to right meme structure … so I’m interested in what’s happening … it’s problematic because it isn’t as free as it probably should be … we’ll just say a semi-free kind of democratised digital spaces … seeing what’s produced. The zines play on that to a certain degree … so some of those images with text are kind of attempts to play with the meme form … to some degree but not totally … some are just images and words.
What do you mean when you say ‘post-natural nightmare’?
Luke That part about the ‘post-natural’ nightmare, I think is something that we’re all thinking about and can have several implications … the more kind of doom heavy apocalyptic kind of definition of that is this whole idea that we are moving towards a post-natural nightmare, where flesh, biology and the chemical substrates that make us are becoming less and less meaningful or maybe a lesser part of what we do … and then also I am thinking about post-natural because it is associated with the Internet … the whole idea of having something that is completely artificial … and it’s not necessarily a nightmare … there are many different interpretations of that idea …
This whole idea of the post-natural is not that the natural is destroyed, but rather the natural is reinterpreted in such a way that is ‘unnatural’… so redefining the natural and this essentialist concept of what is natural. In the same-sex marriage debate we see this happening a lot and of course, in a lot of men’s rights activist, or kind of, anti-trans groups, they talk about chromosomal sex and genitalia and the fixity of those forms … but I think that’s a problematic terming or understanding of the natural … if you actually really do look at the natural properly you see that there is enormous differentially in the human organism … in its biological structure. For me I certainly do identify as a boy but, in many ways, I am not cisgender because I’m very happy to don the feminine markers as determined by the ‘binary laws’ … you know if it’s a dress and heels and makeup and I do that more often than I used to do. I think it’s important to have that fluidity to a certain degree … and I think we need space for the real trans-voices and real non-binary voices. I think that's what’s exciting about the internet. Disrupting heteronormative ideas of biology and gender is tremendously important, but I also want to leave it more to trans people … I have many trans friends and they have a very specific valid experience that I have not had, even if I don’t feel like I fit into binary conceptions of gender and sex … I feel like, yes there’s a gender, yes there are things going on personally that I have a right to talk about, but those individuals have really really interesting rich authentic stories to tell about their own experiences … you know …
Luke The Coca-Cola one has the Coca-Cola logo and then it has an ancient Greek text ‘Logos’ … and Logos for Plato was a rational principle that organised the universe … like a super luna form that generally gave structure to things. And then for Aristotle in the poetics, for reiteration, they used Logos, Pathos and Ethos … but Logos is rational argument. And so growing up Christian, in John Chapter One, “In the beginning was the word, the word was God, the word was with God”… the ‘word’ there is translated as Logos … so I’m interested also that Logos is ‘logo’ (label) … so in understanding what’s occurring with capitalism, with these kinds of neo-imperial empires like Coca-Cola, to what degree is capitalism a kind of Logos and not only a logo … that it performs a function, like a structural function. I like to play with copy and paste and those types of things and those amateur forms because like I said I’m interested in ‘Meme Magic’, which is what … like amateur Dadaism? I’m interested in using those forms and playing with them in that kind of way…
Luke Yeah it’s a big part of the work I do … and it’s very ‘meaning-ed’ if I can use meaning in such a way (laughs). My main practice is poetry and the visuals is something I’ve entertained only in the past two years, even though I used to always draw and paint when I was young but like I said, I’d rejected those forms because they contributed to the general stereotypical picture of my gayness and I just hated it … I hated people asking if I was gay … so much. But with poetry, reading poetry and understanding poetry … looking at the way that words are used, the duplicitous nature of words, that they have lots of meanings, that you can use a word that has a whole kind of historical genealogy and that will come into play when you use it in some type of sentence structure and then play with the other words. There isn’t necessarily going to be this back and forth between the words that will produce many meanings ... some of them kind, some of them sweet, some of them intellectual, some of them absurd. And I’m interested iN all of those fluctuating together into a kind of ball of indistinguishable things … you know. Does that make sense to a certain degree? But it’s hard you know because I studied literature and philosophy so my poetry has a rather classicist tone. Like I understand metrics, syntax and lots of linguistics and so all my playful gestures are sometimes not understood to be so. And I may be wielding softly and sweetly, but in fact, people feel like I’m just swinging a tomahawk into their head … like hmm you don’t get it (laughs) you need to understand better. I also think that what’s been demonstrated especially with the degeneration and devolution of politic speak and general media and the general standards of journalism is that meaning has become incredibly slippery. We talk about things like “truthy-ness” rather than the actual truth … I’m also interested in playing with that…
“My mother’s people were
born from colonial masters
bedding with their slave
wares. My father’s people
were the colonial masters, the
‘white wanderers’, the
makers of terra nullius. I
have in my blood the cries of
both the oppressed and
