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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Homotopia Art=Life launches Alien Sex Club

It's back! Homotopia in Liverpool celebrating all things fabulous in the LGBT art  scene has just launched for its 11th year.  I headed over to Camp and Furnace for the launch party and checked out the amazing Alien Sex Club exhibition by artist John Walter. 
There is a whole section of Camp and Furnace which has been taken over for the exhibition. There is so much to explore it feels like your entering into a unique artistic universe exploring gay sexuality and its relationship to HIV education. The place feels like a labyrinth nightclub (or cruising sauna maze) with a series of routes that have vibrant patterned wall all created by the artist. Apparently there is over three years’ worth of work inside.
 You walk through a multi-sensory, immersive visual feast for the eyes. Walter has devised a large-scale installation that incorporates different elements from painting, video, sculpture and a performance bar to discuss the complexities of contemporary sexual health.  

I visited with a few friends and we started our tour with a tarot reading. Walter’s has created an entirely new set of Tarot cards which he’s individually drawn based on the original concepts of Tarot. He’s certainly taken some creative license; instead of swords, cups, wands and pentacles they’re replaced by the following suits Barebacker, Serosorter, Giftgiver and Bugchaser. These minor Arcana link to their titles for example Serosorter’s ace card features a webcam, noting to initial online screening through websites and chatrooms to meet and hook up.

The higher Arcana include various historic and current references to idols and media characters. I was taken by the cards and brought a set for myself, annoyingly they don’t include instructions, but from spending more time looking through the images they are beginning to reveal more about the artist and his work so perhaps it’s a deliberate restriction to make people consider there meaning?
The depictions relate to stories and how leading narratives get reproduced in different ways through revising characters. They provide reflective reference points to universal behavioural traits. Seeing these characters illustrated in this ways reminded me of Jungian’s twelve archetypes whilst revealing some of Walter’s own personal interests and influences.

 A couple of examples, Novice depicts Jacob Peter Gowy's The Flight of Icarus. Icarus is falling from flying too close to the Sun. Icarus ignores the advice from his father ultimately leading to his own demise.  By branding Icarus as the Novice the card indicates to me that Walter feels he has grown wiser with time and conscious of his ambitions. It also indicates the type of relationship he might identify with his own father.
Ancestor features a portrait of Keith Haring wearing a T-shirt with his own iconic style of painting which has clearly influenced Walter’s work. Both feature a bold style, Haring’s images were painted in a condensed style to present easily digestible concepts of party culture. Haring created awareness on several issues, such as AIDS, of which he died in 1990 and it appears that Walter is picking up his mantel.
 Walter was even wearing a shirt at the launch with various pills incorporated to the shirt’s design; the images of the pills are also featured within the exhibition itself. Walter is physically presenting a progression in the fight against HIV and AIDs with new progressive drugs whilst demonstrating an evolution of queer art. I like that he’s stamping his own authority as the next in line to claim recognition to this area of work.
Performance of Self feature’s Keith Lemon as Scary Spice. The card provides a self-portrait, Walter provides an indication of an influential character which has impacted on his own work. Lemon’s mixture of humour and cheap trash chic sketches chimes in harmony with Walter’s media works in particular. 
Walter's media piece's are fun, making exploring sexuality and health interesting and accessible in a different way. The pieces are are visually challenging though which appears to be a growing format with media based artists like Ryan Trecratin (one of my favorite artists), Bedwyr Williams and Rachel McClean whose most recent commission  Feed Me is a part of the British Art Show 8 current at Leeds Art Gallery.
I thought the concept of the tarot work was really interesting. The piece attracted a lot of interest; people sit with the mystic and ask for an answer to a single question which often relate to home, work, potential conquests and partners. The Tarot set under a ‘gay gaze’ with a framework surrounding sexual health appears to highlight self-fulfilling prophecies of ‘cruzing’ encounters. Each suit describes a potential outcome for those that pursue particular types of character. The cards direct the questioner to what type of person they will find. Will it result in a ‘Barebacker or a Serosorter? As four contrasting suits however provide a limited range of choice and ultimately outcomes.

