The Queensland Centre for Photography is showing its support for Brisbane Pride this month by presenting a series of queer themed exhibitions. One of those exhibitions is Money up front and no kissing by revered artist Ray Cook. Here he reflects on what inspired it.
I survived the era of AIDS and oppression and I confess the experience has left me with a residue of bitterness at my core.
I am distrustful of the new visibility gays currently seem to enjoy. To me it seems altogether disingenuous and commercially motivated. In darker moments I thinkw e’ve been enlisted as unwitting whores – minstrels in a sideshow to the main stage of heterosexual life. Mainstream legitimacy and broad visibility has shsaved off the sharp edges of our rich, distinctive culture, smothering its subversive voice, confiscating the strategies we once used to negotiate hostile social terrain. In our eagerness to be accepted we’ve divulged the secrets to our codes, alibis and decoys. We’ve been disarmed.
The gay community, where we were once democratised by stigma and criminal status, now has a mainstream middle class of its own comprised of mostly white, gym-subscribed, privileged men who are free to revel in their new freedom, but at the expense of the community’s fringe members, who remain in the dark. Their banishment is overlooked, and their histories overwritten because of the selective, partial and conditional illumination of a new sanctioned media-generated homosexual who conforms to and endorses the tastes, values and ideals of the dominant mainstream. Same-sex identities and relationships have the same legal status as those of heterosexuals in all things except the right to marry. Our relationships are significant enough to come under the scrutiny of Centrelink and the tax department yet we [are] denied the right to formalise them. That’s one condition too many; this isn’t acceptance, it’s containment.
Visibility and legitimacy are desirable things for minorities and I don’t want to propose a retreat to the closet but I do think that we must be critical and vigilant. Acceptance must have no strings, or it is not acceptance at all. We must remember to be careful what we divulge and to whom. Through at least most of the 20th century the dominant culture has not been our friend – I don’t think we should too readily clasp it by the right hand till we’re sure we know what it holds hidden behind its back in the left.
Source: AX National (June 2009) p10.