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Persona su un cantiere con palazzi vestita di nero e con trucco

Photography and Project by ©Clotilde Petrosino all rights reserved

This interview has been made in 2021. Full version available only on "The Queer Talks" book. To get updates about its release click here

Ask Alix their gender and age and the answer you will get is the same: fluid. A skeptical connoisseur of binarism, a multi-potential artist, she has expressed her art through dance and theater during the years she lived between Paris, Lisbon and London. They have arrived at the sublimation of her talent through music, the medium through which she synthesizes and concretises her path to date. Talking to her while holding Patty, the ukulele with a 70s vibe with which she transforms part of her artistic inspirations into music, makes you feel as if you were in the presence of a French music diva. Alix perfectly embodies the typical aesthete who gets lost in the morning in the streets of les Puces de Saint-Ouen before going to protest at la Bastille. A disenchanted romanticism for life, and a sentimental undertone that does not want to surrender or compromise. Growing up between northern Italy with parents who immigrated from Puglia, and Paris, which was the city of her mother's development and which Alix theirself began to live in as an adolescent before moving there altogether, she has returned to Milan not only to contribute to the radical change of this country but with a very specific aim: to shock the numbness of the Italian queer songwriting and to break through the glass ceiling of power systems.

Alix, tell us about yourself and what brought you here.

Hello my name is Alix, I'm "agefluid", which means I don't like to say my age and get put into generational categories. You decide what age I am. I arrived a few months ago in Italy after living in Paris for years. I am of Apulian origin, although I grew up in northern Italy with immigrant parents from the south. To this day I have part of my biological family in Apulia, but I also have relatives in France, Poland, England and Germany. Most of all, I am culturally linked to Puglia and Paris, which were the two centers in which I grew up. A few months ago I ended up in Italy somewhat by chance. The pandemic broke out when I was between London and Lisbon, when I was about to launch my record. I was supposed to do some concerts in April 2020. So I decided to move to Milan, and once I was here, I took the pieces I had written so far and threw it out. Now I have a team scattered between Milan, Paris and London and we are putting together pieces and material written over the years, in Italian, French and English, and we have started to publish it. It is a synthesis of references and people who have inspired me, from Nina Simone and M.I.A, to electronic music, to jazz and folk music. I am very devoted to women songwriters, from Violeta Parra to St. Vincent, from Rosa Balistrieri to Pomme, who took up the guitar and sang against power, against the difficulties of life but also as an anthem to it. In my work there is this dichotomy between being a little pissed off and a little melancholic.

What is the boundary between personal sphere and collective sphere?

I am answering according to what I feel today, so it is not an absolute truth. For me there is no separation. I do not live isolated in the hyperuranium, I meet people, I move around the city, and I express myself through languages. The personal aspect is always relational because one is always in relation with others. One is always in dialogue, and when there is something that doesn't work, because someone is being loud or doesn't want to listen, that's when problems arise that affect the individual. Very concretely if you look at feminicides: yeah, there are assholes who commit them, but they happen within the family or on the street in front of silent accomplices. Most of those who perpetrate violence feel protected and legitimized, while those who suffer it develop survival strategies, learning how to avoid conflict, which road to take, whether to respond and when to not respond. It is society that is structured to collectively protect those who commit violence and individually blame and expose those who suffer it. So the only way I see is to change these balances, to change together the society we live in from a cultural, social and legal point of view. We all have a responsibility for this change, it is a collective responsibility. Those who suffer violence cannot individually feel the burden of what they have experienced nor the responsibility to react individually.

There were times when I suffered more or less a couple of homophobic attacks a week, even in a city like Paris. One in particular I remember because friendships were born. I was sleeping with my head resting on my partner, and a guy holding a bottle started insulting us by saying that we should die and be hanged. He tried to involve other people but no one reacted. Then he called for the intervention of a girl nearby, whose back was turned and who was listening to music and had not noticed what was happening. She was a sex worker, activist, lesbian and when she realised what was happening, she started shouting with us, against this guy, and we were joined by a black girl. A very strong friendship was formed between us, while no hetero-cis-white man spoke up. How do you separate this from society? That violence is backed by legitimacy and complicity, otherwise that guy would never have attacked and threatened us. Despite the three hundred people present, he did not fear for his safety and felt he could do it.

If there is an external context that supports discrimination and allows these events, how do we recover spaces? Do we have to create alliances with those who have the privilege or do we start by leaving them out?

I don't have a magic wand. I go by instinct and analyzing the situation. LGBTIQ+ communities are not compact communities, there are differences, and within them there are people who have more privilege. There is no us and them-privileged people on one side and oppressed people on the other. There is a society in which everyone has privileges for some things and others do not. Except for rich white cis men with extremely heteronormative able-bodied bodies, so perhaps the 0.1% of the population. It is a matter of personal responsibility because no one is exempt from being someone else's oppressor. And those who have extra tools also have a personal responsibility to use their privilege to occupy spaces that most people cannot access and to share that privilege and those spaces with those who do not have access to them. Fighting for me also means fighting for those who cannot fight. So many people can't be represented, can't be out, can't go to the streets to demonstrate and take that space because they risk more. I can because my risk is limited. And if I think about the art world and my own work, I'm struggling to find artists and voices that occupy spaces and take clear positions and say "yes I'm gay, and what's the problem?" or "I'm a non-binary person and so what?" I see a lot of fear and I think that when you have that platform you have to take responsibilities and take risks. We can take back space if those who can afford it start saying "I am a non-binary person and when you interview me you use neutral pronouns and if it's a problem you go study." But the situation varies a lot between countries. In France I have many more examples and references of people and artists who are out or politically loud.

