Queer City Cinema is pleased to present a curated performing art series that will address the notion of 'becoming' as explored and investigated by queer media and performance artists. This three day series, curated by language and text-based artist Michael Toppings, has been constructed in such a way as to include installation, performance, screenings, movement, and theatre. The Series will also include a round-table discussion entitled The Morphing Factor - transitioning as subject and form.
This series continues Queer City Cinema's commissioning of new works and/or collaborations with other local arts organizations to extend and expand the appreciation of media artwork and artists working outside the darkened theatre. Some of these activities in the past have included: an evening of performance by local, national, and international transgendered media artists entitled Transformance (2002) at The Saskatchewan Cultural Exchange Society; screenings at both Neutral Ground artist run centre and the Saskatchewan FilmPool Coop; Queering Plunder (2006), a media arts installation exhibition at Dunlop Art Gallery curated by Deirdre Logue; and a screening as part of Neutral Ground's new media and performance festival Deep Structure: Deep Play (2007).
MICHAEL TOPPINGS - Curator, Performing Art Series
It wasn't until hearing about Paul Hurley's On Becoming Snail in 2003, was I able to begin articulating a possible queer theoretic that had up until that time remained intangible and undefined - a performing art treatise positing that there are perhaps two rites of passage in a queer life - one the act of coming out and the second the act of becoming. Like an inverted fairytale in which the ugly duckling becomes the swan but then in further qualifying this new identity becomes something else, of another kind - becomes as in a woman becomes a man, a man becomes a woman, an individual identifies with one of 13 sexualities (as so noted by artist, Judy Chicago), a human becomes an insect or animal, or one simply becomes an artist. Both rites of passage are active, both are verbs and are suggestive of a movement forward, a thrust, a push, un lancement. Both rites encompass what's physical, philosophical and psychological (and probably a ton more p-words that I can't think of at the moment). In a queer life, identity is an issue and a means of processing that issue is through conceptualizing the notion of identity, sexuality and sexual culture. It is about de-normalizing conventions, changing and inciting change - embodying it.
The four artists participating in this performing art series create work that is in part process, in part about departure and destination, in part about transformation and transition.
Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard, who are the trans-disciplinary duo 2boys.tv, have built a reputation on works that are historic, period-pieces in essence - vaudevillian and yet cinematic. They are operatic tableaux encompassing the dramatically comedic and tragic, film noir and blanc, bathos and pathos and a little bit of camp. Their works are in essence stories, their work about storytelling and narrative. Their latest mixed-media creation, PHOBOPHILIA (arousal from fear) is like a journey into the centre of a dream, a dream in which a man travels, a queer Odyssey of sorts, through a storybook land (a grainy, graphic novel-like world). It is the portrait of a young man having become the artist and who, in having assumed that role, wanders in search of search of rhyme, reason and answers. This is my life, and it is the truth.
Tobaron's work was introduced to me through having been told of a particular piece entitled Opshernish, which I have unfortunately never experienced live but had heard about, been told about, read about and of which I have seen ample documentation. It was a work that transfixed me because of its simplicity and beauty, and yet which walloped quite the conceptual punch. Tobaron's artistic practice challenges definitions and re-lines demarcations. It delves into (transit) verbs such as change, transform, modify and is about the altering of shapes, forms and appearances. Works engineered by Tobaron do not necessarily challenge in a confrontational or a necessarily pro-actively noisy manner - rather they insinuate themselves intellectually, conceptually instigating in a settling fashion. Lechem oni/prusa is, in essence, a work about work, about making one thing from another, about process, method and transmogrification.
Paul Hurley is an artist constantly transforming himself both in regards to theme and to thesis, to actual practice and academic treatise. The bulk of his works truly embody Kafka's notion of metamorphosis and are, as Paul himself would explain explorations of a queer becoming that is one of resistance and liberating catharsis. They are in part Foucault, Pierre et Gilles, physical and actual, with a soupcon perhaps of a tongue in cheek. I asked Paul to perform two works for this performance series as I felt that Becoming-snail and Becoming-locust, although part of the same serial exploration, are different perspectives on a theme of incarnation. One work is about embodiment, mimicry and endurance while the other portrayal dares to flirt, to transvestitualize the act of morphing - celebrating, in mardi-gras-like fashion, the act of transitioning, of having transformed, and subsequently of baptizing the newly formed identity.
At the end of the day, this performing art series asks only that you consider for one nano second that queer art in all its spectacular forms is founded largely upon change, upon the acts of changing, of becoming, and of eventually being. The work created is the journey, records of advancement, reflecting the significance of transformation within the queer community; how there exists a need to challenge what is fixed, to redefine and reclaim, and re-invent regardless of what some deem a pandemic assimilation.
In other words - to morph from Bambi into a buck, from a regular butterfly into Madame Butterfly. Look at Madonna, she's all about re-invention, all about tossing constructs.