BACKGROUND TO BALACLAVA.Q
“Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” – Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956)
Having made links and friendships with artists online who, in various countries, are making strong and bold statements in queer art, yet, for their own personal protection, or desire, choose to, or must, remain, anonymous because they desire anonymity, or because of censorship by governments tied to fundamentalist religious doctrines. Due to this largely global predicament, which fills my own political and aesthetic desire to, put it bluntly, do something! I asked myself: Is there a safe space online that is dedicated to showing queer art while simultaneously providing the means for such artists to connect and become inspired reciprocally? This was the starting point forBalaclava.Q, which I will expand on the title of this project below.
Another incident that triggered my desire to do something, was the tragic event on June 12, 2016 at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, Florida, United States. 49 LGBTQ people were murdered and 53 others were wounded or seriously injured, not to mention the number of friends, families, partners and colleagues of the victims who will deeply have been affected. What makes this event even more horrific is that in Florida one can be fired for being LGBTQ–thus, many of the survivors did not want any publicity. This was the largest mass murder of LGBTQ people since the Holocaust.
Here and now there is a global genocide targeting LGBTQ people, and added to this we must acknowledge the suicides, which predominantly affect young people, caused by fear, stigma and isolation.1 Almost every day we read yet another story in our newsfeed reporting on another person who has been killed simply because they exist. In our digital age we convey our outrage by sharing and commenting on posts, but we are still left with a feeling of helplessness, distance and hopelessness. This project is gravely important in helping people — specifically queer artists — share and connect their stories and experiences in particular ways. Art does not have the power to change laws or transform governments or religions, but it does aid in helping one see differently — and sharing this new way of seeing.
With all of the above stated, these tragic events and unnerving statistics gave me the confidence and drive to start Balaclava.Q—it is the intention that this project will develop organically as artist’s submissions and interactions manifest themselves.
BALACLAVA.Q (A DEFINITION)
BALACLAVA = A CLOSE-FITTING GARMENT COVERING THE WHOLE HEAD AND NECK EXCEPT FOR PARTS OF THE FACE, TYPICALLY MADE OF WOOL.
Balaclava.Q will present work by artists who identify as queer or other, this will act as a community generator as will the theme of works submitted to Balaclava.Q: works that explore the mechanism of obscuring the face. The theme of facial obscurity doesn’t mean anything inherently — and, again, it is not about promoting shame. It is, however, a mechanism to provide safety to some and empowerment to others. Coincidentally in researching queer artists it became clear quite quickly that obscuring the face is a popular aesthetic; for example, drag artists, club kids, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, aspects BDSM, etcetera covering the face provides an opportunity for freedom of expression.
OPEN CALL FOR ARTWORK
Balaclava.Q is an international visual art project created and edited by Stiofan O’Ceallaigh (AKA: Stephen Kelly), which is both a refusal and a resistance to normative representations of the portrait, same-sex relations and more.
This project will present a queer aesthetic; covering the face as a means of expression that is simultaneously a queer tactic. The aim of this project is to connect, promote and create a platform for artists. This project is organic and will likely shift with each new artist that contributes to it. Furthermore, this project will work in three stages.
Stage 1 creates an online exhibition of artists who represent (without using the face—ergo facial expressions). There is no deadline for this stage of the project. Stage one is a continuous and seeks to promote dialogue and exchange between queer artists.
Stage 2 facilitates artists to collaborate and connect internationally to make a new piece of work together (more information to follow).
Stage 3 leads on from Stage 2, whereby the artworks created in Stage 2 will be exhibited together in an exhibition—thus providing a platform for queer artists and their collaborative work.
The core mission of Balaclava.Q is to create a place for queer artists who investigate the human condition: “Who Am I?” “Why Am I?” “Where Am I?” “What Am I?” And for some artists, it might be that they simply declare “Fuck You”.
HOW TO SUBMIT WORK FOR STAGE ONE OF BALACLAVA.Q
- ARTISTS: Balaclava.Q is open to collectives, groups, partnerships, collaborations, new and established artists from any country. This project is open to artists who regardless of gender, race, class, national origin, ethnicity, religious preference, and disability, and who identify as queer or other.
- THEME & CONTENT: Only work that covers, removes, blurs, or obscures the face in some way will, currently, be accepted. Themes may range from fetishistic, personal, portraits, fashion, conceptual, abstract, and beyond. Balaclava.Q is open to a multiplicity of aesthetics, mediums and representations.
- ARTWORK: All file formats are accepted; for example, work can be submitted as photographs, videos, animations, recorded performances or videos. You may submit as many pieces as you like. Titles and dates of the work are also useful for the viewer and for copyright purposes.
- ARTIST’S STATEMENT: Please ask yourself the following questions: What is your work about? Why you want to be part of Balaclava.Q? How do you interpret the theme of obscuring the face? Have you any upcoming exhibitions, performances or social media links you would like to invite your contemporaries to explore and attend? Or anything else you feel important or that you want to say (maximum word count 250).
- COPYRIGHT: Please provide relevant legal and copyright information to protect your work — if you wish.
- DEADLINE: For stage one there is no deadline. Even after your page goes live you can add further works, further upcoming events and exhibitions information and or edits and amendments. Again, stage one is a continuous platform.
- FEE: There are no fees or other costs.
- DIALOGUE: Balaclava.Q is a platform that at its core is connecting like-minded artists. Balaclava.Q expects that you engage with other artists and show your support via the Balaclava.Q Facebook page or through direct links to your fellow artists social media and web links on the Balaclava.Q website, given this is not only a site to present work but to build relations.