I did two interviews; one with Artists Alliance, one with Phantom Billstickers, about this project. Read more here:
I did two interviews; one with Artists Alliance, one with Phantom Billstickers, about this project. Read more here:
With the help of GABA, Phantom Billstickers, Artist Alliance and Auckland City Council, we took all 16 works to Auckland as large scale posters that were installed in Silo 7 on the waterfront. It was an amazing experience to simply send a file to be printed rather than the usual carrying masses of drawings, sculptures and materials with me to install. Now I am wondering where else we could go……. here are some images.
Drawing it Out invites lesbian, bisexual, queer, femme, butch, takataapui wahine, trans*, and female-identified people to participate in an embodied research project on our sexuality. If you have experience of female-identified sex, now, in the past or would like to in your future, then this is for you!
I’ll draw whatever people offer me. It might be your finger, arm, dildo. The resulting collage will help form a sense of what we want to show/conceal.
Drawing sessions are available between 11am and 8pm on March 7th, 8th & 9th, 2016; please contact me to make a booking.
This is part of a wider project, We don’t have to be the Building, that uses HLR30 as a prism to reflect on queer female sexuality and activism, in our past, through our whakapapa, and today. The drawing becomes a site of acknowledgement. A consensual survey of our bodies and sexuality. A document of intimacy and sharing.
The drawings will form part of the artwork exhibited in the WCC lightboxes on Courtenay Place in August 2016.
Bookings: Phone or txt 021 1080 540 or use the contact form below to send me an email. (Your details will not be displayed here.)
This post is a beginning and end of a show, ish. The work began before the proposal, and it will continue beyond this show. But I wanted to be generous, and share what I wrote, and then what became of it. I made a decision about a year ago to start writing proposals that really said what I mean, what I really want to do, and use the language I really believe in. This is the result;
Sian Torrington – Proposal for Feminisms in Aotearoa, Enjoy Gallery
(Show later titled ‘Enjoy Feminisms’ at Enjoy Public art gallery, Wellington. Artists were; Dilohana Lekamge, Single Brown Female, Sian Torrington, Fresh and Fruity, Ann Shelton, Faith, Leafa and Olive Wilson. For more details about the show go here http://www.enjoy.org.nz/node/3665
and for my collaborative writing with Creek Waddington to accompany the work, go here http://journal.enjoy.org.nz/love-feminisms/conversation)
I wish to discuss female sexual aggression and dominance. I want to draw out my own queer body, which expresses its sexuality through diverse genders. I want to address the fear, shame, blockages and discoveries which accompany a series of coming outs around gender and sexual expression. I want to do this in the context of a feminist show because I also want to explore and address the fear of no longer belonging within feminism, of being a ‘bad feminist’. Of returning to the body and finding it changed and changing; an inconveniently uncategorizable process, and so linked to a process-based making.
Uncertainty, passion, expression, weight, effort. Self made, self defined.
And if I can only come when I close my eyes and my cock is half way down your throat, am I still a feminist?
When you do not see your body, desire or sexuality represented, it is imperative that you represent it yourself, and as honestly and in as much of its complexity as you possibly can.
The problem is still the body. My body is queer, kinky, strong, genderqueer, bolshy, sick, sensitive and hungry. It is excessive and intuitive and gut driven. It is all the things it is not supposed to be in a cool, irony driven art world. My life has been a series of coming outs. Feminist, artist, lesbian, queer, femme, dominant, activist, masculine, brute. The work I want to offer for this show is another coming out; of my body and my mission to explore its many rooms, through figurative and abstract drawing. My body and the things that are attached to it which are not imagination; parts of my body which you cannot see but I can feel.
I have always identified as a feminist. I believe that feminist thought, in its centering of the body, has the capacity to disrupt phallogocentric ideals of rationalism, objectivity and straight lines which have no relation to any body. And yet the body feminism represents can, and has, excluded many embodiments that still need and deserve its strength and protection. My feminism is queer, femme, genderqueer, body and sex positive, and includes all who identify as women, have experience being treated as women, and who claim femininity and femme as a place from which to speak.
