November 2015 Archives


Posted on Fri 27 Nov by AlexK / Sexual Health, Film, Open Discussion, Gay, Chemsex

By Anna Wates


From what seemed like a little known aspect of London’s underground gay sub-scene, there's been a lot of media coverage about chemsex recently. The term chemsex, which broadly describes the use of psychoactive drugs in a sexual context, has suddenly emerged as a public health concern. Following a British study among gay and bisexual men living in South London, and an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), there is increasing anxiety about the risks of chemsex, particularly in contributing to the rising prevalence of HIV diagnoses in London.

Beneath the mainstream media narratives which often focus on the more sensational elements, lies a more complex reality, one that opens up important questions around intimacy and the subtle psychological obstacles that gay people face growing up. This reality is explored in the new documentary Chemsex, showing as part of this year’s Fringe!

This compelling, raw and ultimately very moving film introduces us to a number of gay and bisexual men involved in the chemsex scene. Directors William Fairman and Max Gogarty describe the film as “a confessional show-and-tell about a community's search for intimacy and belonging, in what are all too often the wrong places”. This feels apt given the deeply personal narrative style of the film in which we follow the men as they take drugs, have sex, get help through counselling, and talk openly about their experiences. All the while Fairman and Gogarty’s lens holds an unflinching gaze.

In an age of technological connectivity, it’s all too easy to empathise with this search for fast intimacy – this longing for instant, if momentary, sexual rapport with strangers – even if it’s clear this will ultimately lead to alienation.

David Stuart, who runs a chemsex support service at 56 Dean Street, features heavily in the film and shares his experience of living with HIV/AIDS during the height of the crisis. He describes how – fearing his mortality, depressed and at home – he would look forward to weekly visits from a friend with whom he would get high. This provided a brief moment of release in a seemingly bleak situation. Now in good health, Stuart reflects that, though recreational drugs can be an effective means to self-medicate against pain, they can also result in a different type of suffering in the form of addiction.

In linking chemsex with this moment, the film provokes challenging questions about mistakes made in the handling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As Stuart observes, you can’t simply get people tested, hand out medication and be done with it. The trauma of the disease itself, and the initial lack of political will to treat it, remains ingrained not just in individual psyches, but collective identity as well. Though the film shows interviews with men of all ages involved in the scene, a large number are those who will have grown up queer in the 80s and 90s, when the HIV/AIDS crisis would have had a huge impact on gay men's psychology. We are only now seeing the effects of this, as evidenced partly through the appeal of chemsex, which seems to provide a means to (mis)manage negative feelings – a lack of confidence and self-esteem, internalised homophobia, as well as stigma about HIV status.

This film deftly illuminates an urgent, complex, and pivotal cultural moment, and leaves us with a great deal of soul-searching ahead.

Chemsex will be screening on Sat 28th November at the Rio Cinema. It will be followed by a Q&A with directors Max Gogarty, Will Fairman, alongside David Stuart and Simon Welch, who also appear in the film.  

By Anna Wates

Looking back and looking forward

Posted on Fri 27 Nov by AlexK / Sexual Health, Documentary, Film, porn, Open Discussion

by guest blogger MK Margetson

London, as a queer city, experienced various changes in identity throughout the last century. In the 1980s during and following the AIDS crisis the queer counter culture mecca of Soho gave itself a makeover in response to the way the health crisis affected the image of gay people worldwide. The following sanitisation of Soho is visible in the constructed image of many of the area’s existing establishments, as well as in the political conviction (or lack thereof) of its current scene which, even if queer, primarily has assimilated into the mainstream. A mainstream gay identity can be identified all around us: on London buses, and corporate-sponsored Pride parades. The BFI Flare festival, whilst consistently reaching the highest standards of critical acclaim in its programme and outreach is also able to be considered a commercial success, rather than a niche endeavour.

