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Queer dimensionality: space, affect and the brown body

- Uncovering the intrinsic movements between space, objects, and dress, in relation to how queer presenting brown bodies are read and perceived, in context to public/private space, and the affect of these dimensions upon the queer brown body and it’s own gaze.

South Asian Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Queer persons, it can be argued, are only read as queer in relation to the space they occupy, or who they are next to. Often because of the Eurocentric projection of LGBTQ identity, South Asian queer persons are rendered invisible. In (hetero)public space, layers of sexuality and the codes of queerness in relation to ethnicity, race and gender, can be lost or erased and often are reliant on queer space to “confirm” their authenticity.

“And they looked at us both on the street, holding hands, they stopped and the car stalled, while we waited to cross. Angrily paused, the driver settled her eyes on me, and flashed disdain before driving off. My queerness was erased, because you passed as a teenage boy, or she chose not to see you as a woman. And it was me who was shamed, who was shamed for holding a white boy’s hand in public, shamed for being a brown girl with a white boy. I was angry for being made to feel small (again), angry that our queerness was taken away from us, and angry for having to carry this gender wrapped inside of me, painted such a shade of Asian.”

The proposal asks different self identified South Asian LBTQ women, and trans/genderqueer persons, where do they feel the most visible, or safe to be LBTQ and South Asian simultaneously? Does such a space exist? If not - can it be created and re-imagined? How do South Asian queer ID persons see themselves reflected in these spaces?

These initial questions sparked the concepts and ideas to create the photo essays, and were a working collaboration between the participants and I the artist, who then became the facilitator to create and document these spatial interactions.

The photographs begin an enquiry into the construction of private/public space, utilizing dress, gender presentation and objects to hint at how race, gender and sexuality affect spaces and perceptions of the queer racialized self.

The individuals I was working with, were Indian, Pakistani and Bengali, who either struggle to reconcile these polarized parts of themselves, or were able to successfully knit their culture, family, and heritage alongside with being open around their sexuality

The series employs the connection between the subject, their own narrative, and reflection on what that means to them. It is a range of photo stories – abstract montages that read like essays or commentary on the struggle for visibility (and space itself). It also provides documentation, spanning age, class and gender presentation, as well as providing a UK context in exploring the interconnected social constructions of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

Alongside the exhibition in April at the Rich Mix, I have been given space, to hold a participatory panel discussion and/or workshop on the 27th April from 2pm. With an initial focus on the position of South Asian queer visibility over the past ten years, by bringing cultural producers, practioners, academics, artists, or film makers together, to discuss the politics of space, identity and diaspora, and it’s affect on the current visibility of South Asian LBTQ identified persons in the UK today.


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