I find myself feeling like I need to rein things in; rub out the finger prints on the edges of drawings, keep a clean space around the edges and select less rather than more. Galleries are white, clean, and there is an assumption that if you put a lot of things in it, you didn’t make enough decisions. Even though mass is a very deliberate and bold decision. It’s not that you just accidentally ate too much; it’s that you want to feel your body and this is the only way you know how to find your way back to that; to say yes to everything you want to eat. It’s not that you are not bothering to be feminine; it’s that you always felt secretly sexy when you are strong and lifting and building your own way, regardless of whether anyone wanted that. It’s that you are trying to explore something which doesn’t want to be regulated.
Artists make many things, but when we show in galleries, we hide the many in favour of the one final work or body of work. In doing this we exclude failure, accident and the trying energy of practice; the fact that making involves many repeated tryings and failings.
The work I want to make for your show is about being an aggressive, queer, tangled up, sexual, dominant emerging from fear and a busting-out genderqueer feminist person. I propose to make a large-scale drawing on the back wall of the gallery, compiled of many pieces, which shows body, appendages, fucking, being, remembering, becoming. The drawing will be assembled of many pieces which move through figuration and abstraction. The drawing will also be made from partial sculptures, which will extend the work into three dimensional space. I want to acknowledge the slippages, strangeness and mass of simultaneous embodied experience in sexuality and gender. I want to cease censoring and controlling the body and also the work, by including a mass of drawings, experiments and trials.
The drawings and sculptures I am proposing use my body as subject; active, embodied, messy, aggressive, self-formulating subject. The marks and gestures draw and repeat actions that are made in sex; in battling this body, these genders, this sexuality, out of itself. Through intimacy, reflection and interaction with itself and other bodies, it becomes known. Through the process of making, it becomes visible. But what is represented is from the inside. I cannot speak for anyone else, only for me, from me. In this I reflect the highest value of consent; that to be a fully consenting adult, one must be fully informed, and know oneself as fully as possible.
I am involved. I am implicated.
Thanks to Enjoy Gallery and Harry Culy for the images.
Something like a year and a half ago my body gave me a wake up call. The message was simple and clear; “You have to stop hating me”. I was pushing, demanding, ignoring, piling. So it needed to be clear. I became sick. I was overseas, and it was hard to breathe. Literally, not metaphorically. I’ve read about people who developed vertigo as they climbed too high and too fast in their careers, and I’ve always gotten strong signals from my body. So I listened, though I haven’t always. My chest rattled, and it was hard to walk across the room. It was Christmas, and I gave myself an extra two hours on top of the three they recommend to make my flight. That’s five in total. Five hours. They need to search your bags and put you through the machines. I needed to walk really slowly and repeat; there’s no rush, you can have whatever you want, there’s no rush. People looked at me, but I was incanting my antidote to denial, shame, fear. My body needed to hear that she was acceptable, even when she was weak, endangered, sick, slow. I have been afraid of not being able to afford what she wants, of feeding her what she wants until she becomes unacceptable. I have been afraid of having such a needy, uncontrollable body. So I have given her less, eking it out. We do this with children, the idea that if we only give them a little bit of what they want, they will learn that they can’t have everything, that there has to be limits. But the body expands and pushes, then, when ignored enough, begins to remove unappreciated privileges and pleasures. It’s always been hard to come, but when it becomes hard to breathe, listening gets easier.
The new deal began with trust. Listening and trust, and acting on whatever I heard, no matter how much I wanted to keep doing the same familiar old things. Survival. Expression. Demanding more.
I’m not even sure she is a her anymore. Like everything else in my life, she is a collection of many. Identities, pronouns, names and genders jostle in an embodied stack of being. They aren’t that interested in whether you use he or she because it’s not so much about the outside world, and you recognise them anyway though you may not have the language to speak to them. But your behaviour shows you see them. They don’t mind, because they are in creative space and they’re quite sure of themselves thanks.
