By Dakota Parks for Inweekly
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside the FUNHOUSE and feast your eyes on a bewitching sight sure to surprise. This immersive evening of music, art and interactive theatre is the brainchild of Tiana Hux, New Orleans-based performance artist, feminist-burlesque-rapper, MC Sweet Tea and frontwoman of the art rock quartet Malevitus. Set inside the storied walls of the 309 Punkhouse—home to a community of artists, punks and activists since the late ‘90s— Hux’s performance explores this subculture and architecture while tapping into your inner child.
As the very first artist to christen the studio space in 309 Punk Project’s artist-in-residence program, Hux spent her time combing through the punk archive, writing new music for an album in progress, exploring the streets of Pensacola and planning this performance art piece. Hux unexpectedly sought shelter within the punkhouse amidst Hurricane Ida’s landfall back in September 2021 and kicked off the residence program early. After postponing her exit show until the pandemic leveled off, Hux is back in Pensacola along with her band, Malevitus, and they’re ready to immerse their audience in a game within the FUNHOUSE.
“I design my performances around site-specific spaces and explore what is possible in that space—how people move about the space and how the story I’m interested in telling can be told within that space,” Hux explained. “I was a performance artist long before I joined Malevitus, so I’m really interested in turning the audience into performers and setting our music as a sort of soundtrack in the background while they create their own experience. I enjoy blurring those boundaries and making people question whether or not something is scripted or accidental.”
These meta-stories that Hux weaves together blend performance art with rock music and audience participation like an avant-garde theatrical production. Each of her performances is site-specific and draws inspiration from the architecture and surrounding community. In 2019, Hux created an immersive production set inside a Storyville brothel, based off her solo album “Story,” released in 2005.
“That performance, ‘A Day Late and a Dollar Short,’ explored the experiences of a brothel by moving people through these different rooms with music,” Hux explained. “You would hear different things in each of these different spaces because there is a lot of memory in architecture. Like my album, I was really interested in connecting present-day sex work on Bourbon Street to the historic sex work in New Orleans, which is geographically very close by in the Storyville red-light district.”
Sex work and prostitution are thematically connected throughout Hux’s body of work as she attempts to dignify this way that women support themselves and simultaneously explore and critique notions of the nuclear family and poverty within her music. In Malevitus’ eponymous debut album, songs like “Panhandle” follow a sex worker on the streets struggling to feed her kids and survive.
To amplify these themes in the album and celebrate Malevitus’ vinyl release in June 2022, Hux created another immersive musical, called “Ghosts II: Gimme Danger,” set inside a mansion in the New Orleans Garden District.
“Everyone was moving through this mansion like they were at an elaborate cocktail party, and it was supposed to represent my house. We even had characters playing members of my family. Our band name, Malevitus, is my family name, and the image on the vinyl record is from my family in Greece. My grandfather is the baby who is in the middle of the album. The album is a song cycle with these vignettes about the nuclear family because we’re old school and think you should listen to a full album in one sitting and all the songs should be thematically connected. It’s cinematic in the way it presents this family with an absent father and a single mother who is grinding, doing sex work for the sake of her children just trying to make it in the world,” Hux explained.
Hux uses her artistic repertoire as a performance artist to transform these immersive spaces and amplify the music that connects them together. Like these prior performances, Malevitus’ music is the string that connects them together and moves audiences through the rooms of a house—be it a brothel, mansion or punkhouse.
By fusing together artistic practices, Hux is visually beckoning guests to seek shelter within the punk house, just as train hoppers and young creators have historically. Guests at FUNHOUSE are invited to peek inside 309 and explore the home as theatre, the rooms as stages and the teams as family. The audience will immerse themselves in childhood nostalgia amidst a game of maps and mazes that meanders through the house to the tunes of Malevitus.
“All three of these performances are set within houses,” Hux said. “I’m interested in how the house is a theatre itself and exploring the different shapes and possibilities of families dwelling together. The 309 punkhouse is steeped in this history with decades of creatives and transients coming into the space and finding a community and family there. This house allowed so many artists to find their creative voices and express themselves together through cooperation and an undercurrent of progressive thought within a conservative region.”
Inspired by this history and the architecture of 309 itself, guests will move through the kitchen, bedroom and living room as Malevitus plays music from their album and new songs inspired by Hux’s residency within the punkhouse. The show will also feature Hux’s poster art, video art by 309 Punk Project Curator Valerie George and sculptures by Malevitus bassist Marcus Bronson. The art-rock outfit will release a new single and music video the same day to coincide with the event and honor their recently departed drummer, Carlo Nuccio.
“It’s like a children’s game to draw you into this fairy tale to listen to the songs I wrote in the house and explore how the house is a refuge,” Hux said. “We are going to be playing simultaneously in separate rooms, so it’s less about watching the cohesive performance and more people having this experience, doing this teamwork to create your own experience. Teams will switch rooms after each song and experience something new. Performance art is just another way to crack open our music even further—a parallel expression of these ideas.”
TIANA HUX & MALEVITUS PRESENT: FUNHOUSE WHAT: An immersive evening of music, art and interactive theater WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 WHERE: 309 Punk Project, 309 N. Sixth Ave. DETAILS: 309punkproject.org, malevitus.com