NIGHT SHIFT (That Would Have Been)
NIGHT SHIFT, curated by artists and friends Malik Nashad Sharpe and Travis Alabanza, was set for a summer opening as part of LIFT 2020, commissioned by LIFT and supported by Goethe Institute’s Echoes of the South Atlantic. Hanging between a live art night and a party, NIGHT SHIFT saw the duo make plans to take over a mansion in south London, and pack it with performance, DJs, installations and interventions by Black trans, gender non-conforming, femme, queer artists and creators. Ridding the sticky walls of labels that art is so obsessed with, NIGHT SHIFT placed the rapper from South Africa next to the contemporary dancer in Brixton, the poet from Berlin next to the drag queen from the North of the United Kingdom, the club girl from Brazil next to the art critic – as a way to continuing to assert the ways in which Black queer and trans aesthetic and art crosses and transcends art forms. To create the ultimate party. To show a different way of experiencing art, not to gaze, but to experience it.
The event was cancelled due to Covid-19. This photoshoot and interview takes place where the party would have been, as a chance to archive the idea and the plan for NIGHT SHIFT – and to ensure that it happens in the future.
Travis: Sis, what makes a good party?
Malik: Good music, party favours, the dolls, dim lights, sweat, pasted hair to the face, chaotic energy, the vibe of living life to the last day.
Travis: This would have been damn chaos. In the best way. I feel like the art world tries to admin its way out of chaos, like they don’t know how to embrace it. Why did you wanna do NIGHT SHIFT?
Malik: I wanted to create a space that I just don’t see. I never saw a space that platforms a range of Black queer and trans and femme creatives. That focuses on their work and not their identity to be sold to the wider public. I rarely see spaces where it is about the work, of Black people that to do not fit into those labels. I wanted to party with those people. Be with those people and do something for us, to experiment and to Ki.
Travis: You are so right. I feel like often funding and experimentation is left to white people. Blackness is so very rarely given space and resources to experiment, so we always have to do it on our own terms.
Malik: We don’t have many spaces that are not regulated. So, all of the spaces that showcase our work or platform our work are all mitigated by a gaze that is not really coming from us. I just felt like I wanted to be a situation where it is us making decisions, about what we want to see.
Travis: Right. Damn. It was refreshing to be in a curational space together. To hold that responsibility and choice. I was really looking forward to what a space with us as curators working together looks like. How that party feels. What were you most excited about?
Malik: Partying. Dancing. Getting turnt and wavey. Pulling a look. And to witness, rather than perform, the works of really incredible Black trans people. I never get to experience it myself. I am constantly put on to perform, I was looking forward to the witnessing rather than performance.
The interview is interrupted. Travis goes to ask another question but is distracted by some gossip they needed to share about someone they hooked up with a few months ago. They both pause, try and decide if they should indeed carry on the interview, but can already sense the laughter bubbling up from the story waiting to be told.
NIGHT SHIFT was a LIFT 2020 commission supported by Goethe Institut’s Echoes of the South Atlantic.