My gender has always been a private thing, like my sexuality, my body, all of my spaces. I like to get to know them myself before I share them with others. I grew up without television, relying instead on books and stories; made up and connected with things in the world. My dad used to walk with me and make up stories about magic trees and people and weave them in with reality or his past; tramps, psychics and foraging. We read books of heroic anti-power adventures where I was everyone. For me, the connection between the physical world and imagination was strong. They affected one another, they created one another. And the other world, the spirit world. I come from lines of psychics stretched through both sides, people who knew when to move, and what you needed, just before you did and it wasn’t too late. Or maybe that’s just listening again. There are some stories I know about my ancestors, and many more I don’t. But it doesn’t matter, because I feel them, and they are real.
I realised that when I am in the studio I never hate my body. She is, they are, we are, allowed. Right from when I first ever had my own space, this was the rule. This is the place where everything is allowed. Noone comes in, and nothing goes out, without my say so. Here I am allowed wrinkles, fear, pain, insecurity, exhaustion, repetition and glory. I am even allowed to not be productive. I am allowed to sleep on the floor. This is a recent development and it’s so much kinder than driving through. I drip, collect, stack. I dance, I am quiet. I keep the door closed. I draw in my underpants. I look into my bright eyes and hold my white and lumpy belly. I grow a cock, compress and release dusty palms. I reach, I fade, I build muscles. I ride. I watch myself try to get born, adding paper for the overflow.
It is something about flesh, and action, and movement, the absence of hate. It is also about the decision not to be looked at, and to claim my space. This one room, I have been lucky enough and stubborn enough to hold on to. For ten years I have had a room of my own. Once it was a paper tent. Once it was a tiny room under the house which still had a toilet in it, but I painted it white. Once it was the realm of a book which I could carry with me. I am an expert at making space, and holding it. I watch the birds and how they do it with their mouths. I grew up near a festival which raised a city in a matter of weeks, then returned it to pasture every year. Temporary, but present.
There are materials everywhere. I have had help. Someone has always bought a drawing at the last minute. One time a guy helped me lift a desk.
The world encroaches, always. It has ways of making you behave. It has walls and they are owned. It has fences and barriers, rules and judgements. It has payments which you make for every space. It has boxes for your body, identity, sexuality. Imagination can replace the entire world. Try to stretch it as far as it will go. And then further. Feed it with pictures and stories. Inventing entirely different value systems, ones which reflect what matters to you. Make up words and practice them. We make them real through repetition. Practice. Your survival depends on it. The survival that is, of the one / s you want to be, the ones which are jostling and asking for a way to speak. The ones who will make you sick if you don’t learn how to listen.
Shame is a key method of control. Also wanting to belong. Also wanting to be loved. What would it be like if everything about you was acceptable?
How long is a piece of string? Once I started untying the knots I found the tangles stretched out and out. There are more lines than I knew in every direction and none of them are straight.
I pull a drawing out of the bin. It is dusty and brokenly, heavily overworked. I use it as an example to myself. How far is too far? What is a good drawing?
It seems to me that there are these two things:
The way I thought it should be / I thought it could be / how I saw it happen before / how all of the others said it would be / the way everyone else was doing it / the way it looked before / what they wanted / what you expected / what I expected / what I wanted / what it should’ve been / what I was working towards / what I thought would happen
The way it is.
You try to change your body
You try to accept your body
This, all bodies have in common, they change. Under your eyes, skin changing, mutable flesh, beautiful flesh. Graspable, feedable, flexible, dryable, stretchable, wrinkling, shinking, sagging, filling busting, beautiful flesh, shifting flesh.
I burn my hand on unexpected steam and it makes me lie down, hand in a bowl of water. It sends messages to my heart which are hot and fearful. It sends messages to my brain which centralise the body, which remind the brain it is part of the body, in service to the body. Put your imagination to use. Imagine the water is cooling and cooling. Body says, your thinking is not helping, the emergency is here, we are racing. I burn my hand and time seems to slow down. The time which is driven by a list; what needs to be done by when by who by when by when.
I see myself trying to get born
In a tangle of limbs, boy ones and girl ones and other
they push first, the many fists, thighs
the parts unformed, the parts unmade
the parts undis / re covered, jostle.
