Dark Matter

Date: 

Apr 10 2015

Location: 

various

Dark Matter is a trans South Asian performance art duo comprised of Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, a prominent pair of voices operating at the intersection of the arts and activism.

The work of Dark Matter is complicated, much like the many, nuanced layers of identity the pair navigates on a daily basis. Having been described as living art installations, poets, comics, activists, organizers and a plethora of other identifiers, Dark Matter prefers to not define themselves by relying on these terms

As a creative project, Dark Matter is rooted in the pair's early days of becoming politicized together, as well as their experiences working in solidarity with queer advocacy groups in Palestine. The name itself -- Dark Matter -- is a nod to scientific notions of how humans understand dark matter and energy as a theoretical concept. It is a metaphorical descriptor for mainstream narratives that are used to wash over various stories, possibilities and systems of oppression.

These politically-aligned performances open up spaces for conversation surrounding not only identity, but a broader questioning of what it means to be an individual existing at the intersection of these complicated shades of identity. For Balasubramanian, a performance is never seen as necessarily good or bad. Rather, each performance is an opportunity for a verbal exchange surrounding the politics being elevated by these two trans south asian artists.

"I feel like one of the issues that we see happening in all of our movements –- not just the LGBT movement -- is a de-emphasis on cultural work like art and performance," Vaid-Menon told The Huffington Post. "Cultural work is often seen as ‘fun’ or ‘nice,’ but it’s not viewed as something that we should actually invest in politically. And, for me, I think we forget over and over again that no matter how many policies we change, no matter how many legislations we pass, people’s hearts and minds aren’t going to change. The only way to actually change people's hearts and minds is to engage them with feeling and emotion. Because often oppression is incredibly irrational."

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