In another interview I talked about how it is always the person coming from a marginalized group who has to explain and be patient with those who 'don't get it'. What about you?

That we always have to be the ones to explain and understand is a textbook power dynamic. I think we take the space when we start setting limits, boundaries and enforcing things. It's not a job you do alone, but for example I try to surround myself with the right people, with people I'm aligned with in terms of what we're doing. Because whatever you write, in some way, you are always political. Nobody is exempt from acting as a political subjectivity within music, art or any sphere of life, whether private or public. You are a vector of certain narratives whether we like it or not. Writing a book or going on stage makes you a vector of narratives whether we like it or not. An important step, besides the message, is to start make the change also in the team working with the artist. Be consistent in recognising that you are defending something, and that you may be wrong, but that everything you do or say as an artist is a bearer of narratives. That is why you have to work on stage and behind the scenes so that no one - whether part of your artistic project or not - has to hide or feel excluded simply because you are non-binary, Muslim or disabled, HIV-positive or racialised. It is a long journey of stages and growth. The artists cannot always decide everything about their career. If there is one thing that has led me to do art all the time in all moments of my life, it is that it allows me to grow and learn. And to listen to those around me..

Alix - TheQueerTalks

"For me the binary system is already dead, men and women no longer exist for me"

Is there a support network? Is it being created?

The artistic-musical sphere is no different from the rest of society. You can always do better. I am optimistic, by nature, and it is also a choice because I prefer to look at the things that are there rather than the things that go wrong. By continuing to look at what doesn't work, you create a pessimistic view of the world. There are networks, we have more tools than we used to, despite the problems that exist. Certainly artists have less power than they once did, they are more blackmailable on a contractual level, because society has moved more towards numbers.  Finding someone to invest in you because the speech you make is fundamental in society is difficult. First you have to make numbers and sell, then you can have more freedom to say and do your art the way you believe. We're all in this same system, so somehow we're all a bit forced to make these numbers, and even between managers, producers and venues it's become very difficult to invest in talent and the artistic and political quality of a project. And those who work well even among the managers are a minority group. This is also reflected among the group of artists. So if you don't make numbers you can be blackmailed.

Let's talk about binarism and gender identity. To what extent is gender identity political?

For me the binary system is already dead, men and women no longer exist for me. It always makes me smile when a parsone identifies as a woman or a cis-man. The categories can be used politically. That binary system no longer exists, because it divides bodies according to genitalia into two categories. And with what arbitrariness! Why use genitals to categorize? Why didn't we choose, I don't know, knees to categorize? And then on this a system of values and expectations was built so that if you have genitals of a certain type you have certain tendencies, you have to make certain choices and so on. A determination based on nothing. To support the binary systems of man-woman, biology and nature are always mentioned, but what is natural about this correlation? Why is it that if I have a vulva I have a lower salary? Since no one explains this correlation to me, I don't believe in this nonsense.
Once we get rid of this ballast we will simply be bodies. Because even those who call themselves cis, carry the burden of oppression on their shoulders. Just think of the expectations a straight cis man has to live up to: you have to be strong, you have to be violent, you don't have to do certain things, you can't be shy... but where is the reality of these stereotypes? Let's put this bale aside and feel free to live as bodies without caring what you have between your legs.

Do you convey this in your art?

I think my music and my work are very fluid, from many points of view. Of binarism in general (beautiful/ ugly; right/wrong; acoustic/electronic) I don't give a damn. What excites me most in music, art and collective culture, is the emancipation, which happens when you overcome binarisms and invent something. I get excited when I see people who, through my music, or other forms of art, emancipate themselves. When we emancipate ourselves collectively we liberate ourselves collectively.

Does one have to be open then? 

In Italy there's this 1950s mentality where you don't answer questions like “are you homosexual?” It's a bullshit question, of course, but as you know how to answer so many other bullshit questions, then you answer that one too with a "yes, so what?" and move on. What can happen next? Does he ask you what you do in the bedroom? No. I don't know why there is this taboo and this silence. It seems to me that it's much simpler than that. Of course it's a bit risky, but an artistic career is always risky. You can't just shut your mouth and change anything about yourself while emptying yourself of everything that makes you who you are. There is also the very difficult aspect of teams, which have to be more intersectional. When I think that in the music industry 98% of power or decision-making positions are occupied by cis-men, I think we artists, agencies and record companies have to get together and admit there's a problem and think how to solve it. By creating spaces. 

Project and Photography by Clotilde Petrosino

Translation and Interview by Enea Venegoni

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