In 2011 when its funding was cut, and its length and programme reduced to only a week, a small group of East London queers began commenting on Facebook that another festival could be set up on this side of the city in response. They began Fringe! to meet the gap left by funding cuts, and from then the festival, and the team behind it, has morphed and grown and changed.

In the twentieth century (the century of establishing ourselves as gay people) the Pride movement has been a glorious success: a widespread commercial and consumerist event for Western cities. Gay and some queer people are accepted within the mainstream as “just like everybody else” in 2015. The Gay Shame Movement has been catalysed into responding to the essentialist, apolitical, gay identity they see in the Pride movement. 

Beginning in Brooklyn in the nineties, heralded by speakers like Kiki and Herb, Eileen Myles and Penny Arcade, and developing into a direct action collective and loosely connected party group, Gay Shame became a label under which to deride the corporate presence in queer society. Embracing of counter-culture ideology and avant-guardism, Gay Shame identifies queer people as different to straight people. In particular our experiences and politics cannot be the same as that of straight people, and neither should our image in the world, nor our festivals.

Fringe! has managed to cultivate some impressive alternative credentials throughout its years: its DIY ethos, enacted throughout planning and production stages; its alternative representations of sexuality (from S&M workshops to Chemsex) rather than cultivating a pink washing of the queer image; its programme’s international and interracial focus, which includes works that are critical of their societies, as opposed to being pure prestige pictures; the fully intersectional political identity Fringe! has established: feminism, queer theory, trans* inclusivity, body positive, sex positive, anti-racist and anti-ableist.

The best 5 alternative events taking place in Fringe! this November, from feature films to panel discussions and performances:

  • Liz Rosenfeld presents her Surface Tension trilogy, which repositions famous and infamous women from history as queers in modern day Berlin and, in doing so, queers Berlin’s history. 
  • This year’s Fringe! also welcomes feminist erotica in titles, Shutter and When We are Together… which feature tantalising, original scenes of queer women and non-gender conforming people whose sexualities choose pleasure over convention. 
  • More anti-conventional erotica comes in the form of Fringe! favourite Antonio da Silva, who presents 3 new works dealing with the virtual nature of modern sex, combining pornography, art, and narrative film, as well as perhaps the most alternative erotic offering, documentarist Jan Soldat’s Prison System 4614. All this alongside a sexy programme of erotic shorts, and spanking and shibaru workshops on our Sexy Saturday. 
  • Pushing for PrEP (as well as the reflective documentary Chemsex), as well as other discussions Taking up Gay Spaces, and Sexile, wherein we address the varied material experiences of queer people, from our health, to our location and community, and address them as activists. 
  • Finally the documentary A Queer Aesthetic attempts to define those experiences that unite us, without creating an exclusive ‘unified gay identity’ or identifying a set of essential qualities; A Queer Aesthetic queers the idea of unity in its findings through filmed interviews and documentary footage of its varied subjects. It’s screening alongside An Afternoon with Mike Kuchar, which discussion the radical artist’s life. 

General Idea's Video Works: The potentiality of life unscribed by heteronormative conventions

Posted on Thu 26 Nov by AlexK / Artists Moving Image, General Idea, AA Bronson, Video art, Documentary

Fringe! guest curator Panos Fourtoulakis writes about General Idea and the collective's impact on his work as a curator.

The work of General Idea has had a profound influence on my understanding and interest on what constitutes queer identity and culture. If we define queer as an opportunity to question structures, then General Idea’s practice defines the term. Both through living and working together as a throuple as well as through their large and complex body of work. The group always aided for and became living examples of the idea of "potentiality of life unscribed by heteronormative conventions".