Luke So you know what Mauritius is, and my dad is Aussie … like his mum is fifth generation and my grandfather came on a boat from London … so like Scottish, Irish … and the British were the main colonial forebears to this current order. But I guess it also comes back to my mum. My mum moved here when she was five and she was this Creole-speaking little pigmy Mauritian girl and I feel like she was battered and bruised by the assimilationist feel of Australia. I grew up in a really weird house, my house is completely effaced of any ethnicity. There is no ‘Mauritianess’, it’s a weird show-homey pseudo-white suburban dollhouse. My mum is attempting to be what an Australian woman is meant to be… so I’ve grown up in a white household even though my dad is the only white person in my household … the way we eat at the dinner table, the way that our rooms are set up, the way that we communicated. My mum didn't teach us French or Creole … I don’t know why she didn’t but she didn’t. So for me, it’s been a rediscovering and realising of whiteness, as everyone does I think as a person of colour and maybe they've grown up in a mixed family. Race is not real, which is to say that if you look at the human genome, in our biology there are more distinct differences within race than between race and as a category it performed and served a certain functional validity for a period of time, but it is not the same as genus or species … but it still seems to have that strength for some people. I know that my dad is human and I am human, but I am not Australian in the same way that my dad is seen as Australian. What has happened is I’ve become aware of whiteness, seen it and been aware of its goods and its evils… and then, in turn, discovering my brownness, my colour, my ethnicity and having to understand each story in its particularity. Having to understand Mauritius and how Mauritius came into existence, going to Mauritius and feeling and looking at how it functions.
My Mauritian side is Afro-Franco Mauritian and basically, when the British Empire came they allowed the French to maintain control even though they sequestered it as a colony and gauged its resources, but they brought the East India Trading Company, so Chinese and Indians came. Chinese and Indians work really hard, and Indians became the majority in parliament and in all the legal fields. Then they basically voted for independence from the French Republic and my Mauritian family hated that, that’s why they moved to Australia. So my grandparents hate Indians. There is this weird complicated relationship in Mauritius between all the different races and cultures. Really the only native population was the Dodo bird and it was hunted to extinction by the Dutch. That bird has been interesting for me… a bit of a symbol … for a beautiful creature that no longer exists … there is almost a mythos to this creature. But yeah, I am constantly moving between these cultural relations and they are necessarily diasporic and fragmented by colonialism. I'm having to then bridge, connect and sew these into different configurations. The configuration can be different every time. I don’t think that there is a single state, that is the locked in perfect state that is Luke the Mauritian Australian … this is him, this is the one. It’s always going to be shifting. Different parts of my cultural identity will get emphasis and greater meaning as I move through my journey.
Luke The drive is more of a translating of an inner perturbance of excitation … something occurring within me that I normally have academic or intellectual recourse with which I can attempt to describe it but then I’ve learnt and realised that one of the most amazing things about artistry is it provides a means to represent what you’re doing in an object or in a pretentious artifactual structured movement or in language merged with image. So for me, it’s less of a necessity to share with others and more a necessity to show my interiority and the messiness there. By showing it out, seeing it and then evaluating and understanding it.
In saying that I think it is really valuable for society undoubtedly. If you look at all the individuals across human space and time that have done radical things … it all depends on the specific conventions … where the goal posts of power and control are, but these individuals provide more than just escapism, they provide a space and an arena within which one can completely redefine and restructure, reevaluate … so yeah.
In the piece that I’m performing at the Mirror Mirror Ball, I’ve created a chain piece that hangs down over my face and a chain brace … it’s incredibly heavy and all of my shoulders and my back is naked and exposed … it is quite masc and strong … you can see my muscularity, but then the bottom has a long chain with a mirror attached and I’m wearing giant heels… I look very femme at the bottom … so you have these two parts co-existing on a single body and kind of mangled and not confused, they exist in balance. and for someone to see that and be like Oh Ok … what would I call this? What is this particular expression of human right now … is it male or is it female? Is this masculine or feminine? And then a space where the question is properly allowed is created, and maybe a boy can ask Maybe I can wear a skirt? … which is such a silly question, I mean of course you can.
How does it feel to perform?
Luke When I perform, I have the universe squeezed into a ball in my center… just like this pinpoint of nervous energy, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to channel that. Somewhere along the way I’ve created a methodology or technique where I still feel that nervous energy, but it bursts from my fingertips, my eyes, heart, and center and it actually feels really amazing to perform now. Rather than being quite a scary experience.
I love to break that boundary and move in close and touch. I like touch and moving through the perturbed throng, moving through the crowd, having moments of intimate eye-sex (laughs) where you kind of lean in and stare. I do think the audience, at least in performance, is essential because I think the whole thing is an organism.
What are the projects are you working at the moment?