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Geelong After Dark’s new star is a time-travelling gender outlaw

“I think Mx.Red is a very good way to address the idea of consent in this satirical, fantastical way, with this sci-fi, disco, anime aesthetic.”

Geelong After Dark’s new guest star isn’t a local artist – in fact, they’re not even from our dimension. Mx.Red – pronounced as “misread” – is a vermilion-skinned, androgynous pop star from a utopian future in which gender distinctions have been swept away. Visitors to the arts festival will be able to see the character using a Pokémon GO-style augmented reality app on their smartphones.
 
Mx.Red is the brainchild of Jonathan Homsey, a Melbourne-based artist and choreographer whose eclectic list of past credits includes lecturing at the Victorian College of the Arts, opening for Ja Rule and Ashanti and achieving a bronze medal at the U.S Hip Hop Championships.
 
“Mx.Red is the non-binary pop star of the future,” Homsey says. “If we’re in a utopian world where racism and gender inequalities don’t exist and we turn on MTV, who’s going to come onto the screen? Would it be Ariana Grande? Would it be a trans-femme woman? A trans-male? What would the pop star of the future be if we didn’t have white, systematic patriarchy controlling our pop culture?”
 
The inter-dimensional pop artist made their debut at Footscray’s Festival of Live Art in March, where attendees were able to see their dancing form by pointing their smartphone cameras at visual “trigger” images.Before the FOLA exhibit, Homsey imagined Mx.Red as a conventional stage act, with a flesh-and-blood performer in the role of the character.
 
“Originally, I was just going to have Mx.Red live, like they were doing a pop concert, on tour from this other dimension,” he says. “Then, through a series of fortunate events, we received more funding and were able to make this into an augmented reality party. I was like, ‘This is it. I’m going to make a pop star who is a Pokémon GO character,’ and I just went with it from there.”
 
In their first show at Geelong After Dark, Mx.Red will dance to the music of Joyce Wrice at Geelong Performing Arts Centre. Later, at Beav’s Bar, a more intimate performance is planned, in which selected audience members will enter a separate room and participate in a performative ménage à trois with Mx.Red and a dancer. The Beav’s Bar event concretises the idea of sexual consent by allowing the dancers the power to select their partners from the audience, Homsey explains.
 
“There’s no way you can book tickets,” he says. “The performer is the one who has to give consent. I would approach you in the space, and say, ‘Hello, do you wish to watch Mx.Red and I make love? Do you wish to have consent to join our polyamorous relationship?’ I don’t just come up and tell you that I’m going to perform for you.”
 
Homsey believes the weird, playful and enticing character of Mx.Red is a good way to get people thinking about ideas of gender and sexuality that are often seen as off-putting, heavy or abstruse.
 
“I think Mx.Red is a very good way to address the idea of consent in this satirical, fantastical way, with this sci-fi, disco, anime aesthetic,” he explains. “Some people may not absorb it if I say, ‘Come listen to my monologue about consent and queer ideology.’ What if I said, ‘Hey, come have a beer and I’m gonna give you a sexy lap dance?’ They might come along. That’s how I use Mx.Red and the pop star aesthetic – to change their perspective.”
 
When he’s not collaborating with Mx.Red, Homsey works on Jazz Club!, a virtual dance act aimed at raising consciousness of human rights issues and gathering support for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
 
“It’s always a step-and-a-half forward and two steps back,” Homsey says. “The internet age gives us more freedom of speech, but, unfortunately, it gives us freedom of speech in both directions. We get to hear the queer voices very loudly, and we get to hear people who don’t necessarily agree with us very loudly. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and I meditate on it daily. Hopefully we’ll keep stepping forward.”

You can catch Mx.Red performing as part of Geelong After Dark on Friday May 4 at Geelong Performing Arts Centre and Beavs Bar. Further details on the festival program are available via the Geelong After Dark website.