Antwerp Queer Arts Festival 2015
From Monday August 3rd until Sunday August 9th, Antwerp will transform into one big, vibrant rainbow. It’s Antwerp Pride again and you’ll know it! This is Antwerp sends two locals to check it out and report to you. Vincent, member of the local LGBT community, will take Ikram under his wing.
AQAF at Gallery Verbeeck - Van Dyck
Art and visual culture often embody deep-rooted ideas, emotions and necessities amongst other things in society. In China, art is the beating heart of queer activism. So, as my first ever participation in the whole pride happening, I was very much excited to discover a little piece of China in my own hometown. Vincent, Jonas and I visited the Gallery Verbeeck – Van Dyck to let our eyeballs goggle at the Exhibition: Queer Arts In China.
Eye of the Ikram
On a bright sunny day I found my way to Galerie Verbeeck – Van Dyck for the exhibition of the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival, which was a novelty for me. Big-eyed me met Vincent and Jonas in front of the gallery and upon their arrival we made our way into the exhibition.
One of the exposing artists, Yuan Yuan, was so kind to stick around for a couple of minutes to answer our questions. In her photo series ‘At this moment, I want to be’, Yuan Yuan portrays in a most playful way a very serious matter with a wink to politics. By making collages out of people’s identity cards in combination with visualizations of the gender they truly wish to adopt, Yuan Yuan manages to bring a strong message forward that really stuck with me. Identity is fluid. Whether we’re talking about gender, religion, profession, etc. Identity is an ever-changing concept.
Stijn Deklerck, curator and our guide at the exhibition, showed us around and told us a bit more about each and every artist. Where some artwork made me giggle a bit, other works left me with a bewildered look on my face. But an overall feeling of profound admiration for the grit and spunk every artist puts in their work stuck with me throughout the exhibition.
It was then and there I realised that things I find self-evident in my day-to-day life, other people struggle for each and every day all over the world. Exhibitions like these open up the dialogue to a broader audience.
The exhibition showed me the beauty of the struggle that accompanies the inspiration of the artworks. The works show a promise of new dialogues, new perception and so on.
But of course, that’s just my perception.
After visiting the AQAF exhibition with Ikram, it was time to head to Troubleyn. It's the workspace of Jan Fabre, one of Belgium's most famous (and controversial) artists. My boyfriend Jonas and my good friend Matteo accompanied me.
We treated ourselves with a Queer Cocktail (vodka, Cointreau, homemade berry ice tea and sparkling water) and we were in for a real treat with the documentary "What's in a name" from Eva Küpper and the dance performance / monologue "Drugs Kept Me Alive" created by Jan Fabre and performed by Tony Rizzi.
What's in a name
"What's in a name" tells the story of Rose Wood aka Jon Cory, a famous and infamous New York drag queen. Both her gender challenging performances as the human underneath the wig get their rightful moment in front of the camera. During the 3 years of filming, the border between Rose and Jon gets vaguer and we get an intimate look into the fluidity of identity.
The director Eva Küpper, who is Belgian, was present at the screening. She explained she basically went to film school to be able to bring this story. She already had a close contact with the performer when he was still a married jewish baker. Quite a different setting than emptying a condom over Leonardo DiCaprio's head, right? (That actually happened, by the way).
Check out the "What's in a name"-trailer here: https://vimeo.com/122203838
Drugs kept me alive.
Jan Fabre wrote the monologue "Drugs Kept Me Alive" specifically for the dancer/performer Tony Rizzi, who has been seropositive since the 90s. Rizzi has danced and performed under the direction of the celebrated choreographer William Forsythe, so I was really excited.
Drugs Kept Me Alive is quite a heavy piece but Rizzi grabbed my attention from the first till the last moment. He portrays a character on the margin of society, trying to avert death with a never ending stream of drugs. It's raw and romantic in the true sense of the word. With pills and powders he runs away from his pain and his faith.
Still, to me it wasn't just about a serpositive person. It made me think of all the escapists and romantics I know, especially the ones who try to find out how alive they can feel with drugs in their bodies.
Find the full Antwerp Queer Arts Festival program on www.queerarts.be
Text by Ikram Annouri en Vincent Van Reusel
Pics by Ikram Annouri en Vincent Van Reusel