Alongside this there were lots of other pockets of art works hidden in the depths of the maze.  There were a series of cardboard models of the HIV capsid. These structures represent a visual model of the virus. The capsid houses the RNA which goes on to use the host cell in order to produce new viruses. These sculptures reflect the beautiful and complex structure biology contains visualising the twelve pentamers (pentagonal proteins) and around 250 hexamers (hexagonal proteins).
 There are a series of ‘shrinkies’ plastic displayed like a museum exhibit. The ‘shrinkies’ contain drawn images which are baked in the oven in order to shrink to miniature size; like individual bacterium and virus’, life forms associated with the Alien Sex Club.
 Additionally there are drawings presented saloon style, exploring the rituals, characters and symbolism. They reference various situations inside clubs, which alien sex club character crashing the party and more intimate scenes of sexual encounters of an unusual kind.

A series of computer designed, virus-like heads that inhabit the Alien Sex Club. Like Damien Hirst’s Medicine cabinets, there are models of these viruses contained in a cabinet. I’m also personally really keen to see the Alien Pug head, however he’s in the Walker gallery so I’ll have to make another journey to Liverpool to take a look at this particular piece. Other virus heads repeatedly feature other works throughout the exhibition. Their frequency makes me think of the phase ‘there are Alien’s amongst us’. Virus’ and foreign bodies have already invaded our planet and bodies yet visibility of their presence remains insidiously hidden.
 The last bit I’ll mention is a series of marrows with individually knitted ‘hats’ which were handed out to visitors as they visited. They carried the marrows around the exhibition in their arms little babies with knitted hats. The work explores ‘condom fatigue’ which is the tendency of some gay men who have become desensitised to concerns about practicing safe sex. The phrase comes from those who have lived through the AIDS crisis and safer sex messages have to turn to practicing unprotected sex as they are tired of using condoms. I like the idea of carrying the sense of responsibility by walking with a marrow as a reminder of the consequences of unprotected sex could produce an unwanted ‘love child’ or STI/STD.  Having a little woollen hat as a form of protection for your ‘marrow’.
There are loads more to see and explore but I’ll leave it there to encourage more people closer to home to go and see the exhibition for yourselves. But for the lovely bloggers and readers abroad you can see the majority of the work through the Alien Sex Club website or take a moment to watch the following video from

Everyone, regardless of your sexuality should see at least one event from Homotopia it’s such a brilliant festival and it’s fantastic it happens in the North of England. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Light Night Leeds

Light Night Leeds is an annual event across Leeds city centre. This is there 11th Year and they had over 60 artists doing incredible things all across the city just for one night! There is no way to see all the exhibitions and acts in one night. I gave my best to try and look at as much work as I could. You can see lots of images and tweets #ArtinTheDark to see what I missed out on.
My evening started with Whale Song which was on the River Aire. The piece was produced by LCI Productions Ltd. There was a huge swell of a crowd along the river side. We all stood in anticipation and then a fan of water sprayed out in the middle of the water, then came projections on to the surface of the spray.
 It started with Jelly fish and sea birds floating across the spray and then the sound of Whales calling began. In the darkness you could see vague shapes until a whale emerged!
 The performance was ten minutes of the Whale’s song as it continued to rise and fall on the surface.

I walked over to the Grand Theatre and saw a performance by Opera North Called Parklife. I walked into a hall beautifully lit by old fashioned street lamps and hanging street lights. There were deck chairs surrounding a carousel in the centre. 
I stayed for a couple of violin performances, the setting was incredibly peaceful and romantic, and everyone was silently captivated.
I headed up to The Belgrave Music Hall just up the road from the Grand. The place was packed out with people; I made my way through the crowds to the back of the Belgrave and up a series of stairs. I came into a large hall and people were all holding large boards with paper and pencils. I turn and look up at the stage and there is a burlesque performer on stage with a pair of large fans strategically swapping to cover her modesty. I had entered into Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School, where people could sketch performers which were interspersed with life models in unusual poses. 

