Asymmetric Grief is the third iteration of independent curator and writer Binghao Wong‘s research into the representation of intersectional queer and transgender bodies in contemporary society and visual art. The first, WE ARE LOSING INERTIA, was held at no.w.here in 2014 between two artists: Chinese-Singaporean, Zou Zhao and drag artist, Meth. Their work performs a different resistance to reductive categorisation via the provocation and proliferation of the aesthetic ideals played out in drag communities, and the notion of the study and dismissal of Chinese philosophy and language, respectively. The performance was a conversation between Meth’s lip-syncing of Christina Aguilera’s 2002 song, ‘You Are Beautiful’, and Eighth Century Tsang poetry, sung by Zhao, which produced complication and incomprehension. How does one make abject -and visual/ visible – a notion of intention? The second was a thesis written by Binghao and titled: ‘Transgender Traces: Techo-bodies Through Time‘.
The exhibition to follow, Asymmetric Grief, opening at London’s Arcadia Missa on July 17 and running to July 25 will question what the press release describes as the persistence of the “moralism of a universal queer condition”. It will consider the contemporary co-opting and normalising of queerness and difference and what happens to intersectional queer subjects and bodies that exist and live beyond – or beneath – tokenism, currents/ currencies and notions of visibility in an increasingly delegitimised space: “where the gravity of daily structural and fatal aggressions goes unnoticed”.
In terms of making art inside the contemporary queer ‘movement’ as a queer subject of difference, Asymmetric Grief and its artists: Bhenji Ra and Justin Shoulder, Raisa Kabir, Jennifer Mehigan and Adam Saad pointing to real living bodies, as lived and living things that are a, or even the source of self-expression and artwork. As the press release says, this show is “insistent on grounding these imaginary exhortations” prevalent in more lofty queer theory: “Asymmetric Grief contradictorily attempts to consolidate utopia, acknowledging failure, futility and finitude as necessary ambivalences within a broader queer phantasmagoria”.
In Bhenji Ra and Justin Shoulder’s collaborative video, ‘Deep Alamat’ (2014) the Sydney-based artists have created avatars: ‘Beige Cantrell’ (after Blu Cantrell’s 2003 single ‘Breathe‘, 2003) and ’00’, which they perform together – but in different realms – during a four-minute dance. ‘00’ is a shielded but vulnerable creature that dances on a rocky and wavy shore. Its sculptural coat has a pattern based on a toxic aposematism, a bright colouration-signal sent to the skin of certain species so that any predator will be warned and saved from ingesting poison. ‘Beige Cantrell’ dances in a large empty room that almost absorbs their body in the powdery beige light. Beige’s arms dance like butterfly wings in slow motion and could be warning something away just as much as they could be scanning the contours of their own body. The video is edited and structured to keep splitting itself in half: 10 seconds of ’00’; 10 seconds of ‘Beige Cantrell’, five seconds of ’00’; five seconds of ‘Beige Cantrell’, two-point-five… until suddenly the dissolving pauses and the video shows us their slowed encounter of one another, now in the same physical space, although they don’t (ever) touch. In fact their bodies are closer to touching when they are rendered transparent and layered in the half-life moments belonging to the minutest of seconds. How do you embody a dislocated body?
For Asymmetric Grief, Raisa Kabir will be showing new work which interrupts and also to an extent evades white expectation of a female artist from South Asia whose art practice is weaving. What is the visual or visible relationship between the work you make and the body that you have? In Kabir’s recent installation-performance Your Thread Cuts My Fingers They Bleed Yet Again and Again (2014) for the Contemporary Rites performance week at INIVA small pieces of red thread were woven into white thread that wrapped around several finger-like objects and sat beside a loom. Kabir worked with them live in the space. The presence of endurance is resistant. The artist’s new work will collate her parallel practice of photo-montage (many of which are titled ‘IN/VISIBLE’ and depict close-up moments of queer-presenting brown bodies dressing, gazing, holding cloth and looking) with the process of weaving itself. Photographs of the weave and the thread will be arranged and printed on top of a single sheet of tracing paper: a partially-visible but opaque material surface.
Jennifer Mehigan’s recent painting series, such as SOFT BODIES and NUFLESH are very visible, almost exhaustively so. The artist’s work unrelentingly adopts a “strategy of overkill”, as Binghao’s press release describes. The soft, undulating, curvy language of inkjet-fluid paintings is both re-absorbed from the consuming and consumed culture/nature of queerness as a mode of production in terms of high visibility – and also in terms of artwork, and made difficult and hard. Overkill. Hardness is often a literal thing that runs throughout Mehigan’s work and for the Asymmetric Grief, the piece from the series, titled, EAT U UP (2015), will comprise a sweet sensual painting installed with a pink and silver rock at its foot and a print of a hard-bodied female wrestler. Clasping a soft-bodied male in a headlock, her pectoral implant shifts and stands out; hard like a rock and imbued with the same amount of of interruption that Binghao’s show aims to showcase.
London-based artist Adam Saad manipulates affect and material – be it waterproofed fabric, or the pairing of Mariah Carey’s ‘Dream Lover‘ (House remix) with a photograph of one of his drawings – in order to produce new and unimagined zones between things. Each element acts like a soundtrack to another. In a SoundCloud clip, titled, ‘Disidentification *Moment* [Stage I]‘, somebody, possibly a child, is playing the piano. The song is full of pauses and is maybe one that has no score for the player to follow. There are multiple and decisive mini-resolutions where a minor chord or specific note is reached and lingered upon but it never feels like the end of a line or a dedicative break of any kind. Saad’s drawings look a bit like bodies about to fly away and in a video clip embedded online next to ‘Disidentification *Moment* Stage I’, we see one. Magic marker pen on waterproofed fabric is positioned beneath what is presumably a shower head. The hopeful water drops seem not to be running over wherever the magic marker has been applied, but you can never be sure. **