In a collaboration that spanned 25 years, General Idea created a self contained mythological world that fundamentally challenged power structures and aimed at reconfiguring what art is and how it could be delivered. Creating their own universe where culture became the backdrop through which to explore their artistic concerns. The collective played with the ideas of fame and glamour and employed them in order to examine the relationship between culture and nature. While at the same time questioning set ideas of value and morality in general- using whatever media necessary in order to make their message as visible and accessible as possible. Disillusioned of the idealistic promises of the 60s, General Idea replaced cultural terrorism with viral methods. As AA Bronson recalls 
“Utilizing the distribution and communication forms of mass media and specifically the cultural world, we could infect the mainstream with our mutations, and stretch the social fabric”.

The videos on show- selected by AA Bronson, were modelled on prime-time television shows and documentary formats of the time. While watching them, one gets introduced to the main aspects of their practice which was in many ways unconventional in relation to their contemporaries. From Pilot, produced in 1977, where we get introduced to their conceptual body of work up until that point. Such as the Miss General Idea Pageants, FILE magazine as well as their plans for the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion. To Test Tube (1979) and the development of their mass media and consumerism oriented thematics. Followed by Cornucopia (1982) a pseudo- historical documentary examining the ruins of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion. And finally to Shut The Fuck Up (1984) in which they intertwine clips from Joker in the Batman series winning a painting contest with Yves Klein’s Anthropometries archival video and their own performances. STFU explores the ambivalent relationship between the artist and the media. All films are defined by a tongue in cheek, ironic camp sensibility.

What I think is very interesting about the works of General Idea and particularly about these four videos is that as time goes by more layers of interpretation are added to them. To be more specific they give us as much information about the time that they were produced as much about the time in which they are being interpreted.  Both thematically as well as in relation to the medium of video, the formats used, and the ways in which these have been developed since then. Furthermore, these archives should not only viewed as sources of information- but also and most importantly sources to theorize about queer experience and possibility.

For all these reasons, I feel very excited that AA Bronson- the last surviving member of the group, will join us for a Q&A after the screening.

General Idea: Video Works, 1977-1984 screens at Barbican Centre on Sunday 29 November at 2pm.

Artists' Moving Image at Fringe!

Posted on Mon 23 Nov by AlexK / Artists Moving Image, Performance, Video art, gender, General Idea, Club des Femmes, AA Bronson, Liz Rosenfeld

This year we bring you a collection of incredible work by artists working with video and film spanning almost four decades. Queer artists who have and still are pushing boundaries, exploring sexuality, gender, queer histories and much more.

A Strangely Glorious Opportunity
Rose Lipman Building, Friday 27 Nov, 8.30pm
A brilliant selection of recent work challenging the idea of gender as fixed by exploring its fluidity. The programme includes work by Ursula Mayer, Wu Tsang, Carlos Motta, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz and Oreet Ashery.

I'm With You presents Liz Rosenfeld: The Surface Tension Trilogy (World Premiere)
Barbican Cinema, Saturday 28 Nov, 3pm (performances), 4pm (screening)
Liz Rosenfeld's trilogy tracks the interwoven stories of famous women and artists in Weimar era Berlin. In conversation with the screening, IWY has curated intimate performance encounters. Followed by a Q&A with Liz Rosenfeld.

Lux & Club des Femmes present This Is Now: Film & Video After Punk - Through a Glass, Darkly
Rio Cinema, Sunday 29 Nov, 1pm
This collection of incredible videos by post-punks most provocative female filmmakers combine the DIY spirit of punk with ideas around female subjectivity and that of the gendered viewer. Followed by a panel with filmmakers Jill Westwood and Cordelia Swann.

General Idea: Video Works, 1977-1984
Barbican Cinema, Sunday 29 Nov, 2pm
 rare archive screening of videos by seminal Canadian artists' collective General Idea. These irreverently playful and provocative works prod sexuality, consumerism and art. Followed by a Q&A with group founder AA Bronson.


Festival Team Top Fives - Round Four

Posted on Sun 22 Nov by AlexK / Documentary, Film, Trans, Performance, QTIPOC, transgender, sport, gender, queer muslims, workshop

It's only two days until this year's fest kicks off, so here's another edition of top fives. These ones are from Hakeem, Vanessa and Daniele.

