So. Here we are again. Yet another fuckin open forum. Yet another talkin shop.
This time presided over by The Great And Powerful Scottee. And this has pissed me off.
I’ve spent the last 10 years in Leeds sitting thru open forum after open forum on how the ‘queer and trans arts sector’ can work together, how we can further the cause, how we can combat the current climate of homophobia & transphobia in the UK - which current climate? there is always a current climate of homophobia and transphobia - is it only a current climate when triggering pictures of two women beaten up on a bus make it into the news? - “In recent months across the UK we’ve become aware of multiple violent attacks towards our community” - babes this has been going on longer than a month...
Tbh it almost feels like a thing u can set ur clock by - Every so often someone calls a meeting to Unite The People and take down the Big Bad. I imagine it happens in every community, but the ‘queer and trans arts sector’ is the very specific community where my passions and identity and lived experience overlap (or did, my passion for art is srsly drained after shit like this), and in the ‘queer and trans arts sector’ it happens a lot and almost always from a place of ego. And this is no different. Organising meetings happen all the time.These kinds of meetings also happen all the time.
Any twat can call a meeting.
So Scottee has called a meeting.
I’ve been putting ‘queer and trans arts sector’ in inverted commas cuz a) Scottee has used this in their open letter/call out here and b) i find it hilarious as a phrase it makes it sound like we are an established thing. Adding ‘sector’ on it gives it a certain institutional-ish gravitas, a certain legitimacy that i definitely don’t have and most of the queer and trans artists I have worked with don’t either. Maybe Scottee does and maybe some others do.
Is this only addressing them and not anyone outside of that?
What does ‘queer and trans arts sector’ even mean?
Who is included?
Queer and Trans Performance Artists?
Local Queer and Trans punk bands?
Wholesome Trans folk selling knitting on Etsy?
Queer and Trans visual artists who draw furry porn on commission?
If the answer isn’t All Of The Above And More then that needs to be said. What the fuck does ‘queer and trans arts sector’ mean? It means this isn’t about u, dear members of the community, it’s about Scottee.
I spoke to several local queer and trans artists after I’d heard about this and all of them asked who the fuck Scottee was and why they should turn up to a meeting. Honestly? I couldn’t give them an answer why this meeting was important to turn up to and what makes this meeting different from all the others.
In fact there were about 10 people in the room in Leeds. None of which were from major institutions I might add. Tbh it felt very exclusive, this wasn’t down to venue or the host, but an issue to do with how this thing came about. Scottee doing an open call. We all know open calls don’t go as far as we want to believe they do. They stay in the circle. This felt very much like it had stayed in the circle despite best efforts. That again is because its about ego.
At best this whole thing might turn out to be a semi-productive ego trip. The fact that this was rooted in ego (however consciously or not on Scottee's part) was made clear by the host of the event having to read a statement from Scottee, as if it was the fuckin queen's speech at xmas time. If this was about the community why the need for a 10 min speech?
Scottee has insisted this isn’t about an individual, but about us collectively. I agree. But then we hit this little snag - We’re not collective tho are we. And we’re not all singin from the same song sheet here. Scottee has called 10 meetings across the nation. Scottee has the national reputation and social capital (and funding - props to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for funding Scottee’s ego) to call these meetings. Hell, Scottee has more reputation and social capital than most of the queer and trans artists in Leeds combined.
So my big unanswered question (I actually asked Scottee in an email what their wider plan for this was given they have all this renown and capital) is how is Scottee going to put that to use? Is Scottee going to use that power to get institutions in the room and to actively do shit to support us? Or is it all just to stir the pot for the sake of ego and call a meeting?
Any twat can call a meeting.
So Scottee has called a meeting.
Scottee says “My company, Scottee & Friends Ltd have put the resources towards these meetings not because we think these couldn’t happened without us or that they haven’t happened before but because we feel as a company whose work is rooted and led by a queer artist this is a place to start from as a sector and not as individuals.”
A PLACE TO START FROM AS A SECTOR
I didn’t realise we hadn’t started yet. I don’t know about everywhere else but I do know that the queer and trans arts community in Leeds has been doing A LOT.
Perhaps Scottee has forgotten that using words in a particular order gives them meaning. A meaning that i’m sure Scottee hasn’t meant, but that doesn’t stop me feeling those pangs of not being good enough or working hard enough or feeling erased when Scottee says this shit.
Scottee is here asking what can WE do.
Well Scottee, do u know what WE have been doing?
No ofc not why would u care that the Leeds queer and trans arts community has continuously marched out to protest TERFs everytime they have come to our city and our neighbors like Bradford (Jenni Murray, Linda Bellos, Germaine Greer) or indeed the ones based in the city begin to stir. Why would u care that we have been constantly making safer spaces for ourselves out of whatever the fuck we can find. Why would u care that we’ve built intricate and complex support networks so that we can look after as many of us as possible.
So much for “no one is stepping forward” eh Scottee.
