A real burning issue of the present time – when certain achievements and claims still rest on a precarious balance – the issue of LGBTQIA+ rights finds in artistic practices one of the most effective awareness-raising tools. Queer art is gaining prominence in the contemporary art scene; today, several museums and exhibitions around the world provide an in-depth look at Lgbt culture by promoting its flagship artists. Arte Laguna Prize – an art competition with an international scope – makes no exception, presenting a series of works celebrating the Lgbt community and its challenges in the present until April 16th 2023 at the Arsenale Nord in Venice. Several works reveal the sometimes complex introspective process that leads to an awareness of one’s own identity. Another declination of the theme concerns the obstacles encountered in society, from the judgey looks to the not uncommon physical and verbal aggressions. Painting, photography, digital art, installations: various mediums have been chosen to destroy taboos and denounce the social stigma associated with homo, bi and transsexuality.
Unity, diversity and inclusion are the main themes of Hopeful (2021), an installation by Costa Rican artist Ale Rambar, consisting of 1670 coloured strips of paper joined together to create vivid rainbow cascades. Visitors are invited to choose among the many colour bands, the strip they identify themselves with: behind that colour lies each person’s history, desires and vision of the world. Around the identified band, however, there are many others, some of the same colour, others of different shades; these elements symbolize the community in which everyone is inserted, made up of people sometimes similar to us, sometimes completely different. The artist’s invitation is to take those around us by the hand, starting to consider the community as a union of colours, stories and different experiences. The work represents the hopes of a future in which everyone will be able to embrace and welcome the others, accepting their respective colours. The mirrors placed at the base of the installation are also of particular importance. They have the shape of a drop creating a ripple on water; it is a metaphor to remind how every action we perform or every word we utter causes a “ripple effect” and brings consequences with it. As the artist says, this work “speaks of love towards ourselves and people around us. It is about embracing the differences that make us unique and accepting people for who they are, whether they think like us or not’.
Reiterating the concept of unity is also the SINE QUA NON ART collective with the performance O futuro é ancestral (2022). Covering their faces and bodies with coloured adhesive beads, French choreographers and performers Christophe Béranger and Jonathan Pranlas-Descours stage a complex dance that emphasises human vulnerability and proposes solidarity between people as the only solution to the disintegration of society.
On the other hand, Rabee Bagshani, draws on the Persian history to prove how sometimes the past has been more progressive than the present. King’s Sons (2018) evokes the so-called Qajar Iran (1794-1925), an historical period marked by numerous social reforms and a very fluid view of the concepts of male and female beauty. In fact, women and men were depicted with very similar physical and body characteristics, moreover at the time it was not uncommon to come across works of art featuring same-sex couples. For example, the artist mentions certain illustrations, realized during the reign of the Safavid dynasty, that featured some «intimate male-male embraces often categorised as “loving couples”». In addition, as the artist explains, «it was a common practice that certain powerful, authoritative or influential figures, belonging to the upper class, had a preference for males, despite being married or having concubines». From the end of the 19th century, however, the depiction of homosexual couples gradually disappeared due to multiple socio-cultural factors.
Overturning the well-established artistic patterns is one of the intentions of Diana Rad who, in her Terrarium (2022), puts a gay couple at the centre of her artwork, with two men wrapped in an embrace under a full moon. The choice is not only a tribute to the Lgbt movement, but also an exhortation to a greater use of male models in contexts characterised by a degree of tenderness and affection usually associated with the female universe. In developing this intent, Jacopo Dimastrogiovanni finds an example in Luca Guadagnino, director of the movie Call me by your name, source of inspiration for his painting I can’t believe you changed it again! (2021). Instead, Alessandro De Marinis explores this line dealing with the theme of twin love in the photographic series Inseparabili – Gianco et Poncho (2021). In particular, in the work exhibited at the Arsenale Nord in Venice, the two protagonists, forced to stay at home due to the pandemic, discover the possibility of living together, in symbiosis, creating, as the author explains, «a unique man, beyond earthly laws and without any emotional obligation». The artist also mentions the three institutions that, in society, stand in the way of the identity search of those who question their sexual orientation: school, Church and family. Each of them also tries to channel and normalise the lives of Gianco and Poncho but, for them, De Marinis has foreseen a happy ending because their affection proves to be more solid than influences from outside. In his project, the artist also refers to the issue of masculinity, even mentioning his personal experience: «Since childhood, I have never respected the ‘criteria of masculinity’. My body has always allowed me to migrate between two forms, two identities. The feminine and the masculine are in symbiosis in me and, in my works, they come together. […] The union is scary; my project therefore reads as a continuous struggle against those who reject the idea that a body can contain the two natures: man and woman».
Fabian Albertini addresses the issue of prejudices associated with the LGBT community, citing a Stanford Univeristy research in association with his photographic work Controlled Lives – Paris 2017 (2017), «using more than 30,000 images taken from a dating site, scientists trained a facial recognition system to identify a person’s sexual orientation from the characteristics of their face». Faced with this Lombrosian practice implemented through artificial intelligence, the artist wonders whether the only way forward is not to ‘mask, transform or hide our identity as a form of protection’ from the classifications of the outside world.
The breaking of stereotypes also concerns Two Swans from “Planted” Series (2020) in which Inbar Hasson depicts two men of different ages sharing a bathtub. The work disconcerts the viewer, putting him in an uncomfortable condition as he is exposed to a situation he is not used to face. This painting exposes an intimate moment in the lives of the protagonists, at the same time highlighting the fragility and loneliness of their existences, the desire for love that knows no gender or age.
List of artists, artworks and images:
SINE QUA NON ART https://artelaguna.world/performance/o-futuro-E-ancestral/
Rabee Bagshani https://artelaguna.world/graphics/king-s-sons/
Jacopo Dimastrogiovanni https://artelaguna.world/paintings/i-can-t-believe-you-changed-it-again/
Alessandro De Marinis https://artelaguna.world/photograph/inseparabili-giango-et-poncho.67945/
Fabian Albertini https://artelaguna.world/photograph/controlled-lives_1366/