Posted By Sandra Alland

The lovely Karen Miranda Augustine has interviewed me for The Artist's Business Digest, about my micropress sandraslittlebookshop.

In other news, you can now download Zorras' songs online from CD Baby!

In still other news, here is my article in Xtra! about the censorship of queer and trans art in Glasgow.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Wow. Just got back from a much-needed break in Manchester. Unfortunately I couldn't walk as much as I would've liked to (because of post-stressful-employment pain), but wow. Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism is perhaps the best show I have ever seen. Dr Patricia Allmer curated this exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, and has put together an incredible historical collection, as well as mind-blowing art by amazing international artists. There's Frida Kahlo, Kay Sage, Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, Eileen Agar, Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington, Meret Oppenheim & Dorothea Tanning, just for starters. Honestly, it was stunning stunning stunning to see these artists collected so extensively in one place. There are paintings, photographs, films, collages, exquisite corpses, sculptures & books. You really get a sense of what was going on in surrealist art, of how important these women were to that movement, and to art and feminist thought in general.

It was also wonderful to see the work of highly talented artists who have been even more under-exhibited than those mentioned above -- mainly from Argentina, Mexico, India and former Czechoslovakia. Lola Alvarez Bravo, Leonor Fini, Remedios Varo, Ithell Colquhoun, Emila Medkova and Eva Swankmajerova, to name a few. The show gave me a sense of lineage that I've never felt before... this is work by, and often for, women -- and work of such high calibre that relegating it to a separate category (or footnote in the margins of history) is ridiculous. There's also work that explores gender identity in a less binary way (as surrealism itself explored the world beyond binaries), allowing a transgender narrative to enter into art history... if only quietly in the work of Cahun. Yay for Patricia Allmer! Continues to 10 January, do not miss it!

The experience was bittersweet, though, for as you travel throughout the remainder of the gallery everything remains as male as always. The gallery shop has only one small and temporary section of women's and feminist books; the rest of the shop continues to promote male artists through books, posters and calendars. There was one calendar of Tamara de Lempicka, though...

In other art news, Manchester Art Gallery's show of Francisco Goya's etchings The Fantasies, The Disasters of War and The Follies is also stunning, as is the accompanying installation, The Disasters of War, by the Chapman Brothers. As always, the Chapman Brothers' gruesome detail of the horrors of war and occupation left me feeling sad, sick and slightly faint. Goya's work didn't help much... but what more fitting way is there to feel when faced with the atrocities of war. Sadly, despite Goya's fame, these works were not shown or published in his lifetime because of their controversial or disturbing subject matter. Luckily Manchester Art Gallery respects its audience enough to show these still-disturbing and extremely violent works, and without any condescending warnings. This is even more impressive when you consider MAG is known as one of the most child-friendly galleries in the UK... but perhaps it's only Scotland that is so paternalistic with its art-goers as to limit or label what they see?

In accessibility notes, MAG is great... there are audio guides for the shows and large-print versions of text available, plus you can book BSL tours upon request. You can even borrow a wheelchair if you need to! Some of the works could have been hung lower for people using chairs to view, but overall they score four stars for accessibility.

Okay, back to bed with me.


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Here's a link to the Times article on Turner-prize winner Douglas Gordon's recent vow to "never accept a public commission in Scotland again."

www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6946006.ece

I thought it fit in well with yesterday's post... governmental paternalism seems to be quite the problem in Scotland these days.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Zorras play Noisy Nights on Monday 7 December at 8pm at the Traverse Theatre bar on Lothian Road. Free admission to this cool night of new music experiments, with a focus on composition.

