Top Berend Brus, earring Concrete Chic
The voice is a powerful tool in provoking change, radicalizing thought and broadening the spheres of our world. ALOK—performance artist, writer, public speaker—commits their voice to the education, and the educating, of others. Venturing through cultural disciplines, ALOK spreads the gospel of realization from fashion representation to the fluidity of gender. Currently focused on #DeGenderingFashion, the mixed-media artist is exploring themes of beauty, self-love and inner peace, raising a glass to those deconstructing heteronormative standards of living along the way. Named among NBC’S Pride 50, Out Magazine’s OUT 100 and Business Insiders 25 Doers, it’s an easy feat to sit, listen and immerse yourself in the knowledge of their lived experience. Inspired by their recent essay for Holland’s State of Fashion, which explored the history of their trancestors and Mrs. Noonan, GLAMCULT felt compelled to sit with the wisdom behind the words.
Top and dress Berend Brus, trousers Jovana Louis, earrings Rare Romance
With your art, you’re rewriting cultural history—one word at a time. How did you get here?
I was very lucky to have grown up with a feminist mother—the biggest blessing in the world. She taught me that things aren’t always what they seem, and that reality had been written by cis-men. She knew that if you learn how to read, write and think for yourself, it’s not just another way of thinking that is possible, but another way of living. I had a unique experience (that I don’t believe many other non-gender conforming people have): I knew that the discrimination I was experiencing didn’t have to be that way and that another world was possible. I wanted and hungered so desperately to understand how to make that world happen and so I often joke that I didn’t come out of the closet, I came out of the library.
So, literature brought you the solace you now share with others?
Reading gave me the possibility. Because I didn’t have access to power in real life, I began to realize that in literature, you can construct whole other worlds, portals to a new way of seeing. So even before I told anyone else who I was, I was first studying myself. I think the idea of self-study is so essential to everything I do, and I think it’s very unfortunate that higher education is so inaccessible, as it changed my life—and could do the same for others.
In a way, this is self-sourcing the intellectual know-how many of us seek from therapy. A resource considered a ‘luxury’, yet so vital.
Exactly. And that’s what fuels a lot of my work: to make education accessible. One exciting thing for me has been democratizing information and making information fashionable and accessible. There’s a lot of shame around infographics, and I hate that. As an artist I’m like, “School is kind of boring”—the way that it is taught, the lecture format, it doesn’t inspire you!
It’s been so refreshing to see this redistribution of knowledge. A lot of this democratization has to do with social media. How has this played a role in your practice?
As a creative who is also a teacher, I want to share compelling and visually stunning, beautiful, exciting and emotional ways of learning, because that is how we process information. Social media is often how I transport this.
Dress Elizabeth Shevelev, shoes United Nude, rings Jill Herlands and Rare Romance
Creating communities that prioritize individual discovery and celebration—something often found within chosen families…
I think that ‘home’ and ‘community’ are emotional states of being. That’s something that queer people know so well, because foundationally we were dislodged so far from home, as a structure. We had to find another way we could imagine ‘home’. So, home became leftovers in a fridge, conversations with friends, travelling across the world and meeting someone you’ve never met—it’s about feeling at home. Queer people are actually creating the most familial relations that there ever were. We’re doing the love and care work that the heteronormative family unit was supposed to do for us.
When this archetype of heteronormative living is so inescapable, how do we address it and deconstruct our internalizations?
I think the language ‘internalized’ doesn’t even go deep enough. I think we’re recruited. So much so we almost become the unofficial spokesperson, PR agents, brokers for ideology. It becomes so deeply invested within us that, without ever interrogating it, people stop engaging in logic. It’s deconstructing a trauma relation which you must depersonalize yourself from.
Allowing for the comprehension that we all reflect the same sentiments, and therefore all have something to gain…
What we’ve seen emerging across the world is a very dangerous, zero-sum thinking which says, “If you get something, then I must lose something,” and that’s a total illusion! There is enough abundance among all of us. A metaphor I often offer is we’ve been taught we’ve been swimming in a fishbowl, but we actually are swimming in oceans and oceans and oceans. We must expand our imagination to what’s possible.
The political empowerment of historically disenfranchised groups does not mean your collapse or loss; it means your gain. Because the life you will have access to is much more spectacular, rich and serendipitous.
Top and skirt Dylan Westerweel, jewellery Jackalope Land