Yes, every city has its own particular war going on and every city has its own shit that it has built. Is Scottee going to every city tho? No, they’re hosting the Manchester one because Manchester looks good on a renowned artist such as them. Why are these meetings taking place all at the same time on the same date? Cuz it looks good doesn’t it - ‘10 meetings across the nation to talk about how the queer and trans arts sector can combat the current climate of homophobia and transphobia across the UK’. If I was a funder I’d be fuckin throwin cash at Scottee if I was approached by that line I’d be absolutely creamin my knickers at it.
I am tired.
I’m tired of watching Activism be an ego vehicle for artists/activists/organisers and I am tired of being made to feel like I’m not good enough and not doing enough cuz some Big Name Artist™ decided to call a meeting to “start” whatever effort they haven’t even envisioned.
I’m tired because I need to pick up extra shifts at work to make sure people in my community have food to eat and a place to go. How are these meetings going to put food in bellies and clothes on backs? They’re not.
I’m tired of people like Scottee waltzing in with all the renown and capital (and ego) and doing shit like this which leads to capitalising and cannibalising all the hard work i’ve done and the work of many others before me have done. Or worse ignoring all that and setting up a new facebook group or facebook page (for the love of satan pls don’t add me to anymore…) to create a central hub for all the queer arts stuff going on. It wouldn’t be the first and it won’t be the last, hell let’s raise LVAF (Leeds Visual Arts Form) from the dead and we’ll just queer LVAF. Pls Scottee don’t inspire another fuckin facebook group.
And none of that doesn’t mean that Scottee hasn’t worked hard on their shit, but things like this have a life of their own. How many environmentalist movements can u name other than Extinction Rebellion right now? How many existed long before XR and are full of people now depressed and burnt out because a wonderful and comfy middle class revolution (it might not have started out like that but there were a great many ways it turned into that) took place that got way more attention and action than their years of hard graft? How many people that leapt up for XR are gonna join those other groups and movements?
Why is Scottee calling these meetings to make a ‘start’ rather than calling for people to look at what has already been happening and assisting in those efforts? Because that shit don’t look as good as calling 10 meetings across the nation. Platforming people who are already working tirelessly and using your renown and capital to get people to join them and help share that workload doesn’t look as good as calling 10 meetings.
I do want to say I don’t blame any of the people getting involved because they want to use this as an opportunity to do some small good. I admire those people a lot. I just can’t help feeling like the ‘queer and trans arts sector’ is just a fuckin echo chamber and more and more i’m reaching the point of wanting to stop being an artist and performer and organiser in the arts because at this point its becoming painful.
I was asked at the end of the meeting if i felt like it was any different and honestly i felt like it wasn’t. It was the same conversation i’ve sat thru 100s of times in open forums and down the pub.
I do hope Scottee’s latest ego trip is a productive one.
I hope that Scottee inspires people to help do more support work for the queer and trans community here and to turn out and protest transphobia and to call this shit out on a daily basis.
I hope i’m not left in the dust of some flashy lookin movement whilst i’m trying to fend TERFs off with one hand and feeding people with another and then left even more exhausted and depressed because a standard has been set and more is expected of me than the limits i already passed about 5 miles back.
I hope this movement that Scottee is hoping to be the creator of doesn’t fizzle out from a lack of direction and facilitation and then nothing changes and another damn open forum happens with the same damn shit. I hope this does some good and this whole thing does go forward and takes it’s chunk out of the great wall that the cis-heteronormative capitalist patriarchy is, because as i keep saying thats all we can realistically do is take one brick out of that damn wall and hopefully everyone that is taking a brick destabilizes the fucker.
I hope that i stop feeling like shit because someone with more power, renown, capital and access to resources has decided that ‘no one is stepping forward’ and that enough isn’t being done and making me feel erased and like i'm completely fuckin inadequate.
I hope I stop being angry at all of this soon because once again my energy and attention is on someone’s ego that has potential to cause damage here and i hope that people start to see how harmful ego-centred activism is to our community.
If this latest ego trip doesn’t inspire some action and improve things for our community here in Leeds and nationally and stop being a fuckin echo chamber then let me resolutely and wholeheartedly say in advance F U C K S C O T T E E
So. I’d like to talk about a thing that has been termed as Silent Harassment.
Silent Harassment is pretty much what it says on the tin - it’s harassment, but it’s so undetectable it’s almost silent. It’s something that I and many of the people I know will be used to.
It’s the dirty looks, the being looked up and down before someone hones in and stares at a part of your body, it’s eyes burning into the back of your skull, it’s tutting, it’s muttering under the breath, it’s harassment and it’s a form of abuse.
As someone with a history of abuse I’ve learned to look for the small warning signs. The things that might tell me if I’m in danger, that might tell me how much danger I’m in and if I can avoid it. This has lead me to paying a lot of attention to how those around me act.This is something I also do as a trans person. I am aware of how many people in a room are looking at me. And I don’t just mean glancing at me in passing, I mean those people who look too long. Those who linger. Those who look through things at me.
I’m expected to be invisible and silent in various aspects of my life and when I’m not it’s the abuse that becomes invisible. It’s the harassment that becomes silent.
I’ve found it difficult to talk about this due to this invisibility. No. Not invisibility. Due to other people’s ignorance. Other people don’t see this happening and other people don’t have to. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. Say. Speak. Something that’s difficult to do.
