Antwerp Queer Arts Festival – Preview

Adam Lowe

The Antwerp Queer Arts Festival hits Belgium on 2-10 August 2014. Artists, academics and practitioners will be descending upon the gorgeous city to explore arts and culture from a LGBT+ perspective.

On the opening night, attendees can visit the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival exhibition (which runs for the entire duration of the festival) and watch the world-famous dancers of the Royal Ballet of Flanders in the exquisite gallery at the Eilandje, close to the MAS museum. The Strangelove Festival will be performing outside the gallery for the launch, while the interior will be brought alive with queer poetry.

Visual art

The exhibition PORT selects a cargo of unconventional artists importing diverse perspectives on queer topics in art. Norwegian artist Thomas Grødal has curated a selection of artworks that includes his own work as well as that of other queer artists working on sexual and gender identities from ports as far apart as Shanghai and  Rotterdam. Artists included in the exhibition are Kasper Bosmans, Lill-Ann Chepstow-Lusty, Rachid Laachir, Roberto Espinosa, Chrysanne Stathacos, Zanele Muholi, Yishay Garbasz and others.

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Grødal will lift the veil on a large, Wildean and transgressive art world by unlocking the potential of photography, sculpture, installation, video-art, literature, and performance art. Through this juxtaposition, Grødal hopes to cut through the lethargy of a ‘gay’ culture that has been co-opted by mainstream consumerism and which reflects only one facet of the queer experience – to reveal a diversity of identities and perspectives.

Dance

Dancers Laurie McSherry-Gray and Teun van Roosmalen of the Royal Ballet of Flanders will perform a duet, ‘The Bigger the Front’, created with a strict deadline of only a half-day rehearsal time. The duo worked with choreographer Jonas Vlerick, who carefully selected key words and used them as the basis for the choreography. Vlerick drew upon stories from a book of psychoanalysis by Stephen Grosz – particularly the theory of ‘splitting’. Splitting is a strategy of the unconscious mind to keep individuals ignorant of the feelings they are unable to tolerate about themselves.

‘We want to see ourselves as good and ignore those aspects of ourselves that we find shameful to another people,’ says Vlerick.

Film

The film La Santa – The Blessed is about 13-year old María, an intersex girl forced by her father to incarnate the Holy Virgin Mary at the procession in their town, because he thinks this is the only way she can ‘get fixed’. Directed by Mauricio López Fernández of Santiago de Chile, who completed his studies in Audiovisual Direction at the Catholic University of Chile. His first short movie, La Santa, had its premiere at the 2012 Berlinale Shorts Competition.

Literature

The Literature and Pop-up Store allows attendees to immerse themselves in queer literature, with an opportunity to meet interesting queer authors during the festival, including the superb Thomas Glave – author, university professor and founder of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG).

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Thomas Glave’s latest collection of essays, Among the Bloodpeople: Politics & Flesh, was a finalist in the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards.

Attendees can browse through relevant LGBT+ books and films in the pop-up book store – in cooperation with LGBTQ Bookshop ’t Verschil.

Music

There will be a lecture recital asking ‘Can classical music be queer?’ The lecture will explore questions such as whether you can hear a composer’s queerness in their music, expressions of gender in classical mysic, and the prevalence of men performing women’s roles in opera and vice versa.

In this queer music lecture recital, classical singers Jorg Delfos (countertenor) and Naomi Beeldens (soprano) join queer researchers Marion Wasserbauer and Robbe Herreman (University of Antwerp) in search of possible answers to these questions.

Because it is not always clear how and why music can be interpreted as queer, the music is placed in a theoretical framework.

Performance

‘Het Joachim Flaxer Complex’ is the brainchild of Neal Leemput, who began working with Phedra Vandenbergh and Raphaël Vandeweyer at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp.

‘Het Joachim Flaxer Complex’ is a rich piece of theatre based on the work of R.W. Fassbinder. This performance explores themes as disparate as smoked meat, opportunism, park benches and dancing deers, via true love and win-win situations. The performance will ask the question, ‘What price would you pay for a body?’

Location

The festival takes place at Galerij Verbeeck-Van Dyck, Westkaai, Verbindingsdok 12, 2000 Antwerpen and at the Theater het Klokhuis, Parochiaanstraat 4a, 2000 Antwerpen.

Read the full programme online.