Luminate

Here, I'm still queer

Stirling for me seems to be naturally associated with family, parents with young children and generally seems to be home to lots of white middle class families. I think it’s fantastic that the Macrobert therefore offers such a wide range of work, but it made me reflect on my idea of what it means to be queer in different cities. In Brighton it’s clear it meant celebration, embracing outward expression of queerness through clothes and clubs. But specifically at the Macrobert, which is a family orientated venue, at this family festival, I asked myself do I feel other? 

iwishiknew

postsecret.com

Given that the idea of LGBT people as being potential parents or having the ability to be family orientated has only just begun to be widely accepted, I guess the idea of LGBT people at this kind of (family) event is a pretty new one. What’s more, queer people often have a more troubled relationship to family due to lack of acceptance by their families. This and the fact that queer culture often works outside of the normative family (monogamy, marriage, having children) means that theoretically many who identify with queer do not relate to work with strong themes of a mainstream, heteronormative idea of ‘family’ or ‘age’. Some queers even feel strongly positive about this, they are anti-gay marriage and anti-assimilation of LGBTs in to mainstream ideas of family. They feel radical notions of family are beneficial for revolutionising patriarchal structues in society- click here to read more about queer challenges to the politics of inclusion.

 

Homotopia poster

 

That said, I am lucky to have a very supportive family and in particular have had a strong relationship to my Grandma. Hence, perhaps it is the role of a queer artist in non-queer (or overtly queer) spaces to not confine oneself to performing queerness. Of course, there will be spaces where not only am seen as Other, but there may be hostility and I am by no means suggesting one should not be visible in their queerness. Similarly, there is no harm in feeling welcome in spaces you did not expect to. I was pleasantly surprised by the queer themes in Sarah Hopfinger’s presentation at Luminate on intergenerational performance. Her ideas that explored enacting rather than acting, that ‘things are their interactions’ and the need to re-orientate thinking away from  ‘ ‘‘us’’ and ‘’the rest of it’’ felt indicative of a queer perspective. Although discussed in the context of intergenerational performance, if applied to a wider context, the need for heterogeneity resonated with my queer brain. I am learning when it is my agency to speak up from a queer perspective, and when I can cherish the fact that queer ways of being are all around me.

prideparents

me & my parents at London Pride 2013

Intergenerational - a term for (hetero) normative families?

My experience at Luminate was particularly interesting as it followed the week in Brighton, allowing a direct comparison between the two cities in relation to queerness. Being thrown in to discussions on arts in dementia (to which I had little previous knowledge), and intergenerational performance (to which I didn’t know I had so many opinions on) made me consider relationship to age within queerness and perhaps how intergenerational relations are more natural within queer culture. As J. Halberstam discusses in Gaga Feminism, queer culture differs from the heterosexual mainstream tending not to ‘outgrow certain forms of cultural activity (e.g clubbing)’ meaning:

‘queer spaces tend to be multigenerational and do not subscribe to one generation giving way to the next’. (Gaga Feminism, Halberstam, 2012, p.2)

This goes against the idea of being defined by your age, as age is in part defined by what cultural acititivities you subscribe to, making it easier for people of different ages to connect. Halerbstam futher explores the different relationship queers may have to time in her book 'In A Queer Time and Place'. She talks of the 'imaginative life schedules' queers tend to have, due to the fact that:

'(queer) futures can be imagined according to logics that lie outside of those paradigmatic markers of life experience - mainly birth, marriage, reproduction, death' (In A Queer Time And Place, Halberstam, 2005, p.2)

That is to say, plently of queers do not take part in many markers of life experience or 'bench marks' such as getting married or having children, another thing that can seperate people of different ages. But, when age is not marked out by these life experiences, people of different ages cannot be separted by what 'bench mark' they have and haven't yet reached.

'queers use space and time in ways that challenge conventional logics of maturity, adulthood and repsonsibility' (In A Queer Time And Place, Halberstam, 2005, p.13)

Another way in which queer relations lend to being intergenerational is that queer spaces often work outside of typical notions of safety and secutiry, unlike the family unit. There is a long history of queer spaces that induldge in radical sex practice, and here the notion of 'reliable adult' (structured day around child-reering, involvement in a monogamous relationship) is challenged. That is not to say queers aren't reliable, but that they challenge maturity being defined by how 'settled' you are. In normative terms, age is pressumed to bring about more responsibilty in having reached these 'bench marks'. Queerness goes against this, meaning age is not necessarily defined by being settled and sensible, and youth by being care-free.

Certainly for some gay male communities during the AIDS epidemic, men of all ages were brought together. Growing older is associated with greater threat of disease/death, but here threat of disease was present for all, no matter your age.  'The constantly dimishing future creates a new emphasis on the here, while the threat of no future hovers overhead like a storm cloud' (In A Queer Time And Place, Halberstam, 2005, p.1).

