As part of Birkenstock’s 1774 collaboration series, Document Journal meets 10 creatives making the Hudson Valley a kingdom of their own. Near Hudson, the performer slows down to a trot.
Discover the full Birkenstock 1774 collaboration series here.
Justin Vivian Bond’s first great act was the immortal Kiki DuRane, a songstress of the old school—drunk, world-weary, perpetually in thrall to an old-world glamor. Kiki and her musical collaborator, Herb, made it all the way to the bright lights of Broadway and a 2007 Tony nomination, a defining moment for downtown culture. The pair briefly reunited in 2016, but today Bond tends to focus on solo outings, including annual cabaret stints at the Spiegeltent, the fabulous 1920s pavilion, all louche velvet furnishings and Weimar vibes, that sits at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. Bond, who prefers they/them/their as gender pronouns, has a house near Hudson, 20 miles upriver from Bard, where they escape New York City each summer. “It’s really grounding to not just have stressed-out type A people around you all the time,” they say. “It’s hard to survive in the city if you’re not going at full gallop.”
After several years curating performers for the Bard summer season at Spiegeltent, Bond found a home to call their own in—“a very artsy place”—and now splits the year between city and country. One advantage of the Hudson Valley? Space. “There’s room to hang out, have barbecues, spend time at each other’s houses,” says Bond. “In the city, you’re in restaurants or clubs, always somewhere doing things—here you actually get to spend quiet time together, and I think it gets a little deeper.” As a result, Bond finds opportunity to recharge and nurture relationships. “I’ve got great friends here who are now family, and I’ve got family moving here,” they say. “It’s home.”
For cabaret’s most glamorous punk rocker, there’s rarely a spare moment. We invited the performer to give us a whistle-stop tour of life in the Valley.
Document—Why do you live upstate?
Justin—As an artist, I was finding myself in need of space so that I could expand both physically and emotionally. My home is both an art project and a part of my practice. I still maintain my identity as an NYC-based artist. But I needed a retreat.
Document—What’s your most inspiring season upstate?
Justin—I love summer more than just about anything. In my perfect world, we would all go on vacation in January and upon our return it would be the middle of April.
Document—Are you a different person upstate?
Justin—I’m a different person from room to room, minute to minute, second by second.
Document—What is the first place you can’t wait to take friends?
Justin—I love to take them to my favorite swimming holes, but I’m not listing them here. Befriend me and find out the secrets!
Document—Tell us about a close encounter with New York nature.
Justin—I have captured and released four bats over the course of my three summers of living in The House of Whimsy. They are terrifying when they’re flying around but so vulnerable in the big picture. I love them and am grateful to have them here watching after me and eating all the mosquitos.
Document—Describe your upstate community?
Justin—I’m happy to report that my group of friends here is even more diverse than in the city. I have friends of all ages with different ethnicities, gender identities, educational, and economic backgrounds.
Document—What music do you like to listen to upstate? What songs remind you of the Hudson Valley?
Justin—My friends all laugh at me because I tool around in my mini-van, Vantasia, listening to The Cure all the time. You can take the girl out of black, but you can’t take the black out of the girl. Yes, I’m the goth in the chambeige mini-van.
Document—What do you consider to be Hudson Valley required reading?
Justin—On the local Facebook page people have plenty to say about the ridiculous traffic circle they put in by the Rip Van Winkle Bridge—or as I like to call it, the STOP traffic circle. I’m happy to report that they, too, are reading that traffic circle for filth!
Document—Have you noticed a difference in your dreams since living upstate?
Justin—I live in a very old house with all kinds of crazy slants and pitches, so I dream of 90 degree angles.
Document—How does your sense of community differ from when you live in a city?
Justin—I feel loved and supported both places. I’m very lucky that way.
Hair and Grooming Mimi Quiquine at She Likes Cutie. Editor Austin Bailey. Sound Greg Francis. Color Oliver Eid. Photo Assistant Annabelle Snoxall. Production Liana Blum and Patch Ward.