All I know are shoulders and the head kept low
If I can keep it down
I can get on through
Before she sees
The gap closes.
Today I participated and did what we said we’d do. We decided to promote our show without using Facebook or other social media. That we would print cards, and make ourselves actually talk to people about what we are doing. We’re asking you to invite us to your place, to your home, and that’s fairly intimate. So it felt only just that we also take some risk and physically ask for the invite. This involves what I sometimes think I am most interested in; vulnerability. How to be it, how to invite it, and why we are so dead inside without it.
I wore this
and you both wore yours, and we ventured into a local queer event. We tried to talk to all sorts of folk, not just the ones we feel comfortable with, flirted with or similar to. Drag queens, butch dykes, hard femmes, soft young gay boys, bois, shy soft femmes, trans* women. And just accepted what happened with each person. Scary, and sure, we dressed up. I was gonna just wear jeans, but then, come on… I chose a gold sequin top and a matching gold sequin scarf, and a feather headpiece. Just to feel relaxed. I’ve realised through practice that really we’re like dogs, it’s all about the training. We can train ourselves into a context where certain things are safe and normal, and that’s a really important part of creating for me. All myths have some point at which the protagonist moves from world to another, where different rules apply. And this is no different. Just like in the studio I need a cup of tea and certain music, when I perform, I need to wear something different. It’s like it makes the air thicker and more permissive. It says yes.
And it’s not about acting. It’s just about stepping through and welcoming what’s there.
This is what we said, or something like it;
[GENERAL BASIC SPIEL FROM WHICH TO AD-LIB WHEN TALKING TO PEEPS.]
Hi, I’m with Collected Queers. We’re a troupe of performance artists.
We’re doing a Fringe show called ‘Open Home Exercise’, for queer domestic spaces. Like, it could be your place!
It’s improvised in response to your space, so it will change each time. It might be balletic, glittery, we might crawl around your floor, or build a hut in the lounge. We’re trying to find creative ways to express queer identity without the need to consider straight spaces when we perform. It’s been super fun so far…
It costs nothing, it’s a gift. We expect it to be joyful, playful, and possibly a bit healing. If you want to invite us to come round, just send us an email – this card has the details – and we’ll be in touch.
[GIVE THEM A CARD.]
And it felt pretty good. No Facebook to hide behind.
To speak, to write, to tell my stories. And there have been times when this has not felt like enough. But we have learnt, through feminism, through queer theory, through all of our ongoing fights for liberations of our peoples, that the personal is political. Because we cannot be what we cannot see. The place where you wonder if you are ok, if there are any others like you; this is a quiet place. And the silence is a numbed limb.
One of my monikers has been Scheherezade. She’s the woman from The Arabian Nights, who kept herself alive by telling stories, always finishing right before dawn, so that her murderous potential husband was compelled to keep her alive for one more night, to hear the end of the story. It’s a story with a lot of control, manipulation, like most of our fairy tales. But for me, it’s important, because it is stories which have kept me alive. Jeannette Winterson writes in The Passion, “Trust me, I’m telling you stories”. We get given the wrong stories sometimes, too narrow, too small. Sometimes the stories don’t have anyone we recognise in them. Sometimes they’re just not brave enough.
I want to make the world bigger, not smaller. I want to make more things possible, to open and open.
The world we live in is all narratives, and it’s the dominant ones which keep us quiet, tell us our stories are odd, marginal, unimportant. But they are all we have. And they belong to us. And they are all true. And how do we take care of our stories? Stories love to be told, and they love to be listened to. And sometimes, when they’re finding their feet, their language, they need to be listened to by people who just want to hear them, however ragged they are. And sometimes, often, our stories take time, because they need entirely new languages to be able to speak. Because the dominant language didn’t invent words yet for our sexuality, our genders, our dreams. This means that sometimes they are hard to understand, because they don’t walk in a straight line. How could a queer story walk in a straight line?
