“Things have definitely slowed down, with social distancing and the related safety measures many are taking,” says Xio, the 27-year-old nonbinary DJ known as HYPERFEMME. “I haven’t been able to DJ in public at all since early March. Thankfully, I’m still able to connect with everyone via Zoom parties.”
In late June, by emergency order, Governor Greg Abbott shut down the state’s bars for the second time in three months. Once again, hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers were out of a job. But what is often overlooked in stories about bar closures is that the artists who perform in bars and lounges across Texas, and particularly here in Houston, are also out of work. Some, such as DJs like Xio and the synth-loving pop duo Space Kiddettes, have been able to take their work online to create a stream of income.
But Xio, who uses he/him pronouns, is still building his base since he only started DJing in 2018. He had a college-radio DJ gig, but hadn’t really thought about doing it professionally until he struck up a conversation in Montrose with DJ Ell is Well at The Flat two years ago. Ell is Well introduced him to the club’s booker, and within a month Xio played his first set at The Flat. He’s been doing gigs ever since, until the pandemic hit and the bars were shut down. His high-energy dance-music sets (always with black and/or queer artists) are mainly comprised of disco, electronica, hip hop, ballroom house, and funk.
“Thanks to social distancing, I’ve had a lot of time to explore my own creative processes.”
Xio, a Houston native, does miss the energy of those live dance sets. “I also miss a fun night out with my friends. Seems really simple, but I miss the connection of being able to see the people I love in person. FaceTime and Zoom can’t always measure up.”
With the statewide bar shutdowns, Xio has lost a lot of income, although he has been receiving unemployment benefits to get by on. With all of his free time, he’s still working on his art as well as his many other interests.
“I shuffle between my hobbies: DJing, painting, installation work, collages, writing poems, etc.,” he explains. “When I’m feeling creative, I try to exert that energy in a way that seems fun and productive. There are some days where all I want to do is paint; other days I want to listen to music and play around with a mix.
“I recently started working with the medium of text art to explore themes of personal power and individuality and self-determination. I use things like posters, projections, and plaques to share what I’m referring to right now as “clauses,” short phrases that are meant to be self-contained and self-explanatory. Much of my inspiration comes from artists like Jenny Holzer and Carrie Mae Weems, whose work is often declarative. They say what they need to say, and they move on. I try to do the same.
“I got started [with text art] like I did with DJing—very haphazardly! I’m self-taught and not at all handy, so I’m learning as I go. I’ve been working on sharing my art more with friends and collaborators. When I do so, I usually share on my social-media accounts.”
Xio says he finds Houston’s creative and queer communities to be very supportive and generous, and that every DJ he’s ever met has offered encouragement or knowledge. He misses that live support, although he’s staying active online—and staying upbeat by working on his art.
“Thanks to social distancing, I’ve had a lot of time to explore my own creative processes,” says Xio. I see myself becoming more open with sharing my art. My goal is to eventually exhibit my first installation in a gallery somewhere.”
Keep up with DJ HYPERFEMME on Instagram at @HYPERFEMME.
This article appears in the August 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.