So this has been uploaded. Very good to see so many familiar names including friends from Singapore – Amanda Lee Koe and Vanessa Ho. I have some drawings from my little series Paranthropus Comix. They were made during my WHYYYYY phase not too long ago, shortly after I wrote a rant on Facebook called ‘A Poem in Celebration of International Day of Happiness’ that was misconstrued as an actual poem and published as such. Was interesting. Anyway, it’s a fun zine. Go read it.
I made the logo and did the front cover for the student edition.
I also ran some workshops at Highams Park and got the students making visual pieces. Apparently they really understood the difference between a piece as you are making it and a piece in print once they’d seen the edition.
Last night I co-organised Get Off My Back Will You And Give Someone Else A Chance with Evan Ifekoya at the ICA. It was particularly interesting to do the workshop in the afternoon, where we all riffed on David Robilliard’s work. He was a curious character – he signed his paintings in text that was often larger than the content of the work itself. Is that someone taking themselves seriously or not? Either way, it was great to straddle the line between good taste and bad: Robilliard was working at a time when the AIDS epidemic was rife, and he himself was victim to it in 1988. His work reflects the queer life of the time – it’s instantaneous, pleasure-seeking, aware of its marginality, comfortable with discomfort. I don’t think critique is the right word here; too often things are reduced to their “critical position” rather than what they say about living. I think Robilliard was alive and flawed and didn’t give much of a damn about Politics with a capital P, and it was v refreshing to run a workshop around that. The conversation spanned from what it means to draw to the problems of admitting Israeli citizenship, from how to organise a series of discrete works (aesthetically or thematically?) to the gleefully scatalogical. And the evening event followed suit. It has always been my bent to exist in as many places as possible, to move among the high and the low and to take people for what they really are. I was glad for every mic pop and every fumble, as much as the outrageousness and tenderness.
I wrote a piece recently entitled “We are not at zero” which was a response to an article on Media Diversity entitled “The Diversity Test”. I wrote the article because I found “The Diversity Test” deeply troubling as an example of the kind of thinking that is prevalent in discussions around race, sexuality and representation. My main gripe was that the article focused on the lack of films about black characters in order to make the statement that BFI Flare, formerly the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival was a “white only affair”. In a twitter exchange, it was pointed out that I had defended the festival without talking about the systems that mean black people remain powerless within the industry. However “The Diversity Test” did not talk about structural or systemic problems either – and I took it on its own terms. I think a discussion about these issues has been had many times – I linked to a brief piece on Shadow and Act that talked about the cycle that black filmmakers find themselves in: small festival to support grass roots movements or large festivals for international clout? That aside, I began to wonder whether my article might be misconstrued as a personal attack – which it wasn’t intended to be – or an example of the kind of bitching that characterises the internet. I hope not. Worse that it might be a form of victim blaming, but I do not disagree with the claim that racism exists, I just disagree with the method used to make that point because it undermines the main effort of challenging racism. The intention was to speak about something that I know many others have noticed: first, the strange logic that characterises many political discussions, which I dub the fetishisation of oppression, and second the fear we have of critiquing things in a manner that deviates from the norm. It is my view that discussion and action around race, sexuality and representation are important insofar as they take things as they really are. If one’s status as marginal is the be-all and end-all of everything, to the extent of ignoring anything that indicates otherwise, then that begs the question of what, exactly, we are fighting for. Funnily enough, tonight I met a group of Afro-German artists and writers, one of whom said that he had noticed something about Londoners – that we are very caught up with what we can’t do, as opposed to what we can. So maybe it’s not just me.
A little while ago, I made some films for Centred (a charity I have previously referred to as Kairos). The films were the product of a workshop I ran in conjunction with the Soho walking tour the charity runs. On December 11th they had their first public airing at the Centred Winter Warmer, which is a kind of performance / logistics evening in which everyone involved with relevant activities comes and speaks.
I briefly introduced the films, but one of the points I wanted to make, that may have been a little irrelevant given the audience, was that this is the first time I have tried a workshop in which the participants transform a social experience into an artistic one.
A while ago, I hosted a discussion between animal rights activist Louis Ng and free software advocate Richard Stallman. The latter, known for his lack of social skills, struck me as someone who is perfectly aware of how his behaviour is affecting others but doesn’t give a shit. I don’t think his behaviour is very different to the rest of us who continue to buy dangerous products because we don’t give a shit about the environment, labour rights or state surveillance. At the end of the night, when my friends and I were in the coffee shop in Kent Ridge, the ethical conflict I’d felt about whether to get in on a smartphone or tablet (which was why I was interested in talking to Stallman in the first place) had ceased. A few months later I’d saved enough for an ipad, and I’ve just signed up for a new phone this month.