Other people not seeing this often leads to me doubting myself. Doubting it’s there, doubting it’s happening, entering into a spiral of doubt that leads ever downwards to ever more doubt.
It’s abuse. It’s happening again and I can do nothing.
I try to talk about it to the people who don’t see it and as the words leave my mouth I think ‘fuck, stop, you sound crazy again, STOP’ and now they’re staring. There is always staring.
Sometimes, though it’s less likely, people actively stop and stare at me in ways that are plain to those around me, but more often than not it’s discreet. It’s silent.
It sounds weird, doesn’t it? Describing a look as silent. It makes no sound, but it has a resonance. Every fibre of me feels it. Those looks, those tuts chip away at you. Each one of them chips away another part of my confidence. Of my armour. Of me.
I hate feeling like a victim. I hate complaining about these things. I hate my story being that of a victim. I want to celebrate my transness. I want to celebrate surviving years of abuse. It’s just that...when I do...people stare...and we’re right back to the start.
So. I’d like to talk about a thing that has been termed as Silent Harassment.
But first I need to ask you a question:
Can you hear me?
At first I thought this was a bad habit to get into.
I have people I work with and want to work with on my social media, as well as friends, and I had that whole professional image thing in my head and thought I should try and maintain that. So maybe I should hide that from them.
As an artist my art, my life and my politics are intrinsically entwined as they should be. I don't want to work with someone who is transphobic. Hell, I wouldn't want to work with anyone who is homophobic, racist, sexist, classist, ableist...anyone who is bigoted in any way. Especially as in the past couple of years I've been making more specifically queer work, the more of which I make the more important it becomes that I am making it.
I also felt bad (at first) that I was bombarding a lot of friends with quotes, articles and rants on queer issues and that they'd just switch off and stop listening to me. Yes, I was worried about losing friends. And it has happened, even close friends have stopped talking to me or come forth with problematic views that has lead to a clean-cut severance of our bonds of friendship.
At the same time a magical and interesting thing happened that I had not expected - People listened. Friends, who I had genuinely worried about being the 'not everyone in the world is out to get you' speech kind of people, started to listen, and learn, and become...dare I say it...allies.
People were coming forward to me in real life and telling me they were reading a lot of the articles I post and the rants I go on. That they are learning more than they thought they would and were beginning to check their privilege, which as we know is an essential part of being a good ally. Hell, part of being a decent human being.
I found that a surprising number of my friends who are not queer or trans DO actually give a shit about trans and non-binary rights and even want to work to make the world a better place for me and other queer folx. Who'da guessed?
I also felt like I was just spending my time preaching to the choir of other queer folx on my social media who already feel the same as me, have the same politics and are screaming the same things I am, but to know that others are actually taking the time to engage and fight alongside is a wonderful thing. It's not quite as echo chambery as I believed!
So. As tiring as it can get sometimes (well most of the time, but I'll save self-care & activism for another time) I want to continue to be a shoutin', screamin', angry queer and because of that I have one request to make of you -
Keep on being an ally.
It's a (life)long journey but I promise it's worth it.
Of all the things that have influenced me and helped shape me growing up, I would say that these three TV shows have had the biggest impact.
Three shows that have strong female leads delivering important messages to millions of viewers across the world from as early as 1995 until...well...they're still popular despite the all of the shows ending with the latest in 2006, so I guess for as long as there are reruns, DVDs and, of course, die-hard fans.
I'd like to take the time to explain why these shows and their characters have and will always have a special place in my bitter and shriveled heart.
*SPOILER WARNING* - You have been warned!
Each of these shows - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and Xena: Warrior Princess - while having very similar themes delivered their own messages that preached love, hope, forgiveness and kick arse feminism. I have never been one to shy away from deifying and identifying with strong female characters who are fighting the good fight in ways that can be read as allegories for struggles I've also endured.
Xena: Warrior Princess is the earliest of these, starting in September 1995 and running until June 2001. The character originally appeared in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and quickly gained a following which, naturally, led to her own spin-off with Lucy Lawless reprising the role. Ancient Greece has always been rich with material for creative folks to draw from because of it's fantastical mythology. Unlike Buffy and Charmed, Xena is not set in a fixed location and the characters travel to various other countries interacting with their culture and myths.
Even though Xena seemed like she hated everyone, she does show a softer and more compassionate side. Through the violence there comes a point where she acknowledges that she should avoid it where possible and fights only in defence of herself, her loved ones and for the greater good.
Now we all know Xena has a big, pink, queer, elephant in the room - The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Everyone knew it was there, it was written into the subtext of the show and even the actors have admitted they were pretty much a married couple
Gabrielle was a massive influence on Xena in following the way of love. This for me is THE message of the entire series. LOVE.
Xena had a varied and somewhat shady past, and her adventures with Gabrielle and Joxer where just as interesting. Despite all of the struggle, heartache, death etc. Xena still follows love. She gives up her divinity to heal Callisto, her arch-nemesis for a large part of the series. After 25 year magical slumber (I can only assume it is magic) she wakes to find she has missed her daughter growing up, and she has grown up into a war loving evil bitch, Xena still follows her and is determined to show her the way of love and is willing to forgive the atrocities she inflicted. She destroys the Olympian Gods to make way for the god of love; Aphrodite being the only goddess that doesn't take up arms against Xena and Gabrielle as she doesn't want to hurt her friends.