Hakeem - Programming Assistant

Naz & Maalik
It’s just so authentic and casual. A charming day in the life of two maybe-almost-boyfriends. The awkward frustration of being young and in love. It's just so great to see the intersection of what it is to be Young, Black, Gay, Muslim men in the United States, so casually, and effortlessly.

Kumu Hina
I love seeing stories about Queer Women of colour in cultures and communities I know nothing about. It’s fascinating to learn about the history of trans people in Hawaii, it’s also fascinating to see the universalities and differences of the queer experience. Kumu Hina is a testament to what is achievable when you are empowered to achieve it.

Game Face
Easily the most nail-biting, compelling and tense doc I’ve ever seen. I was at the edge of my seat all the way through, and genuinely forgot to breathe at least twice. It’s too necessary to see Trans and Queer athletes, as complex and complicated people with lives, loves and families.

The Turkish Boat
It’s affirming and encouraging seeing queer people organise and mobilise. Unlike The New Black, which puts a face and voices to the fight for marriage equality within the African American community, I knew nothing about the Turkish Boat, let alone the Turkish immigrant community in The Netherlands. The film makes such a strong statement about claiming multiple identities; second generation, gay, muslim and proud, it just left me so inspired and excited at all their promise and passion.

Shorts: Flesh + Bone (Free)
Amongst an excellent selection of shorts, Bedding Andrew was just so honest and humble. I dare anyone not to empathise…

Vanessa - arts programmer, performance

Mamoru Iriguchi: 4D Cinema
A creative, beautiful performance that fuses the aesthetics of cinema with delicate commentary on gender, all with a dash of DIY tech.

Closing Party with Fancy Chance & Friends
Fancy Chance is an amazing performer (and winner of Alternative Miss World) and the line-up of female cabaret powerhouses is to die for. This is going to be crazy fun.

The Lady's Not For Walking Like An Egyptian
A high-energy performance, combining 80s pop songs and Thatcher, from two extremely funny ladies. What's not to love?

Making Up Drag Workshop
Explore your drag alter-ego with Vic Sin, who offers a free make-over with a side-order of gender politics.

Women and the Word 
Not only is the film an inspiring take on queer feminist activism, but we've also got a Q&A with the producer, who's coming all the way from the US.

Daniele - Fundraising manager

As fundraising manager, I am delighted that SCRUFF have teamed up with us and are sponsoring this great documentary (which incidentally has several hot rugby players in it!).

Mamoru Iriguchi: 4D Cinema
Beautiful, deeply poetic performance with a quirky, humorous use of DIY technology

Meanwhile in Beirut
Fascinating documentary about being a trans in Beirut

Shorts: Hands in the Dark
Tantalising sexy shorts!

Alex & Ali
The extraordinary, moving story of a forbidden, secret love between an Iranian and an American man, spanning 35 years.  




Documentaries at Fringe!

Posted on Sat 21 Nov by AlexK / Brazil, Documentary, Film, JT Leroy, literature, gender, Trans, QTIPOC, sport, transgender

by MK Margetson

Over the past 4 years Fringe! has consistently brought us outstanding stories of queer life. These stories can inspire us, educate us, remind us of our history and our future, and bring the queer community together through the joys and obstacles familiar to those whose gender or sexuality dares to divert from convention. This year’s festival is no different. Here are some highlights from the documentaries that will screen next week: 

Favela Gay — 26 Nov — Genesis Cinema
Dir Rodrigo Felha / Brazil / 2014

These LGBT people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder reinvent their lives through music, dance, politics and study. Then, gloriously, Rio’s famous Carnival bring them together.

Kumu Hina — 27 Nov — Bernie Grant Arts Centre / 29 Nov — Rose Lipman Building
Dir. Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson / USA / 2014

Refreshing and irresistible documentary about being true to yourself, fighting for love and through heartbreak, and the struggle to maintain Pacific Islander culture in modern day Hawai’i. Screening with LITTLE ELEPHANT Dir. Kate Jessop / Prod. Bobby Tiwana / UK / 2015.

