Creative Quarter was delighted to be invited to a private viewing on the opening night of an exciting new exhibition ‘Performing Gender’ at BACKLIT Gallery Nottingham. The evening was very well attended and sparked a lot of lively conversation on this high profile topic.
There’s broadening awareness that gender can no longer be defined as male and female but instead spans a whole spectrum of identities. A recent survey on sexual identities by YouGov had 31 percent of Millennials identifying as something “other” than straight as compared to only 10 percent of older generations
Conversations about the rise in sexual fluidity often focus on the transformative effect such anti-identities have on people who would have traditionally identified as straight. With the stigma of queerness removed, why wouldn’t men and women act on same-sex desires or simple curiosities? The current move toward sexual fluidity is happening hand in hand with recent strides in trans visibility through mainstream TV programmes such as the Emmy-winning show Transparent.
The timing of this excellent exhibition is very appropriate and is a ‘must see’ for anyone who would like to experience a range of perspectives expressed through beautiful audiovisual works.
The exhibition brings together audio-visual artworks of 8 artists from across the world and explores new perspectives on gender and identity in contemporary art.
As you move through the gallery, you will enter 8 quite distinct and different spaces that showcase the individuality of the artists and enable you to focus on their unique ways of interpreting gender and identity. The works raise many questions around the physical and emotional challenges of gender assignation and the importance of being freed from the confines of societal conditioning.
The exhibition features the work of Jake Moore a Nottingham artist based at BACKLIT studios who is presenting a new video commission Beyond the Water’s Edge. Jake’s stunning images focus on the digital construction of a new body, referencing the heterosexual ‘alpha male’ archetype as it awakens within a boundless ocean – a simulation of the unconscious mind – and explores the relationship he holds with his own sexuality and homoerotic desire. On Saturday 10 June, 1pm – 2pm, at the BACKLIT Gallery, Jake will be talking about his influences and processes of creating computer generated imagery with curator Matthew Chesney (Director of BACKLIT)
Ana Mendieta was a Cuban artist whose work represents the often painful conditions of human existence, which she investigates in self-experiments. Sweating Blood is a 3 minute audio-visual work that shows her head in close up. Blood collects on her forehead and begins to trickle down slowly, as she meditatively lives through a seemingly painful condition. The simplicity of this exhibit is largely what makes it so mesmerising and thought to provoke as it focuses attention on unpleasant experiences that we would typically take for granted without question.
Matthew Barney is an American artist who works in Sculpture. Cremaster 1 is one of a series of 5 feature length films in which Barney uses the descension of the cremaster muscle (which raises and lowers the testicles) as a symbol for the onset of male gender and portrays the organism’s struggle to resist gender definition. This exhibit bravely tackles one of the biological aspects of gender identity and the inevitability of evolving into a male or female form, from a seemingly neutral origin.
Marianna Simnett is an artist based in London who completed her BA at Nottingham Trent University in 2007 and her MA at the Slade School of Art in 2013. In her 26 minute video, Blood, she portrays how emotions adhere to notions of blood and what it represents, alternating between the confines of a sick-bed and a reverberant mountain landscape. It pivots on the figure of Isabel, the young heroine of Simnett’s earlier companion work, The Udder. This exhibit encourages quiet contemplation as you immerse yourself in Isabel’s world and the world that she experiences in her mind.
Mandy Niewӧhner is a Dutch artist based in London who pushes the boundaries of gender through symbolic language and the assumption of performed identity. Recently, Mandy has created a second self, named Gerrit who in turn has created his own second self, named Maria. Mandy, Gerrit and Maria Niewӧhner are three artists in one body. Whilst in residence at the BSR in Rome they researched Michelangelo’s Last Judgement and by queering the Vatican they transformed themselves into the Holy Trinity as represented in this stunning short video portraying each of the individual artists in beautiful colour and light.
Ryan Trecartin is considered one of the most innovative artists working with video today whose movies unfold like futuristic dreams. In this 28 minute video, Roamie View: History Enhancement (Re’Search Wait’S), Trecartin and his primary creative partner Lizzie Fitch depict a world where consumer culture is amplified to absurd proportions as the characters strive to find meaning in their lives. The striking images and soundtrack for this exhibit make it compelling if at times almost shocking viewing, which represents the turmoil in the minds of many in the younger generation.
David Wojnarowicz was a powerful voice in the New York art scene during the 70’ and 80’s. Fire in My Belly is a 21 minute unfinished film comprising footage shot on a trip to Mexico, integrated with staged scenes of imagery that also appear in his paintings and photographs. These include locomotives and gears to represent industrialisation, religious souvenirs to represent belief systems and fire to represent the force of nature. The imagery in this exhibit is very dramatic and at times quite alarming as it addresses the often very painful consequences of coming to terms with sexual identities that are not accepted by society at large.
Jacolby Satterwhite is a New York based artist whose work merges performance, 3D animation, cross-dressing and his own personal history as a black queer person. Reifying Desire 6 is a 24 minute video in which he presents a surrealist performance in which he was strapped to a harness, taking up Karma Sutra positions with porn star Antonio Biaggi, whilst a giant digitised tree magically carries them around a colourful cosmos. The imagery in this exhibit is exciting and captivating as you travel on the journey with the artist. There is so much encapsulated in the film, it will need several viewing to absorb it and do it justice.
In support of the Exhibition, RuPaul Drag Race star Laganja Estranja will be providing a gender workshop presented by Kitty Tray and performing a piece of original contemporary dance at which responds to the exhibition.
There will also be a series of film screenings around themes of gender identity including Shoot the Sissy by Nando Messiason 16 June and Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston on 23 June.
For more information on these events and to book tickets visit www.backlit.org.uk