Even Ares, the god of war, gives up his immortality to heal Eve, Xena's daughter, as he knows that no matter how much he plots and schemes, Xena will always love her daughter more than him/war.
So this is the message I have taken from Xena - Love is complex as hell, but without it we become the very things that we are fighting against. The show has helped me to remember that.
Charmed is an interesting one. Unlike the others, this preaches literal sisterhood over the ideas of 'urban family' that Buffy embraces and Xena skirts along.
Starting in 1998 and ending in 2006 it is the longest running of the shows and was more concerned with magic as a weapon than physically kicking arse. The series is set in San Francisco and begins with three sisters - Prue, Piper and Phoebe discovering themselves. They are witches. Not just any witches though, THE witches. The Charmed Ones and all the destiny and crap that comes with that. After a few year of battling with this, they go through it all again when Prue is killed and find out they have another sister, Paige.
For a large proportion of the show the sisters keep saying they want to have a 'normal life', especially Piper who becomes the eldest after the death of Prue and starts her own family during the course of the show. This is definitely something that resonates with me. There have been points already in my life where I have sat down and thought what it would be like to just be 'normal'. No artiness. No queerness. No uphill struggles and no running. Like the Halliwell Sisters I too have then stood up and realised that is not really my path. That I can have the best of both worlds if I just keep working at it. The perfect balance is somewhere in that light at the end of the tunnel, providing of course that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train, unlike the Halliwells I do not have magical powers to stop the train.
The message Charmed give is one of hope and perseverance. Even though we've been through many dark times (Not as dark as your husband being the source of all evil and having to vanquish him while you are pregnant with his baby, but close enough.) giving up is not the way.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is perhaps the most important of these three shows. Running from 1997 to 2003, the series is set in the fictional town of Sunnydale which has been built over a 'Hellmouth', a gateway to hell. The direct location of this happens to be below the high school where our protagonist just happens to be. Buffy herself is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and is designed to look like the ditzy blonde cheerleader from every horror movie ever. She, however, is not. She is a Vampire Slayer. Buffy has to contend with this destined duty, school, family and friends. Things that it is revealed over the course of the series that previous slayers have failed to balance.
The series has so much detail and is so rich in imagery and allegories that I'd be here for hours if I went through it, in fact there are courses taught on the cultural significance of Buffy and essays and theories galore have been written about it. I'll try to keep this short and sweet so this post doesn't become an essay of it's own.
Buffy promotes themes that the other two shows preach and more. Joss Whedon created something fantastic in Buffy that made it so endearing - he made her human. Every single episode she has to deal with things that we mere mortals have to deal with every day. Friends, family, love, death, sex, school, college, work etc. All our complexities blown up to scales that they do sometimes feel like and made ever more fantastical by the addition of magic and demons.
This is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from any TV show...or in fact the most important lesson ever.
Buffy has taught me how to be human.
This is something people, institutions and society in general struggles to teach and yet here it is. One of the world's greatest lessons wrapped neatly in a 7 season box set of 144 episodes. And I'm not ashamed to admit that it is beautiful.
Scooby Gang 4 lyf.
My review of the Jonathan Trayte and Stass Paraskos exhibitions at The Tetley are out now on The State of the Arts.
Click HERE or on the image below to have a nosey at it.
Today is my favourite day of the week - Folklore Thursday. It is the day that Twitter becomes an archive of folklore, stories and history, and I get to learn a lot of awesome and sometimes wacky things. Here are some of the things I learned about today:
The Lithuanian folk tale of Eglė the Queen of Serpents
A typical tale of 3s, of not judging a...er...serpent...by it's appearance, treachery and loss.
Eye of Newt and Devil's Dung were just code names it would seem...
Or if you'd prefer to make friends with the faeries instead of pushing them away, here is a lovely article on...
This is a very long article from the Smithsonian, but it is also very interesting. I am always intrigued how folklore was used as the 'logical' (or there abouts) solution, when in hindsight these things seem absolutely ridiculous!
When your family is prone to tuberculosis, you blame a dead relative (who also died of this) as the one rising from the dead and draining your family. And the solution? Exhume them and eat or burn their heart. I am a tad confused as to why people's minds, in the particular case mentioned in the article, immediately went to the dead relatives when what would have made more sense would be the one unaffected (immune?) relative being the vampire and drawing life from the dying ones....but anyway. Still worth a read to hear from folklorist Michael Bell about vampire pilgrimages and the like.
So, I've just got round to watching the 3rd episode of the Grayson Perry: All Man documentary.
I think this one was my favourite so far as it did actually try to look at the different shades of 'men' and 'masculinity'.
And what better to represent it in the world of bankers that a bloody great ceramic cock. I did enjoy that he likened all the skyscrapers to giant phalluses and questioned the men who build them. (Are they over-compensating?...)
