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Archive: Queer Politics

Planningtorock-All-Loves-Legal

To state the obvious: this is not a review. I have no taste in music and I have no desire to cultivate a viable critical voice regarding musical authenticity, innovation or their less appreciated opposites. Planningtorock is always seductive and I am always easy. Instead, this is first a brief review of some the reviews of All Love’s Legal followed by a series of questions activated by the new subject, Jam, within the larger project of Planningtorock.

Samuel Tolzmann of Pretty Much Amazing manages to reduce the album to: “45 minutes of ‘Born This Way,’ only it’s also not very catchy.” Fair is fair. Jam borders an excessive amount of sloganeering within the album. Tolzmann grieves her inability to sell him the appeal of ending patriarchy (Trigger Warning: Total Dude Review). But I must say that thoughtful politics rarely stem from music. Emotional politics however, are fed by song and let us for a minute not value former or the latter, instead allowing them to simply be.

For me, the immaturity of these lyrics reflects beautifully the unimaginative present of gay politics and it’s hijacking of human rights dialogue. Reviewers of the album link it with the Sochi Olympics, exotic counties who punish homosexuality with death, and of course the more evolved Western “shift” away from “inhumane and outdated ideas around marriage.” Released within the same year the Associated Press Style Book declared that no human is to be described as illegal, All Love’s Legal must have a more layered intention than simply gay marriage… legality and love are never comfortable in bed together.

How, within the sweeping universality of Jam’s lyrics, can we only relate one singular image of a love that’s possibly illegal? From a gay perspective alone, aren’t there multiple forms of criminalized love? Sex work? Man/Boy? CHEMSEX? Public Cruising? Sero-discordancy? Anonymous monetary domination? Polyamory? Indeed, these are disparate examples but love exists in all of these places regardless the legal positioning of the Nation/State.

Isn’t the idea of a citizen put to death for being homosexual terrifying because it reflects the infinite capacity for violence within and by the Nation/State? A nation putting any citizen to death is the real horror. Isn’t the reading of love by the Nation/State inherently violent regardless homosexual inclusion because the Nation/State requires permanent otherness by its very nature? Doesn’t legal consideration eliminate and manipulate love?

Born_This_WayWho is the ‘you’ Jam speaks to when she says “You can’t illegalize love?” I read it only as a statement to the Nation/State… it’s the only universal application of the lyric that aligns with her utopic message. Indeed the failure to hear anything but a gay agenda in this song, reiterates the lacking imagination regarding a stand against queer oppression in Russia: rather than challenging the laws of our own countries with the aim of making asylum and a path toward citizenship viable to persecuted Russians, we simply held slogan signs in our undies and staged kiss-ins. Challenging the path to citizenship works not only on behalf of queer Russians, but also Syrians and other victims of nationalist violence. Isn’t this equality our goal?

“Love is the one thing that gives life its purpose.” Planningtorock

When law and Nation fail us, love is supposed to sustain us. Are we criminal if it doesn’t? I believe many lives are given purpose outside of love. And love is a slippery slope. The struggle to cultivate, define and maintain measures of authenticity in one’s love life is its accompanying violence: She’s not in love, she’s having an affair. Look at the younger guy with his sugar daddy… he must just want his money. His wife was once a man so actually he’s gay right? Suddenly our most private ‘sustaining’ love-partner relationship brings everyone else’s private lives to be judged and labeled because our love must always be different, and better.

The globalized values of capitalism have fingerprints all over our love lives. We believe we invest in relationships, and that longevity inherently produces more. We believe our children owe us and our parents cheated us. Our friendships become banks of love to withdraw when needed, and store for later while we leave all other love transactions to clear their approval ratings.

Clearly a humanist politics of love as universal doesn’t digest well for me. And a genderless society sounds about as hopeless as believing we no longer have to ‘see race.’ But perhaps now somewhere there is a frustrated lonely teen jamming out in their room to these anthems of refusal. Gender is not just a lie in the scope of the world, gender has a very real gravity and violence in reality… but for a moment maybe our previous teen gender deviant selves would have relished such explicit and catchy belligerent refusals of reality.

