visual art

I’ve been frustrated by the lack of spaces that exist for queer men to talk about their sexuality in meaningful ways. Often times these are dominated by formal scientific or academic language or, if dominated by the personal, it fails to adequately capture sex we’re having now and sex we want to give in ten years from now. Historical analysis and nostalgia for the kinds of movements and communities we had are warranted. But what about people like me, under the age of 35, who have grown up largely post-AIDS, whose sexuality has almost entirely been tied to digital technology?

Enter the Annals of Gay Sexuality 2015:

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Image: Zeitgeist (modified) by Pablo Cáceres

As they say:

AGS contributors expose the present-day tastes, textures, sights and smells of our sex, from the mating rituals at a group sex potluck to sexting between cis- and transgender bears; from mile-high club poetry about Patient Zero to pillow talk between friends who are untangling sero-discordant envies. Both heart-breaking and hair-raising, these authors and artists whip it out and make us gag on our HIV-saturated gay lives and in the process evoke frothy new cultural and sexual paradigms.

I’m interested in the mix between the high and low brow, between stories that might be more conventional and others that push the boundaries of sexual ethics and gender identity in playful way. It’s also unapologetic in its sexuality, almost in a campy way. The body gets centered in discussions on sex, which should be a obvious, but this often isn’t the case. Getting lost in abstraction or totally removing “I” from the equation is all too common.

I’m definitely going to be submitting a proposal for the 2016 edition. (The proposals are due on December 1st, though earlier submissions are always welcome.) I want to look at having sex in a global sexual culture. How can we navigate and respect differences in terms of country of origin, race, class and the access to sexual health services? Why is there an inherent power in these sexual experiences? And what, exactly, is it that we discover through travels and traversals of identity?

If you have any idea, big or small, I’d encourage you to submit as well. Getting a chance to experiment and collaborate with others on these topics is a rarity, so get on it while you can! Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below as well, even if you don’t think you’ll submit anything.

kyle_bella_recliningbefore he clicks the shutter on the camera all of the muscles in my face relax, even though my body is contorted (this shot took what seemed like 20 minutes to compose), & i let myself go because i wanted to be captured in a state of abandon, like i was free for a moment at least, free from what though or who, i can’t quite tell, but i wanted to be looking at him, not the camera lens, i wanted to welcome him closer to this version of me.

in retrospect: who is this person i’m looking at? am i a 70s pinup figure? if so, in 10 years time would i be dead with aids? is it morbid to always think of aids? i can’t help it, though, when the image that is created screams QUEER PHOTOGRAPHY 1970-1985, & doubly so when that curvature of my ass welcomes somebody’s cock. come inside of me right now i seem to suggest & for the first time in my life i don’t feel guilty.

it’s odd not feeling guilty. my whole life i’ve felt guilty about sex, my body a wasteland, space when i could be fucked into oblivion, because I bore, invisibly, the scars of queer erasure & death & aids, always there, aids that jumped from the art books i read, the plays i watched, the men i met, but still hush hush, our culture one stern daddy telling us not to talk about those things, the very things that were killing all of us, whether physically or psychologically.

but then the camera shutter i anticipated clicked — “keep your eyes open,” he said just before this moment — & i was no longer erased.

every muscle loosened up, collapsing into the oblivion of my own making, 70s pinup, a sex symbol not giving a single fuck about aids for a second, undressing the object of my desire with soft cerulean eyes: would he put his tongue in my ass? would we make each other moan? would we? what can we do now? what will we do? done?

i wish everyone could feel this kind of rapture in their body. but it’s 2015, so i know how difficult it is. i wish we could all just get rid of fear, false ideologies & mythologies of aids. i wish we could lust & love each other better, not shame those on the front lines of this epidemic doing what they can to minimize risk. i wish we could all feel comfortable connecting with poz artists, lovers & culture makers who are giving us insights into leading sex positive, stigma-free lives.

when i look at this photograph again & feel every muscle loosen up in my body, i think about what i’ve only begun doing to be a better sexual being, to be better to myself because i’m confronting & transcending death through my presence. i probably would have died have been alive in the 70s. but i wasn’t alive then. i was born into a time and moment when i have a capacity to confront the real problem in society: the figures telling queer men to hush hush & worry about “deception” from those people living with hiv.

part of my manifesto (if you can call living a manifesto): i will continue to bare it all for the photographic lens, for the photographer himself, for him, whoever he is, because my body is, ultimately, the most powerful force on the frontlines of this epidemic. i will let you turn your eyes toward me if you’re willing to let your guard down, at first, & maybe eventually let it go.

as a logical progression: undress me. let me undress you. come closer. come…

Keith Haring is everywhere these days. You’re probably heard of the Keith Haring: Political Line exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco that’s currently open until February. You might have seen him on t-shirts, tote bags or windbreakers through the UNIQLO x MoMA collaboration or in any other number of fashion brand collaborations. If you haven’t heard of one of these exhibits or partnerships, you probably have seen a Keith Haring painting before without knowing it. Bold, graphic lines of figures, creatures and symbols that are intertwined. Before his death from AIDS-related complications, Haring was a bit of darling in our cultural landscape: universally liked by radical queer activists and the Sesame Street crowd. Today I had a chance to visit Pace Print’s small but mighty exhibit of (mostly) black and white limited edition prints.

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Francisco Hurtz, “man as sexual object” (2014) – reposted with permission

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In his own words: “I think this artworks talks for itself…  It’s about turning men vulnerable as woman have been for a long time.”