The work he produced this episode, to me, felt significantly more aggressive than the others despite those looking at physical violence (cage fighting and wielding sharp implements) in masculinity. The first chap's reaction to the work was great, I love that he immediately went on the defensive when compared to the posher, richer gentlemen who seemed to like it and agree with him.
While I still feel the series as a whole wasn't so clear on it's focus - was it men? Was it masculinity? Was it the people who were affected by these notions? Or perhaps all at once?
If you are going to look at a subject like this, you need more than 3 episodes to make it feel more than a novelty or an excuse for Channel 4 to wheel him out and try to win another BAFTA. Why was the other end of the man/masculinity spectrum not shown at least to lend contrast? Perhaps he feels that other side is not as interesting or that he maybe already knows too much about it and would now like the chance to explore this machismo for a change, from the safe distance of 'transvestite potter' of course, making him quite unthreatening to it. Although I'm sure the Channel 4 camera crew helped with that somewhat too.
An interesting thing happened during my viewing though. After they had interviewed the women who had experienced and were affected by the white male domination of the financial sector, I got to the ad break and an advert for the new Melissa McCarthy film The Boss came on, with her portraying a woman displaying the masculine aggressive behavior that had just been discussed and even condemned.
Interesting may not be the right word to use for that, but the placement of that was certainly something.
So. I've been using Habitica for over 2 weeks now and thought it might be helpful to do a blog post to check in and see if it has helped me in any way.
The website/app gives you three lists: Habits, Dailies and To Dos
Immediately I found the dailies list very helpful. I started off with simple daily routine things - Get dressed, make the bed, brush teeth, wash face etc. with some things have a morning and evening checklist on them to be completed before that task was considered done. I then began to add other things that might be helpful assigned to certain days of the week, like checking the 'Folklore Thursday' hashtag on Twitter on Thursdays to help out with research.
Every time you complete a task you gain in-game coinage (gold or several silver coins) and experience.
When things on the Dailies list aren't ticked off by midnight, the damage your poor little avatar. You loose Health Points.
This is where Habitica really starts to work for me. I get distressed at the thought of little Ryan getting hurt and that it also makes me realise that when I don't do important daily things I know I need to do, it creates problems for me in reality. It is showing me that my actions do have consequences by putting them in this gamified format where I can immediately see it happening.
Yay for re-connecting with reality!
The To Dos list is, as the name implies, a to do list. You add to it tasks that need to be done and can assign it a date to be done by and a difficulty. If you know the task is a big or difficult one, you can make it reflect this meaning that when you complete it you get more coinage and experience.
Now the to do list doesn't damage your character if things aren't done. Even if you apply a deadline to it.
Tasks not done on the to do list change colour the longer you leave them. They go from a standard yellow colour, which everything starts out at, to orange, to an urgent red. It does present a dilemma when things aren't on a specific time scale or you are waiting for someone to get back to you on something and the task sits there for a while. I suppose that is more about time/task management.
The final list you are given is the Habits list. This allows you to track and control your habits, giving you plus and minus buttons that will let you gain experience and coinage for something, or detract Health Points for it.. You can see what you have done well and not done well by the changing colour on this list too. Blue things are what you are doing really well at, Green are things you have been ok at doing, Yellow is bog standard, Orange not so good and Red is for things you have been terrible at.
On this list I again started out simple with getting up before 9am, sitting at a table to work and not on the bed. I then added habits like walking into town, which I want to do more often, and habits I want to get rid of like taking a taxi home when I have 'missed the last bus'.
This is also going to hopefully help me improve other habits like reading more. I am one of those people who buys books telling myself I will get around to reading them when I have finished the one I am on now, which will take me ages to do.
Now to cover the avatar and it's development.
You get to create your little avatar in your own image (or not if you'd prefer to be bright green or rainbow coloured) down to your skin tone, hair colour and style, the build of your body and they even have a wheelchair option where you can have your avatar sit in a wheelchair, which I think is pretty great of them to do so!
You start off with basic health and an experience bar, both of which increase as your level grows. Once you reach the correct level you then unlock the ability to gain items with your achievements, you can even get eggs so you can hatch a pet to go with your avatar.
When you pick up food in-game you can feed your pet and when it becomes big enough, you can ride it.
When you reach the right level for it, you can stop being a freelancer and chose a class. The classes are your usual RPG type classes - Warrior, Mage, Rogue, Healer. As you can see above, I have chosen to be a mage, so I can finally live the dream of becoming a wizard!
So to wrap this post up, I feel like this has already helped me make improvements to my productivity and life in general. I will keep on using it as...well...why would I stop?...I'm not a master wizard yet.
Hopefully this will be one part of the positive influences on me and allow me to become more productive and achieve all the things I keep telling myself I will do, but don't do because of that ol' devil procrastination.
I really enjoy strategy and RPG (Role Playing Games) and this can be problematic. A while ago I noticed I was so into some of these games that hours and hours of my life would be consumed by planning for these games. I would spend what felt like forever devising strategies to play and attempt to beat these games and not achieve much in my reality.