The New Black + panel — 27 Nov — Hackney Attic
Dir. Prod. Yoruba Richen / USA / 2013

This compelling award- winning documentary accompanies a collective of passionate civil rights activists dedicated to empowering Black LGBT people and a host of other characters in their resolute fight for victory in the Marriage Equality Referendum in Maryland, USA. The New Black screening will be followed by a panel discussion. Confirmed speakers include: Jay Bernard, Dr. Edson Burton, and Jide Macauley.

The Turkish Boat — 28 Nov — Rio Cinema
Dir. Chris Belloni / The Netherlands / 2013

Featuring Amsterdam's famous Gay Pride Canal Parade and the first ever Turkish Boat that partook in the parade; we join the Turkish-Dutch gay activists Döne and Serdar in their attempt to gain recognition and acceptance within the Turkish community. 

The Cult of JT Leroy — 28 Nov — Rose Lipman Building
Dir. Marjorie Sturm / USA / 2014

The truth behind underground literary sensation JT Leroy is gradually exposed in this mind-boggling documentary. Ethically charged, controversial, and confusing, JT's life and death springs open a Pandora's box of powerful questions about literature and culture, identity and celebrity, and the reality of the society we live in.

DOUBLE BILL: A Queer Aesthetic + An Afternoon with Mike Kuchar — 28 Nov — Rose Lipman
Dir Luke Cornish / Australia / 2015 // Dir Oscar Oldershaw / UK/USA / 2015

—Sydney based portrait artist Guy James Whitworth considers the concept of a ‘queer aesthetic’ as he prepares for his 2014 exhibition 'A Queer Aesthetic" and the contributions from other artists provides an insight into the hearts, minds and creative processes of a selection of queer artists practising in Australia today.

—"Movies should have sex appeal," says Mike Kuchar. "It's a basic fundamental quality and helps in making it bearable to watch."

The twin brother of the late George Kuchar (his collaborator the New York underground film scene of the 60's and 70's) welcomes us to his home- a folly of kitschy religious iconography and lurid B-grade movie paraphernalia- to delve into his life and his work, embodying this philosophy of a palpably sexual undercurrents and a lushly lurid aesthetic.

ChemSex + Q&A — 29 Nov — Rio Cinema
Dir. Will Fairman & Max Gogarty / UK / 2015

Sex, drugs and… well more sex and drugs. CHEMSEX is a gritty, raw and unflinching VICE documentary feature about the chemsex sub-scene of London’s queer community. Actual sex scenes and self-confessed ‘slammers’ feature along side medical health professionals and past users to bring together a hard-hitting and timely film in the face of the ever-changing fast-paced world of technology, drugs and our relationships with each other. Followed by Q&A.

Women and the Word + Q&A — 28 Nov — Bernie Grant Arts Centre / 29 Nov — Rose Lipman Building
Dir. Sekiya Dorsett / Prod. Andrea Boston / USA / 2015

A joyous, empowering documentary charting the course of seven black women in a minivan on the road across America with THE REVIVAL, a slam style poetry tour. Absolutely eloquent, insightful and refreshing, we dare you not to want to hang off every word that they speak and drop everything to join the movement. Saturday’s screening is followed by a Q&A.