Hence the notion of intergenerational performance, people of varying ages on stage together, as a novelty often does not apply within queer art. Queer artists do not need to label their work ‘intergenerational’ nor explore this idea so overtly as it already naturally transcends age gaps and the idea of a person being defined by their age. Furthermore, queer art naturally attracts a range of ages in its audience members due to there not being expectations of what cultural activity one should partake in at a given age.

Given this lack of pre-determined roles of how to act at a certain age, and the tendency for queer space to be multigenerational, how useful is it to label a performance, or a type of performance, as intergenerational? Shouldn’t we just accept it to be? For example, at Luminate the clearest example of intergenerational performance was seen in Barrowland Ballet’s Bunty and Doris, a community dance piece that saw lots of bodies, from babies to over 70s, mainly female, dancing together.  It was advertised and talked about as a great celebration of all different ages. Although in many ways it was, because age was the focus, that was all the piece came to be about. I found this problematic, as what I then felt emerged was a piece where the elderly were performing old, and the children performing child, everyone was adhering to stereotypes.

buntyanddoris

photo: https://twitter.com/Barrowlballet

In comparison to Walking:Holding, which due to seeking a range of participants and putting itself in a queer context simply is intergenerational, I felt I got to see far less of the individual on the stage. Walking:Holding allows participants and audience alike to not be confined to pre-conceived notions of age, as well as gender. This is due to being shown in queer contexts/spaces, but also because it does not cling to being multigenerational as its selling or focus-point.

Of course, W:H is a very different genre of work to that choreographed by a theatre company such as Bunty and Doris. But, this week I also managed to see Janice Parker’s Private Party. It was a similar vein to Bunty and Doris, it too placed a range of ages on stage and celebrated human connection through dance. Only, although you could see people from various communities and ages had come together to collaborate, identity had been transcended so that what you were witnessing was the interconnectedness of bodies in space. The difference in looking at age from a queer perspective, and my experience of these other pieces of work is perhaps why the ‘performing’ of age and therefore perpetuation of stereotypes became so apparent to me at aspects of Luminate.

privateparty

photo: http://www.joverrent.co.uk/

The artist and the producing-artist

Placement this week took me to the Macrobert again, this time for Luminate a festival of events of which Buzzcut were producing three pieces of work. The range of events all happening under one roof was really inspiring, from discussions, to live art to large-scale dance productions. The three pieces of work, by artists from different areas of the UK, were all linked by the fact that they all looked at aspects of old age by exploring their relationship to their Grandmothers.

Will Dickie’s Memories of Suburbia, with his constricting and twisting movements around the objects on stage belonging to his Grandma, conjured up images of rows of houses in London’s suburbs and the feeling of claustrophobia. You were brought right in to the conversations with his Grandma, and her words bringing a harsh reality on old age; it’s no life.

Similarly, but with a brighter, playful mood, Laura Bradshaw’s 29:92 Phyllis explores her ancestry and the difference in the way she’s living at 29 compared to her Grandma.

IMG_0890

Bristol-based artist Jo Hellier gave an insight in to living with dementia, and a touching visual expression of memory; you can’t hold on to it all the time. Sometimes you have to let some things go, to let others become present.

IMG_0887

 

These pieces and the way in which they were made differ greatly from the kind of work I have been assisting on/ seeing reactions to with Rosana. They are less overtly political or in relation to a wider discourse, and although experiential sit with theatre at their core. I think it’s really important that artists engage in work that they wouldn’t make themselves. The gap between work which is autobiographical and has a feeling of tenderness, and work that is political and shocks perhaps even traumatises its audience is something I’m fascinated with. How can I make work that is political, and tests preconceptions, but is still embodied? That engages with my full self, that doesn’t purely come from cerebral thinking?

Part of making space for other artists is allowing yourself (as producer) to be exposed to work and discussions you may not usually be a part of.  

 

Between artists and artist-producers there seems to be an inherent respect for each other. The producing artist knows what it is to try to make work, so knows first hand how they like to be treated by organisers and producers. Artists have respect for those artists who not only make their own work, but make it their priority to provide opportunities and new contexts for the work of others. I am constantly enlivened by the way Nick and Rosana consider the experience of the artists that they produce, going above and beyond the formal role of producer. Opening their home to visiting artists, for meals and accommodation, makes for a welcoming and hopefully enriching time in Glasgow.

I think the role of the producing-artist in the current climate of the art-world is bringing back the intimacy and grounded feeling that bigger arts organisations and elitist institutions often lack. In a time where the arts are constantly being cut, it gives me hope to feel like there are artists who just want to make the process of showing work a bit more human.