Planningtorock’s “All Love’s Legal” is out via Human Level.

Denise Jolly and Sonya Renee are two champion spokenword artists and activists now visiting Europe (dates below). On Thursday 13 February in Berlin, they will have a workshop @ 1730 at Waterloo-Ufer. That same night, Lady Gaby hosts a night of spoken word and poetry with both as special guests.

WORD BANK, the spokenword performance show presents: DENISE JOLLY & SONYA RENEE
Thursday 13 February @ 21:00
Schloss Neuschweinsteiger
Emser Str. 122/123, 12051 Neukölln, Berlin

Denise Jolly Be Beautiful ProjectDenise Jolly is the founder of the Be Beautiful Project, a 30 day visual and public art project that received major international coverage including Huffington Post and Global News Canada.  She is currently the 5th ranked female performance poet worldwide. Denise has taught, performed, and hosted in a wide range of organizations including universities, community centers, and private/public schools. She has also demonstrated a passion and skill for working with student populations and was a past Executive Director of Youth Speaks Seattle. She likes doing great things with amazing people and being moved by art, community and how the two work together.

Sonya Renee The Body Is Not An ApologySonya Renee believes in the life-shifting power of art; its ability to challenge, engage, and heal the human spirit. She is an author, educator, and queer activist who has mesmerized audiences across three continents as well as in prisons, mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, universities, and public schools. In 2011, a terribly frightening act of posting a profile picture of herself in a saucy black corset turned into an empowering unapologetic act of self-love. This founded the international movement The Body is Not An Apology which is transforming people’s relationships with themselves worldwide and attracts attention from publications like New York Magazine.

Denise and Sonya are additionally performing at the following cities:

  • München 10 Feb @ 20h Poetry in Motion, Lyrik Kabinett, Amalienstraße 83a
  • Hamburg 12 Feb @ 20h Best of Poetry Slam, Ernst Deutsch Theater, Friedrich-Schütter-Platz 1
  • Berlin 13 Feb workshop and performance as described above
  • Frankfurt 14 Feb @ 2030h Poetry Slam! Frankfurt, Café 1, FH Frankfurt, Nibelungenplatz 1

 

Nefandus

We’ve already featured artist, activist and filmmaker Carlos Motta here in early 2012 when we posted about his wonderful web-based project “We Who Feel Differently”. His most recent work is the “Nefandus Trilogy”, a series of short films from 2013, which reflect on the way colonialism in South American condemed and punished sexual acts that were seen as “sodomy” based on a Christian moral system. The three films entitled “Nefandus”, “Naufragios” (Shipwreck), and “La visión de los vencidos” (The Defeated) all have a very contemplative approach, combining footage recorded during a trip to the Don Diego river in Northern Colombia and to Lisbon, with spoken text based on historical documents.
Tonight and during the upcoming weekend the triology will be shown the first time as part of the short film program of the Rotterdam Film Festival and after a preview of the films I strongly recommend going there if you have the possibility. There’s no trailer for the whole project, but the festival provides an excerpt from the “Nefandus” short film, which gives a first impression of what this is all about. For more information please check out the artist’s website, the website of the IFFR, where you can also purchase tickets.

Alexander_Geist_by_Merja_Hannikainen800

My buddy Alexander Geist and I just released our second collaboration, “A Woman’s Right to Choose”, a single / art poster with an accompanying music video, in honor of WikiLeaker Chelsea Manning, who was recently sentenced to 35 years in a men’s prison without access to hormone therapy. While preparing for the single release concert (Thursday, December 5 at Monarch, Berlin), Alexander compiled a list of his current YouTubespirations.

1. Tami Tamaki “I Never Loved This Hard This Fast Before”

“I think this record was on of the most enticing things I heard all year, it’s so tenderly raunchy and unexpected, isn’t it? I just want to roll around on that mattress with Tami, hold her to against my chest and whisper, ‘Sing to me lover.’ She can also do really cool magic tricks with coins.”