And sometimes they take time, because they are hard to tell. I’m learning Te reo Maori right now, and it’s hard. He said to me “Keep going, there are many in us, and they don’t all want us to learn, they are not all with us. Keep going, it’s yours if you love it”
And often, our stories take enormous courage. Because we are ashamed, afraid, unused to hearing our own voices. I am already ashamed of everything I have not said, of the struggles I have had to ‘just be myself’, of the time it has taken me to know who I am and speak that out. I berate myself – how can it have taken me 36 years? How did I not know better, faster? And sometimes, I remember; because I had to invent a whole new language. Because I had to try out story after story. Because I had to find a tribe, an identity, a whakapapa. Because I had to learn to make myself visible.
This is the only way I know how to be revolutionary. To tell my stories, in all their ragged, open, glittery, difficult glory. To place them on shaky legs and say darling, I believe in you, you can walk. To write them in secret and begin to tell them in public, and trust that you will want to listen. That there is someone there who is just hoping that these words might open the world a little wider, so they get to breathe themselves, walk themselves home.
And when you tell me with shining eyes, when I see through you your little child who got told today yes there is nothing wrong with you, when you give me glass stoppers and say these are for you, to remind you to never hold in your words, I know, this is the right story. This is the revolution.
I was asked to be a part of a panel called ‘Femme Velocity’ at CIty Gallery, Wellington, on Saturday 6th April 2013. I was so excited, because I thought I was being asked to speak on a queer panel exploring femme identity. I quickly realised this was not the case, that ‘femme’ was being used in another way. Below is my speech… queer revolution with love and compassion
I am Sian Torrington, a proud, out queer femme artist pirate. I usually love talking about my art, but today, I need to talk about Femme. Femme is a gender identity, and a sexual identity, and it’s my identity. It’s not just a cool word. Words are important. We live in a colonised country, and we know the importance of words. We know about what it means to take something from another culture without asking what it means or finding out its whakapapa. It’s called appropriation.
I am proud to be standing under the term Femme today.
Aych, a femme, boi identified fag, wrote;
“Femme is a word fought for.
Femme is a politic.”
It’s not just a cool word. It’s contested, fought for territory, and this is my fight for its visibility. Because if there’s one thing femme is really over, it’s being invisible.
This is a femme slam.
Disinterested in- easy answers / ordinary language.
Passionate about – abstract, visceral, embodied, brave, vulnerable attempts to describe being here. Femme pride and visibility, unapologetic queer revolution, with love and compassion
Acknowledge – everything I do comes from my own experience
Hope – if I do my very bravest best, then it also makes space for yours.
Note – All identities in this talk are self identified
Femme is process, Femme is there’s no way over, only through. Femme is ask, don’t tell. And, ask nicely.
This is my love poem to femme, which has set me free.
And it’s my love poem to Butch, boi, trans, genderqueer wonderful beings, who found me.
But first, some others words, because this isn’t just about me…
“FEMME SHARKS WILL RECLAIM THE POWER AND DIGNITY OF FEMALENESS BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. WE’RE GIRLS BLOWN UP, TURNED INSIDE OUT, AND REMIXED……
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, from “FEMME SHARK MANIFESTO” pp287-288
“Me, Simone, and Dot” Chandra Mayor, pp 161-162
“Femme is costume and play…Femme is deeply loving those delicious butches… Femme is a political stance against the patriarchal strictures of society, a reclamation of “slut” and “whore” and “bitch,” and a you-can’t-shut-me-up fuck-you attitude….. Femme is the deepest part of me, the softest and the fiercest, all at once…..We’re not supposed to flaunt our vulnerabilities as fully self-possessed tools or weapons, without shame. …But I do have a name, a history, a community….Like it or not, I was born a femme. With every fuck-up, I figure it out a little more.”
Elizabeth Marston, a self identified ‘permaqueer trannydyke’, writes
“Let’s say that femme is dispossessed femininity. It’s the femininity of those who aren’t allowed to be real women and who have to roll their own feminine gender….cis-female lesbians….in the fifties…..contemporary femme dykes…..queens and trannies… femme gay men….
What these groups share, …is the illegitimacy of their femininity. That’s how I understand femme: badass, rogue, illegitimate femininity. … Femme is a move from dispossession to self-possession. We’re not allowed to be real, so we’ve figured out something else to be, something new – and that something is femme.”
