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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

"It will be treated like a normal country if it acts like a normal country."

-British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, about Iran, 25 September 2009

Wow. The British government never ceases to wow me with their intelligent and thoughtful approach to international relations.


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Zorras had a fantastic show at Bar Wotever in London! Thanks to Ingo, to the ever-lovely A for putting us up, and to all those lovely strangers who bought our CDs!

This Saturday at 8pm, we play Ladyfest at The Bowery. It's listed under Ladyfest's Big Gig.

In other news, my short film, Slippery, will be screened at London's GayWise Festival on 14 November. And Zorras play the same festival 21 November! Info here.

xo


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Two nights ago, Zorras performed at the Freshers' Week event for Edinburgh University Feminists. EUF are the best! Self-described as "a friendly group of feminists who campaign on issues related to women's rights and breaking gender binaries," they certainly know how to throw a party. The space was great, the mocktails were delicious (I could swear there was rum in that mojito), and the games were hilarious (Throw the Ring Around the Papier Mache Penis, and Pin the Strange Assortments of Body Parts on the Body!). Also, there were crackin readings from the zine, Speak ("an anonymous compilation of sexual experiences"). If you're a student at EU, check them out -- all genders welcome! Next meeting at 1pm on 22 September in the Chaplaincy, and there's a social on the 23rd at 6pm in the Teviot Writing Room.

Speaking of feminists, I've been reading the latest issue of Canada's Open Letter journal, which focuses on women's feminist poetry in Canada. It's quite a tour de force, edited by Kate Eichhorn and Barbara Godard. More indepth thoughts on it soon... it's made me quite emotional in many ways, as it's the first time my work has been been taken seriously in a critical light... and more importantly, the first time this has happened for many writers who have written and/or published way more/longer than me.

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

I finally watched Gus Van Sant's Milk, and it was stupendous. Harvey Milk (the first openly gay elected politician, and also a grassroots activist) was such an inspirational man, and Sean Penn did him justice. But I was sad to realise that -- on top of the tragedy of losing him to an assassination -- times haven't changed nearly as much as one would have thought.

xox


 
Posted By Sandra Alland

Oh me oh my I have so many films and books and magazines to tell you about. I'll have to go through them a wee bit at a time, so as not to tire either of us out... First off, a few Canadian gems you should get your hands on if you can:

1. By a wonderful twist of coincidence, my dear friend B bought me a new art magazine at my favourtie Toronto bookshop, This Ain't the Rosedale Library, from my old friend and co-worker, James Gunn, without realising that James is an Editorial Director of the magazine! It was so great to read One Hour Empire... one of those moments when you realise your friend has been hiding his immense talents from you. OHE is a wondeful mixture of visual art, poetry, fiction, political, philosophical & personal essays, and interviews. It's actually hard to pick favourites out of this issue, it's so jam-packed with fascinating gems. I was particularly blissed to see the article by Amanda Delaney on Dr. Steven Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble ("Challenging the Culture of Fear"), as it discusses the frightening loss of civil liberties in the current "terror" climate through detailing the horrific story of Kurtz's arrest and the confiscation of his work because of its political content. Perhaps most importantly, the article shows us Kurtz's refusal to capitulate, and gives hope for artists who are working in situations of censorship and oppression. Other contributors include bill bissett, Lisa Jarnot, Maria Legault (who has some very fascinating and funny things to say about how the French are situated in Canada), Vid Ingelevics, and Lydia Perovic (who writes eloquently about the fluidity of identity, a piece that spoke to me as a Canadian living elsewhere and for the first time being confronted with my "Canadianness," among other things...) www.onehourempire.com

2. I know poetry gets ignored a lot, and queer activist poetry more so, but it's still surprising that we haven't seen much press about the stunning new book by Toronto's (oops, Guelph's) Tara-Michelle Ziniuk. Her poems and prose-poems are divine; she melds political commentary with personal experience in a striking manner. Somewhere To Run From is Ziniuk's break-up book ... but what makes it extraordinary is that it not only grieves the dissolution and pain of personal relationships, but also her divorce from certain aspects of Toronto's activist community (and from Toronto altogether). She examines difficult subjects with precision and wit, but without coming to any easy answers about blame. Particularly haunting are Ziniuk's assessments of her Jewish heritage through the lens of the horrors of Palestine, and also of her isolation from the very people she used to fight alongside, like Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Here in these meaty poems you'll find a complex analysis of war, class and love, and a poetic and personal bravery we don't often see.

xoxox


 
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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