After a while I scurried back to St John the Evangelist Church. I passed Debi Keable’s To The Better Place We Dream Of an outdoor light installation. Which used screen print on transparent material and glow in the dark pigments to create large lantern which stood ethereal in the graveyard.
When I entered the church I sat in one of the stalls and watched TheBook of Darkness and Light: A Macabre Tale to Music by Adam Z Robinson andBen Styles. It was a spoken ghost story set to a violinist; I felt they could have done more to set the scene, the cathedral lights were on in a space losing sense of atmosphere being created by the two fellas. What was irritating is that they allowed people to come in and out creating lots of distracting surrounding noise in the large and echoing space. It’s a shame because had they dimmed the lights or even had none at all and a few candles they could have really embellished upon the naturally spooky setting. The acting and the story telling was really strong though and that kept me captive.
I moved on to Age UK to experience Trace Your Neighbour by Joely Fielding. This was possibly the most interesting event I attended. Participants had to sign up to a session which could only be experienced in small groups. We entered into the room and had our picture taken. We were then invited to take a seat and sit opposite a stranger.
I was sat opposite a man with glasses his wife and son were also in the room. We were asked to look at the person opposite and then lower our heads and close our eyes. We’re then asked a series of questions about how you interact with strangers, it was all quiet intense and awkward as I was stood looking at the person opposite me.We opened these transparent boxes, turned on a LED light, and had a picture which was placed on top of the lit up box. We then placed tracing paper on top of the picture. I was sat thinking this box was have made drawing all the MPs so much quicker! I'm definately using this box method on my next project.
 We were then instructed to draw over the tracing as she continued to ask questions. The questions made me think about how I interact with strangers and the numbers of people I pass on a daily basis and know nothing about. It was a really unusual experience and what was a really nice about it is that we then hung our images up and talked to each other about our drawings.  You can see more images on #TraceYourNeighbour
 After this I walked over to Leeds Cathedral. Inside was David Henckel’s The Sun at Night. This was close to a lot of the central action, there was a queue all down the street and when I entered the whole of the Cathedral was rammed full of people. 
The Sun at Night was being projected on a screen with a deafening soundscape that filled the room with a majestic ambiance. 
The projection of the sun is from real footage from NASA showing actual solar flares and moments on the surface of the sun. This piece attracted a lot of people to humbly stare in awe in a very spiritual setting.  
 After this I headed to Leeds City Museum to view 3D DJ by Fit MotionGraphics. Originally this was designed to be used as a DJ booth. The installation uses projection mapping to give illusion of depth and movement. With an ipad used as a keyboard audience member played tunes on which corresponded with squares which then lit up on the boxes. 
Everything else was closed at the Museum so I headed over to see the Tears of the Angels by Sharon Caton-Rose at the Methodist Church.
As I was walking over there was a humongous crowd around town hall for some of the circus acts. I couldn’t even get a look in so I continued on.
I stayed for a while in the Tears of the Angels, it was a really peaceful setting and I loved how each of the jewels reflected the lights from the surrounding projections. There were 77 hand crafted bowls individually different to each other. It was like looking at a snapshot of the rain as is pelts the earth.
Afterwards I managed to sneak through the crowds and head down into YourColour Perception by Liz West in The Crypt, Leeds Town Hall.
 The room was bathed in colour and it made me think of Irrepressible In this Shirt. Everyone was walking around the space and taking selfie’s it was a fun way to wind down before my journey home. 

Finally before I got my train home I passed Audio Surf, DylanFitterer supported by Lumen Arts projected on the front of Queens Hotel at the City Square. This large scale projection covered the entire hotel and allowed people to choose a song which then impacted on the racer’s performance, depending on what was chosen the shape, speed and mood of each ride was determined. What an incredible idea I wish it was there all the time. It was fantastic end to a wonderful evening exploring Leeds! 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Vogue Sugar Ball House of Suarez!

Sugar is Rotten!
Why do I have candy lips and humbug eyes?
VOGUE Darling!
(full outfit at the bottom of the post!)
The House of Suarez Sugar Ball in Liverpool at Camp and Furnace. It was such an inspirational evening! If you’ve ever enjoyed Ru Paul, Monster Party or Paris is Burning then you would have felt right at home here.
Competing Houses were tarring up the runway showcasing their individuality and creativity. Like a traditional ball there were various themes including fantasy, realness and sex sirens. Everyone sizzled and popped!
 The event was hosted by host RikkiBeadle-Blair he embodies vogue and stirred up the crowd into a sugar fuelled frenzy. He was our mother for the evening and served up a sweet feast of candy sending the children into an uncontrollable wild rush for the rest of the night.
  Judges for the night included CouncillorGary Millar, The Vivienne (Ru Paul’s UK ambassador) and sexy Swedish Voguer, Benjamin Milan. When they announced the winners of each section the energy was palpable. There was stomping, clicking, cheers and screams of delight, it was infectious joy!  
 Some personal highlights featured towards the start with the Milky bar kid mixing rodeo moves with Voguing. A fantasy house outfit which had balloons caged under the dress, in a great reveal, the glass ceiling of the outfit opened and all the balloons escaped towards the crowd.
These two made my evening though. 
 We managed to find ourselves the cheapest hotel possible. It was um, minimalist- but at least clean. We had some pre-drinks in our room, listened to some tunes to help get us in the mood and did our make-up.
  I haven’t laughed so hard in ages it was great to clown around with them both. Some how we got back in the early hours with a purple dolls legs and a sparkly chocolate/poop prop. It took its toll on us though-the whole of the next day was a write-off. 
Finally this is what I was wearing: Ralph Lauren vintage candy stripe shorts, white tights and six inch high heels, they hurt, they really really hurt- but they helped with my view of the stage so they were an investment really!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Killed My Mother