Elizabeth Marston, “Rogue Femininity” P205 – 7
And this, from me
You say noone can read you and I think I AM TRYING
my hip says I don’t trust you
you say YOU WANT TOO MUCH and I say I AM TIRED OF PRETENDING I DON’T WANT ANYTHING
I thought, I can’t possibly be a lesbian, cos the beings I relate to are those divine drag queens.
Peacock, queen, proud, hard headed, tutu, goddess, darling, sugar blossom, princess, baby, witch, bitch, slut, loveliness, the girl who shines with smarts, hards, softs, pirate, proud glitter crazed hot haired high homo
I submit. I admit. I say please, Dance with me
Butch Boi . “ya all the women I’ve had encounters with have been pretty damn femme..they’ve all had struggles with expressing their femininity, because the world shames women about every fuckin thing, being prude is bad, being a slut is bad, being proud is bad, being overly modest is frumpy and unsexy like nerdy, not slutty nerdy which is better but its still slutty so its bad, and being uncool is bad just like being too smart is bad and dangerous, and dangerous is only good when its sexy and yep then its slutty so its still bad, but not as bad as fully owning it dangerous demanding respect because then you’re a bitch… and its just like FUCKINGODDAMNEVERYTHING – when you’re up against all that since birth, a violent society, a systematic asphyxiation, how’s a girl still wanna show her nice side, her compassion, her let you in, her show it off?”
Soft is stronger than hard
I can’t be reasonable. It’s just too limited.
My washing lines my room while I grasp for words and bravery to reach
to be fearless
I invited you because I didn’t want anyone to be alone. However it is, we should be able to be close to one another. When it is awkward, when we hold, when it is hard, when there is not light, when the glitter has run down the drain, when your body remembers, when my body remembers and dreams the shame you poured me let it be different. Let us be brave, let us be here.
“You have so much swagger”
I have been called many things in my life. And then lately someone called me a peacock. They made me screech and perform on a street corner, dancing on kerbs and feeling my spin stretch and lift sky proud, shimmering feathers, showing off.
Their butch found my femme, and there was joy and terror in it. Terrified of revealing, showing, wearing skirts which have always felt absolutely like sex to me. Of not being queer enough, political enough. If I care so much about expression and beauty and process and art and I don’t know the right words for anything, but I want to, is that enough? And if I can’t walk in high heels or write as well as I want, is that enough?
And if what I want to do when they tell you ugly things in your ear and threaten you and block my path is smother them with colour is this enough? And if when they make me fear to walk my own town without a big black coat if all I want to do is make an army of glittery dripping soldiers who flood bigness and love and wash the streets with shiny paths is this resistance enough?
We are in this together
Your one abandoned movement has opened a new room in me.
It is filled with treasure.
I got lost in Galerie Lafayette. I was at the perfume counter and everything was gold and sweet and pink. My ancestors sailed and fought and fell out for generations over gold. I waited there, waited for my ‘real parents’ to come pick me up. The ones who are millionaires. The ones who will buy me all of these gold things.
She says, sitting here, on this sofa, beside my daughter, I have to tell you, you have no idea what it is like to be a woman in this world.
I will always use everything I have to defend you. I have your back and I will put my body before them.
Write to him / Butch Femme
What have I not told you? I have not told you this.
That I would fight bare knuckle to be loved my whole life by bois like you
to find these places which are always being found, and always being lost and trying to speak
I would blood my elbows to get into here, to get the hands like yours all the way until I catch my breath and
I have not told you that this trying lusting experiment this reaching for more this balancing on faith is all there is
and all I want there to be and for all I look for nets when my head swims and loses its ground those nets are also made by us, by our kind, by all of our kind. There is kindness in queer.
I have not told you because the tide moves so fast and I am searching for words and moved before I can say hey
that was important.
I have not told you that yes we love in different ways and we love different things, but when we love each other, it is the right thing.
I have not told you that every sequin every shine that reflects us both every fierce every high heel every telling every showing every caring it is for me, and it is for you, because YOU SEE ME.
