‘HERE&NOW2020: Perfectly Queer’ is an exhibition showcasing artworks from queer Western Australian Artists, and runs from the 29th of August to the 5th of December. The collection of work, curated by Brent Harrison, and examines what it means to be queer through the artists’ responses to their own lived queer experiences.
The exhibition aims to dismantle dominant heteronormative narratives by encouraging intergenerational dialogues that highlight the continued resistance of queer culture. An annual feature, this year’s ‘HERE&NOW’ offers works from eight artists.
This feature combines images from the exhibition with an ekphrastic response to the work from Scott-Patrick Mitchell. It meets with writing from Amy Lin offering a response to Drew Pettifer’s exhibition, ‘A Sorrowful Act’, which you can find here, or in Westerly 65.2.
after William Dobell’s Fisherman (n.d.)
In the gouache dark, moon teals the reeds. Rod is a small god. Old testament. Plucks wrath in thrash of scales. But the fisherman prefers an apostle song. The names of so many men, swimming through him. Each time he catches a fish, he dubs it hymn, after a dead lover. Then releases it. If you teach a person to fish, they will never be lonely: river keeps good company. They sing to each other: feretory and octave. They both ache. Beyond the bend, the detritus of lives, left behind. Fisherman deepens knees. Into current, he breaths apology. His tears: a precursor to the diurnal. Out further, the ghosts of lovers. Abandoned beyond the tide that sticks, they look toward home: find nothing but fish. Name them after the man they had to leave to life. Him, marooned in blood, on the riverbank.
Drawn From Life: A Brief Meditation on Time Travel
after Janet Carter’s Drawn from Life (2020)
This poem is a temporal machine. Contains time and relative dimensions in space. Is a doctor, because all poetry is medicine. Is shifting: hear the sound of an engine in your ears, thwomping.
Disclaimer: that could just be your blood.
Janet is sending you a Zoom invitation. Wants to chat. About the past, as a way to heal the future. This is what we do now: open windows on to other parts of the world, across time and space. We are talking. This is dialogue.
If the present is a fever dream, is that your teeth chattering, or do you just have a bad connection?
Conversation as a form of conservation. Archive as an arched life, how the spine touches finger’s tip. We are not written yet. We are writing. With tongue. Through byte. Our screens, a tableau.
People have entered the chat: Noemie, Pia, Reece, Josh, Lill.
Somebody is speaking, but it’s none of them. In fact, in every image of these guests, they each have their mouths closed: this is intentional. Or they are leaning in far too close to the camera, all eyeball and hairline. This is also intentional. So who is speaking? You do not know. But the words belong to Crimp and Kushner.
Douglas Crimp’s essay, Mourning and Militancy, has entered the chat.
You are unfamiliar with this work. You Google it. In doing so, you come across a dodgy link. Click it. Red banner warning. Close window. Wonder if somebody has hacked your system. Stolen your identity. If they want to take your form, it’s only fair they take all of you. Dear Identity Theft: to whom should we send the banking details for all of our outstanding debt? To whom should we address this ever-present threat of violence?
Harper Pitt, from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, has entered the chat.
You are watching this play. It is May, 2016. The play is based in New York. You are at the State Theatre Centre in Perth. The angels are tired: they have travelled approximately 18,700 kms and 25 years to be here, before you. At the climax of this production—spoilers, sweetie—the roof collapses on the stage. As bed ascends, wings are summoned. You are already crying. Not because of the beauty of this spectacle. But because you know how the story ends. So many lost. So many dead. So many still dying.
Perth Train Station has entered the chat.
It’s pre-lockdown. Just. You have travelled 8 months into the past. You are wearing a mask, walking through Perth Traino. Those big screens that replaced all the classical music, they are beaming in images from Wuhan’s Huoshenshan Hospital. The doctors are in hazmat suits. It reminds you of your childhood, back in England, mid-80s: doctors triple suited as they treat AIDS patients. That grief you had no name for, back then… it surges, consumes Platform 5. Beneath your feet, a memory of swamp. This too is an unspeakable grief.
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery has re-entered the chat.
And, like that, you’re back in the room. On the screen, Janet is circling through screens. In her email folder you can see a booking for an Air BnB. The date is redacted. You wonder if she ever reached that destination, that room. Or if, like everything else at this point in time, the reservation was cancelled. Travel feels speculative, fictitious. But somehow, time travel doesn’t. Not here. Not now
You return to the exhibition at the exact moment you left: the salt on your cheek is a gift.
DOWNUNDER: A Found Poem
after Jo Darbyshire’s DOWNUNDER (2020) installation
The phrase ‘he’s artistic’ in Australian slang suggested
camp artists and curators had to tread carefully
he kept his life very compartmentalised
a situation of invisibility
to adopt a macho posture
that which is usually in absence
Jeffrey said Justin was an alcoholic for a reason
partly because it was illegal
‘Being an artist and being queer was a very lonely situation,’
he led quite a passionate and interesting life once he came to terms with it
he painted sweet confections of the human condition
a more complex history about them
both in private conversation and public appearances
the idea of the silver gallery walls
a balm for something inside
to paint and draw
a feminine response to nationalism
his guarantee of iconic status demanded the suppression of his homosexuality
did not return to Australia
these women and men were free to explore the world they knew
took to working with a magnifying glass
to provide a continuum to ‘queer’ artists
They were buried in the same grave
Scott-Patrick Mitchell (SPM) is a non-binary poet who lives and writes on Whadjuk Noongar boodja. SPM’s work appears in Contemporary Australian Poetry, The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry, Solid Air, Stories of Perth and Going Postal. In 2019, SPM won Coal Creek’s Literary Award for Poetry, The Creative Connections Poetry Prize, Melbourne Poets Union’s Martin Downey Urban Realist Poetry Award and the Wollongong Short Story Prize. Most recently, SPM was shortlisted for the International Googie Goer Prize for Speculative Prose, the 2020 Red Room Poetry Fellowship, the Martha Richardson Poetry Award and KSP’s Short Story Prize.
For the biographies of all the artists involved, please see the Exhibition Catalogue, online via Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.