Trauma Clown is a photographic series by author, musician, visual artist, and performer Vivek Shraya documenting the journey marginalized artists often experience when addressing their own oppression within their artwork. Motivated by a perceived contemporary cultural fascination with suffering, Shraya uses herself as the subject by adopting the persona of a “trauma clown,” an entertainer whose growing success and commodification comes at the expense of externalizing her pain. Over the course of nine photographs, the entertainer repeatedly revisits traumatic experiences for marketable entertainment and is rewarded with increasing accolades to her own detriment.
The images that comprise Trauma Clown are informed by Shraya’s experience as a trans artist of colour on the rise. Surprised by audiences’ jovial reactions to somber anecdotes while touring for her 2018 book I’m Afraid of Men, Shraya discovered that “marginalized art, in order to break through into the mainstream, needs to be tied to humor…. It’s this idea that, ‘We’re going to make you comfortable by allowing you to laugh at us”’ (Bustle, 2018). However, the trauma clown’s laughs dissipate quickly, leaving the viewer with less comfortable questions on the mediums of modern spectacle and the depths of their own appetite.