Being Max Steele

Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Max Steele presents his one-man-show “ENCOURAGER” as part of BAX’s Artists-in-Residence performance series April 26-28. | DANIEL RAMPULLA
Max Steele presents his one-man-show “ENCOURAGER” as part of BAX’s Artists-in-Residence performance series April 26-28. | DANIEL RAMPULLA

BY BRIAN MCCORMICK | Max Steele is a writer, blogger, singer/ songwriter, bandleader, performance artist, ersatz go-go boy, and self-affirmed figure of the New Gay Underground — a kind of folksy new millennium would-be Warhol or Wojnarowicz with strong lesbian influences. The suburban West Coast queer punk escaped to New York via Sarah Lawrence College, and settled into the burgeoning cultural morass of North Brooklyn as 21st century queer aesthetics began to crystallize.

While many artists these days assume alternate identities, and many others act out routines of their daily lives as a performance, Max Steele — his real name — is a curious mash-up of publicized/ privatized identity expressions. His life and art are symbiotic, woven into a purposeful performance, embodying a loose — not wholly calculated — politicization of the personal and, naturally, the inverse thereof.

The performance of self in everyday art #queer

His zine, Scorcher, features sexually explicit autobiographical stories. His blog, This Is Fag City, is a personal diary really, filled with psychological, astrological, and artist-process musings, as well as an encyclopedia of reports from the New York City queer art party scene. Both are written under the name of Billy Cheer — a secular spiritual guru, who will be appearing in April at BAX in a new solo performance by Steele called “ENCOURAGER.” Staged as a “Courage Workshop,” the performance will guide audiences through emotional strategies, drawing from the vernaculars of self-help books, queer and punk subcultures, and radical politics, and working toward personal liberation through self-destruction.

Gay City News interviewed Steele in advance of his performances at BAX.

BRIAN McCORMICK: You have been called a writer, a performer, a go-go boy, and a band. How do you describe yourself?

MAX STEELE: Sometimes I just say I'm an artist to save time, but then people ask me what kind of art I make, so I usually just say writer and performer, but I don't see a tremendous distinction between those two practices. I treat my life as an art project. Everything is up for grabs. It’s a process more than a project, really. I’m trying to figure something out.

BM: You wrote on your blog that you are not thrilled with the idea of playing a character [Billy Cheer] in this show. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this. Isn’t all performance playing a character?

MS: Billy Cheer emerged as a kind of artistic gesture, which grants me some freedom in terms of my imagination and what I feel like I'm allowed to say, but it also sort of undermines other aspects of performing. I write Scorcher as Billy Cheer, too. It's not a tremendously different character than the real me: it's just that Billy is the euphemism for when I'm letting my imagination run wild. I think all performance is mediated, all performance is a character. But by the same token, all art is mediated and any human interaction involves a certain amount of characterization.

BM: Another related notion is that you are an imposter, a fake, uninteresting, derivative, which doesn’t seem to be a deliberate attempt at self-deprecation but almost a motivating factor for your artist identity.

MS: Thank you for getting this! I do feel like a fake, an impostor, a pretender. And I want to embody those ideas, because I think it's a totally 100 percent okay, valid, and beautiful way to live. I'm playing up how shitty and empty inside I am, as a way of demonstrating that that distinction is murky to begin with — how would anyone know? — as well as to call attention to the fact that making such a distinction doesn't actually change anything. I think it's totally okay to be a fake person. Look how much we have in common. If I'm an impostor and you identify with me, does this mean that you might be an impostor too?

BM: What are the forces that feed and drive your imagination? On the topic of derivation, who are you inspired by, who do you borrow from, and what have you stolen from yourself lately?

MS: I feel like the word failure has kind of gotten a bad rap through overuse. The forces that feed my imagination are things like failure, fear, exhaustion, anger, resentment, doubt. These are understood as negative feelings, so we intuitively seek to avoid them. But, of course, they're unavoidable, so I've been working to incorporate them into my art and find a way to feel free and excited and sexy while also feeling like a fuck-up.

I've definitely been cannibalizing myself in making “ENCOURAGER.” I've been revisiting some of the writing I did for Scorcher and other projects over the years, looking for times when I started to hint at the tone I want the new piece to have.

In terms of being derivative, I'm tremendously influenced by Kathy Acker, still. Two books I read in the last year particularly influenced the way I'm looking at making this project: “Inferno” by Eileen Myles and “Zippermouth” by Laurie Weeks. In different ways, I felt like someone opened a trap door in my imagination. I didn't know you could think like that or feel like that — or talk like that, write like that.

BM: You have an affinity for lesbian writers.

MS: A lot of people my age seem to think that the lesbian community evolved apart from the male queer scene. That’s not historically accurate. At the height of the AIDS crisis, it was lesbian sisters taking care of gay brothers. We have a very intertwined history. The idea that gay male culture has evolved distinctly is a fallacy.

BM: Where did you draw your material and inspiration from for “ENCOURAGER,” and what was your process for developing this work? Is this typical for you, or is it unusual to work with an institution like BAX? You recently had a showing for the BAX teens and wrote on your blog about how they seemed to get it — and not question it even as much as you.

MS: The whole “ENCOURAGER” project is uncharted territory for me and could not have happened without the fantastic support of the BAX Artists-in-Residence program. It's very rare for me to work with any kind of support, let alone an institution as smart, savvy, and understanding as BAX. I'm using this new opportunity to make very different work from anything I've attempted before.

The BAX Teen Arts Conference was amazing. I was absolutely mortified to perform for a group of teenagers. I was certain they were either not going to understand the humor or logic of my piece or would just balk at the woo-woo touchy-feely nature of it, and I grossly underestimated the kids. They treated my performance as just someone talking, just saying what was on their mind, which is exactly what I wanted and was afraid to admit I wanted. The kids have feelings. That's what I'm excited to hear about.

BM: Aside from this project at BAX, what have you been on about lately, and what do we have to look forward to beyond April?

MS: In the process of making “ENCOURAGER,” I've written a ton of material and discarded about 70 percent of it. It feels good to be constantly editing and boiling down, but I'm also excited to have reams of pages of performance text. So, likely another, more light-hearted, and narrative show is in the works before too long. I'm also excited to get back to work on my psychedelic porno poetry zine, Scorcher. The next issue, when I get around to it, is going to be called Valedictorian and, I think, will be worth the wait.

BM: Who is your audience?

MS: Yvonne Rainer once said her audience is necessarily really small. That always resonated with me. I like the idea of an audience that knows how to read my work in the way I want it to get read. But now I think that’s not democratic enough for me. I’m interested in having a new experience. What I’m doing is not spectacularly glamorous. You don’t get dazzled. I want people who are willing to do a little bit of work. My dream is always to have cool girls. That would be the ultimate compliment.

MAX STEELE | “ENCOURAGER” | BAX/ Brooklyn Arts Exchange | 421 Fifth Ave. at Eighth St., Park Slope | Apr. 26-27 at 8 p.m.; Apr. 28 at 6 p.m. | $8-15 at or 718-832-0018


Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reader feedback

Muslim Astrology says:
Excellent Article with in-depth review !! Islamic Muslim Astrology
June 7, 2017, 2:40 am
sarahdery404 says:
Get ex love back
Nov. 17, 2017, 12:39 pm
AmandaJRisk says:
Excellent work you done here. I really like & enjoy your article. ladki ko vash me karne ka jadu
May 4, 2018, 2:58 am
Karissa Byrd says:
There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. ricoh copier service
May 10, 2018, 6:31 am
DonnaCIbrahim says:
Very nice way of explaining, and pleasant article to obtain information. Keep it up How To Handle A Wife
May 10, 2018, 7:33 am
John Brauer says:
It’s remarkable for me to have a site, which is helpful in favor of my knowledge. thanks admin. bring my ex girlfriend back
May 16, 2018, 1:27 am
MarkSMote says:
Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m confident they will be benefited from this web site. Remedy to Stop Divorce
May 16, 2018, 6:45 am
maccydonal4747 says:
so sweet Get love back
May 18, 2018, 6 am
jatin rawal says:
nice content
May 18, 2018, 6:05 am
CarolynJOlney says:
Very, very good job!! very nice!! astrologer in ahmedabad
May 19, 2018, 3:34 am
AliBAllen says:
Thanks for sharing this article. Keep it up!! aghori tantrik in delhi
May 21, 2018, 5:36 am
RonaldLCurtis says:
Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! free cricket betting tips
May 22, 2018, 3:26 am
MelissaHBrown says:
Very nice way of explaining, and pleasant article to obtain information. Keep it up. Katy pool builders
May 24, 2018, 3:30 am
EarlDBrooks says:
Nice blog, I will keep visiting this blog very often Cricket Match Prediction Sites
May 26, 2018, 12:10 am
LloydALewis says:
Very nice way of explaining, and pleasant article to obtain information. Keep it up. black magic expert in mumbai
May 26, 2018, 2:27 am
ShondaFSims says:
Its really very helpful post thanks for sharing your ideas in this post. black magic spells to break up a couple
May 26, 2018, 5:14 am
EarlDBrooks says:
It’s really an Appreciative Work. Continue the good work. Thanks! ladki ko vash me karne ka mantra in hindi
May 29, 2018, 12:58 am
SaraRDamiano says:
Excellent work you done here. I really like & enjoy your article. pool builders in Katy
May 30, 2018, 12:48 am
SheilaDHuang says:
Here at this site extremely the critical material accumulation so everyone can appreciate a great deal. how to stop marriage by black magic
June 1, 2018, 3:54 am
JesseRCarson says:
Good layout and perfect blog post. How To Get Rid Of Voodoo Doll
June 5, 2018, 6:33 am
dimaoxygen says:
really amazing and good websites all Get lost love back
June 7, 2018, 9:09 am
MarcellaKCollins says:
Valuable information! Looking forward to seeing your notes posted.
June 9, 2018, 1:15 am
Ammoboard says:
Excellent website. I got many good & useful information here. bulk ammo
June 14, 2018, 3:20 am
JosephMHerbert says:
Excellent work you done here. I really like & enjoy your article.
June 16, 2018, 4:58 am
Ammoboard says:
Excellent post you share. thank you so much. Keep it up. 9mm ammo
June 18, 2018, 12:42 am
eelu says:
Max Steele real name is a curious thank you very interesting locationscity |
June 18, 2018, 5:19 am
ValeriWHill says:
Well done!! Thanks for sharing this. Thank you. best astrologer in kanpur
June 18, 2018, 6:10 am
OutdoorLimited says:
Enjoy your article. bulk ammo cheap ammo
June 19, 2018, 2:37 am
MichaelACalvert says:
Great job....You have beautifully presented your thought in this blog post.. Mantra to attract love
June 19, 2018, 4:52 am
Norma Davis says:
I really appreciate your article. Thank you. mantra for love marriage
June 19, 2018, 5:57 am
NancyBAleman says:
Very good written article. It will be supportive to anyone who utilizes. how Can I bring lost love back
June 25, 2018, 3:14 am
LeonieTBennett says:
Well done!! Thanks for sharing this Post. रिश्ता तोड़ने का मंत्र
June 26, 2018, 12:17 am
WilliamAHeenan says:
Thanks for sharing this post. Keep it up!! Lal Kitab Remedies For Husband Love
June 26, 2018, 1:52 am
RickyMRalston says:
Great article ...Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post. bulk ammo online
June 27, 2018, 12:03 am
CrystalJOdom says:
Thanks for sharing this post. Keep it up!! Apni Shadi Todne Ke Upay In Hindi
June 28, 2018, 6:42 am
SherronADennis says:
Well done!! I really appreciate you post. best astrologer in indore
July 5, 2018, 6:23 am
MonicaEMc says:
I’m amazed by the details that you have on this site. Talaq Lene Ka Tarika In Hindi
July 5, 2018, 10:32 pm
लौंग से वशीकरण says:
Thanks for sharing this appreciable blog. Keep it up!! लौंग से वशीकरण
July 7, 2018, 4:47 am
GraceJBeebe says:
Thanks for sharing this informative post. Keep it up!! लौंग से वशीकरण टोटके
July 9, 2018, 12:20 am

Comments closed.


Schneps Community News Group

Don’t miss out!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: