THE LIVERPOOL (OFFICIAL)BIENNIAL(2012):INCLUDED OR EXCLUDED?THE PERSPECTIVE OF A GAY MAN. BY STEVEN BENSON

The themes of the official Biennial programme is the stranger, the guest, the host,hospitality: whether outsiders (to cities mainly) are welcomed or not; with a concomitant book “The Unexpected Guest:Art, Writing and Thinking on Hospitality”(ed Tallant and Domela, 2012). My initial reaction to this theme and the reality/make-up of the exhibits was to be stunned and then offended(I must make clear I am excepting the Liverpool INDEPENDENTS Biennial from these remarks)that  not ONE exhibit in the whole official calendar is by anyone lgbt or even REFERS  to anyone lgbt or the plight of lgbt refugees/asylum seekers(of which there must be as many in Liverpool as ANY major UK city). The risible but sad irony of this in a massive art festival about hosts, welcome(or non-welcome), guests, etc,within our city in particular but also worldwide, was almost palpable to me. I checked through the official brochure; NOTHING. Similarly ironically, Liverpool is a city with the only OFFICAL(as in backed by the Council) lgbt quarter (though they call it the Stanley Street Quarter, but it DOES have Rainbow-coloured street sign and events which are obviously, if not overtly, meant to cater to the lgbt population of the city).As I understand it , one of the biggest themes of the exhibition is how cities, especially Liverpool, welcome “unexpected guests”: thus there are lots of installations/artworks around immigration(exclusion AND welcome), which is, obviously a thing in itself to be welcomed!That is, issues of hospitality towards people from non-dominant “groups” but NOTHING re lgbt people, either as a part of the community of this or any other city or, in opposition, in relation to the issue of exclusion by some individual /communities within the larger community. Then some people say , of marginalised communities, “why do they go and seperate themselves out”; oh, I cannot THINK why.(This is sarcasm.)Wow!

I sat in the Bluecoat, “Hub” of the official Biennial, feeling dejected and angry.

I thought I would ransack the book mentioned earlier of art and writings; and there are no OVERT, ie NAMED references to lgbt issues; but some kind of solace/lessening of my angry and  excluded feelings started to be engendered. On p.280 was an essay by Rosi Braidotti “Powers of Affirmations”(op. cit), which basically employs a deleuzian-guattarian critique of hegemonies to build a powerful, transforming case for “nomadic subjectivity”, arguing for “non-unitary”, “open, multi-layered and relational ” subjectivity; in other words,having an ACTIVE internal and EXternal DIALOGUE(as a minorised subject) with the socially constructed hegemonocally dominated  world, instead of being neither “structureless nor adrift”; so not wandering in alienation , dejection and thus ABjection but “fluidly” moving between worlds, societies, attitudes(the hardest one to do because that involves education of some  intransigent people and can be scary)and taking the BEST from all of them; it DOES, I must say, duck the issue of not being pro-actively included and welcomed; the lgbt person has to do all the running, but it is a creative, self-empowering approach, much much better than the condition into which it is easy to fall -of passive subject, the UNwelcomed, the alienated.

So this dialogue necessitates political agency on the part of the pro-active lgbt(or other minority) protagonist, in the form of political lobbying/involvement in law-changing, for instance, or political agency through personal interaction with NON-lgbt people so that a position of congruence of the inner and outer (“social”) self very gradually evolves, via this dialogue or sometimes educative process(which is not ALWAYS. fortunately, necessary); so it is how we CREATIVELY, as lgbt people, MEDIATE the world, which can at times exclude or ignore us(or “it just didnt occur to me”- to welcome lgbt people type -attitude, which is at best heterosexist and , at worst, homophobic). This essay also addresses issues similar to Munoz’s(“Cruising Utopia”, 2009) in the idea of the Derridean “trace” from past to  future, where things are improved, via political or personally political agency,leading to (greater) equality in respect to all equal opportunities issues. So, despite the lack of any references to lgbt people(but many-rightly so-mentions of gender and race issues),owing partly to this essay,I felt somewhat INcluded again and healed.

I then attended an installation which was a kind of vox populi of whether people felt welcome or not in their own city(eg one man was alienated by the new shopping development{“Liverpool One”}, FROM his city). I was brave enough to raise the lgbt exclusion issue with one of the installation’s designers ,( or she was possibly just a Bluecoat attendant), who was welcoming of an lgbt perspective on the issue; and encouraged me to make my own video response on the subject.

By then I had already complained about this glaring issue of omission, and its adjunct of gross irony, to the “Hub” official biennial staff/volunteers, who were receptive sans committing themselves, but gave me the name and mobile number of the Director of the official Biennial!

By this time I felt not nearly so angry and abject; I had used my own personal-is-political-agency in two dialogical ways in order to feel less excluded. I now no longer feel a burning need to complain officially. So thanks to Rosi Braidotti, the catalyst for myself to become the CREATIVE- rather than abject, aimlessly wandering- SUBJECT, a proactive, interracting part of this festival of exhibitions on these self-same themes of welcome, inclusion/exclusion, guest/stranger.

On a final note, there turned out to be one  exhibit , in one small, but hilarious istallation, a caravan filled with pictures of quirky UNwelcoming sights/written notices/urban dereliction, which included a postcard, photographed as outside some kind of business which said “no women,faggots, paedophiles”{spelt wrongly}”; so there turned out to be ONE exhibit which made the point that lgbt people can be excluded or discriminated against!Upto now-and for different reasons-it turned out to be, ironically, the most OVERTLY INCLUSIVE installation there, even though-validly- making the point lgbt were sometimes EXcluded; but at least they thought about it! So I left feeling even MORE healed and at least ACKNOWLEDGED!

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
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2 Responses to THE LIVERPOOL (OFFICIAL)BIENNIAL(2012):INCLUDED OR EXCLUDED?THE PERSPECTIVE OF A GAY MAN. BY STEVEN BENSON

  1. Pingback: (GAY)SEX, SADO-MASOCHISM,VOYEURISM IN THE OFFICIAL LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL!BY STEVEN BENSON | towardsutopia

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