Thursday, October 22, 2015
When I first met international Queer performance artist Coral Short at the Queer Arts Festival’s opening art party, she was wearing boxing shorts and a determined expression. Donning her gloves, she walked onto stage and began to perform her opening piece, Stop Beating Yourself Up, a literal boxing match fought entirely–and mercilessly–against herself. When I met Short a few days later for our interview, she was a radically different person. Relaxed, smiling, and as I discovered later, a little concussed, Short was nothing like the fierce fighter I remembered from a few nights ago.
As we talked performance, meditation, and travel over afternoon coffee, I realized that Short is actually both of these people: open and friendly, but also strong and, honestly, intimidating. Despite her gentle nature, Short clearly has no problem being ruthless when it comes to what really matters: creating powerful, boundary-pushing art.
SAD Mag: You first performed Stop Beating Yourself Up in 2013 at Edgy Women in Montreal. In a recent interview with Daily Xtra, you said that you chose to add some modifications to the piece for this year’s performance: decreasing the length from the original three hours to one and keeping a paramedic on hand. Why did you choose to perform the piece again, if it was so damaging the first time?
Coral Short: I actually never wanted to do this piece again, but Artistic Director SD Holman, through the General Manager, Elliott Hearte, really wanted me to do the piece and offered to fly me out here. And my little sister Amber just had a baby–the first baby in the Short family, so I said, “Okay, I’m going to do this for this nephew.”
SM: You mean, beat yourself up for her child?
CS: Basically! After [the performance] I sent my sister a text that said, “This will make a good story one day, but my head really hurts.”
SM: Did you get anything new out of repeating your performance? Has your original intention or relationship to the piece changed since 2013?
CS: I think it did. The first time I did it, I didn’t do it with full body awareness. Since that time I’ve been to three vipassanas–ten day silent retreats–and I have a daily meditation practice. Being more inside my body than I used to, [the performance] was more impactual on the cellular structure than it did originally. Each time has been a ritual, but I think this [time] was more like a closure: “I will stop doing this now–stop doing this very literal performance–stop beating myself up.” We all need to move forward from this internal struggle, myself included!
It’s also really, really hard on the audience. This performance, people are more with me than any other performance I’ve ever done. They’re horrified, but they’re with me. There’s blood spurting out of me, but people try to stay the course with me. Psychologically, it’s really hard on people. I can’t make eye contact with them, so I have to look at the wall or the cameras or the floor. I’m a channel for the audience–a visceral symbol for the struggle inside themselves.
They want to protect me–they want to stop me. But no one does. When I first did the piece in 2013, I was asked by my curator, “What if someone stops you?” And I said, “It will just become part of the piece.” But no one stopped me then, and no one stopped me now. I think the audience becomes transfixed with a hypnotic morbid fascination.
SM: Do you think that’s because it’s art, or do you think that’s just human nature?
CS: I think there’s a “This is art” thing going on. But, I think if someone would have tried to stop me, I would have stopped. I think all it would take is just one person.
I think people almost want to see it play out. If you look back across humanity, or to Game of Thrones, there’s always been a love of fighting and blood. The fighting pits, the colosseum, the beheadings –I think there’s an element of humanity that wants to see that. Blood is powerful.
SM: In addition to performing at the festival’s opening party, you also curated a film night this year called TRIGGERWARNING. How did you find the “fearless Queer video art” for that event?
CS: I travel a lot. I have about ten home bases. I move with a lot of ease in the world due to the privilege of being a triple passport holder. I have all these different communities that I have lived and worked in, so I meet so many more creators than the average person. While I’m moving, I talk to other curators, interact with other festivals, other artists, everywhere I go. I come across incredible filmmakers some of whom I have been working with for almost a decade. I’m part of a huge Queer network of cultural producers in Asia, North America and Europe who I can reach out to at any time on the internet. We are all there for each other.
SM: And how did you choose which ones to include? What qualified the videos as too triggering–or not triggering enough–for the event?