A short but sweet announcement; Put 5:30 pm, Friday 25th September in your diary for an exhibition screening and music event at The Bureau Blackburn!

The event is part of the first LGBT film festival in East Lancashire. The Same-Sex Marriage Quilt will be shown alongside other regional queer talented artists so please go check it out!

The event has been organised by artist and curator Sonny J. Barker. If you'd like to know more about him please check out his fantastic blog! He's got heaps of interesting pieces - it's definitely worth an explore

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

My first GIF!

I've just learnt how to upload gifs!
I had some fun creating this mini animation and I want to use this process more. This is my first attempt so it might appear a little wooden, but I'm pleased with my overall effort! It's inspired by the moving images you see in America's Next Top model Living Photo's or Flixels!

I also think you should be listening to FKA Twigs Pendulum because her video is awesome! (She does it better) 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Inspirational shows at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

I went to Edinburgh Festival for some fringe performances. This was my first trip ever, I thought I’d share a few highlights, with a bit of a focus on identity.

La Gateau Chocolate, Assembly Hall (Rainy Hall) Mount Place,
Le Gateau Chocolat is an Opera singing British-born Nigerian boy exploring his personal struggle with his identity as a gay, black, larger man. He was encouraged to become a lawyer by his father and wanted to become an opera singer. I was really moved by his melancholy re-enactment of ‘I want to dance with somebody’ by Whitney Huston was particularly stand out.A very honest introspection about one’s own desire to be successful, creative and ultimately a happier person.

Barbu Electro trad cabaret, Circus Hub Underbelly.
This was my first real experience of circus since a very young child. It was really entertaining, musically vibrant and occasionally surprising. At one point the band were meowing to a melody as they acrobats performed. The music kept the pace of the performances alive and animated. Canadian group of performer, five beard athletic men were the dominant focus of the show. They gradually remove layers of clothing as the show built momentum. The work progressively becomes more overtly sexualised with a couple of reveals, which at one point caused a fella behind me to shout out in a burly voice ‘THAT’S WHAT I PAID FOR!’ – I really believe he did!

Mawaan Rizwan with FLUU, Pleasants Theatre, (This)
You can see more of his talent on his youtube channel
He provided lots of little sketches which played on a range of cheap and naff props which lead to regular comical fails. His personality and comic timing carries the show, fun elements of audience participation take everyone through an unknown journey. He did very well at handling a really drunk women sat in the front row who decided to become a part of the act which resulted in her being heckled by other people ‘SHUT UP IN FRONT!’ He managed to calm her down, keep the audience with him and maintain the pace of show which was just as impressive.  At the end of the performance she bolted out of there like she had caught fire. I felt a little bad for her…

Boxed In, Pleasance Courtyard the Cellar.

 Two piece act, two women playing 25 year old twins, Jess and James.  The piece follows the pair returning to their parents to go through their old house hold things which have been collected into an individual box for them each. The piece flips between childhood memories, the two of the reflecting on their experiences growing up and how they present themselves in the workplace today. Through the stories they reveal different issues that affectively ‘box’ them into their gender. It was interesting having two female actors playing out the roles, James’ character was very convincing and added an interest element about reflecting learnt behaviour and how it’s easily replicated. I would be interested to know how the play reads with two men or a man and a woman. Inspired by stories and campaigns like HeForShe & #LikeAGirl, this devised piece combines movement, storytelling and verbatim to explore the effects of gender stereotyping on both women and men. It got me thinking a lot about gender roles and constructs. We do collectively indoctrinate ways of behaving and pass it on. These views impacts on us all individually. We then carry this on to our peers and friends and carry views on to the next generation. It made me grateful to have very supportive parents who increasingly encourage me just to walk my own path.