Paint it Pink + Q&A (free screening) — 28 Nov — Hackney Attic
Dir. Sophie MacCorquodale / UK / 2014

This is the all-singing, all-dancing, no-holds-barred glitterly love-in tribute to the radically inclusive East London club night genderfuck happening. Taking on everything from childhood struggles to redefining drag for ones-self, the result is a kinetic lansdlide of positivity, culminating in Sink The Pink's Summer Ball. Screening with: SERIOUS FUN TRANSMISSION Dir. Angel Rose / UK / 2014 / 2min45 and SINK THE PINK: TRANNYSFORMATION - Ted Dir. Craig Heathcote / UK / 2015 / 2min30

Alex & Ali  28 Nov — Genesis Cinema
Dir. Malachi Leopold / USA / 2014

Director Malachi Leopold's heartbreaking documentary begins as his uncle Alex starts planning a reunion with his long lost lover on neutral ground in Istanbul. This epic romance is set against enormous political struggles, touching on themes as varied as immigration, the right to love, cultural differences and competing ideologies. Screening with: MILKSHAKES & MEMORIES Dir. David Cave / Prod. John McMahon / UK / 2014 / 7min

Game Face — 28 Nov — Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Dir. Michiel Thomas / USA & Belgium / 2015 

Fringe! is proud to present the sports feature documentary GAME FACE. This film tells the parallel story of Fallon Fox, MMA's first transgender pro fighter, and Terrence Clemens, a college basketball player in Oklahoma who happens to be gay. 

Meanwhile in Beirut — 29 Nov — Rose Lipman Building
Dir. Felipe Monroy / Switzerland / 2015

Lea is a 30 year old, trans and lives in the Hamra district of Beirut. In Lebanon, transsexuality is prohibited by law. Working as an escort girl and locked in her apartment at the Hotel Stars, she refuses to be a victim and finds a way to an existence that resembles a 'normal' life as much as possible.

For full programme info:

Festival Team Top Fives - Round Three

Posted on Sat 21 Nov by AlexK / Documentary, Film, Trans, Performance, QTIPOC, Brazil, JT Leroy, transgender, sport, Peter Greenaway, Sergei Eisenstein

In Round number three our audience development team give you their fringey highlights. martha, harry and anna tell you about their picks for the fest.

Martha - Audience development assistant

The Cult of JT Leroy
Just one of the most fascinating and fantastical stories ever told. And it’s recent history. 

Kumu Hina
Incredibly uplifting and brave documentary about a Hawaiian ‘mahu’, or third gender person, inspiring children to be good citizens. Lovely and sweet.

Naz & Maalik
Tender and agreeable coming-of-age story about two young Muslims in post 9/11 New York City, experiencing the first flushes of love.

Shorts: Brazil
All of the short film programmes are pretty enticing, but this one especially promises a lot of diversity, strong voices, colour and life.

Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Peter Greenaway’s newest masterpiece imagines the father of montage editing, Sergei Eisenstein on a queer jaunt to Mexico. Catch it at Fringe! first!


Mamoru Iriguchi: 4D Cinema
This brings to life so much of what excites me about film! Personality and performance and that blurred line between cold tech and warm feeling.

Game Face
Fallon Fox rocks my world.

Shorts: Seven Wonders
Exploring, performing, finding and reclaiming that queer space. 

The Turkish Boat
I remember following this happy story back when it first happened in 2012!

There is something so compelling about seeing these huge, physical guys having soft, intimate moments.

Anna - Audience Development Assistant

Kumu Hina
Hawai'i's powerful and outspoken cultural icon Hina shares her story.  

Women and the Word: The Revival Movie
Fearless and revolutionary, with a rallying cry that reverberates across the Atlantic. A film to celebrate.

Naz & Maalik
Reminiscent of those youthful afternoons which contain a lifetime, this rhapsody for Bed-Stuy captures the many pleasures and pains of growing up. 

Shinjuku Boys
A classic from the feminist archive, the 80s synth and dapper looks do it for me.

Lasana Shabazz presents Fierce!
Enter-taint-ment of the highest (dis)order: performance art, drag and dancing bliss. 

Festival Team Top Fives - Round Two

Posted on Wed 18 Nov by AlexK / Documentary, Film, Trans, Performance, literature, QTIPOC, BDSM, Brazil, porn, Sister Act

Here's the second round of top fives with faves from Muffin, Pierre and Charlie.

