Saturday, 7 November 2015

Extract of Thoughts on SQIFF and Arika

SQIFF's arrival in Glasgow offered an opportunity to see a great many queer films in a short period of time, sketching out the boundaries of where queer cinema has been and where it is heading. The range of choices, from serious 1960s' attempts to articulate queerness to contemporary witty chronicles of dating anxiety, SQIFF is an inclusive and intelligent introduction to a difficult and contested area.

The presence of 'The Queer' in Glasgow has become increasingly visible, and this is partially thanks to the work of Arika, an Edinburgh based organisation who, for the past three or four years, have curated a series of events, both in Glasgow and beyond, that have celebrated queer theory and art. 

Arika's Episodes at Tramway have shown art from the New York Ballroom scene, staged lectures from academics and connected unlikely allies - Miss Prissy, the queen of crump and M Lamar, philosopher Fred Moten. It's this variety that ensured that Queerness was not simply presented as a novelty, but as a dynamic and diverse entity. Difficult to define, appropriately, but also fertile and emancipatory: the chat between Prissy and Ballroom artists revealed an intriguing shared enthusiasm for ballet, while Lamar's musical magic grappled with the problems of making beauty from ugly historical fact.

Arika's approach seems to be based in a series of conversations: some happen in America, others are not public facing (such as their 2014 'community work with the Sex Workers Open University'). These conversations are then placed in a public space, and audiences get to join in.

The proliferation of queer festivals in Scotland, and the identification of certain work as 'queer' (not always accurately), suggests that Arika's work has laid a foundation for a discussion about the meaning of the word and its importance for art and society. Typically, though, Arika have kept moving. Their last Episode took on the notion of care, moving away from the Ballroom and Black American emphasis of Episode 6.

Arika's work beyond Scotland feeds into their Glasgow Episodes, and each event becomes a link in a longer chain of conversations, arguments and creative practices. Without them - and this being an example of how allowing Arika to 'fail' (certain lectures are boring, some of the artists can indulge themselves on the audience's patience) can build towards a wider, more inclusive and evolving network of ideas and experimental festivals.

April 2014 - Masters Ballstar Weekend in New York with the ballroom community

Sept 2014 - Episode 6: Make A Way Out Of No Way
February - non-public community work in Glasgow with the Sex Workers Open University, the Unity Centre and West Glasgow Against Poverty
April 2015 - Episode 7: We Can’t Live Without Our Lives
May 2015 - No Total Weekend, New York

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