Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Big Day

A magically queer Christmas to everyone! With a drawing by the super Felix D'Eon.

Friday, 19 December 2014


Another strong exhibition at the Zachęta Gallery: "Progress and Hygiene" might sound somewhat misleading (i.e. boring) but this show is a very clever exploration of society's use of the body as a means of control. Think of it as a rendez-vous between science, power and aesthetics.

The curators manage to survey much of the 20th century by featuring an improbable range of artists from Luc Tuymans and Gerhard Richter to Robert Capa and Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl's film "Olympia" (1938), notoriously commissioned by Hitler, is especially unsettling with its combination of beauty, pompousness and historical responsibility. 

Leni Riefenstahl, In der Sauna
Of course it also didn't escape me just how homoerotic this piece of Aryan propaganda is (oh, the bitter irony), with all the sweating torsos and muscly butts and scenes of sauna frolicking. I mean, please
But leaving the gallery I thought, somewhat fatally, that maybe not that much has changed since Riefenstahl. Today it isn't governments that use images of sculpted bodies to control us, but instead a whole industry exists that is built on showing us superior physiques to make us give up our minds (and money) in order to be part of something bigger and seemingly better. 

Bruce Weber's very gay A&F propaganda

Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg for Calvin Klein
David Gandy for Dolce & Gabbana
Get it? So much for progress. Viva la revolución interior!

Beware, Cindy wants to control you. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Naked vs. Revealed

Bertrand Bonello's "Saint Laurent" was not at all what I thought it would be. Having seen the trailer I envisioned stunning settings, tasteful drama and a splash of scandal. What I got was a whole lot different.

Maybe I was blinded by appearances - it is hard not to be impressed by how the usually hunky Gaspard Ulliel transformed into weedy Saint Laurent, or by just how bloody handsome Louis Garrel looks with a moustache (who would have thought?).

Louis Garrel as YSL's and Karl Lagerfeld's lover Jacques de Bascher

And being blinded by appearance is exactly what happened to the film. Like Narcissus transfixed with his own image, it somehow forgot to come up with anything resembling substance. For a very long two and a half hours the film rambles on without much of a point of view, jumping from one time period to another, never quite explaining Saint Laurent's central relationships (his love for Pierre Bergé or his lifelong friendships with Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise). The whole thing feels like an interminable trailer, with the characters as deep and relatable as models in a Saint Laurent ad.

And yet, there may be one reason to go and see this film: Ulliel's unabashed semi-hard full frontal. It was the only moment that made my jaw drop, and maybe the only time this film leaves its dull comfort zone and gives you a feel for YSL's daring and desparate private life (and Ulliel's very generous junk). Although I'm sure a decent screen shot will soon leak into the world wide web. In the meantime, I recommend the trailer over the film and Alicia Drake's "Beautiful Fall" for a real insight into the scandal.

A tame gay orgy with Louis Garrel 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Big Deal

One of the greatest drawbacks of not living in London is to miss Anselm Kiefer's retrospective at the Royal Academy. And so, when in Milan the other week, I took a rather long metro journey to the outskirts of the city to search out Hangar Bicocca. In the Pirelli factory turned contemporary art museum I found my dose of Kiefer spectacular.

Anselm Kiefer "Seven Heavenly Palaces", 2004, at Hangar Bicocca in Milan

"The Seven Heavenly Palaces" is a permanent site-specific installation, made up of seven concrete towers weighing 90 tonnes each, 14-18 metres high. And it took my breath away. Even though I didn't know much about the artist, and even though I didn't know he was thinking ancient Jewish teachings, World War II ruins and the future remains of our civilization. Because you can sense all this. And it, (along with a certain Guardian article) opened my eyes as to just how much of a crazy mystic Kiefer really is.

Anselm Kiefer, Winter Landscape, 1970

And suddenly London's call resounds even more sweetly. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Meditating on Queer

I took a spiritual break from blogging. I should have said something, but I didn't. What did I do instead? Meditate.

Nothing very mysterious or noble made me stumble on Vipassana - one day I googled 'Free Meditation courses' and there it was: A somewhat muted but efficient website informing me of a 10-day course where you're not allowed to read, write, text, call, google, copulate, masturbate or speak. And all of it for free! It wasn't going to be as pretty or instagrammable as some 'digital detox' retreats, but why should anyone, on top of everything else, make money on my inner peace?

I won't describe what the Vipassana technique is about because it would sound either prosyletizing or new-agey, and it really is something one needs to experience for onself. But it worked for me. And even the prohibitions made sense. What struck me as strange, however, was the ingrained heteronormativity on the course: Men and women ate, slept and even went for walks separately in order to avoid distractions and 'impure thoughts' (did I mention the ban on masturbation?). But the presumption that being locked up with the boys would be of absolutely no erotic potential for me felt like an institutional negation of my sexuality.  

Which upset me on the first days - shouldn't there be exceptions for us? Wouldn't it be easier for me to be with the girls? 
And then it dawned on me: That I had somehow forgotten the fact that I was part of a minority, and that it wasn't anyone's fault. And that no one really cared. It wasn't about asserting my gay ego, it was about accepting a simple syllogism: That I'm a man, that most men identify as mostly heterosexual, and that therefore people would assume that I was too. And not in order to oppress me. This is of course a truism, but in an individualist world where you create and consume any sort of culture you like, you can live without being confronted with the simplest of truths. And then, of course, there is your LGBT-rights awareness, which knows only too well that there is still so much to be done. But that doesn't mean there is discrimination and bad faith everywhere. And after all, I learned that being with the boys isn't all that bad.