Muffin - Head Programmer

When We Are Together We Can Be Everywhere
Everything DIY and dirty combines with all that shimmers to make our lusty hearts sing in this behind-the-scenes of a queer feminist porn in Berlin.

Women and the Word
As inspiring and engaging a road movie as ever was made - touching on every queer feminist topic that needs our attention.

Prison System 4614
Who doesn't go to a holiday camp to be bound, flogged, humiliated and incarcerated. Brutal, tender, and best served up with a nice cup of tea.

Shorts: Flesh + Bone (Free)
A smashing programme of shorts of genderfuckery and embodiedness approached with riotous humour and touching frankness.

Spanking Workshop (Free)
The masterful Alison England joins us for a third year for this intimate intro to sensual spanking. Bring a friend or find one there (I'll be there looking for a partner!) - for an absolutely cracking time.

Pierre - Production Manager

Lasana Shabazz presents Fierce
One night of crazy performance art and drag. Don't miss!

Prison System 4614
Jan Soldat is a rarity showing the vices of our kind like no-one else.

Meanwhile in Beirut
How trans* people live and thrive in Lebanon.

Pushing for PrEP
A film and event every modern queer should attend and discuss.

Nova Dubai
Experimental porn and reflections on gentrification in one unmissable film.

Charlie - Programmer

Reigning from my homeland this Aussie rugby film of (hot) gays playing ball really tugs at the heartstrings.

The Turkish Boat
Set in and on the canals of Amsterdam Pride, Turkish Boat truly puts the spotlight on the rising migrant communities and the realities of sexuality within those communities. Smart, intriguing and inspiring.

Sister Act
I CANNOT WAIT for this. Growing up watching this as a kid was so much camp fun!! Doing it wth friends at 11:30pm on a Friday is going to make it even better.

Shorts: Brazil
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good Brazilian.... erm... film. And this shorts programme is full of them.

Shorts: Sublime InQUEERy
I had such fun with these shorts! The collection ranges from thought-provoking to down right hilarious! Who wouldn't want to see an Italian rock music nun scrubbing floors while the lead singer showers in the confessional booth?

Literary ladies (and gentlemen)

Posted on Fri 20 Nov by AlexK / Performance, Documentary, Event, Film, gender, literature, JT Leroy

by MK Margetson

Sekiya Dorsett’s Women and the Word: The Revival (2015) has its European premiere alongside a second screening over the weekend of Fringe! 15. This documentary captures a resurgence in the visibility of the black feminist voice on the spoken word scene in the United States, by following the community making an effort to produce the events, which prove to be an invaluable platform for both art and community. Spoken word fans will be overjoyed to see the US scene blooming alongside our concurrent scene in London’s spoken word nights: Jawdance and Queer’say by Apples and Snakes, and Lyrically Challenged at Passing Clouds, amongst many others.

The American writers and artists that feature, however, seem to experience a more difficult climate, both financially and societally, than their Brit counterparts. The women are shown to overcome overt homophobia and racism with more regularity than black women in London’s (DIY) poetry scene, and their experience of this is shown powerfully in Women and the Word. In keeping this light-hearted road-movie style documentary light, director Dorsett lets us journey with them as they craft their personal experiences into the written, and then spoken, word, whilst their friendships become evident. The director and many stars of this dynamic document will be present for a Q&A session on Sunday’s screening at the Rose Lipman building. Featuring some of the United States’ rawest poets, this is a show that’s not to be missed!

Marjorie Sturm’s The Cult of JT Leroy (2014) is sure to captivate Fringe! attendees on our busy Saturday in the Fringe! HQ. It explores the curious case of the most popular writer that never really was, and the biggest, most intriguing hoax in literary history. The story of JT/Laura Albert/Savanna Knoop, and the decade-long evasion of their reality from public knowledge is a curiosity impossible by today’s demands, and allows us to view the height of the craze of celebrity during the 1990s. The film simultaneously provokes questions of narrative honesty, deceit, and what it is that an artist really owes to society. With this story one can’t help but consider the different ways in which art is received from different authors, and the ad hominem judgement different authors can receive, which inform criticism of their work.

