Catch up with one of London's busiest creatives Jex Wang
Following on from our interview with her about her syndication for Eastern Margins, we managed to grab some face time with Jex Wang.
A few months ago we did a feature on Eastern Margins. The platform vying for space for East Asians and South East Asians in the U.K. music scene. The syndicate behind the project Jex Wang has talents reaching far beyond syndication including DJ'ing under the moniker DJ Big Wang, as well as photography and writing. At the beginning of the corona virus pandemic Western people wasted no time in using the virus as a pseudo-justification for racism against Asians in public. As she so often does, Jex communicated her frustrations by sharing hilarious (but important) memes she'd created via her Instagram. Her penchant for communicating political rhetoric so succinctly and humorously is essential in a modern political landscape governed by social media. Unfortunately as the virus spread so did people's commitment to nonsense. In January this led to a Chinese man dying of a heart attack in Sydney, as onlookers were too scared to perform CPR or assist for fear he was carrying the virus. This seems reasonable (if not somewhat callous) now, but we have to remember that before isolation and social distancing people were only presumed to have the virus on the basis of being Asian. This is when Jex doubled down and appeared on BBC world news and the Victoria Derbyshire show to further outline her disdain for the treatment members of her community were facing. Her writing showcases her commitment for the cultural recognition of all groups with her most recent work centring around anti-blackness in the Asian community. Whilst still somehow finding the time to drop consistent mixes of her favourite tracks. We were lucky to enough to pry her away from her burgeoning calendar to chat with us and take some snaps with one of our favourite contributing photographers Jinsun Park.
How are you and how are you finding lock down?
I’m going well! I’m spending lock down alone but because I’m one of those people that really enjoy spending time on their own, I don’t mind. I don’t get bored when I’m by myself whereas sometimes when I’m with people, I’ll get bored easily. I grew up an only child and my parents were always at work so I was constantly left alone as a kid to entertain myself, guess I’m used to it.
Perhaps the hardest question to answer for any creative, but how do you define yourself?
I try not to define myself with one medium. Right now my strongest passions are towards writing, photography and music but I am also in the process of writing up a documentary that I want to make. This means I’m going to have to figure out how to produce music for it so I guess my passion from music will evolve from DJing to producing. Similar to how my passion for photography will be evolving into videography as I’m going to shoot the whole thing myself. This is why I don’t like labels because they’re always changing and can lose their own meaning.
We know you've lived in a few different countries. How have they differed socially and what have you taken from each place?
So I was born in Australia, then grew up in China until I was 5. Then I moved back to Australia and lived there until I moved to China for a bit in 2017. Then later that year I moved to France for a year and now I have been in the UK for almost two years. There are a lot of surface level social differences like the double cheek kiss greeting in France (which I hated) or how in the UK, you can get chips with curry sauce (which I love). But the main social difference comes from my experiences of living in both the East and the West. There’s something called “Western Individualism vs Eastern Collectivism”. I’m not going to go into it cause we will be here for a while but there’s loads on google to read about. I still grew up with the Eastern collectivism values I was raised with in China even though I was living in Australia. And after experiencing it more and more as an adult every time I went back to China, the collectivism attitude towards your position in society is something I carry with me everywhere I go even if I’m travelling around the West.
Would you say the different countries you've lived in have shaped your taste in music or impacted your approach as a DJ?
It definitely has. Growing up with Chinese parents who grew up during the Cultural Revolution where it was pretty much illegal to listen to music outside of what the government allowed, the only music I had growing up was me being forced to play classical piano which I hated. I was introduced to electronic music when I started going clubbing and I thought it was cool and I did like it but nothing in Melbourne really excited me to the point where I felt like I had to rush home and look for more of it. Then with moving away and hearing all these different sounds in different clubs, that’s when I was like - I need to research this more. London really inspired me to actually start DJ'ing cause I actually see myself represented in London which motivated me to actually start doing it. I have been able to see a diverse range of DJs who play all sorts of different music. In Melbourne, I just felt I didn’t fit the cookie cutter DJ types they had in the clubs there so I just assumed DJing wasn’t something for me - not to mention the racism and sexism in the Melbourne music scene but let’s not go there now. Now because I’ve been exposed to different types of dance music, I think that shows in the music I like to play too. I get bored if an entire set is the same genre so I like to change it up, why can’t I play speed garage and deconstructed club music in one set?
Earlier in the year you were vocal about racism against Asians as a result of Corona. Has it's global widespread nature lessened this at all?