While I was getting really good at building ancient cities on games like Pharaoh, Master of Olympus: Zeus or Age of Empires, I would wish that I could transfer this kind of motivation and productivity into my everyday life. Why can't life be more like video games?! (This has nothing to do with me wanting to be a kick-ass dark elf mage....well maybe a little...)
So when the new year began, I decided to add more lists to my life. I like lists. Lists are fun. If I can make lists of possible combinations of Pokemon to use to beat the Elite Four then why can't I make lists to make things happen in reality a little more?
This is exactly what I did. I started making meal plans so I would know what I was going to cook for tea, which informed my shopping list when I next went into town. I then started a morning and evening routine list. I found I was using these lists, but only to tick off the basic tasks and leaving others I deemed not so important as sporadic.
This continued and up until now I allowed it, but I've come across something that I hope will help.
Habitica is a website/app that helps you organize your life and turns it into an RPG. You get a little character avatar to represent yourself and then you add your to do lists - Dailies, general To Do List and Habits. When you complete something on the to do lists you are rewarded with experience and in-game coinage, however if you fail to do the tasks you loose health points etc. as you would in a traditional RPG. It also helps you track and adjust your habits, if you want to do more or less of something.
So I've signed up to it. It's free so why the hell not. Hopefully this will fulfil my wish of becoming a kick-ass dark elf......I mean...of becoming more productive. I'll do a progress report post in about 2 weeks to see how this has gone.
Ok. So, I wrote this post for the start of LGBT* History Month but was hesitant to actually post it for a few reasons:
A while back I decided to search my feelings on gender. In particular, my gender. I have never been able to identify with binary gender, despite being housed in this singular male form. I have found this to be the best way to describe my relationship with my body, I am 'housed' within this male body and have grown to accept that. At times I still feel uncomfortable with it.
A lot of the time I forget it is that, a male body, and am sometimes starkly reminded by others with "You're a man."
Over my 23 years there have been many crises of my gender and my masculinity. Not just by me, but by family, friends and boyfriends (That is not to say all of my friends have had this. I have a wonderful, loving and supportive circle of friends that I am honoured to have in my life. Sorry, I'll stop the soppy gushing now.) I have tried to explore this over time and continue to do so every day.
One of the biggest periods of exploration was a few years ago, attend the Queer Eye workshops run by Leeds Art Gallery and Cast-off Drama. Since deciding it was the artist's life for me, I have found it much easier to engage with large topics, such as gender, through art. Through this I gained more confidence to explore and figure out my thoughts and feeling on gender and my gender in particular.
I felt I needed to search for the box where I keep my gender in a bid to understand it at last. After some 'soul searching' I found my box and it was unsurprisingly empty. It was something I think I had known all along.
I do not feel I identify with gender. I do not feel I have a gender. The nearest term I have found to describe how I feel is 'Agender'. This is a term used as a non-binary phrase for someone who feels they don't identify with other gender identities, that they perhaps don't have a gender or are gender neutral.
The acceptance of this has allowed me to feel more at ease with myself and also with how others may identify. Gender is a complex and ever-changing issue with more ways of identifying your gender than I think could ever really be quantified.
In terms of pronouns, I personally don't mind how I am referred to so long as it is without negative or hate speech. I do however feel an affinity for the 'Mx' gender-neutral title as opposed to my usual 'Mr'. I have considered changing to the usage of it and would very much still like to.
I will add that how I verbally identify depends on my situation at the time - I prefer to say that I am Agender or Queer. However sometimes it can be easier just to describe myself as a gay man, I am in a male body and I am attracted to men, it can save a lot of time and energy when I do have those days where I can't face going through explanations of queer and gender politics (Yes I'm guilty of having days where I can just about manage to face other humans, we all have them at some point).
I suppose this post was, in part, written for myself as an open acceptance of my gender identity and what could be more open than putting it on the internet for everyone to see. Here I have been able to write and articulate my thoughts and feelings in a positive way and make this another step on my life-long journey of being queer, an artist and a human being.
I have 3 new things to announce!
First of which is that I will be taking part in the Awkwoods Rural Retreat at Live Art Bisrto, between 6th and 8th March. A workshop about awkward audience participatory performance run by Daniel Oliver.
More information on it and him can be found here.
The second announcement is that I will be performing my new piece 'A Queen's Speech' at Ketchup Cabaret, a queer and alternative cabaret night, on 19th March at Live Art Bistro. A Facebook event can be found here and tickets can be purchased here.
Keep an eye out for me in these fantastic projects! Come and see me perform and help make my 2016 another brilliant year!
The Troll that lives across my street is a dandy sight to see,
she has pink hair, metallic trousers and sandals on her feet,
between flowerbed and dustbin heap she keeps a house of green,
far from church bells and their screams, oh how content is she!
through clouds of smoke her voice is gruff, no never loud and shrill,
see how care-free she plods along,
The Troll of Autumn Hill.
As a fan of Harry Potter and the world that J.K Rowling has so lovingly crafted I've been mulling this thought over for quite a while now - what would have happened if Voldemort had won?