CS: It’s actually really hard to find triggering work. I cut out pieces that I found problematic in terms of race and trans issues. I didn’t want anyone to feel unwelcome in the space. In the end, I created a bill that I felt comfortable with and I felt other people would be comfortable with, but there were definitely pieces that push the limit in terms of sexuality.
SM: Were there a lot of strong reactions?
CS: Well, actually it’s funny, I feel like my bill was not triggering enough. Perhaps I have to try harder! There was blood and piss and someone kissing their parents and performance art on the verge of self harm. But it was a fine line, because I didn’t want to make anyone feel so uncomfortable that they would walk off in a bad state alone into the world.
SM: What’s been your experience as someone who works both with film and performance? Do you think people react very differently to the two art forms?
CS: I think people are wary of performance art, because they feel that it’s an unpredictable medium–which it is — that is the joy of it! A lot of my video curations make performance art more palatable in a way. And video makes it possible to get all these artists with dynamic personalities from different locations on one bill. That’s why I love video: all that talent within three minutes. It’s amazing. For example: Morgan M Page, Eduardo Resrepo, and local artist Jade Yumang.
SM: In that same Daily Xtra interview, you refer to Vancouver culture as “very PC compared to the east coast,” and in another interview with Edgy Women, you describe Montreal as “one of the few remaining metropolises that is affordable to live cheaply and create art.” Vancouver culture receives a lot of this sort of criticism–among the well known, of course, is the Economist’srecent inclusion of Vancouver in the list of “mind-numbingly boring” cities. Do you think our attitude will ever change, or are we forever doomed to be small-minded, unaffordable and ultimately, boring?
CS: I feel like the Vancouver art community is thriving these days! There’s been a much needed show of city support: a bunch of money given to VIVO and the art organizations in that area. There seems to be some new stuff happening; there’s always some great work. I always like to find out what’s happening here–who the new upcoming artists are, like Emilio Rojas, Helen Reed and Hannah Jickling.
SM: Obviously you’re familiar with the theme of this year’s festival: drawing the line. As a performer and artist, you’ve crossed many lines: from hole-puppet protests to physical self-abuse, you don’t seem afraid to “go too far” when it comes to your craft. This might be cliche, but where (if ever) do you draw the line? And why?
CS: When I was a young artist, I used to repeat some kind of mantra that went something like this: to keep pushing through my limits to go to the other side. I really wanted that to be my work: to not be afraid of anything. Push it as far as you can go and then push it farther. That’s where it begins and where my practice has grown — when I take risks and walk my own path.
But my artistic practice has changed since I did vipassana. I’ve started to make places for people to sit down, because people want to relax; it’s a really fast-paced life. So I made a giant, portable nest. I give people rides with these brown, velvet cushions while they hold this egg, and they become very birdlike. People love to sit in it. I’ve also started making this incredible earth furniture that is opulently growing with plants on radical faerie sanctuary land in Vermont and at IDA. I’m building places for people to repose, relax and be comfortable.
SM: Is this experience of comfort something you’re trying to communicate in your art? Is that your intention?
CS: I think it just kind of happened. I have almost 15 years of sobriety, and each year I grow into my body and cellular structure a little more. That’s coming through in my work. It’s all tied into meditation and slowing down. The Queer scene is soaked in substances and lack of self-awareness, so living inside our bodies as queers is revolutionary. Self-love is radical.
- http://hyperallergic.com/245803/a-queer-feminist-haunted-house-filled-with-riot-ghouls-and-polyamorous-vampires/by Matt Stromberg on October 21, 2015
LOS ANGELES — As Halloween season approaches, haunted houses spring up around the country, turning people’s darkest fears into entertainment. While it’s common to address fears about death and the afterlife, other fears remain outside of the standard seasonal fare, namely those surrounding gender and sexuality. These are precisely the fears confronted head-on by KillJoy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House, an installation created by artists Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue.
Mitchell first got the idea when she was traveling around Canada with another artwork of hers, “Ladies Sasquatch” (2006–10). That piece is composed of numerous oversized she-beast figures covered in faux-fur and pelts, complete with cartoonish breasts and, in some cases, plush genitalia. The figures are menacing and whimsically inviting at the same time.
Mitchell was surprised when venue after venue asked her to include a warning about sexual or adult content. “What is it that raised an alarm bell for them, that there was something wrong here?” she asked when I sat down with her and Logue last week. “For me, it’s this point that breaks through the polite veneer of contemporary gay acceptance. It’s OK for two white people of the same sex to get married and have a mortgage and pay taxes, but they don’t want dirty, unassimilated dykes. That’s what those sasquatches are — because they’re feral, they’re a coven. After that, it was ‘lesbian feminist’ everything. Let’s push these boundaries and see what happens.”
Mitchell said another influence on the project was the historically common evangelical Christian “Hell Houses,” one of which was featured in the 2001 documentary Hell House. Unlike traditional haunted houses, these are moralizing experiences, highlighting the dangers of “sinful” activities such as drug use, premarital sex, abortion, and homosexuality. At KillJoy’s Kastle, Mitchell and Logue turn this model on its head, replacing a didactic, narrow-minded experience with one that combines playful irreverence with an open-ended exploration of radical feminism.
“We’re using camp aesthetics, sculpture, installation, and performance to undermine those ridiculous stereotypes, but also to investigate some real monstrosities of queer activism and feminist organizing,” Mitchell said. “We’re trying to strike a balance between not only being celebratory, but also trying to dig up some of the more painful ghosts and spirits that are part of our legacies.”
When Killjoy’s Kastle premiered in the pair’s native Toronto in 2013, it was wildly popular, with 800 visitors on opening night. It also attracted the attention of the Canadian right-wing media, who were outraged that tax dollars were going to support such a crass example of debauchery. They also seemed completely oblivious to the self-reflexive humor in the piece, unable the look past the tired stereotype of the humorless feminist. (The conservative press finally lost interest when a bigger story broke: the release of a video capturing Rob Ford, then-mayor of Toronto, smoking crack.)
The installation then traveled to the BFI in London for a much smaller show, after which the duo vowed they would never put it on again, as it was such a massive undertaking. But then earlier this year, the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives invited them down to stage it in LA. The pair found a perfect location in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, in a building that served as a meeting place for ACT UP, the activist organization formed in the ’80s to combat the AIDS crisis. For the past few weeks, the artists and a team of volunteers have been working on assembling a spectacle that will fuse craft traditions — tie-dye, papier-mâché, crochet, hand-signage — with lighting and music, all brought to life by a rotating cast of fifty performers.
When the house opens this Friday, groups will be escorted through the experience by a “demented women’s studies professor.” On their trip they will encounter such characters as lesbian zombie folk singers, riot ghouls, and polyamorous geriatric vampires. While the artists have kept many aspects from earlier versions alive in this one, they’ve also made some updates. The Crypt of Dead Lesbian Feminist Organizations — a hallowed burial ground for groups whose moment has passed — will be augmented with institutions specific to LA. Partially in response to questions of transphobia, they have also modified the “Ball-Buster” — a character who smashes plaster casts of truck nuts in a critique of white patriarchy. They’re hoping to enlist a prominent local transgender performer to step into that role, putting a new spin on it.
At the end of the tour, visitors meet with real-life feminist killjoys who talk to them about their experience. “Rather than asking people to accept an ideology, we’re asking people to have a critique, to have an opinion, to question it, to question us,” Mitchell said. So we asked a question: What exactly is a feminist killjoy?
“The killjoy comes from Sarah Ahmed, a cultural theorist who wrote this book The Promise of Happiness,” Mitchell told me. “She talks about how feminist killjoys are identified as humorless, as having something wrong with them because they won’t play along. We have a cast of killjoys who are academics, activists, and artists.”
Killjoys are the ones who “ruin Christmas dinner by calling Grandpa out on his racist joke,” Logue adds.
“Or the woman of color in a feminist gathering who asks why she’s the only woman of color there,” says Mitchell.
“They have reputations for holding people accountable and being very vocal and public about that,” says Logue.
“The bottom line is it’s not a trial by fire in the killjoy room,” Mitchell reassures me. “They’re actually really nice and super sweet.”
More than simply poking fun at tired clichés, KillJoy’s Kastle is about critically and playfully reassessing both the history and the future of feminist and queer politics. “There are some ideas from 1970s feminism that are far more radical than the ideas coming out of contemporary lesbian and gay organizing,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but let’s try to understand a lesbian feminism that includes trans people, that is anti-racist and sex positive. It’s about trying to create a queer new world.”
KillJoy’s Kastle continues in Plummer Park (1200 North Vista Street, West Hollywood, California) through October 30.
Friday, October 16, 2015
September 18 - December 5, 2015
Opening Reception & Meet the Artist: Friday, September 18, 7-9pm
Curator & Artists' Talk Saturday, October 17 at 3:30pm
Curator & Artists' Talk Saturday, October 17 at 3:30pm
Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery in proud partnership with all six Busboys and Poets locations will unveil IMPLICIT BIAS - Seeing the Other: Seeing Our Self. Curated by Shanti Norris and Carol Dyson, the exhibition features over 45 artists from the entire east coast region including Holly Bass, Leslie Berns, Alex Braden, Tim Davis, Nehemiah Dixon, III, Justyne Fischer, Shaunt'e Gates, David Ibata, Rose Jaffe, Jeffery Kent, William Larkins fromlorton Art Program, Tim Okamura, Manuel Palacio, Herberth Romero, Gwenn Seemel, Ann Stoddard, Eric Telfort, Raphael Warshaw, Omolara Williams McCallister, and Helen Zughaib.
Artists exhibiting at Busboys and Poets include: Salama Arden, Cedric Baker, Leslie Berns, Gina Bowersmith, Summer Brown, Travis Childers, Hebron Chism, larissa Danielle, Nehemiah Dixon, III, Duly Noted Painters, Phoebe Farris PH.D, Adrienne Gaither, Aziza Gibson Hunter, Winston Harris, Courtnee Hawkins, David Ibata, Rose Jaffe, Jeffery Kent, Aselin Lands, Pamela Lawton, Marla McLean, Gringoh, Manuel Palacio, Darien Reece, Herbert Romero, Melina Sapiano, Gwenn Seemel, Shani Shih, Elka Stevens, Eric Telfort, Kim Thorpe, Raphael Warshaw, Will Watson, Jennifer Weigel, Curtis Woody, and Helen Zughaib..
IMPLICIT BIAS: A subtle attitude or belief that often lies beneath our conscious awareness. This underlying behavior can subliminally cause stereotypical and sometimes unjust associations to form when relating with people of a different cultural background. IMPLICIT BIAS may also cause an unconsciously prejudice decision-making process towards policy and other institutional methodology.
"Maybe, we now realize the way racial bias can infect us, even when we don't realize it. So we are guarding against, not just racial slurs, but we are also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal." - President Barack Obama's Charleston eulogy at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney
We are living in important and dangerous times, where racial bias has stepped into a place that can no longer be ignored. IMPLICIT BIAS - Seeing the Other: Seeing Our Self is an exhibition strives to reflect these serious matters with honesty, integrity, and an urgency these times deserve. The exhibition will not solely depict an introspective view of Bias, but extends to more prevalent matters, such as injustice in all its forms: police, judicial, education, voting rights, and urban planning for example.
IMPLICIT BIAS - Seeing the Other: Seeing Our Self will be on view from September 18 - December 5, 2015, with the Opening Reception on Friday, September 18th, 7-9pm.
And mark your calendars for the following special events:
Media Rise Festival 2015: Problematic Perspectives Workshop: Hosted by Media Rise, and featuring Smith Center Co-Founder & Executive Director and co-curator of IMPLICIT BIAS - Seeing the Other: Seeing Our Self, Shanti Norris, join us at 12pm on Thursday, October 1st for Problematic Perceptions, a workshop in which participants discuss how media shapes their perceptions about people of color.
Implicit Bias Curator & Artists' Talk: Join us on at 3:30pm on Saturday, October 17th for the IMPLICIT BIAS Curator & Artists' Talk, hosted by Sheldon Scott, for a rare opportunity to hear the featured artists speak about this important exhibition.
"Code Switching" with Kelly King: As a part of IMPLICIT BIAS - Seeing the Other: Seeing Our Self, join us at 6:30pm on Thursday, October 22nd for the "Code Switching", a moving dialogues workshop with Contradiction Dance and Kelly King.
"Sightless Party" Hosted by Holly Bass and Micah John: Friday, November 13th, 7-9pm
Gallery Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 11am-5pm, Saturday, 11am-3pm, and by appointment.
Please note: The gallery will be CLOSED on the following Saturdays, September 26 and October 24. The gallery will also be CLOSED Thursday, November 27 through Saturday, November 29 for Thanksgiving.
Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery is located at 1632 U Street, in Northwest DC
Learn more about the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Learn more about the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Three graffiti artists hired to add authenticity to refugee camp scenes in this week’s episode of Homeland have said they instead used their artwork to accuse the TV programme of racism.
In the second episode of the fifth season, which aired in the US and Australia earlier this week, and will be shown in the UK on Sunday, lead character Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes, can be seen striding past a wall daubed with Arabic script reading: “Homeland is racist.”
Other slogans painted on the walls of the fictional Syrian refugee camp included “Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh” and “#blacklivesmatter”, the artists – Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone – said in a statement published online.
The artists said they had been contacted in June by a fellow street artist who had been approached by a production company looking for people to add authenticity to the set – intended to portray a refugee camp on the Syrian-Lebanese border, but filmed on the outskirts of Berlin.
“Given the series’ reputation,” they wrote, “we were not easily convinced, until we considered what a moment of intervention could relay about our own and many others’ political discontent with the series. It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself.”
In an early meeting with the production team, they were, the statement claims, handed images of “pro-Assad graffiti – apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp”.
The trio decided instead to use the opportunity to air their criticisms of the show, adding graffiti stating: “Homeland is NOT a series”, “The situation is not to be trusted” and “This show does not represent the views of the artists.”
The Arabic script was not checked by producers, they claimed. “The content of what was written on the walls … was of no concern. In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanising an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees.”
Amin told the Guardian: “We think the show perpetuates dangerous stereotypes by diminishing an entire region into a farce through the gross misrepresentations that feed into a narrative of political propaganda.
“It is clear they don’t know the region they are attempting to represent. And yet, we suffer the consequences of such shallow and misguided representation.”
Homeland has frequently run into controversy during its five seasons, particularly over its depiction of the Muslim world and its portrayal of an apparently cosy relationship between Al-Qaida and Hezbollah.
After season four depicted Islamabad as a “hellhole”, a Pakistan embassy spokesperson, Nadeem Hotian, said: “Maligning a country that has been a close partner and ally of the US … is a disservice not only to the security interests of the US but also to the people of the US.”
Showtime has not yet responded to the artists’ claims. The network president, David Nevins, said earlier this year, ahead of the filming of season five, that Homeland would not necessarily continue with Islamist protagonists: “We’re not necessarily going to stay now and forever [focusing on] US relations in the Muslim world … We’re exploring a few different possibilities and may change it up a little bit.”
Nevins added of the show’s writers: “They never shied away from anything difficult. I want them to go right into the teeth of it again.”