Beers.Lambert Contemporary Art is proud to present Transgression, an exhibition that explores art-practices that challenge and consider the representation of sexuality and gender-constructs in art and society, including those issues generated from (hetero)normative perspectives, but also issues and representations of relevance to LGBT communities, feminist perspectives, and marginalized voices. The exhibition is held in conjunction with the symposium on Aesthetics, Art & Pornography by the University of Kent and the London Institute of Philosophy (June 16-18).
Transgression developed from the desire to curate an exhibition that would provide a perspective of sexuality and gender as radical concepts, reframed through a context in which these ubiquitous idea(l)s could be presented as something alternative, politically engaged, or subversive. It was a sinister, macabre but ultimately empathetic photographic work from Jakob Lena Knebl that provided the basis for the entire exhibition: It Happened In Broad Daylight sees the transgendered artist rigged by what appears to be a horse-bit, like a sadomasochistic marionette hoist by forceps-like clamps from her mouth. The photograph lingered like a troubling dream, until the remainder of the exhibition took shape around this image, the very pulsating heart of Transgression.
Presenting the exhibition in conjunction with the University of Kent’s symposium on Aesthetics, Art, & Pornography at London’s Institute of Philosophy (June 16-18) further drove the pertinent questions of how, why, and to what degree would the work in Transgression incorporate or subvert the expectations of an exhibition – quite bluntly put – on aberrant sexuality. Largely informed and inspired by the writings of French theorist Georges Bataille – from whose musings on sexuality, desire, taboo, violence, and eroticism† the exhibition takes its name – we debated the merit and validity of sexually-informed imagery for inclusion in this exhibition: was it necessary to take a more literal approach (and would such literalness in turn translate to work that would be heedlessly graphic in nature and/or crude?); conversely, would viewers feel that an exhibition prioritizing allegory and metaphor miss the mark of a show purporting to explore the rich depths of extreme sexuality and its aesthetic representation?
Finally, it was a writing by Theodor Adorno on radical representation in art that the exhibition found its voice; the classic themes: Eros & Thanatos (life/love and death) as envisioned by artists whose work voices these themes from somewhere powerful: with narratives lurking beneath their surface, emanating as though from a palimpsest of memory. Sometimes evident, sometimes not. Transgression would eventually include 14 extraordinarily talented international artists, including renowned artist Bruce LaBruce, whose work has redefined the status of sexually-charged imagery in progressive contemporary art. Among those talented individuals included are an artist who maintains a contract with his lover permitting either to perform a cannibalistic act upon the first deceased; a performance by a man in drag that would provide both humor and poignancy that I witnessed for the first time nearly 2 years previous but remained a haunting spectacle; the victim of a gay-bashing incident whose painted self-portraits exhibit his physical and emotional scars; and an HIV-positive artist whose art has literally become his life – and life his art.
I call attention to a mere few narratives behind, and catalysts for, the work in Transgression, but each articulation offers a remarkable perspective to a subject about which these artists feel greatly impassioned, and which – in some instances – has defined not just the artwork but also the artist. A favorite quote from Bataille reads: “We are everlastingly in search of an object outside ourselves…this object answers the very innerness of desire.” An exhibition that at one point could have become something much more literal, instead speaks from a core of (not so) silently, inwardly motivating factors – it would appear that the pulsating heart bleeds.
Beers.Lambert Contemporary Art
†In the remarkable Eroticism, 1957