In less fun news, my experience working for GoMA and Culture and Sport Glasgow (and without my knowledge Glasgow City Council) has (among other things) confirmed for me the notion that the government should never ever ever have any direct involvement with the arts. Funding for the arts is of course necessary, but politicians should not have any direct say about the actual commissioning, production or dissemination of art. It's a slippery slope when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. As soon as you let them decide one thing, suddenly they are deciding everything -- not only limiting artists and art itself, but also limiting what the general public can and can't see, or the way in which they see it. For many people (including queers and trans and disabled folk) this is a scary thing in a prejudiced world. Just plain icky.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Last night I went to hear visual artist and activist Del Lagrace Volcano speak about gender, and intersex history, culture & art, at GoMA (a co-production with the Glasgay Festival). The talk was superb, and I urge you to check out Del's work. Sadly, as Del himself pointed out, the evening would have been better attended had GoMA not removed the information from its website in order to avoid controversy. I think it's downright shameful not to promote aspects of the Sh[OUT] LGBTI program -- that GoMA itself planned and commissioned -- because of worry about the reactions of tabloid newspapers and fundamentalists.

This is Del's general artist statement: "As a gender variant visual artist I access 'technologies of gender' in order to amplify rather than erase the hermaphroditic traces of my body. I name myself. A gender abolitionist. A part time gender terrorist. An intentional mutation and intersex by design, (as opposed to diagnosis), in order to distinguish my journey from the thousands of intersex individuals who have had their 'ambiguous' bodies mutilated and disfigured in a misguided attempt at 'normalization'. I believe in crossing the line as many times as it takes to build a bridge we can all walk across." It really is about time the world woke up and recognised that there are more than two genders out there, and (as Del pointed out), that most of us do not actually know what gender we belong to even in the supposedly scientific way (i.e. Have any of you had your chromosomes tested?)

In less important and revolutionary news, I finally took my friend N's advice and started watching True Blood, that American vampire tv show. I've always had a thing for vampire art (and also some less-than-brilliant vampire movies), so I thought I might vaguely dig it. But it's actually really exceptional for a tv show! The characters are interesting, and the idea of good and evil is complexly presented. Fascinating echoes of both black and gay liberation movements are constantly present because of the plot around vampires "coming out of the coffin" and demanding equal rights. Also vampires will screw anyone, they are so open-minded ;-) But I think perhaps what I like best (apart from the sex, blood and gore haha) is the fact that for once an American television show is not set in New York, Chicago or LA. It's set in the south, in Louisiana. It's refreshing to see the south depicted, and not just as a place full of rednecks (haha, rednecks! Vampires. Red necks. Ha.) Two of the main characters are a supersmart black woman and a supersexy out black gay man, and there are also several strong, intelligent white women (as well as ongoing comments about class). I think the show does much to counterract the ridiculous depiction of the south as being full of nothing but uneducated, right-wing fundamentalists.

Oh, and a quick update on ongoing entertainment on the Subcity reviews forum (see my last two posts)... quite fascinating that many of the nasty comments -- about Zorras being sadly unknown on the internet and deservedly linked with Spanish porn, about it not being racist to be bored by foreign languages, and about whether we "even know what misogyny means" -- have been mysteriously removed from the forum. And replaced by people writing very calmly (and supposedly objectively, ha) about how both Y and I are good on our own, but our fusion just doesn't "meld." And how accusations of racism are "unfair." Again, I don't think this is a superbly important debate (mainly because I don't think these guys are interested in listening), but I thought I'd let you know just for the record, so my earlier comments don't sound out of proportion.


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Ladyfest Edinburgh put on a grand show at The Bowery on Saturday, thanks to them for a superb adventure. And special thanks to the newest Zorra, Ariadna Battich, for all her amazing video and technical work. We would be so fucked without you, Ari! And we'd be having less fun too...

