Saturday, 4 May 2013

Queer Bashing

I meet up occasionally with Spencer Rowell from Uncertain States for some very passionate discourse about lens based practice and where we feel we are in our development as people and artists. Rowell asked if I would be interested in contributing to the latest issue #14. Whilst a theme helps to give some direction, the title 'A Queer Gaze' is not actually published. I did not initially consider this title to be referring purely to sexuality and Rowell was careful to reassure me that this was not a 'gay' issue so I offered my new series 'Untitled' as a discussion of an alternative view on reality.

Just before press, the issue became more prominent in my mind and I began a more detailed dialogue with him about his motives for approaching me. The implication that the artists were chosen because of sexuality whether fully consciously or not was an issue. I feel that the political definitions of sexuality was a necessary evil in the fight for equality in the past but this now can feel clumsy and self defeating in a world where many of those battles have been fought. Even the great Peter Tatchell has successfully re-labelled himself a 'human rights campaigner.'

Multi-culturalism is a dirty word it seems and a noble concept has been corrupted and attacked by cynicism. The articulate voices in its defence are not making themselves heard but what multi-culturalism is not is a group of disparate 'communities' living in self imposed ghettoisation. This applies specifically to the groups defined as 'non hetero-normative.'

Whilst Rowell reassured me that Uncertain States #14 was not focussing entirely on sexuality; in Richard Sawdon Smith's essay 'Queering the New Normal' he mentions the editors' specifically approaching him to contribute to 'a showcase for gay lens based artists.'

My contribution to the debate about 'queer' is that I feel the definition of a non hetero-normative sexuality as queer is divisive, dated and unhelpful whether imposed or self-imposed and further that my work maybe interpreted purely within this context.

I am not denying that my work has been influenced by my journey to make some sense of my sexuality; this combined with my adoption and many other factors will inevitably be betrayed in my practice. Everything we do is a form of self portrait and in this issue the artists with one exception candidly explore their own complex circumstances that has led them to create. Richard Sawdon Smith's damaged narcissism and Charan Singh's elequent exploration of his overt self portraiture resonated with me as less easily defined human experiences. Sara Moralo is the only photographer conventionally exploring other people's lives in a nostalgic curated archive contexualising gender identity but it still feels personal  and I would like to understand some of her personal motives for approaching her subjects. James M Barrett's works are somewhat at odds with some of my dogmas but I cannot help but be seduced by the notion in his statement of a kind of beauty that "resonates with uncertainty, doubt and restlessness."

Free copies available from Tenderpixel.

Uncertain States #14. Cover image: © Francisco Gomez de Villaboa

Images #1 & #3 from series Untitled © Richard Ansett 2013

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