So much horror this week leading to renewed xenophobic fervour and harassment and terrorising of already marginalized and oppressed peoples and so this blog post is just inspiring artists that make us feel a lot of things and work tirelessly to deconstruct cis-het-ablebodied-colonial narratives of otherness.
Disclaimer: If you are emotionally exhausted from living your life on the margins and from calling out and calling in and educating people constantly you may wish to jump the next paragraph and land amongst the inspiring and she/he/they-roic artists further down the post.
All over the world people are reeling. Attacks in Baghdad, Beirut, and Paris call forth our mourning. We are witnessing the ramped up xenophobic violence of national policy regarding refugee admittance, Islamophobia, and acts of terror perpetrated against religious institutions and individuals. These attacks have (rightly) received much media attention, forming a swollen node in the ongoing tales of terror and injustice that continue to plague us: continued devaluation and violence against Black and Indigenous people here in North America; immigration detention centres; alarming incarceration rates targeting people of colour; the mounting number of murdered transpeople (especially people of colour); unrelenting micro-aggressions whose weight it is beyond me as a white person to imagine; failures to update physical and social infrastructure to support differently abled bodies; and the list goes on, and on, and on. But the emotional capacities of artists and activists the world over continue to give us hope and inspire us to toil on, and on, and on.
So with these things broiling as they always are, today I am linking to some artists that inspire us to interrogate our conceptions of otherness; artists who lift up the voices and faces of their complex communities and their own narratives with the inescapable understanding that in a climate of oppression, the personal is absolutely and always political:
**There are so, so many artists who I’d like to list here. Some of them are my friends, near or distant, and some are folx I follow from afar. I will continue to sprinkle blog entries with these glittering gems. Artist descriptions are lifted from the sites that are linked to.
“DARKMATTER is a trans south asian performance art duo comprised of Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. Based in New York City, DarkMatter regularly performs to sold-out houses at venues like La MaMa Experimental Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, and the Asian American Writer’s Workshop. DarkMatter was recently part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival as well as the Queer International Arts Festival. Known for their quirky aesthetic and political panache, DarkMatter has been invited to perform at stages and universities across the world.” from darkmatterpoetry.com
Here is a truly beautiful recent interview with Alok Vaid-Menon of Darkmatter
“Political conflict, social activism and cultural displacement are some of the themes woven through the work of Jamelie Hassan. Whether using watercolour, photography, ceramics or installation, Hassan heightens awareness of one’s sense of geographic, societal and political location, while also suggesting the fragility, tenuousness or relativity of any such sense. Early watercolours reproduce rejection letters relatives received from Canadian immigration officials. Later, during the first Gulf War, Hassan made a billboard of a photo of she had taken in Iraq in the late 1970s, adding the text “Because… there was and there wasn’t a city of Baghdad.” Born to Lebanese immigrant parents in London, Ontario, Hassan studied art in Rome, Beirut and Windsor. Though grounded in the regionally focused London art scene of the 1960s—and having co-founded key area art centres Forest City Gallery and Embassy Cultural Centre—Hassan’s perspective has also been shaped by lifelong international travel. A recipient of Governor General’s Award, Hassan has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario, among other institutions.” from Canadian Art
“Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate and educator. He is the Program Coordinator of the AGO Youth Program, Art Gallery of Ontario. As a visual artist, Syrus works within the mediums of painting, installation and performance to challenge systemic oppression. Syrus’ work explores the spaces between and around identities; acting as provocations to our understandings of gender, sexuality and race.” from syrusmarcusware.com
“Joshua Vettivelu [is] a Toronto-based installation and performance artist. [They are] a graduate of York University’s Visual Art Program. [They] focused [their] studies on sculpture, installation, video and drawing. [Joshua] also completed a minor in Sexuality Studies, focusing on studies about psychoanalysis, masculinity, race and queer desire.” from The Body as a Transparent Scar, an interview with Issue Magazine
“Nabeela Vega is a South Asian gender/queer media artist with an interest in creative organizing. Their expressions utilize photography, performance and moving image to explore post 9/11 narratives that intersect with South Asian diasporic experiences.
Vega maintains the personal is political- which expands the work from an orientalist lens into considering its role in digital, intimate and banal spaces. Aesthetically, these narratives follow several tropes. Most commonly: persona, gold and autobiography, to build and communicate with the viewer.
Their work has been exhibited nationally, internationally & in publications like The Boston Globe, The Washington Post & The Aerogram. Vega is creator of VIX: Virtual International Exchange & 1/2 of RQP: Radical Queer Possibilities.” from nabeelavega.com
“Coco Guzman—AKA Coco Riot—is a Spanish-born queer artist based in Canada who uses play as a tactic to fight back against systematic oppression. Guzman believes that unearthing the buried histories of the past is key to discovering our “secret present,” and in the power of play to transform the world we live in. And after stepping into the artist’s fantastic, imaginary story worlds, where boundaries slip away as characters weave their own colorful destinies, it’s easy to fall under Guzman’s spell, catching their contagious sense of hope for a better future.” from Queer Artist Coco Riot Talks Myths, Minotaurs by Lizzy Hill