Pope Head- The secret life of Francis Bacon
One man show featuring Garry Roost (who looks a lot like Bacon) delivers the script brilliantly. The down fall is that there was a very limited set, three banners purple green and orange circles in the centre of each screen. Such a missed opportunity! He could have had so many more interesting methods of staging! The banners acted as transition scenes between characters and a focus point to imagine Bacon’s work on display. The content of the play however is totally brilliant. The Narrative was compelling, camp and witty and held my attention for the majority of the play. Need to be a fan of Bacon’s work to be interested in the piece. If you are he does a fantastic job of exploring his life, the story telling is brilliantly sharp, sexually charged and peppered with sarcasm.

Labels, Pleasance Courtyard, Bunker 1
Worklight Theatre
This was possibly the best piece I saw. Worklight Theatre draws on writer/performer Joe Sellman-Leava's experiences of mixed heritage and racism. Labels examine the way we use words, the line between curiosity and fear, and the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric. He starts setting the political landscape with various quotes about race over the centuries with some spot on political impersonations. He then outlines the power of labelling other handing out different positive and negative labels we use and sticking them on audience members. (For example I was labelled ignorant and an enemy.)  Then leads into his childhood growing up in the South West of England between Devon and Cheltenham having to explain his duel heritage and various people and navigate through their various levels of curiosity or racism. The piece ended on exploring current issues of immigration, how individual’s stories and experiences become numbers and statistics leading to a loss of humanity. I identified with Sellman-Leava experiences growing up. I grew up near Cheltenham; so I knew the types of character he had faced and how it feels to not completely fit with the majority. I had been confronted by them myself, a difference between those who are curious; ignorant and just plain offensive. Everyone should go support his crowd-sourcing campaign so thatLabels can continue to tour!

I am Not myself these days, Pleasance Courtyard Beneath
Adapted from the autobiography of Josh Kilmer-Purcell, I Am Not Myself These Days adapted by Tom Stuart recounts the television star's early days working as an ad executive by day and then transforming into the drag queen Aquadisiac at night.
She’s young alcoholic who falls for a crack addict hooker Jack. Although this piece was slightly longer than the majority of other shows I saw, so much happens that I was completely enthralled and taken with the story. There are great one-liners, lip syncing which characters within the story are well defined snapping between male and female roles at such speed at time I felt there were two people on stage. Aqua continues to get further and further lost to alcohol and her dysfunctional relationship. Layers of clothing, glamour and wit start to fall beginning to reveal the insecure, lost Josh who begins to become more exposed at his lowest point. I enjoyed how Aqua’s deconstruction to the worse part of Josh enables a choice about true identity leading to the falling fa├žade of Aqua and the return of Josh by the end of the play.

Smash It Up (SIU) Summer Hall, Red Lecture Theatre
Mr and Mrs Clark
Originally inspired by the demolition of The Chartists Mural in Newport, South Wales, Smash It Up explores the destruction of art, culture and public space. This piece explored themes of activism, anarchy and themes of nihilism. When you entered the theatre three people dressed in clinical and official looking clothing are distributing labelled crafted pieces. Each artwork appears to be made of broken remains from books, records, tape and other miscellaneous objects. Everyone is then taken through whistle stop tour of moments in arts history where deconstruction and sabotage are used as a catalyst for change. The piece is brilliantly delivered, with film footage from montage and live art events which provide a greater depth to their political campaign. Someone was encouraged to destroy valuable items of the three performers. She is asked to rank their order of importance between a childhood cuddly toy; an early years drawing as a gift for a relative and a mix type from a previous crush. This was the moment I was most uncomfortable with, it felt to close to a Milgram’s experiment. I felt they were taking you through a process of letting go of what we materially hold value.  Quotes were fired out from various artists who use destruction as a means of creation. As a self-confessed hoarder and lover of creative objects and culture this was something which personally unsettled me and challenged my comfort zone. They then destroyed other objectives be lead to a new form of creation from the outputs remains. This was a critical point which uplifted me, material objects changing form into new objects of creative beauty, fragmented remains turned into new structures. The art loving activist within me loved this performance.