Art, politics, culture, protest. It’s been a very queer weekend altogether so far.
It started last night after I left my workplace at 4pm. I had been browsing the web at lunchbreak and discovered that there was a performance art exhibition in an art centre called The Complex, just off Capel Street. The event was called Queerstock. The advertising didn’t give details. But being an artistic man of the world, I had my suspicions. I was expecting alternative art, art students and people of undetermined gender. And dance music. An event called Queerstock was bound to follow the gay musical aesthetic. Electronic dance music. I would have been shocked to my core if any Dolly Parton numbers were to be played.
I met a friend and we devoured a meat feast pizza. I made sure to wipe all evidence from my face. I expected a vegan presence at the event and didn’t want to get caught red-handed.
We arrived, paid our entrance and passed the man (woman?) in the gold dress, beard and wings in the doorway. The Complex is a city centre building that has been legally occupied by various artists and is a performance and exhibition space. Queerstock was being held in a big empty rom. The DJ was in the middle of the floor. He was called Pink Triangle and his fashion choice was brave and novel. He had designed a big pink triangle from which his face beamed forth. There were white rubbish bags with black straws laid out on the floor. Not that realistic – had they gone for real life there would have been a few cheeky syringes and fag ends by their side. In a corner was a woman seated with a blanket wrapped over her head. I thought it was a statue until I saw her shoulders move. That gave me quite the fright. She was surrounded by empty beer bottles. Every five minutes or so, her hand would reach out and she would adjust the position of a bottle.
Making our way back to the rubbish bags, we noticed a movement. There was a man inside them. I peered more closely and saw his nose through a hole.
‘Can you breathe?’ I asked, slightly concerned that he might suffocate. Nobody needs to die for their art. He flashed a red bicycle light at me. I took that as my cue to leave him. Within minutes the disco lights were on the bag. The audience circled and he emerged slowly and languorously from the rubbish, while Pink Triangle played a nifty little number called ‘Homosexuality’
The next piece was a video of a man having his arse slapped. The model’s head was invisible – we only saw his derriere and arms. I took note of the tattoo designs on his wrist and forearms.
Glancing around me at the deeply serious audience – most of whom were very young, androgynous and artistic looking, I was struck by how similar their styles were. Strange that they all have similar dress sense when they are portraying their individuality through facial piercings and hair shaved on one side. No-one was laughing. I was biting my lip to prevent a little yelp of mirth from emerging. I didn’t want to appear ignorant.
We made our way back to the woman in the blanket, with the bottles. A very serious young man was holding forth to two awestruck art students explaining what it all represented. I recognised the tattoos. I had seen them onscreen only minutes earlier. The dirty little stop-out.
Next appeared a man who gave a spoken word performance (interspersed with some songs). It described the minutiae of his life. This was entertaining – particularly when he recounted how he makes mental lists in head, lying in bed unable to sleep. I related to this. He had a strong stage presence. As well he should have. I recognised him as the former Alternative Miss Ireland – Smilin’ Kanker. He was out of drag this evening.
At this point it was starting to get a bit overwhelming. I wanted to shout ‘Won’t SOMEBODY please explain the meaning behind these pieces. I am struggling?’
I decided against that and departed.
All very strange and weird and wonderful.
This morning I rose and made my way to the Garden of Remembrance for the ‘Women’s March on Washington – Dublin’. This is one of 600 marches taking place around the world today as a statement of women’s solidarity and protest, against yesterday’s inauguration of the new leader of the US – President Piss.
It’s a route I know well. In the past year I have marched up O’Connell Street on the gay pride parade, and the Repeal the Eighth March (as well as the static Black Lives Matter protest by the Spire.)
Marching through the main street of the city is quite surreal. I always start off nervous and slightly inhibited. Maybe it’s my catholic guilt but I worry that I may be on the evening news. Then I remind myself that this would be a good thing, and settled in.
The crowd was large and the message was clear. Any attack on women’s rights by President Piss will be resisted. I was wondering why so many women were wearing bright pink hats, with cats’ ears. Then the penny dropped.
I think the organisers underestimated the attendance. The March was supposed to end with speeches at the Spire. It had to end back at the Garden of Remembrance as there too many people to be safely accommodated at the Spire.
My last plan for the day was to go see a film. However, as I was early, beforehand I dropped into the Project Arts Centre for the free exhibition called ‘The Wild’. I was having a quick browse when a woman started speaking. My heart jumped. I thought I was alone in the room. In the corner sat a woman in a stylish onesie who started reading letters of complaint received by the arts centre when they painted a ‘Repeal the Eighth’ mural on the wall of the publicly funded centre. The theme of the letters was clear. Nasty women had no reason to be demanding bodily autonomy by demanding abortion rights. And those filthy heathens at the Project Arts centre shouldn’t be encouraging them. Sure, some of the people at the centre might be women. But why weren’t they at home raising babies and baking cakes?
When it was time for the film I departed and went next door to the New Theatre. Once a month they host a film screening by the group Film Qlub – a queer cinema group.
Today’s show was ‘Head on’ – an Australian film made in 1997 about a second generation Greek immigrant in Melbourne, as he navigates his nihilistic life in his stiflingly, claustrophobic family. He hides in the closet, unable to come out to his homophobic family. He takes mountains of drugs, hates his life, has meaningless sex with strangers, longs to escape but is unable to do so.
It’s a bleak and depressing film for sure but very engaging at the same time. It stars Alex Demetriades – formerly of Neighbours. In a minor role was Alex Papps – who I had feelings for as a teenager, when he wore stone-washed jeans as the character of Frank in Home and Away.
I sat beside a guy I know at the film. One of the gayest moments on the history of gayness occurred halfway through the film. On screen the characters are at a house party. Music is playing in the background. I recognised the song. As did my neighbour. He leaned over to me and whispered ‘Is that Dannii Minogue’?
‘Yes, it is’ I replied.
You wouldn’t find that calibre of music knowledge with a straight audience, let me tell you.
1 thought on “Queer notions altogether”
I watched Alex Dimitriades on Heartbreak High for years and Alex Papps made an indelible impression on my adolescent mind as well, for his role on The Flying Doctors. Small world.