Written by Rae Boyadjis, Image by Daniel Britton, 2019
I’m Rae Boyadjis @rae_of_mars www.raeofmars.com
I’m a queer and nonbinary performance artist focused on aerial dance, performance poetry, and visual narratives. The things that are most important to me as an artist are to acknowledge and grow magic through connection, to break down precut pathways, walls and notions (of art, bodies, audiences, and what’s possible between strangers). I talk about world-building a lot – as a kid, I always believed wholeheartedly in other worlds with other (/no) rules and different stories – as an adult, I try to live and perform that into a kind of alternate reality. I’m on IG because as a queer and fluid person who uses my body to create my work, this (sometimes dangerous, definitely flawed, but weirdly universal) platform is a place where I can reclaim and broadcast my own space, self and message and resist the boxes I am so often put into – and hopefully a place where I can ignite, inspire, and elevate as well.
My background is in theater, butoh, and (back in my embarrassing teenage days, oh boy) slam poetry, and for the past decade my focus has really been my aerial work. But in the past year or so I’ve shifted my IG focus on my collaborative, narrative photo shoots, pieces of projects with an aerial element, but a bigger conceptual message, and also a lot of honest tirades about being queer, mental health, visibility, sexuality, self-harm and connection. The shoots are important to me because they are a way to combine my poetic work and my embodied practice with my dramatic background to create a lasting, layered visual piece which speaks for itself.
I ferociously hate censoring bodies – any bodies, all bodies – and I think it’s at best very sad and at worst irreparably damaging to block off people’s selves and often by extension their messages, their art, their livelihoods and lifelines. The body is the most human, the most shared, the most natural and the most powerful thing. I’ve had really important posts quietly deleted because of nudity, but sometimes I wonder if it’s more than that— if it’s because of the kind of things I want to say, and the kind of artist I am.
I never censor my chest, and I’ve been shadow banned multiple times because of it.
The effects of banning are more than just tangible, follower-based— they’re psychological, and I don’t think I’ve ever referenced the American constitution in my life, especially not in the last few dark years, but the shadow banning and the erasure is frankly against our rights as citizens and as human beings. It’s not just about my body being hidden because it is not acceptable, appropriate, decent, safe— my body is my voice. There is always a story behind what you see on my page, and when what’s on my page is removed or my audience is limited, I myself am being limited, all my work is being censored, and I am disabled from everything from work opportunities to queer education to human connection.
Sex workers, radical artists, and the LGBTQ+ community is being targeted in a way that is serious and downright fascist
I think that social media was a double-edged sword to begin with: it provides a platform, it provides a through-line and a sense of limitlessness and interconnectivity that is groundbreaking and still learning itself— just like issues of human sexuality — but it also plays into every insecurity, every psychological discordance that we experience, and it can make monsters out of us if we don’t take real care. So now that there is this blanket of censorship and this loud and clear message from these sort of faceless Rulers of America or whatever; we have to take even MORE care, to work even harder, to champion, protect, uplift and take care of each other and to always find ways to subvert, to fight back, to break open, and to speak louder.
This all has a ton of velocity, but there has to then be a balance; if we spend all our time fighting then we have less time to create and communicate, and our work becomes more about the censorship itself and less about everything else — and sometimes I wonder if that’s an intentional design. We need to find new platforms, new languages, new meanings, and not give up without sacrificing the core of our work. People are still listening.
Navigating Instagram as a non binary gender queer creator feels like equal parts hall of fun house mirrors, various levels of hell, open world video game, most poignant high school moment, and bizarre enchanted forest you probably shouldn’t go into at night. It feels like a non-stop battle in self-made armor. It feels breathless, it feels like someone lighting you on fire, it feels like making art’
I feel like self-censorship is what they want. So I ignore them.
I think it does instill an escalating Us/Them narrative in us (see?) and I work very hard to be about tenacity, to be about boldness— but to be about love over all. I think it also means that every time I post, every day, I am doing this dance with my childhood closeted/disordered/abused self where I tell them, “you’re enough, you’re Beyond, you matter, you can do this.” I hope others can see I’m telling them that, too.
Anyone who speaks too loudly, cares too deeply about issues that make people uncomfortable, loves too unconventionally, is a member of the LGBTQ+, SW, artistic underground community— or, most of all, speaks their mind with their body— is discriminated against, silenced, and belittled.
The thing about changing Instagram, and the thing about making it a better place, is that it’s not just about Instagram. It’s not just about small pictures on small screens — it’s about the big picture; it’s about the world. It reminds me of George Bailey’s speech from It’s A Wonderful Life: “This rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”
Instagram is a house; we’re all living in it. We need decent rooms that we aren’t cast out of or locked in. And we need to all be George Bailey.
WORDS Rae Boyadjis @rae_of_mars