Situated within the literary pop intelligensia of 1990s USA into 2005/6 when JT’s ‘reality’ was discovered, this fascinating story illuminates the conditions of the era of celebrity at the brink of the age of information. Respected notables such as Joel Rose and Dennis Cooper feature prominently, demonstrating the scale of the intricate reality and character created by Laura Albert, in this almost mystical tale of identity and reality.

Dr Sharon Husband and The Duchess of Pork’s Naked Boys Reading combines two favoured queer themes: literature and the nude form, in a regular night that offers a unique activity in the queer scene. Describing themselves as, ‘Live, nude, and personable’, Naked Boys Reading is a high and low culture mash up. Before the weekend is even underway, Ace Hotel sees a special NBR from the boys curated by performer La JohnJoseph (who also brings his new work-in-progress The Last Night in the Life of Alexander Geist to this year’s Fringe!) on the theme of ‘personality’. Deconstructing the notion, to be precise, as they ask, ‘Who would Norma Jean be without Marilyn?’ Attend and see these boys, and their bodies, reveal the answer.

Women and the Word: The Revival screen on Sat 28th November at the Bernie Grants Arts Centre and on Sun 29th November at the Rose Lipman Building. 
The Cult of JT Leroy screens on Sat 28th November at the Rose Lipman Building. 
Naked Boys Reading: Character Studies takes place on the 26th November at the ACE Hotel. 



A Strangely Glorious Opportunity

Posted on Tue 17 Nov by AlexK / gender, Trans, Video art, Artists Moving Image, transgender

Fringe! guest curator Panos Fourtoulakis writes about the curatorial process of choosing artist's and works for one of his projects this year.

by Panos Fourtoulakis

A Strangely Glorious Opportunity. The title of the project came out of a conversation with AA Bronson on Scruff regarding queer identity and sums up perfectly my thinking towards it. The idea of queer as something that goes beyond sexual politics and enables one to question the system at large and enquire power structures that otherwise probably would have been taken for granted. How one’s gender and sexuality can become an opportunity in order to challenge terms of normativity that are considered neutral within society, but they’re actually not.

What has always drawn me to the idea of transgender, is the sense of becoming. The ascendancy of one’s choosing what they can be instead of being fixed to something they do not identify with. And in doing so, the political aspect of their action as one of subverting neo- liberal heteronormative limitations. Going beyond binary oppositions and willing to defy dominant systems of oppression by living the life they want. 

The aim of this project is to be as multisided as possible, offering an array of different narratives and perspectives- exploring gender as something not fixed and always fluid- while at the same time create a coherent story. A Strangely Glorious Opportunity showcases work by Oreet Ashery, Pauline Boudry/ Renate Lorenz, Ursula Mayer, Carlos Motta and Wu Tsang.

From apocalyptical dreamlike experiences, to real accounts of challenges faced around the world, to transgressive performances and accounts of fictional lives, to exploring notions of mimicy and appropriation. One of the main themes that run through these films is how the boundaries between performance, appropriation and the ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ become ever more blurred. Something that makes one question what is considered authentic/real in the first place and how we define such notions. Another theme that runs through some of the videos is how the struggles faced by certain minorities are shared by others and how all these issues are interlinked. How until they are all free none of them will be.

I feel really grateful to showcase work by artists who I genuinely admire and who’s practice has expanded and in some cases formed my understanding towards the aforementioned issues. 

A Strangely Curious Opportunity screens Friday 27 November at Rose Lipman Building
General Idea: Video Works, 1977-1984, also curated by Panos and followed by a Q&A with AA Bronson, screens on Sunday 29 November at Barbican Cinema