Yesterday I passed by GoMA and checked out the exhibit they've mounted in the space where Dani Marti's work was meant to be (see previous entries for info on the cancellation of Marti's show). The first balcony has been used to highlight all GoMA's social justice work in the past (which to me seems a bit like they are protesting too much that they do good work with marginalised communities). The second balcony is slightly more interesting... it features newspaper articles about the Sh[OUT] exhibition, as well as responses from GoMA, artists, curators, gallery visitors and (other) LGBTI community members. I was impressed that GoMA presented the statements of people who were accusing them (or more specifically Culture and Sport Glasgow and City Council) of censorship and homophobia. However, the information still seems quite biased towards the gallery, as well as incomplete or inaccurate in places. GoMA maintains that Marti's work was never censored, but the reasons for rejecting his work keep changing, and in the end seem quite flimsy. Also, I still cannot grasp why a major gallery would care so much about, or even think about reacting to, what The Daily Mail says. This is the paper that yesterday said refugees are riding a "gravy train" and wasting millions of taxpayers' pounds. If something is queer or trans, they are going to find a way to make it into "porn at the cost of taxpayers." A better strategy is to target positive publicity from papers with a brain and a conscience. But this has not really happened, and from what I understand from Sh[OUT] participants, they were told their shows would be promoted LESS, in order to avoid controversy...argh. Hopefully things will improve, but it seems there is no real dialogue continuing between GoMA and the LBGTI advisory committee to Sh[OUT].

Here are two recent updates in The Guardian regarding the situation: www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/sep/22/goma-censorship-row and  www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/sep/29/goma-shout-exhibition

In other news, I saw El Nino Pez (The Fish Child), the newest film by stellar Argentine filmmaker Lucia Peunzo (creator of the amazing XXY). See both films if you can. Puenzo is an amazing director (and writer), and both films also feature the stunning actress, Ines Efron. El Nino Pez is the unlikely love story between a middle-class Argentinian girl and the native Paraguayan girl hired as her housekeeper. It's stunning.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Cachín Cachán Cachunga! just keeps getting better and better! Last night both Stuart Crawfrod and Pat Cunningham had their debut performances, and both were stellar! Crawford's inspired Nick Cave-esque singing was accompanied by his excellent and creepy photos. Cunningham's poetry was accompanied by gorgeous drawings by Rabiya Choudhry. We were also treated to a new film by Anna Urbanowska and dance by Lily. Zorras performed two new poem/song-like entities, and people seemed to dig them. Yay for Cachín! More queer and trans poetry, music, dance, video and photography next month. Info here.

In other news, here's a Guardian article about the censorship of queer art at GoMA (and elsewhere...)

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Zorras are in the current issue of Diva (The Fat Issue, yay!) in the Queer Tribe section.

In other news, we went to the opening of Dani Marti's show last night on Parnie Street in Glasgow. The Glasgay! gang have put on a fabulous show, despite not being able to do the planned show at GoMA. I was really moved by many of the films, which are primarily of men lying in bed talking about intimate subjects. I really cannot believe these films were cancelled at GoMA, and that one of the main "reasons" given was that one man talks about doing drugs. These are beautiful, important films about HIV+ gay men. They are a celebration of life, and of the bravery of these men to speak openly about difficult subjects in Scotland.

Protests against the removal of Dani's work continue, piles of red scouring pads (hand-made by African women in support of HIV+ people in Africa) are being left as reminders around Glasgow. 

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

I'm trying to make my blog more accessible to the visually impaired by using a bigger font, but my stupid provider, Doteasy, first of all limits the number of words I can use in a blog entry (annoying), and secondly limits the words according to their size (bigger font = shorter entries only). So if I want to be accessible I'm not allowed to say very much. For more info on the annoyances of digital accessibility (for creators and visitors of sites) go to the blog of deaf and disabled artist, Alison Smith.