Definitely not. I think the racism is now worse. You have assholes like Donald Trump calling it the “China Virus” and people all over the internet being ignorant, trying to blame China for their own country’s shortcomings. Also this absurd call from the West to ban “wet markets” because they think it caused corona? Just to clear up for readers who might not know: a “wet market” is literally the same as a farmers market in the West except people in China don’t want to buy home-made kombucha so I guess they don’t look as “bougie”. They’re called “wet markets” because they sell fresh produce as opposed to a “dry market” which is also a big thing in China and those markets sell things like socks or electronics. I feel like the racism has also spread across more demographics of people too. With lock down in the West happening, black and brown people are again more targeted by police for doing what everyone else is doing so there’s a lot of increased racism there. Also the structural racism of a lot of countries in the West is really showing with the spread of the virus. I was reading about how white people in the U.S have assault weapons out to protest the lock downs and police are just letting that happen? Meanwhile people of colour can’t even take the train without feeling threatened. The only difference for me now is I’m not allowed to leave the house as much anymore so I guess I’m less of a physical target.
You create memes and humour to start political discourse on your Instagram. What's the benefit of using this approach and are there any you're particularly proud of?
Honestly, I usually make these memes when I’ve drunk too much coffee in the morning and something I’ve read in the news has really ticked me off so I want to speak up about it. Because of the little time I put into them, I’m not that proud of them. I spend more time being proud of my writing or photography. It’s cool that they get shared around though and I really appreciate all the support I get from them. I guess that’s the main benefit of the approach; because they’re easy to digest people are more open to reading them which means they’re a fast and efficient way of spreading political discourse.
How did you find it being on the BBC and what are your thoughts on mainstream media in the U.K. generally?
I went on the BBC because I’m nosey. I don’t really have that much faith in the media or trust them so my main motivation for going on BBC was because it meant I might have a chance of bumping into David Attenborough, which did not happen. Mainstream media in the UK, like everywhere else is pretty awful. It’s so hard these days to get the actual facts of what’s going on. Literally every time I read the news these days, I have about 6 different media platforms open. I look up what political alignment each media platform has and what the political alignment the journalist has too, this way I can try and figure out how biased the article will be. Then I cross check everything to see if any facts match up. Then I see if I can find articles which disprove what I believe. Then usually at this point, it all gets confusing and I’m tired so I go and see what the conspiracy theorists on twitter are saying and by that point I don’t know what to believe. I’ve had this attitude towards mainstream media for a while now, just not trusting it. Even when I went on the BBC, they tried to make me lie and twisted my words in front of me. I also had to hold my own tongue cause I knew there were just certain things I shouldn’t say on international television so people never really got my full story cause I didn’t feel like I could say what I wanted. Also following up from the BBC, I had a lot of journalists reach out to me and a lot of them had no idea what they were talking about as their perspective was so politically biased or they were racist without realising, and some of them I even caught them lying to me so yeah I guess when it comes to mainstream media, I’d rather read something else.
Being so involved in social issues is important but how do you manage to keep yourself sane and most importantly happy?
I have a lot of hobbies which take my mind off things. I will try and do something social justice related everyday, whether it’s educating myself or educating others. Maybe I’ll speak out about something on social media or I’ll write an article about it. But I have a life outside of all of that too. On top of music and photography, I’m also into makeup, fashion, cooking, films, recently have gotten into anime too. Something that cheers me up a lot is calling up my friends and just chatting shit, it's a good way to get your mind off stuff. There are a lot of horrible things in the world that we need to fight against but there are also lots of wonderful things too, just gotta find the balance.
Jinsun Park who's worked with us on this article also does work showcasing and promoting the talents of East Asian artists in the U.K. What was it like linking up with her?
I had a great time hanging out with Jinsun! They were really easy to talk to and had done a lot of cool things in their life so I definitely wished I had more time to get to know them. It’s a shame they had to leave the UK but hopefully we’ll meet up again soon. It’s always better for me to work with other East Asian creatives because there’s an unspoken solidarity which we don’t even have to talk about and I find that really comforting.
Your love of cats is well documented on your Instagram, would you rather be able to talk to cats or be able to morph in to one whenever you feel like it?
I don’t know how people can actually watch my instagram stories, it must be so strange to see it change content so much. Sometimes it’s political discourse, other times it’s food and then it’s like 20 different videos of my cats being cute and me almost crying because their paws are so small, thanks for watching though, I appreciate it! And to answer your question, I feel like cats wouldn’t have much to talk about because it’s not like they go to art galleries or listen to music so I guess I’d rather morph into one. But I only want to be those cats that were part of the first wave of cat content on the internet that made internet humour what it is today, hope all those cats are doing well.
If the lockdown ended tomorrow what's the first thing you'd do?
I would go get dim sum with my friends. Been craving it so much and it one of my favourite things to do with friends.
Follow Jex's day to day via her Twitter
Keep up with her via her Instagram
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We were lucky enough to sit down with Eastern Margins syndicate Jex Wang to discuss the platform fighting for representation for Eastern and South East Asians in the U.K. music scene