Read the full interview below
Photo shown are taken by Earth to Jordi
Driving through winding mountain passes, we began our descent from the rugged Rockies to the central plains of Turtle Island. We flowed downhill, belting out 70’s dad rock together, ready for the land of rodeos and stampedes. It was June and the sun was shining.
We were met by an endless horizon. A breath of freshness and clarity. What was once grasslands, but is now soy and canola fields, stretched out into eternity, reaching towards the big blue sky. It was the beginning of a thousand kilometers of roads so straight and a landscape so uniform that driving can lull you into hypnotic trance if you don’t stay focused.
We were on our way to Alex YTF’s place – a friend of a friend that we hadn’t yet met - who generously invited us to rest our aching backs in a recently built cedar cabin on the Tsuut'ina Nation reserve, on the outskirts of so-called Calgary - treaty seven territory. They city is encroaching on the reservation with the construction of the Ring Road, which provoked important protest actions in 2020 and the symbolic cutting of braids by Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse. We felt honoured to be there and have a place to rest after two weeks of forest camping and driving on bumpy logging roads.
We were told that Alex YTF is a caring, creative human who makes art, has rad community politics and is a wise witch. Of course, we were excited to meet them!
When we arrived, they greeted us in a colourful N95 mask in the company of two sassy cats. Later in the evening, we ate delicious food prepared by Tanya – our star chef on the road. We sat around a soft, open fire, enveloped in the smell of pinewood burning and smoke. Horses and hawks, prairie dogs and rabbits listened in from the surrounding pastures. The wind in the birch trees and the tall grass whistled a soft tune. The cats purred in our laps. We talked about time travel, trance, communal healing rituals, reclaiming ancestral magical practices, anarchism, indigenous sovereignty, love, creation…. we could have chatted for hours more, but the midsummer sun was finally setting. It was almost 10pm and we all needed some rest.
The next day, we asked Alex to do an interview with us to talk about the ways they weave magic, art, activism, and queerness together. In the name of sharing wisdom and experience, breaking through isolation and creating new worlds – our voices need to be heard. This is one of the things Tanya and I wanted to explore with Flow.
Tell us a bit about your artistic and spiritual practices?
I would say they're very intertwined. I grew up in theatre, dance, and music. An injury and disability made it so that I had to find other avenues of expression. So visual art came into play there. But making solo work, I never felt the same passion or motivation, or even satisfaction, as I did when I worked collaboratively.
So, now I would frame my artistic practice as being very much in collaboration with collective spirit. I often find myself facilitating groups of people, whether it's two or 320, moving together through something that culminates in a group creative expression. I don't claim that work as my own art, it's work that was created together.
And I would say that that's really similar to my spirituality as well. And my approach to the craft. I kind of started off as a solo practitioner being like: I'll just do these spells, alone by myself. Then finding that, it’s actually much more enjoyable and just deeper and richer and more profound to do in community. So, community is a really, really big part of both my artistic and spiritual practice.
How does queerness coexist with these practices?
I think for this too, it is really about possibility. Imagining what's possible for me, discovering my own queerness. It’s about finding possibility outside of what was told to me, outside of the conditioning of heteronormativity.
And it's the same with spirituality, activism and with art. It's about looking at our shared worlds. And wondering what other worlds we can bring in to coexist in this one. So, it's that imagination piece. About dreaming together and making a dream of what's possible. I think that's why the collective is also so much a part of it. Because to dream it by yourself is one thing, but to dream it with the people that you're in community with, it just becomes so much richer. And it can also be pretty chaotic! But I kind of like that. That chaotic part, it's fun.
How do activism and justice work entwine with these practices?
It’s similar to that possibility piece. It’s looking around at the world that we live in and dreaming together. Dreaming of what we want. What would be better than this? And then, knowing that at the end of the day, it's a choice to stay in a white supremacist culture. It's a choice to stay in a capitalist culture. It does take a lot of daring and courage to dream and to put effort into making it happen in a real way in this world.
That’s such an important part of my activism because it can be just so dark. Maybe dark is not the best word, but heavy and depressing. A lot of burnout. To be constantly fighting, fighting, fighting. To constantly be angry, in that place of hurt, with rage and violence. To honour the sacredness of that anger, and the righteousness of that anger, but to also bring in hope and beauty of dreaming what's possible. And doing that, together.
It is so important to share that vision and to be able to dream that into being, but also to make it into being through your art or through your rituals which nourish you at the same time. So instead of always giving yourself to protest and expending your labor, energy, and resources, I find if you can combine those three things (your spirituality, your creative spirit, and that big dream piece) it makes it so that you're giving while also being nourished back by it. I don't know how to do it any other way. I don't think I would live very long if I didn't. if I didn't have community. If I didn't have that essence of hope and togetherness, a part of it.
What would you say to people who feel alone or are struggling in their practices?
Loneliness is such a such a big thing to experience. I don't want to be like, “positive spin on everything”, but I think that there is really a gift in loneliness. For me when I've been in my deepest isolation or feeling that loneliness, that ache for others reminds me of how important it is.
Just feeling that ache is almost resonant. It's like echolocation. When there's an ache that occurs in my body, I can feel it ripple out. Almost like it's trying to find what's the nearest thing that it touches.
What’s interesting is that it's right now. It's this grass, it's the ground beneath my feet. It's the trees, it's the air on my skin. And eventually, it's humans and animals too. A big part of my spiritual practice as well is relationship with those beings. And seeing them as whole beings. I can never be alone, because they're always here, they're always with me. Even if it's that little weed growing out of the crack in a concrete jungle. It’s being able to sense, almost in the same way you might work with your intuition or with aura work. Being able to really feel how that ache can resonate and touch others.
I guess that's one piece of it. And I think it's also okay to be lonely and to feel the pain of this world. The challenge is to not let that stop you from seeking joy, seeking pleasure and seeking relationships. And to also recognize that it's a tool of the state as well, to make you feel lonely. When I'm really deep in it and feeling into the good stuff isn't working for me, the last card trick that I can play on myself is remembering that they want me to feel lonely. The entities with power who are enacting all this violence and harm, they want me to feel lonely and they want me to suffer. So, I'm not gonna. There's a little bit of stubbornness, which I think, can help.