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boychild's new beauty

Interviewing the "alien" boychild, Hood By Air's favourite performance art radical

Taken from the June issue of Dazed & Confused

Hood by Air creator Shayne Oliver: “To me she represents a new genre of beauty. Man vs alien, nature vs technology, the beauty and unapologetic sexuality of a woman vs the distinguished confidence of a man. These things are boychild.” 

Sat outside in her new home of Los Angeles, performance artist boychild is wearing baggy camo sweatpants, an oversize long-sleeve shirt, opalescent white sunglasses and a cap angled to show her shaved hairline. “A lot of people think my work is about my androgynous or ambiguous body,” she says. “Actually, gender doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve had lovers and close friends that are more femme-identified, which brought to light a lot of male privileges that I have because I do look more masculine. But I don’t identify in any way as a man.” 

In February, Milk Studios presented the AW13 collection of Shayne Oliver’s Hood by Air to a dumbfounded New York Fashion Week. Feral and alien, boychild convulsed on to the runway with severe stop-the-show intensity. No wonder she’s often compared to Leigh Bowery and Cindy Sherman. “With performing and using my body in this way, I feel I can speak more clearly than in any other language,” she continues. “Performance is about the exchange between myself and the audience. You can always feel a collective gaze and it changes from space to space. It changes how I perform.”

Thousands of rabid Instagram followers devour boychild’s posts, which incorporate abstract, creature-like characters, darkly gothic makeup and her signature block-letter “BLISS” neck tattoo. “I’m pretty much convinced that humans are cyborgs now,” she says, unflinchingly. “We have more avatars than we have real-life experiences. The connection that humans have with technology and other people – and the way it’s affected me – is what boychild came from. I’ve realised, looking back at my older sketches and paintings, that I’ve been trying to give birth to this character for years. Its physical embodiment came around about a year and a half ago in San Francisco – I started performing in drag spaces. That’s where was given a stage.” 

But I’m trying to stay out of fashion – Hood by Air is my exception, as that’s purely artistic

While the stage continually shifts in the world of boychild, she doesn’t try to guess its next formation. “I can’t see past tomorrow, “ she laughs. “I’m moving with the flow. But I’m trying to stay out of fashion – Hood by Air is my exception, as that’s purely artistic. Right now I’m excited about a project I’m working on with Luke Gilford on technology. The photos for this interview are preliminary conversations for it.”