Queer Transgressions

Powerhouse, Brisbane pridebrisbane.org.au/qt 30 June - 30 July 2000

Maybe it was because I got totally slaughtered at the opening or maybe it was because I was premenstrual when I viewed Queer Transgressions (QT) again. Or then again perhaps it had something to do with the fact that in-between both visits QT catalyzed an intensity of emotion in me. The works seemed so personal - alienation, restriction, categorization, pain, survival, protection all coursed through me as I moved among the many levels of the newly opened Powerhouse's combination of distressed architecture and slick bright slabs of colour. The QT exhibition, forum and web site, curated by Edwina Bartleme, comprise part of the 11th Annual Brisbane Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Pride Festival and are marked by a conscious inclusion of race, class and ethnicity. The works include photographs, multi-media installations, CD-roms, web work, computer manipulated prints and mixed media constructions.

Sight, in the Sack's book I've been reading, is not mere looking but understanding what you are looking at. Patients whose sight is restored after years of blindness experience confusion when visually confronted with the fact that a dog in profile is the same animal face to face. The brain, however, will retrain itself to process sight through tactility. Thus only after touching an object, then looking at it again were the patients finally able to 'see' it.

At QT I had a strong impression of the spaces in-between - the transgressions alluded to in the title of the exhibition are not a journey to a fixed point but a departure from the suffocating conservatism that brands queer bodies immoral. This is not an interpretation of the body as a site to be seen but the body as a site to be entered or noticed by its absence. This is most particular in the installations where there is a sense that the rooms had just been vacated by a bodily presence that had left behind impressions and traces of its occupation of that space. Hunt and Costigan present a dramatic installation, OSTEO-TATIOUS Exhibit A that made me think of Frankenstein's laboratory. Industrial sounds come from a huge machine that takes up most of the space while on an operating table rotting jelly babies lay encased in plastic. In the corner is a little workstation complete with a motorcycle postcard on the wall and on the edge of the machine lies a vase of dried flowers - the homely touches of the mad scientist who has just popped out for a sandwich or maybe a tipple at the Powerhouse bar.

I loved Shaun Western's camp and colourful virtual hypertext journey in Steffella. My delirious impression was of Pink Flamingos embarking on a choose-your-own-adventure for a fluffy duck but instead opting for a return to home with a seriously trippy version of Doris Day . As I read Steffella's story and clicked on the words to negotiate my adventures I felt as if I was compelled to examine the path that I took to get to know her.

Getting-to-know-you was also a key issue of Marco Masci's black and white family portrait that had been juxtaposed with a coloured duratran taken from gay male porn. The context located the subject for me - but I found myself wondering about the extent to which their position was indicative of their identity. According to the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle, any object can be measured either by its path or position but any method of measurement will have an effect, perhaps indiscernible, and therefore any result will be uncertain.

Jose Da Silva also disrupts fixed states of evidence in an installation entitled, Acorda, Coracao (wake up, dear), that he describes as a personal museum of the abject queer male body and its subjection to hate crimes in a homophobic society. The sexy and scary sculptural bodices from Selene Cochrane have dangerous bosoms which floated on fabrics twisted to a ghostly thinness. My instinct to embrace them was sensibly curtailed by a recognition that the spiked bosoms would surely be associated with pain (and, after all, how inappropriate it is to hug art at an exhibition). The overprotected outside of the sculptures sent my imagination speeding to ponder what might be behind such armament; to what might actually be going on inside this body so heavily defended?

Linda Dement tells it like she sees it. Finally I felt confronted by something that dared to deal with the anger of women, that dared to shove in your face the things that aren't meant to be talked about in nice society - but which desperately need to be, right now. In her R-rated CD-rom I entered a woman through her wounds. Part slasher movie, part surrealist dream (yes the famous surrealist eyeball slashing kept rushing in to my head when I looked at this), In my Gash tossed me into a body and all its demons. These are all the things we can't see - the deep incomprehensible wounded insides. Freya Pinney's tongues cast in resin were at first titillating to view but the frozen remembered moment of speech set me thinking about the disturbing power of the tongue, even in repose.

Downstairs near the Visy Theatre a laminated copy of the Courier Mail article about church groups who had expressed shock over a postcard for the performance, Go by Night (which shows part of a guy's bum), is proudly displayed. The article discussed the church groups' complaints about plays "promoting a homosexual lifestyle" at the Powerhouse. Ironically, of course, Go by Night is about homophobia. Nearby are Ray Cook's manipulated photos printed on acetate that tell the story of imaginary queer love affairs in the ancient world. These images prompted me to think about so many omitted histories, making me furious at the immoral system of morality which dares to dehumanize and deny queer identity. Bring on more powerful exhibitions like this, so blind bigots can learn to see love from every angle.