Super Secret Queer Performance Fest You’re Not Supposed to (But Def’ Should) Know About
One of Culturebot’s perennial fascinations is the idea of “curation.” There’s only a few “curators” of contemporary performance in this country, and they wield–for better or worse–an out-sized influence over the field in the US. Quite honestly, in thinking of our little bailiwick of the performing arts world, we’re mainly dealing with the programming choices of maybe ten people in the US. Thinking super-expansively, we could maybe come up with 30 or so people, in North America, who make this work happen as programmers.
But in the US, most curators are working collaboratively within a system to support and present work. Your average festival or season line-up is a collection of emerging artists someone wants to give a leg-up to, co-commissions and collaborative tour opportunities, and the occasional passion project some curator had to fight for to make happen. Curation in the American sense is a matter of supporting the creation of work, and it’s a huge amount of negotiation and give-and-take. Rarely do audiences actually learn which artists a given curator had to fight tooth and nail for (and rarer still do we learn about the artists they wanted to bring but couldn’t). This is the American system, and the terrible truth of it is that it’s extremely dependent on the largesse of foreign governments, whose funding makes international tours to the US possible, to say nothing of the way American companies are dependent on European commissions to create the work they want. It’s hard to think of somewhere else the US has sacrificed more in terms of its national sovereignty than in the arts, and this–I promise you–will be a subject of further discussion in these digital pages over the coming year. If we can’t even grant visas, where the fuck does that leave us?
But this June, New York will get a taste of another sort of curation, one that sadly, most American curators don’t get to engage in, with Queer New York, a festival exploring (if my understanding of the vision is still correct) the idea of the “queer body.” Are you supposed to know about this yet? Honestly, I’m not sure. But you read Culturebot, so here’s the deal: and Zvonimir Doborovic (have we profiled him? why yes!), a European curator based in Zagreb, and Andre von Ah, another European curator, have teamed up to bring us a true queer performance festival in June.
Again, I might be mistaken in my expression of the curatorial subject of this festival, but the point remains: this is an unusual occurrence. Aside from, perhaps, FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival, I can’t think of another festival or series of presentations that actually was curated with the latitude to challenge audiences through the way it arranged and presented work. What Zvonko is bringing to NYC isn’t just another festival of gay performing artists; it’s a deep and abiding challenge to the heteronormativity of the performance space. Seeing these shows isn’t a matter of “supporting” gay artists, it’s dealing with and exploring the necessary conclusions of the queer world-view not just through the individual works, but by looking at the way the works create a dialogue between one another.
Which is exciting, even beyond liberating queer performance from the narrow confines it finds itself in. This is an opportunity for audiences to be exposed to a true curatorial vision and a deep exploration of the issues raised by a particular theoretical approach to a topic of much broader conversation. That may sound very esoteric, but quite the opposite: Queer New York is laying the groundwork for a dialogue broader than any individual artist or individual work, but rather a discourse with a broader culture than can only stem from a curatorial approach–relatively free of the standard American funding BS–that asks us deal with the implications of queer realities.
The festival is already committed to some of the more challenging artists this author has seen over the past couple years. David Wampach. Francois Chaignaud/Cecilia Bengolea. This, in an environment that presents existential challenges to the system of arts promotion we all enjoy.
I find it hard to fully express my enthusiasm for this festival, mainly because I’ve been speaking with these promoters for over a year now, and I know more than I’m supposed to say about these events. This is a passionate labor of love, and a truly unique experience for American (er, well, NYC) audiences that points to a more complex, more dynamic, future. Culturebot is wholly supportive, and expect more info from us in the near future.
Until then, bookmark this website and get ready to have your minds blown.
Oh, and what’s that? You can make all this happen? Why yes, you can! See below for the Out magazine fundraiser this Tuesday: