The notion of ‘family’ has long been a cornerstone of queer identity and a major new exhibition at the UNSW Galleries explores what ‘being together’ means for different queer subcultures – in Australia, internationally and across time.
The work of more than 20 artists and artist collaborations, along with a series of films, plus material from the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, has been compiled for the exhibition by curators José Da Silva and Kelly Doley.
Perhaps the most visible feature of Friendship as a Way of Life is the foyer of UNSW Galleries, which American artist Macon Reed has transformed into a ‘Dyke Bar’ for the duration of the exhibition. Including a full bar, pool table, neon signs and hand-painted '70s-era wood panelling, the installation is titled ‘Eulogy for a Dyke Bar’ and asks why dyke and lesbian bars are increasingly rare on the gay and queer cultural landscape.
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Among the international contingent for this show are the Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset, famous for their witty installation art designed for public places. Camilo Godoy, a politically motivated New York-based Colombian artist, is exhibiting some of his photographic portraits of friends and lovers. Collaborative work by transfeminist artist AK Burns and AL Steiner (Chicks on Speed) is in the show, as is work by US artists ALOK and Mark Aguhar.
Australian artists represented include Frances Barrett, Shannon Michael Cane, Helen Grace, Gavin Kirkness and the AIDS Quilt Project, Dani Marti, Parallel Park (Holly Bates and Tayla Jay Haggarty), Nikos Pantazopoulos and Ella Sutherland.
In addition to the exhibition, an online talk series called Flesh Meet is covering topics such as alternative club culture in Australia, and online culture and communication practices. Scholars Dr Kerryn Drysdale and Dr Sophie Robinson will discuss the rise, decline and transformation of lesbian and queer social scenes over two talks on September 17 and 24; digital media scholar Paul Byron online queer spaces on October 1; and DJ Sezzo will reflect on the ideas and intentions behind her QPOC (queer people of colour) focussed experiential club nights on October 15. Before all this, co-curator José Da Silva will sit down for an in-conversation with artist Dani Marti on September 3 to discuss his work and his major video installation that navigates issues of power and care in human relationships. Check out the full online talks program here.
The exhibition runs until November 21.