London Calling: An Interview with Kat Hudson
by Tom Rassmussen
‘Political art’ is what we’re all, rightly, obsessed with. Tired of pawing over Instagram and, I dunno, being oppressed, the practices of Gen Z and that old millennial lot have become inherently linked to a political agenda: one which is, ultimately, all about freedom.
But freedom is a many feathered thing, and there are people with harder red lines and softer pink lines when it comes to what will achieve it. Kat Hudson, artist, curator and founder of some of London’s most iconic nightlife movements, is all about looking at the validity of both of those lines. In her art-works she venerates and critiques the contemporary art institution: see her ‘Babes on Rothkos’, a lesbian reimagining of the work of the guy who painted red. In her club-nights: Femmetopia, or Gender Fvcker, which she co-founded with Katayoun Jalili, Kat creates a space where all iterations of ‘femme’ go to thrive.
LOVE caught up with Kat as she flies the nest of Femmetopia at Vogue Fabrics.
Where did you grow up? What was it like there?
I grew up in a town called Abingdon just outside of Oxford, where Radiohead and Supergrass are from. I was an only child so I spent a lot of time by myself drawing and making things. When I was a teenager my friends and I used to stay out all night and put on parties in the fields/forests on the outskirts of town. We carried this huge sound system along some pretty crazy paths to get to the best hidden location. I always enjoyed being out late; the world felt empty, like it was ours in the dark hours and we could create whatever reality we wanted. I still often feel that way at night.
My Dad’s from the States and we used to go and stay with my Grandparents in California in the summers. It was the opposite to Oxford; everything was so huge and new. The rock ’n’ roll culture of California captured my attention as a kid and was a huge influence on my artistic style. My Mum‘s from Eltham, South London and she always said that London was in my blood, it goes back generations. I’m glad to be back here now.
Tell us about your art practice: what is your work about, from your curation to your art itself, and why is this important?
Feminism has been at the core of my work for a long time, even before I was entirely conscious of it. As a female artist in the 21st century it’s difficult not to relate my work to feminism in some way I think; it’s such a huge part of the current societal narrative.
My personal art practice has always pretty organically been about my perception of the world around me. It’s a unique way for me to understand myself and communicate with myself as well as with others.
My curatorial style developed as my friends and I decided that we wanted to show our work on our own terms. The shows we put on often centred around a political narrative, but it was always an organic one. That’s how I fell into LGBTQIA+ feminist politics within my curatorial and personal work. It was, and is, what I’m living so it is what ends up being translated in my practice.
How does your politics inform your artistic practice?
When it comes to my personal art practice, my politics informs me and my art comes from my own personal experience.
It’s important to me to present different perceptions of the world in a positive way. I’m a huge believer in ‘be the change you want to see’. I feel personally like my work has more impact by simply being an expression of myself and presenting my views than I would with an aggressive or abrasive political stance. Especially at the moment I feel like a lot of people are shouting in political art. I understand the anger but there’s so much shouting I’m not sure how much is really being said.
My ‘Babes on Rothkos’ collage works are essentially a celebration of my sexuality and a bit of a laugh at the expense of the modern art world at the same time. I get a kick out of placing an expressly feminine figure and that I, the female artist, find so incredibly and powerfully attractive, onto a world renowned abstract painting created by arguably one of the most famous men of all time.
My sketches emphasise the beautiful ugliness I see in the diversity of people. I love emphasising traditionally ugly features and creating gorgeous characters with personality and variety. Its my way of having fun celebrating reality over manufactured beauty.
Tell us about the club nights you run, and why?
I started off running parties out of the Warehouse I was living in in North London to raise money to put on exhibitions. My friends were DJs and we had the space so it was just a really fun and easy way to fund our art in the beginning. It was those friends who first introduced me to the concept of the nightclub as a space to rehearse utopia. I talked to my friend Angel Rose a lot about the idea of valuing fun. Fun liberates us, it allows us to express ourselves freely and connect with each other, it’s an essential part of life. Placing value on having fun as an essential activity is an incredibly powerful thing in a world in which we are taught that fun is a luxury item.
Queer club nights have always been intrinsically linked to artistic expression for me in this way. It’s all about creating that safe space in which you can feel able to express yourself and be valued, free from external pressures. Club night and arts collective, Femmetopia, which I founded with Phoebe Patey-Ferguson, is all about providing that space for queer women, lesbians, non-binary, trans, and other femme presenting people within London’s heavily masculine dominated gay nightlife community. We created an intersectional feminist space for people to feel free and have fun. That’s what it’s all about. Curating our own spaces in which we can practice the way we want our world to be and gaining the strength to carry that way of being into the outside world with us.
What is the collective aim of all of your work?
All of my work at the moment works towards the ideal of the feminine in society being held up as equal to the masculine across all genders.
That’s my utopian goal, my feminist agenda, my raison d’être.
I hope ultimately that I can make people look twice, start conversation, relate to my work, and to have a bit of a smile and a laugh at ourselves at the same time.
Fun is a powerful thing after all.