Experiencing the work in Liverpool was again full of differences but also the wonderful constant; a feeling that seems to carry with the work that this group of people is deeply connected. The context was interesting this time, as the work was put on, as part of Homotopia an annual queer festival that was set up in 2004 -the year Liverpool became the city of culture. What is amazing is that in contrast to Glasgay, Homotopia has managed to go international and attract queer artists at the top of their game. Hence, this year, there was a stunning exhibition on April Ashley which worked to inform people on trans* rights. There was an exhibition by David Hockney, and performances by John Waters and David Hoyle. The funny thing about the festival is that in queer terms, these names are huge. But, as someone very new to the scene, I had little idea about who they were – and I assume this would be the same for many. This paired with the already elite nature of the art world, made for an amazing line-up for what I imagine was a specific audience.
Perhaps the organisers are aware of this. A festival that embraces otherness and celebrates the celebrities of the queer world is not an inherently bad thing (like the afore-mentioned Arika). I do, how ever, think it negatively effected our involvement in the festival. Homotopia generally managed us badly:
- accommodation was wrongly booked
- no formal meet and greet was arranged
- Information on W: H was displayed wrongly in the brochure; it was not made clear that the audience were booking for one-on-one slots
Inccidentally, on the Saturday only 6 out of 15 slots were filled. To be honest, the bad management we could handle. But it was the work, and therefore the people who were committed to it, that were effected by the lack of audience. The participants still took away heaps from the experience, and I know it deeply affected them all from hearing their reflections, but we couldn’t help but feel they could’ve been getting that extra bit more. They would’ve had more people to experience different conversations with, to get in to the flow of the work.
What’s more, Rosana’s work was the only piece that really brought the queer topics and discussion that were happening as part of Homotopia to the outside. This brought visibility to things that were being hidden by studio spaces. She brings sexuality and gender out in to the public, for them to respond to. For me, I think queer visibility is a really important cultural issue and I would like to see more work on this theme at these queer festivals.
I feel Gary Everett really missed a trick. When he finally did say hi, he implied the lack of ticket sales was due to her being an ‘emerging artist’ and perhaps next time they would bring her up earlier. In every other city the work has sold out. I believe it was their disregard for her work, not the public’s, that effected this. Just comparing this treatment to the way Buzzcut treats its artists, you can see appreciate how radical their human approach is and how things really not need be carried out in an elitist fashion.
Homotopia begun to feel like Glasgay’s anti-thesis. Except they have one key thing in common*, they are run by white middle-aged men. If Glasgay and Homotopia had a baby and ditched their organisers, a beautiful festival would be made. (Plus there would be a radical ten year age gap).
A festival where both radically queer performance art, and contemporary work on LGBT relationships could be put on.
A festival where gender, sexuality, intimacy, visibility and activism could be addressed in theatre and non-theatre spaces.
A festival where emerging artists are given the same space and respect as established artists.
A festival where work is made by queer and non-queers, seen by queers and non queers, but everyone believes in queerness.
A festival inspiring hope, by challenging the present and imagining the future.
The first step towards this is to have different people in charge. Women (trans* and cis).
The second is to bring in more artists as producers, or producers that have been artists. That understand how to welcome artists in, how to make them feel like their work is worthwhile. Change those two key things, and I think major shifts would start to occur in the running and work put on.
MORE PRODUCING ARTISTS
MORE SPACE FOR EMERGING ARTISTS
= LESS ELITISM
*To be clear, I do think the naming of Glasgay as a ‘queer’ festival has come completely from the top and curators’ thinking that queer is the new cool term for LGBT. Homotopia has been queer at its heart since its beginnings; it just has unfortunately got tied up in the elitism that often comes with the art world. But the essential power still seems to lie in the same place.