In June I had the pleasure of seeing Jack Halberstam speak at 221a. He was offering reflections on his text “In A Queer Time and Place” marking the 10th anniversary of the book’s publication. I read this text in school and it is the type of book that means different things to you as time goes on. The book engages in conversations of queer aesthetics, queer cultural production and the representation of trans subjectivities in mainstream culture and subcultures. Jack’s presentation was made all the more prescient by the increased visibility of the transgender body in popular culture in the recent past. The day of his lecture Caitlyn Jenner’s face graced the cover of Vanity Fair, coupled with the announcement of her reality television show, I AM CAIT. What this means for trans people remains to be fully discovered but as Jack observed in his lecture something is happening in the world around us. In the world of queer politics, in the world of gay rights, and in the world of visual culture. So then a reconsideration of Jack’s book – the first major study of transgender representations in art, film, and video – seems entirely appropriate. Three weeks after Jack’s talk the United States Supreme Court would legalize gay marriage nationwide. The thing that remains most with me after reading “In A Queer Time and Place” is Halberstam’s attempt to define a queer aesthetic, which was illustrated through a number of artworks by queer artists included in the book but was never made entirely clear. This is likely because the queer aesthetic is not one singular thing. It is a spectrum of attitudes, relationships, communities, and realities and it is not the sole defining quality of any one person.
This program “In A Queer Time & Place” contributes to the defining of this somewhat elusive queer aesthetic. The featured video artists occupy a variety of places within the spectrum of gender and sexuality. Through these works they translate their aestheticized reality – gender, community, identity, and sexual pleasure are all portrayed with honesty. These works are from Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, and Paris are imaginative, playful, earnest, and exploratory and do not subscribe to any one particular notion of queerness and that is what makes them so important in this queer time in order carve out a queer place.
Still from “MyMy” by Anna Helme 2013 Australia
Moon Trail (2015) (7:00) (Montreal) by Alexandre Grégoire and Jordan Coulombe
A short documentary film that follows four young gay men as they discuss gay life and sexual health. Set during one of Montreal’s mid-summer heat waves, the bilingual subjects reveal the freedoms and constraints they experience living their sexual identities in the distinctive and permissive city, as well as the impact of Montreal’s extreme seasons on cruising and gay urban life.
Just Want To Be a WoMan (2014) (3:00) (Milan) by Francesca Lolli
A video performance that explores gender identity beyond sexual orientation.
Two Snakes (2015) (9:30) (Montreal) by Kristin Li
An experimental animation & documentary about diasporic foundational myths.
My Cake (2015) (2:15) (Paris) by Nuno Roque
Combining dance, mime and music, “My Cake” is a response to the saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” The Villain looks back at his childhood, the day he discovers that the image others have of him does not match the one he has of himself. This awareness causes a total transformation of personality. The film experiments with the themes of ambition, identity, society’s pressure, gender stereotypes and the obsession to control one’s self-image.
MyMy (2013) (14:00) (Melbourne) by Anna Helme
This lo-fi sci-fi short film is an experimental hybrid of documentary, fiction and performance art. The story features two transgender men, playing a very queer version of their own characters. Throughout the film they are haunted by a chimera, a post-human personification of the desires, fears and possibilities that form the potential future.
Lesbian Hand Gestures (2011) (2:53) (Montreal) by Coral Short and Mascha Nehls
Rorschach meets electro-punk. Carefully crafted floating hands in space create surprisingly pleasurable effects with their movements. These classic gestures are familiar to all people who have enjoyed them but new technology brings a fantasy element to these old favourites.
Narcissus (2011) (2:27) (Montreal) by Coral Short
A young man becomes transfixed with his own image and begins to flirt with himself leading to a tentative kiss. Here we witness this young trans man discovering himself in his new identity. Self reflection becomes self love.
Arrangement (2013) (3:26) (Montreal) by Coral Short
Working with the flamboyant excess that is gay aesthetic – the performance artist has created a deeply personal moment for the audience with an enormous bouquet of flowers. Playing on the double meaning of the word “arrangement” the artist alludes to the unspoken and sometimes difficult arrangements we make interpersonally in the queer community. This flowery performance unfolds a slow humorous bodily transformation which leads to a surprising and tender outcome.
Diamonds (2014) (2:02) (Montreal) by Coral Short and Raphaële Frigon
Tears for queers. Tears for change.