And that I defend this kingdom of mine tooth and nail and fight and beg and kneel before it and water it knead it rise it raise it hide it shelter it because I know what home is worth. Because I know the last ten years have recovered the former through digging in fits and starts what has been covered with a slow accretion of body saying YOU ARE NOT LISTENING.
What have I not told you? And what I cannot tell you in words I make in charcoal I slide against the wall with black in both my hands it is still and flat then soft and curved I can’t hold and fall with one long pencil line to the floor my knees raise me not because I want to but because I have to reach I feel your hands. This is where the pink goes later, flooding down one side and cracking open the black hood I hid in with eyes closed and forearms flat against the wall allowing, remembering.
All quotes are from essays in ‘Persistence, All ways Butch and Femme’, Pub Arsenel Pulp Press, Vancouver, 2011
With grateful thanks to all who made it possible for me to speak with honesty, bravery and integrity. You know who you are… big glittery femme love to you X
Also huge thanks to Mareika from http://this-is-hard-femme.tumblr.com/ and Lexi from http://femmeasfuck.tumblr.com/ and Phlossy Roxx http://www.missphloss.com for giving me permission to show your wonderful, inspiring femme blogs.
A special thanks to Kabel Manga, for being up there with me.
And to that Butch Boi, for all the adventures X
February 2013 – with Sandersons Gallery, Parnell, Auckland http://www.sanderson.co.nz/
Your abandoned movement has opened a new room in me will explore how we create open and yet private spaces to protect and encourage queer intimacy, identity and play.
This sculpture is a kind of human nest, a shelter which rests, holding onto a tree. Contingent, temporary and fluid, it is a shelter which opens and closes. Buffeted by the weather, it reveals its raggedness at the same time as its beauty. Built in various directions, with pockets, platforms and a myriad of spaces, it explores how we are presenting and finding space for identity at the same time we are creating and living it.
I have these fantasies. They go like this:
I will draw one thing
I will concentrate
I will fit one thing, on one piece of paper
It will be even
You will be able to read it
And as I am squinting at breadfruit and looking for where the shadows lie and what shape they really are, something shifts and I am shoulder against the paper, breathing green. I tell them think of it like falling in love, make your looking obsessive, don’t let go. They look at me like a wild thing, and when she shoves a rubber in fury towards me with her wrist I say YES, THAT! Put that on the page.
And it spreads, and I can’t help myself
It’s like when you write the word bed to me
It’s like when it finally rains here
Something opens anew, and it is not a room, but it feels like home, like remembering perfect sense
Things shift, catch and other, hold, spread and swarm.
She says I can only write by looking sideways and I say yes, they are all contained here, if we can only find trust enough to reach them
I have been called many things in my life. And then lately someone called me a peacock. I only knew from half dreams what they sound like. They made me screech and perform on a street corner, dancing on kerbs and feeling my spin stretch and lift sky proud, shimmering feathers, showing off.
Their butch found my femme, and there was joy and terror in it. Terrified of revealing, showing, wearing skirts which have always felt absolutely like sex to me. Of not being queer enough, political enough. If I care so much about expression and beauty and process and art and I don’t know the right words for anything, but I want to, is that enough? And if I can’t walk in high heels or write as well as I want to or build bridges to you or burn them in fury, is that enough?
And if what I want to do when they tell you ugly things in your ear and threaten you
and block my path is smother them with colour is this enough? And if when they make me fear to walk my own town without a big black coat if all I want to do is make an army of glittery dripping soldiers who flood bigness and love and wash the streets with shiny paths is this resistance enough?
We are in this together
I read you walking and stumbling eyes wide taking it in trying not to trip over curving roots and wishing to fall directly into soft places where hardness grows
Be slammed up against this backless place and push in return
Can we be more flexible?
These things they are my vents
I am looking directly now actually searching
I am looking directly now and there are many
I must create a space with safe open walls and you ask to come in?
Tell me your story
Open your mouth
And I say to you
Ride me home and my hips fit all the way up to my jaw and you say
I am the wind and I made the sound
This is not a note this is a stake
This is not a performance this is as best as I can say
Trust your instincts
Give them their space