This is of course going from the assumption that it is not in an alternate universe/multiverse where Neville Longbottom will step up the chosen one. So, let's imagine what would happen if during the battle of Hogwarts when Harry goes into the forest to confront Voldemort, he does not drop the Resurrection Stone and keeps it upon his person. And also that he chooses not to come back while in Limbo chatting away with Dumbledore.
Harry Potter is dead.
Voldemort has the elder wand. He finds the Resurrection Stone and Invisibility Cloak on the body of his nemesis and keeps them, ignorant of their importance for the time being, then continues his display in front of those who were opposing him. He accepts those who submit and slaughters those who continue to rebel. Proclaiming himself the most powerful wizard in the world, he ties up all loose ends and seats himself as ruler of the wizarding world, with his loyal minions in positions of power. First in Britain with Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, and with no one to directly oppose him he extends his reach beyond across Europe, America and eventually around the world. He can now afford to be patient and allow his minions to take care of this regime change. While this happens he becomes curious as to why Harry had kept one of his horcruxes and looks further into this, discovering the legend of the Deathly Hallows and that possessing these makes him the master of death. The Elder Wand has submitted to him as he has dispatched its last master and the others submit recognising him as the last living descendant of the Peverell brothers.
Mad with power he concludes that he is, for all intensive purposes, a god.
This theory comes from the idea that gods and goddesses of the ancient world were power-mad wizards and witches, much of them interpreted by muggles. To me the Greek Gods definitely fit this bill. Egyptian Gods sounds though they could have been animagi or metamorphmagi, which is where the animal heads came from. The metamorphmagus trait could have been much more common in ancient times. The power hungry witches and wizards using their powers and fear to establish cults to themselves, but not being true gods they were still unable to evade an inevitable death.
Back to Voldemort.
He believes he is immune to death and an all powerful being. Not content with just ruling the magical world, he plots to also take over the muggle world. This could be achieved with surprising ease, influencing or corrupting those in positions of power and forcing any resistance with the Imperious and Cruciatus curses or killing them and replacing them with his own people. Naturally this would start with Britain as it would be easier for him to hold and his influence would spread across the world, making displays of power to prove that he is almighty.
By this point it is likely that he would have repressed and regressed any technological advancement from the muggles to reduce the likelihood of rebellion, or rather his minions would have. Given his arrogance and that he now believes himself a god I'd imagine he would not concern himself with something so trivial, however the Death Eaters and others loyal to him would need to ensure themselves to be untouchable as they are not immortal.
Of course his immortality is only theory at this point. While the life expectancy of wizardkind is much longer than that of muggles, there is still no guarantee that he can not die naturally as Ignotus Peverell did eventually. Although he accepted death, whereas Voldemort is less likely to. This could still take an exceptionally long time though, a life prolonged through many forms of magic, which would be longer than all other wizards.
That is where my thoughts end. My conclusion being that Voldemort would naturally declare himself an all powerful god. Well what else does one do when you are essentially the most powerful being on the planet?
So 2016 is here already. I had originally wanted to do a end of year thank you post, but a start of the year one will do just as well I'm sure.
The past year has certainly been a spectacularly eventful one. I met a lot of people and made many new beautiful friends who have all had positive influences on me, my life and my art. A lot has happened so I'll try to keep this a brief overview and thank you.
2015 held a score of fantastic exhibitions and performances to see, even the arrival of the British Art Show 8 here in Leeds, which had everybody clamboring to have an event on. It also held some fantastic opportunities for projects and work.
First of the projects I was involved with was Artist Anonymous. A platform for talks, discussions, showing work. Natasha, Emma and I organized events where we gave participants to interpret a theme and create work and discussion around it. We had many people from all paths, creative and non-creative, and was a great place for exploration and conversation.
So to wrap this blog post up I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone I have had the privilege of working with this year and to all the friends, old and new, that I have had the pleasure of knowing this year and hope to know you for many more years to come!
I'll leave you here with a selection of pictures from my year.
Today the HOARD project is doing our Twitter Takeover of @Unfold_Leeds twitter account for the British Art Show 8, tweeting all about our project. I even wrote a post on Leeds Inspired blog about it. Click on the links or image below to see them.
Good news everyone! I am currently an artist in residence at The Hepworth Gallery's The Calder space as part of Pavilion's Follies of Youth exhibition.
The exhibition comprises of 3 artists - Ruth Lyons, Giles Bailey and Amelia Crouch - commissioned by Pavilion to create responses to lost Capability Brown landscapes in West Yorkshire, using parts of the research archive provided by the group of creatives known as the Follies of Youth, which I am a part of.
The residencies are for 5 of the Follies to work with the archive, the space and the commissioned work to create a further response as part of a finnisage to the exhibition, to take place 28th May - 31st May. My days in residence are listed bellow and you can visit the Follies of Youth website for more info on the project, also there is a downloadable PDF with info on the other artists involved in the residency at the bottom of the post. I shall be developing a performance for this so keep your eyes peeled for that announcement in the near future!
PomoGaze presents AGender: After Party - Monday 16th June 2014
Open call for cabaret and live performers for PomoGaze's AGender after-party!
As the first day of the AGender conference draws to a close, Wharf Chambers will play host to an after-party to celebrate queer culture. A night of performance, music, fun and dancing to be enjoyed by all.
