Artist: Than Hussein Clark
Exhibition title: HOLLYWOOD REGENCY
Venue: Crèvecoeur, Paris, France
Date: March 30 – May 13, 2017
Photography: © Aurélien Mole, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Crèvecoeur, Paris
Recently, Fassbinder ’s assertion that at the centre of his metier is what he calls the «exploitability of feelings”, has been much on my mind. In Fassbinder’s imagined republic the question of how feeling might be linked to the aesthetic and to capital is hardly radical, I would assert that feelings are rarely granted access to the exhibition space so proudly celebrated as only a rigorous crucible of critical ideas.
So, like an an actor I would direct in order to prepare a role, I have been asking myself to exploit my feelings in order to produce an object, and, like an an actor, I would direct in order to prepare a role, I must ask myself to create a world in which those feelings can come to life, in order to produce an exhibition. This imaginative machinery, my imagined Republic, constructed with tools stolen from the actor – circumstances, postulations, feelings, ifs – I will now try to describe. Let us call it “The Seventh Republic”, thinking of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, where before Death, we enter life’s final seventh stage-
Over the past three months, I have been wondering how is might be possible to produce an exhibition about what it might be like to be a gay republican, the violence of enfranchisement, entropy – a feeling of ends, of loss. In truth, perhaps, I have been thinking about this possibility for the last two years, for, like a shadow, this possibility and this ending, has seemed to follow me as I have borne witness to what might be called “love winning” time and time again. I have tried to outline this before, writing previously, in the Heterophobia Edition of Salt Magazine Co-edited by Villa Design Group—
And then the flags came. Thick and Fast. All over my Facebook feed in waves. First in America. Then across the world. All with the celebratory #lovewins. And although, if one were to look back on my status updates you will find things like, “ WELL WHAT A JOYOUS FUCK YOU TO ALL THE HATERS AS WELL: FUCK YOU WESTBOROUGH/ FUCK YOU SCALIA/FUCK YOU PAT ROBERTSON/FUCK YOU JESSE HELMS/ FUCK YOU REAGAN/ FUCK YOU BUSH AND CO/ FUCK YOU PAT BUCHANAN: AND ALL OF THE REST OF YOU THAT HAVE BEEN THERE OVER THE LAST THIRTY THREE YEARS IN THE DAMN WAY”, I found myself unable to join the parade of flags. Over and over again, I was struck by the very fact the most if not all of those who had chosen to overlay there image with a rainbow and exclaim the hashtag #lovewins were Heterosexuals, more often than not using pictures of there own weddings as the first image on which this rainbow ‘pride’ app could be over laid. What is Heterosexuality doing celebrating my enfranchisement into something I never knew that I wanted? Perhaps, if for Heterosexuals #lovewins, a certain promise of democracy is shorn up, that is, the democratic system is not yet completely broken by capital. So when #lovewins, the victory is capital’s, that is, those who have always been enfranchised into a political system from birth are blinded to the ever growing cracks in that system. So be suspicious of solidarity, and be afraid of granting access to ones struggle to those whom it was never related, for that access may be marshaled by a larger axis in order to manipulate the rights that are granted to those whom they were denied as a means of obscuring the rights and promises that were never given to anyone at all. I am afraid of Heterosexuality’s kindness. Afraid of the ways in which my love winning, the carving out of space for me in public life by Heterosexuals, is made by imbrications of Heterosexuality and capital, into everyone’s loss.
This situation has become even more paradoxical, when this promised rainbow coalition, which trumpeted loves victory, lost time and time again over the past year. Brexit, Trump, Milo, and there seems to be more to bear. Yes, I have experienced my enfranchisement not as a process of growth, but of loss, a gradual undoing of difference which has left me right in the centre of the republic’s power. And yes, as I have seen the parameters by which I have understood my queerness fade away i.e.. the terms of my disenfrachisement – I have asked myself, if I am no longer a homosexual, then what have I become? And yes, I have looked in the mirror, and seen other sections of myself come into focus – white and CIS and and male – and I thought to myself, has my enfranchisement into the republic turned me into a republican?
But, with the rising tide of facism over the last year, I have also now been struck – currently – with the feeling that many things besides my homosexuality are at the end. And I have felt those losses viscerally as well – Friendships, relationships, ways of working, ethical promises, and modes of thought. And does this feeling of continual loss, require a return to a sense of Citzenship, of a kind of traditionally politically radical subjethood that it at one point it felt absolutely vital to reject. In a recent studio visit in which a curator looked at me askance when I stated that I was fighting the feeling that the world, that democracy, that some kind of ethical promise was ending.
When challenged they asked – Isn’t the question if we ever thought it existed in the first place? This challenge was to be expected, as in someways, it has been my own, the challenge between thinking and feeling, knowing not knowing. As recently, while participating on the woman march on Washington, I found myself having to silence the voice in my head which was screaming “Why is no-one speaking about the money, Why is know one speaking about the money”, in order to accept that it somehow felt right to be there. So like an actor, I would direct in order to prepare a role, I am asking myself to learn these new characters lines – Whilst many of us have been given the critical apertures by which to frame and reframe the realities of power to understand that promises of liberation and inclusion are often only ruses for further obfuscation, there are many others who have felt that democratic promise to be true. As when in December of this year I traveled with my parents to two private game reserves in the south east corner of Botswana; while I was confronting the fact that this perhaps was the last time I would be having such an experience with them, as they are approaching there eighties, my mother, a career politician, and my father, a doctor, both committed democrats, both products of the social movements of the sixtes, and both old enough to remember and believe the post-war promise of the west’s liberal democratic exeptionalism, confronted and talked insistently of the breakdown of the system that had fought long and hard to believe in.
The objects in this exhibition began to take shape in this emotional, geographic, and poltical landscape. On the plane home, while weeping and watching the Liberace Biopic, Behind the Candelabra – I began to recoil at this Conradian vision of my dislocated self, looking for elephants in the middle of the night – the horror, oh yes, the horror – WHAT IF, LIKE THE GIRAFFE, THE HOMOSEXUAL IS SOON TO BE EXTINCT?