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The 16th Trans*tagung (trans*-convention) in Berlin is coming up (October 3-6). Luce deLire and Markues spoke about it:

Luce deLire_Slutwalk_ photo: Markues

Luce, you are one of the organizers of the annual Trans*tagung in Berlin. There is an inter*-Tagung as well and I was wondering how it would be to have a gay-tagung, a lesbian-tagung these days or a straight-tagung (if this isn’t the Bundestag) – tell me why do you think there is none of the latter or if there is a need for it?

You are right to pose this question, adressing the difficulties and differences among a diverse crowd which may be called “queer scene”. In the same moment, the question seems a bit weird as there is no proper distinction between those categories. It is not necessarily the case that you are either trans* or gay or inter* or lesbian or. Categories seem to cut through here. There’s room for a lot of different approaches and lived realities at the Trans*-tagung, depending on the workshops we get, responding to our call (extended until 31.08.2013). So if you read this send us stuff. In the same moment, your question also adresses the problem of “safe/r spaces”, community organizing and trans*-politics.

One overview of what trans*-politics could actually be is Dean Spades Video “Impossibility Now”. Please explain for us the specifics of the upcoming Trans*tagung in this broader context?

It’s true, trans*politics are part of broader political landscapes and movements. Spade explains the relationship between neoliberalism/ prison-industrial-compex/ homonationalism/ pink washing and trans*-politics. Important for him is the deconstitution of state power – to replace the penalty system, the police and other given transphobic institutions by collective care and strategies like “listening to each other” and “imagining another world together”. I am not saying that this is the definitive aim of this Trans*tagung – for we never talked about it. I think if trans*politics can achieve to strengthen trans* and queer communities in order to build some solidarity and bring people together so that they can imagine their lifes collectively, we may have won something.

This years motto is “Trans*, schön Fem(me)nistisch!”. How did you choose it and how is it connected to the discussions in the Berlin based scene? How is the strong critique of a group of queer people of color posted prominently around the transgenialer CSD reflected here?

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“For me, queer means radiant darkness, radical love, and a million and one ways to resist and decolonize. Queer is imbued with deep spirituality and sweetness.”

edward_ndopu

Edward (Eddie) Ndopu is a dis/abled queer Afro-politan activist, writer, community organizer and scholar based in Ottawa, Ontario. His work is focussed on topics such as disability justice, queer subjectivities, trans embodiment, black consciousness and anti-colonialism. He first caught my attention with his article “On Azealia Banks and White Gay Cis Male Privilege” (published on the Crunk Feminist Collective blog earlier this year) in which he critically analyzed the power dynamics of the Twitter battle between Azealia Banks and Perez Hilton. To get to know his work better I further recommend:

You can also follow him on Twitter and check out his web presentation “Re-imagining Resistance: Deconstructing Disability Oppression within Social Justice Work” + his video comment on female representation in media to the Represent. project.

<queerocracyThe latest episode of the queer web documentary series Signified features the work of the New York City based queer activist group Queerocracy, which fights agains the criminalization and stigmatization of HIV/Aids. Learn more about the work of Queerocracy on their website, they are also on tumblrFacebook and Twitter.

http://queerocracy.org
http://thisissignified.com

Gay_pride_st_Petersburg

By prosecuting Russian LGTBI organizations under the new “foreign agent law” and with the recent introduction of a Russia-wide law that bans “propaganda of homosexualism”, the Russian goverment has not only made clear that it perceives the country’s queer community as one of its biggest enemies. It has also created an even stronger anti-gay and anti-trans climate in the country by giving homo- and transphobia a legal fundament, which especially hits younger queers and queers that aren’t part of a helping community hard.
I personally don’t believe in stuff like Vodka boycotts or political pressure in conjunction with Olympia 2014 as ways to change the political situation in the country – I have a feeling that these kinds of actions might target the wrong people. I’m also kind of fed up with all the petitions that reach me every day, I have a hard time believing that they will really change the mind of the people they’re addressing.