Here's an excellent article by Jennie Kermode on the ongoing problems regarding the reported censorship of Dani Marti's work by Glasgow Culture and Sport.www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/feature.php

In other news, I promised more thoughts on great Canadian stuff I've been reading. So next in line is Stuart Ross's new book of short stories, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog (Freehand Books). I love this book. I devoured it in a couple of hours, then read it again. Each story is a bizarre, surreal voyage. As usual, Ross moves you from the hilarious to the tragic in two words, and leaves you not quite sure how you ended up crying. I especially love "Three Arms Less" (an unusual meditation on war and race), "Me and the Pope" (where the Pope comes to crash at Ross's apartment during his visit to Toronto), and "Language Lessons... with Simon and Marie!" (a parody on learning a foreign language, in a war zone). The book has numerous references to war and its absurdities, particularly the Contras and Nicaragua, that leave you with a chill. I said "as usual" above, but perhaps actually Ross's short stories are emotionally scarier than his poetry, and not less funny exactly (because they are still really funny), but a more edgy kind of funny. A funny with something waiting behind it you're not sure you're ready for...

Speaking of war zones, I watched El Norte, the 1983 independent film by Gregory Nava, about two indigenous Guatemalans who flee to Mexico, then the United States, after their family is slaughtered for planning a strike. It's a stunning film, and shows the brutalities illegal immigrants face to get to, and then also survive in, the supposed Land of the Free. It's sad to see how little has changed... if it weren't for the production values I wouldn't necessarily have known I was watching a film from 25 years ago.

xox


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art has been the centre of much drama this year. A quick background to catch you up:

1. The LGBTI exhibition for Sh[OUT], GoMA's fourth Social Justice programme and exhibition, started last spring. There was some mild "outrage" from crap "media" The Daily Mail (like the Enquirer in North America, only local crap reporting), about a Robert Mapplethorpe photo from the 1970s being "pornography." This was no shock, as such papers always write this kind of shite. Nonetheless, GoMA and the Council took it VERY seriously. Which was perhaps the beginning of the problems which have compounded until now.

2. Glasgow City Council also banned all minors and schools (including high schools!) from seeing the exhibition, which -- let's be frank -- is really quite tame. People showed up in droves because of the "shocking" works, only to leave somewhat bewildered and disappointed. LGBTI high school students missed an opportunity to feel they are humans (including an exhibition by LGBT Youth Scotland).

3. Made In God's Image opened in the summer, an LGBTI work by various artists and religious groups from Scotland. One work by a lesbian Christian minister invited people to "write themselves back" into the Bible. Some visitors wrote rude things, mostly people criticised religion for denying them human rights. But the Daily Mirror reported that people were being invited to "deface" the Bible. Several right-wing Christian groups, without having seen the show, protested and threatened staff at GoMA, and wrote hate mail to the artists and gallery. In total, GoMA received the small number of 650 letters of complaint, the majority from people who had NEVER SEEN THE SHOW. Several other crap newspapers picked up the story, exaggerating it slightly more each time. Perhaps most importantly, several city councillors received letters and panicked.

GoMA responded by removing the "offensive" pages, placing the Bible under glass, and also posting a sign: "This work may be offensive to some." This is the first time in the history of the gallery that it has modified a work of art. Can it be a coincidence that this took place with an LGBTI work?

(Side note: In the Rendering Gender exhibit one floor down, the comments book  began to fill up with hate-notes against queers and trans people, but nothing was done to censor these comments and they remained until the end of the show...)

4. This brings us to Dani Marti's autumn exhibition, which was to focus on older gay men and issues around HIV and homosexuality in Scotland. The Council, and Culture and Sport Glasgow (who own GoMA), put pressure on GoMA, who in turn decided not to show Marti's films. See this Herald article for some background. They felt it was "bad timing" and that they could not show films that discussed "drugs," sex and HIV. Never mind the audience that might desperately need to see these films. The decision was made that the works MIGHT offend...and who we are not sure... The Daily Mail? The same Christians who were offended by the last work (even though this new work has nothing to do with religion)?

This is the kind of anti-queer hysteria I thought we had battled against (and won) in the 1980s. It is a huge betrayal of the LGBTI community's trust to create a safe space, a "social justice" program, for them -- and then to capitulate to homo- and trans- phobia without a real fight. More news as it comes in. xo


 

 

 
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