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Enter the Huxleys: The fantastic performance art couple from Australia

Australian artist Will Huxley speaks with STIR on behalf of the queer dynamic duo, shedding light on their flamboyant performance practice.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Jun 13, 2023

The Huxleys, that includes Will and Garrett Huxley—is a loud, garish, and above all, a queer-centric 'dynamic duo' out of Melbourne, Australia, that presents campy, surrealistic spectacle across the creative world. They incorporate photography and videography along with their flashy costume design to create a sensorial attack of absurdity. The Huxleys have presented their work across their native Australia, as well as internationally, in Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong and London. As Will Huxley tells STIR, “Our message is about escapism and providing a magical detour from everyday life. We are all about giving people a glimpse into another world, if even for just a moment. Growing up in places where we didn't fit in and couldn’t see ourselves around us meant that we had to dream and make up a fantasy world where we did fit in. Glam rock, Bowie, Prince, Grace Jones, Leigh Bowery and art in all its forms saved us and gave us hope. We set out to make a magical world where we did feel fabulous and glamorous and safe.” As queer kids, this was vital for the visual artists, and over the course of their creative partnership, Will and Garrett have successfully created a world where they can be anything that they want; any shape, gender, or facet of creation through their usage of costume, photography and performance.

Nervous Wreck, 2021, digital print | The Huxleys | STIRworld
Nervous Wreck, 2021, digital print Image: Will and Garrett Huxley, Courtesy of The Age

Will and Garrett have been romantic partners for 16 years, out of which nine have also involved working together as The Huxleys. They were both independent artists prior to their creative partnership, coming together eventually, and each bringing with them a portion of the artistic talent that forms the duo. Will brought his keen eye for photography and composition, filmmaking and performance art, and Garrett provided the costume making expertise, along with his own photographic sensibilities. Now, the duo works on everything together. They have bolstered each other’s confidence as performance practitioners and are currently challenging themselves to make music. 

World’s End feels simultaneously pioneering and apocalyptic, 2021, digital print | The Huxleys | STIRworld
World’s End feels simultaneously pioneering and apocalyptic, 2021, digital print Image: Will and Garrett Huxley, Courtesy of The Age

Another message vital to The Huxleys is celebrating queer love and spreading joy and hope about the beauty of the LGBTIQA+ community. Will explains, "We remember what it was like to not have visibility or power and we want to keep our message of pride front and centre in our work. We will always champion queer love and queer stories."

A Star is Born, 2022, digital print| The Huxleys | STIRworld
A Star is Born, 2022, digital print Image: Will and Garrett Huxley, Courtesy of The Age

The duo usually begins their creative process with drawings, which then leads to a costume making phase. Will says, “We imagine a scene, a world or a costume and we sketch it out. These can be quite amateurish, but it is a way for us to start a concept. We dream up how the image or costume will look and then we find a way to make it happen.” Sourcing fabrics, and constructing costumes is a large part of what the duo does. Will continues to inform STIR, “Most of our work is built up from visual art. We always start with that, usually a photograph or video. And then, from there, we often try to bring that world to life in an art performance. We apply our skills of performance art, music, singing, dancing and projections to bring our aesthetics to life, and this can be for art festivals, art galleries, parties or anything else. We like to think of what we do as a full saturation of the senses. “Too much is never enough” is the mantra in our minds. We want to explore all the art forms, all the colours.”

Coral Singer, 2022, digital print | The Huxleys | STIRworld
Coral Singer, 2022, digital print Image: Will and Garrett Huxley, Courtesy of The Age

The artists remain inspired by art in all its forms, and have been so ever since they were growing up. It was the visual art that they glimpsed in galleries, magazines, books, on music television, and in films that inspired them and made them dream. Will mentions artists like Leigh Bowery, David Bowie, Prince, Grace Jones, Kate Bush, John Waters, Cindy Sherman, Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, Keith Haring, Vivienne Westwood and Pierre Et Giles, some of whom were mentioned earlier, as being key to their creative stimulation. Apart from the pomp and spectacle that these practitioners manifest, there is also an unmistakable surrealist bent to The Huxleys, which comes from the likes of Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Dali, Miro and Claude Cahun. Will explains that they look for “things that offered a sense of confusion and the bizarre, where there are no rules. No rules in gender, in costume, in imagery. In this sense, Dadaism is extremely liberating too.” 

Portrait of The Huxleys as Freddie Mercury, 2023, digital print|The Huxleys | STIRworld
Portrait of The Huxleys as Freddie Mercury, 2023, digital print Image: Will and Garrett Huxley, Courtesy of Carraigeworks

Discussing the duo's watershed moment, Will tells STIR, “Our favourite project so far has been Bloodlines, which was a multi art form exhibition for Sydney World Pride at Carriageworks, and honoured some of the legendary artists we have lost over time to HIV/AIDS. It was a way of celebrating the voices that went before and fought, and shone so bright. They lit our path and delivered us to where we are today as artists. We wouldn’t be here without them. We made photographic works, costumes, video works and music in honour of these legends. We thought of it almost like a church; a place to worship these queer saints.” These artists included Derek Jarman, Peter Tully, Willi Ninja, Klaus Nomi, Sylvester, Leigh Bowery, Freddie Mercury, Hibiscus, David McDiarmid, Cookie Mueller and Steven Arnold. Will continues, saying, “It was an incredibly important show for us, paying homage to our heroes and sharing these artists’ influence with new generations. We even made an AIDS quilt featuring 40 artists that we have loved and lost.” Concerning their creative plans for the near future, the duo would love to keep sharing their work with the world, and making a living through their inimitable craft. They are also hoping to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale someday soon, and are dreaming of performing at Eurovision as well. Will tells STIR that it would be a dream to travel more with their work, and take their queer stories to other places in the world. Storytelling and meeting other cultures are very important to The Huxleys, and it will be interesting to see how visual motifs from performance practices across the wider world might find a home within their craft. 

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