We are looking for cabaret acts, live performers and DJs to showcase this celebration.
Plan and schedule
5pm - Conference draws to a close and Wharf Chambers opens.
6pm til 8pm - Event Begins with cabaret and live performance.
8pm til 9pm - PomoGaze's first drag competition for best dressed, best drag king and queen etc.
9pm til late - DJs start so the fun and dancing can really begin!
(Wharf Chambers is licensed until 3am so we can dance til then.)
To get involved or for more information contact Ryan Thompson: Ry.M.Thompson@gmail.com
I am very pleased to announce I have been shortlisted for the SLAPmoves Prize, which is the 3rd in a series of events by SLAP (Salacious Live Alternative Performance) based in York. My work is the first in a series of participatory performances, this one being Kidulthood - Act #1: What Time Is It Mr Wolf?
My mind is still slightly boggled at how something like this is just sitting in Hyde Park relatively untouched yet still fairly known about (you can find more information on all sorts like this on Leodis or Secret Leeds etc.). Leeds seems to be full of little wonders and cool heritage spaces, it was even mentioned as one of the Seven Lost Wonders of Leeds in the Yorkshire Evening Post
It may not be the Taj Mahal or a great pyramid, but something like this being on my doorstep really excites me.
I am now promising myself to go looking for more amazing things like this to explore!
Around mid-January the art scene of Leeds kicked back into its flow with the realization of one of Dennis Oppenheim's firework sculptures MIND TWIST at the Henry Moore Institute , which was very beautiful and quite spectacular. There was even a talk on his work afterwards by Luigi Kurman who worked closely with him in Germany between 1979 and 1985. It was very interesting to hear about the art from someone who had involvement in its assembly.
Then came Vantage 3: Live Art Edition which commissioned my first new work of 2014. It was very exciting to be one of 8 artists commissioned to create work for this event! Vantage 3 was part of an art extravaganza alongside Hoard and Hutch as part of the Departure Foundation's programme.
My performace 'Out of House and Home' was interactive which created a great relationship with the participants and audience.
More information and Documentation to follow soon so keep your peepers peeled!
Students from Leeds Metropolitan University had begun to take over unoccupied offices in Wellington Street to hold a series of exhibitions.
Contemporary Art Practices and Fine Art have both held exhibitions there culminating in several small exhibitions and collaborative installations.
I was great to see external exhibitions from the students and some of their very exciting work which I look forward to see develop throughout their practice.
Pavilion hosted a series of talks and discussions on Contemporary Art in Heritage spaces.
The talks came from five different perspectives; a funding body (Daniel Cutmore of Arts Council England), a producer (Linzi Stauvers of Pavilion), an artist (Harold Offeh), heritage (Patrick Eyers of the New Arcadian Journal) and academic (Nick Cass of University of Leeds).
Afterwards we were led into discussions, by a representative of our which ever perspective we were from, to consider what had been presented earlier. This gave everyone a great opportunity to see the types of people/institutions that engage with Contemporary Arts in Heritage spaces, how they do this and what they feel about it.
It was fascinating to understand so much more about this subject and has definitely gained my interest!
The continuation of Pavilion's Follies of Youth programme, exploring lost 'Capability' Brown landscapes in the run up to the 300th of his birth, is also something I am going to be involved with. An exciting two year project and all research of which will be recorded on the Follies of Youth blog here: http://pavilionypp.tumblr.com/
Pavilion have had several events which have been extremely fascinating.
Melvin Moti, the artist who is the main part of their current programme, came back to the Majestic to be interviewed about his film The Eightfold Dot and launch a publication to accompany it. I was lucky enough that Melvin Moti signed it and for other Pavilion volunteers.
They have been celebrating 30 years this year and hosted one of Cara Tolmie's Wrangling Excercise performances, which involved facilitating a discussion and interview with some of the original and early members of Pavilion from back in 80s. It even took place in their original home, which is now Akmal's Tandoori Bistro on Woodhouse Moor.
It was amazing to hear from them how Pavilion first started out and to see how they have evolved from being very much a feminist arts organisation to where they are now. There was also a lovely selection of posters from Feminist Archive North, who help preserve Pavilion's brilliant history.
There was then a fascinating talk on the history of the Eyebright Well that was said to be situated around the site of the Majestic, just on Wellington Street. It was very interesting to hear of Leeds history and links with the old healing wells. The Eyebright well, as you can probably guess from the name, was said to have the power to restore eyesight. Links were also made between it and the Eyebright plant, which grew not far from there and was also said to heal the eyes.
It was extremely exciting to have access to the space and we just couldn't wait to start communicating with it. With a generous mix of performance, projection, installations and photography, 10 artists each constructed a response to the space in a way they had experienced it. We then opened up the building and exhibition for one night on Friday 13th no less! What a treat this was!
Unfortunately I did not get to see many of this visitors as I was performing, but I heard great things in the aftermath and can boast visitor numbers of 100+ in less than 2 hours. Needless to say we were all very happy Follies indeed to have such a success!
Here is where I write about art and about life.