darkmatter | dealing with the breakup

May 13, 2017

words by: Ifeanyi Awachie

As 2017 began - with all its right wing-tinged, dark uncertainty - a powerful, progressive, creative force left the world. Trans South Asian performance art duo DarkMatter retired - just shy of four years of unique, consuming, uplifting, and prolific collaboration.

The two halves of DarkMatter are Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, who met as students at Stanford University and bonded over their shared experiences as “sad brown femmes figuring shit out.” They wrote and performed together for three years before forming DarkMatter. If you missed the experience of DarkMatter’s live shows, you missed the light-speed energy of Vaid-Menon’s politico-philosophical monologues, Balasubramanian’s deceptively soft-spoken, incisive social commentary, and the duo’s informed humor, impeccable style, and dogged commitment to self-care, pleasure, and the personal despite all the bullshit.

Based in New York City, DarkMatter appeared on stages from the Nuyorican Poets Café to Yale University to the Queer International Arts Festival, collected cosigns from numerous style mags for their unparalleled fashion sensibilities and kept thousands of Instagram followers inspired with unapologetic gestures and captions - all while working as full-time activists. Today, the two have parted ways to focus on individual projects: Vaid-Menon is still performing poetry - they just sold out two shows in London, while Balasubramanian is working on a speculative fiction trilogy about “sleep, dreams, and physics.”

The range of liminal issues highlighted and articulated by DarkMatter is just so rich - the duo have clapped back to everything from Dan Savage’s particularly white and middle-class It Gets Better campaign, anti-blackness in communities of color, even dating apps. All it would take is performance, workshop, or interview with these two to blow your gender/race/class paradigm wide open.

Check out the media below for the next best thing to a DarkMatter show, and watch this space - we’re excited to see Vaid-Menon and Balasubramanian infuse their future individual work with the thought, resistance, and fun of DarkMatter.