AN INTERVIEW WITH MARNIE SLATER AND ALBERTO GARCIA DEL CASTILLO, FOUNDERS OF BUENOS TIEMPOS, INT.
By Crash redaction
Photo : Strictly Ballroom, 2017, promotional image for reading, Buenos Tiempos, Int.
Buenos Tiempos, Int. is an online exhibition space thematically concerned with “faggotry as it is today”, the programmer of an annual Evening of Poetry is Brussels and a collaborative production initiative focused on “today’s and yesterday’s transvestism” – these productions are presented with our peers. Alberto García del Castillo and Marnie Slater founded Buenos Tiempos, Int in 2014.
Dorothée : Alberto, Marnie, in 2014 you founded Buenos Tiempos, Int., an online platform for the diffusion of art projects whose slogan has been “Faggotry as it is today”. Buenos Tiempos, Int. sometimes also act as an artists’ collective, producing videos (such as A Walk with Dorothée Dupuis and Jessica Gysel Around the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower in Brussels, 2015, of which I am a protagonist) and performances, such as lately Strictly Ballroom and Total Eclipse, 2017, about which we gonna talk today. But before we go more in detail into your activities, I wanted to ask you a general opinion about the spreading of the notion of “queer” in the public sphere – which you said in an earlier correspondence of ours to be “very gay about”. Could you help us define here broadly what “queer” is for you, maybe in relationship to the very creation of Buenos Tiempos, Int?
“Faggotry” is a neologism that comes from “faggot,” which can mean a bundle of sticks, a musical instrument, a ball of seasoned chopper liver, an unpleasant or contemptible woman, and/or a male homosexual. “As it is today” advocates for a temporality by saying that the meaning of faggotry was somehow different yesterday and will be different again tomorrow. We started Buenos Tiempos, Int. to faggot the macho art scene that surrounded us in Brussels. So, there is that situation. Queer modulates faggot when we use it in contemporary trans-fag-dyke-feminist milieus. These and others are the joys of languaging.
I think one of the strongest message of queer is the idea of “not conforming”. In your performances, the characters you act have constant problems with the law. One of the most active current LGBTQ discussion has to do with legal problems — how to register people in non-gender-conforming categories, but also which toilet to use or which sex to attribute to a baby that is born without defined sexual characteristics, and not even talking of all the suits about discrimination, labor exclusion, gender related hate insults and crimes and so forth. How do you think the relationship of the uprising queer body in front of the law constitutes a comment about our society’s current power structures?
Law is troubled by bodies, some of which are homosexual, and crime is the law’s paraphernalia. It appears through speech, literature, texts, and other recordings, and through this speaking and publishing the law performs punishment on people. In the two readings we have made, Strictly Ballroom and Total Eclipse, we orally publish a particular selection of legal literature as it appears in movies, TV talk shows, books of poetry and prose, news media, and pop music. Our writing methodologies include: collage, adaptation, quotation, impersonation, drag kinging and drag queening, and the warm hugs of homo linage and aesthetics. We were told recently : “après avoir souffert d’une agression, nous les homos pouvons faire plein de choses avec nos sentiments, l’activisme et l’expression artistique en sont deux bons exemples” (“after being attacked, we gays can do many things with our feelings, activism and artistic expression are two good examples”).”
It’s sad to say but as stated in your performance, identifying as queer is not exempt of danger — and even in the world’s so called most « tolerant » capitals. On the other hand, queer communities seem much more caring and reliable than other ones — including civil society, professional environments, or even sometimes, those of family or friends. Queers popularized the notion of « safe space », a space where one could ideally shelter oneself from the violence of the world and indulge one true self, away from conventions and morals. Lately, the term « safe space » has been widely reemployed and sometimes recuperated by ideologies actually advocating some sort of closing off rather than an embracing of difference — as much as queer itself has sometimes been reduced to a single-faceted gendered aspect, rather than the polysemic scope of identities it represents. How do you navigate this tension between vulnerability and violence, ostentation and invisibility, collective advocacy and extreme subjectivity?
Queers did not invent safer spaces. And they are in no way owned by queer-identified people. Making separate, safer spaces is a strategy deployed within colonial, class, and gender struggles, among others. Within some queer communities, safer spaces with chosen mixes of people are agreed upon and used. Buenos Tiempos, Int. does not always get the opportunity to choose where we exist. We learn to navigate our practice within exhibitions, symposia, email conversations, and interviews with straight people.
I am interested in the way queerness has the ability to neutralize the question of class in a good way, celebrating working class and popular cultures in a manner distancing itself from current populisms, fixated on essential identities — including racial ones. At a moment where mainstream feminism in Europe is kidnapped by cultural dissensions and sterile debates about laicity, do you think the queer has a point to make in the way it asserts identity both as essential and secondary, performative, and also celebrating the marginal, beyond borders, and the ability of the marginal to gather politically around real social issues?
Queer faces and exists along the lines of class oppression. In the US-American movie The Birdcage, a remake of the Franco-Italian movie La Cage aux Folles, this being an adaptation of the French theater play of the same title, a son named Val confesses to his two gay parents that he has a girlfriend from a bourgeois diplomatic family. When the families have to meet, Val’s parents, who respectively are the star and the owner of a drag cabaret, decide to drag as a father and a mother.
How can we apply queerness to our daily life? Our way of thinking, behaving, relating to one another, working or partying? Much further than just identity, and in obvious opposition to patriarchy, which values do you think queerness is embodying that humanity should adopt for its own good?
When we organize parties, hold evenings of poetry, and script readings, we use the opportunity to share useful tips to help people organize themselves better. In our reading Total Eclipse, Bill Cunningham notices something important about socks: “Established dress codes are under assault, but aren’t they always? Younger men want to express themselves at work. They attempted to eliminate the necktie decades ago. It never happened. Today, for serious young men, it’s all about the disappearance of socks. City men have new transportation options: bicycles, scooters and skateboards for young creatives working where dress codes don’t exist.”
Interview by Dorothée Dupuis.