In my opinion the only way to help the Russian LGTBI community from outside the country and to enable Russian queers to still be able to raise their voice is to support their organizations and the individuals who run them directly. Financially.
Two Russian NGOs especially currently need a lot of money: Coming Out St. Petersburg and the Russian LGTB Network, both based in St. Petersburg. Coming Out especially needs financial support because they just recently have been found “guilty” before a court in St. Petersburg of operating as a “foreign agent” and were fined 500.000 rubles (which is around 15.000 dollars/12.500 Euro). They are now collecting money on their website to pay the fine, the account details can be found here (the link on the website is unforunately broke). To find out more anout this case you can read an interview I did with the organisation’s head of communications on the website of the German Heinrich Böll Foundation.

UPDATE (July 27): Coming Out have announced on Facebook that they have managed to raise enough funds to cover the fines.  

The Russian LGTB Network also faces the thread of being sued under the same law, so they are already collecting money for this likely case. On their Facebook site they also state that donated money will be used to provide activists with judicial aid at court and to keep the organization running. Their acount details aren’t published online, but you can write them an email (fin.manager@lgbtnet.ru) and they will send it to you.

If you don’t have the financial resources to donate right now you can also help in other ways: In another Facebook posting the Russian LGTB Network has made just recently, they emphasize that they also appreciate all sorts of supporting letters and videos:

“Letters of support are also always welcome! Especially when thinking about our activists, some of which are very young, lively and warm letters and video greetings would do wonders. We can share your greetings to our regional divisions and other LGBT organisations in Russia! Especially all video greetings that are easy to forward to the activists and ordinary Russian gays are needed. If possible, please translate the letters and subtitles in Russian.”

They are also looking for people who send them articles and videos from abroad, in which the organisation and its chairperson Igor Kochetkov are mentioned, because they are not able to keep track of everything and in all languages.

Both organizations are really doing a good job in regularly posting the latest news on their websites and Facebook sites. It’s the best alternative to the sensationalist and sometimes degrading stuff especially “Western” newspapers and blogs are publishing on the web right now.

www.lgbtnet.ru
www.comingoutspb.ru

Picture on top: Activist at the gay pride in St. Petersburg, Photo: Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality / Coming Out St. Petersburg

TransParent_Kenny_Corbin

In November 2011, Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard, a 19-year-old trans girl from Detroit, was brutally murdered. A new film project directed by feminist writer and filmmaker dream hampton entitled TransParent – A Story of Loss in a Community Misunderstood now takes a closer look at the still unsolved case, portraying both the individuals behind it and the community in which it took place. A huge part of the project produced by Detroid based poet and queer activist T Miller will be dedicated to Treasure’s mother, who still tries to deal with with the unimaginable loss and shares her own story and the story of her daughter in front of the camera.
hampton, who has had a long career as a successful writer and essayist about hip hop (she was the first female editor at The Source and co-wrote Jay-Z‘s autobiography Decoded) has announced on her tumblr last year that she is “done with hip hop” because of its misogyny. The TransParent project shows that she now focusses more one the perspective of those marginalized by patriarchical structures than on “the power itself” – which is something she just recently did in a very brilliant way with her beautiful video for THEEsatisfaction’s Queens released last year. To support the film project please watch the trailer below and donate on the TransParent Kickstarter page. The campain runs until July 31. Photo on top by Kenny Corbin.

http://transparentthemovie.tumblr.com

Pohnert Habitat One (still 1)

The exhibit of Habitat One, a video painting diptych by Alexander Pohnert, proved a rich experience to savor with repeated viewings. This artist is exploring the opposites of unity and separateness; expressing it through the visuals, the subject matter, and deeper references to medical science and queer culture.

I related Pohnert primarily with performance art. However, he has been revisiting video (examples of past work) as a medium. This exhibit, Habitat One, was located at SHIFT; a concept and art space an Köpenicker Str. 70 here in Berlin. The porcelain tile and whiteness of the space was perfect for his installation.

He choose two flying subjects, a bat and a flock of birds, to represent the concepts of separateness and unity. The bat represents the solitary subject. While bats do often roost in groups, when darkness comes, they tend to fly off alone in search of insects as food. Pohnert visited a forest at night with a chiropterologist, a bat researcher, to study and track a bat. They used an ultrasound device to transpose down the inaudible radar clicks bats use for sight and location of their prey.

You can hear these sounds alongside others in the soundscape that Philip Marshall created in collaboration. Marshall is the driving force of the cassette-only label, The Tapeworm. A graphic designer by training, he is also a self-taught sound creator. Pohnert previously met Marshall and knew the two would eventually collaborate. ”Give me a riddle, I like to solve it,” said Marshall to me. That was part of his impetus in Habitat One. He riddled and then created a soundscape which included field recordings of bats and birds, samples of pianos, and generous manipulation of the waveform itself. Marshall commented that he enjoyed the creativity and freedom Pohnert granted him.

Alongside these bat field recordings, is the video Pohnert captured of their search at night. Tracking a bat is not easy. Only with an ultrasound device could they seek and track a bat by listening to the radar click’s intensity and frequency. This sound faded in and out as they chased the bat in the darkness. The video painting you see captures this frenzy of almost useless activity; of motion and desperation to find a solitary bat. Yet, there is beauty in the video of blurred forest plants seen only in the concentrated light of a flashlight; shadows of limbs – people and trees. MORE >>>

Audre Winterfeldmarkt j

In 1995 the Berlin Film Festival premiered the documentary A Litany For Survival: the Life and Work of Audre Lorde by filmmakers Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson. The film is a portrait of poet and feminist activist Audre Lorde, who shaped both the women’s movement, the Black liberation movement and the LGTB movement of the 70s and 80s by making the links between them visible and fighting for the recognition of the differences between the marginalized. In her work the lesbian woman and mother of two children dealt with the intersections of discrimination and oppression in Western societies, especially by giving black women and women of color a strong and passionate voice, seeking to empower them and building new communities and secure spaces.
berlin_lunchHow this happend on a very practical level and how much Lorde’s work is still relevant and important today is made visible in the new documentary Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 by filmmaker and activist Dagmar Schultz. The film premiered at last year’s Berlinale and assembles video- and audio recordings and footage of Lorde’s various stays in Berlin, where she worked as a guest professor at the John F. Kennedy institute for North American. It is one of the lesser known chapters of her life. The recordings and interviews with friends and colleagues reveal, on how many different levels Lorde left her footprints here – be it by empowering German black women and women of color to build their own community, or by addressing racism and structures of exclusion within the German women’s movement and the German society as a whole (especially after the racist attacks after the wall came down).
The Berlin Years is really worth watching, especially at a time where the question of intersectional discrimination and the post-colonial heritage of Western societies is more virulent than ever, both in the academic field and in political activism. The documentary is out on DVD with a distribution in German (via Edition Salzgeber) and North America. More more details check out www.audrelorde-theberlinyears.com.

HOMEcountry – a film project by Imogen Heath

“HOMEcountry is the story of an individual’s loss of memory and search for home against the backdrop of a nation’s historical amnesia. The film project is an inquiry into the process of remembering through travelling, where personal and national histories combine and disintegrate across two frames of film at once. This campaign is raising funds to shoot the key scenes in Germany and produce a short film as a development stage for the larger feature film project between Australia and Germany.”

Donate via Indiegogo!


Diana Tourjee’s Transgender Surgery Fundraiser

“My name is Diana Tourjee. I am a 24 year old transgender woman, writer, and student living in New York City. This campaign has been established to fund my Gender Confirmation Surgery, specifically vaginoplasty. Unfortunately my insurance agency has not evolved to acknowledge the real medical necessity of transgender care. They have denied to cover the cost of my surgery on the grounds that is a cosmetic procedure. It is heart breaking that medical care isn’t where it needs to be for so many people, across so many demographics, but I understand the reality of the situation. Thats where you come in. I need help from my community, and it is with great humility that I ask for that help.

Donate via Indigogo!


Justin Vivian Bond’s “Golden Age of Hustlers” video

“Art places voices in history. Just as Justin Bond carries Bambi Lake’s Golden Age of Hustlers to new ears at the legendary Joe’s Pub in NYC, so would this music video present the collective consciousness of V’s music. The music video for Golden Age of Hustlers will mix performance from Justin Vivian Bond, live staged tableaus from local performance artists and still projections from San Franscisco’s queer community in the 1980s.”

Donate via Kickstarter!