In an earlier post I discussed the conditions within Russia. How hatred is encouraged to be fueled towards the LGB community. This being done in several ways, for example the outlawing of making neutral comments about homosexuality and only allowing negative expressions to be made about the sexuality. Or the fact that homophobic attacks go unpunished, making it appear acceptable to abuse people from this community.

Russia intends to depict homosexuality as scum, pests, insignificant beings worthy of extermination. Something that can easily be exterminated, a pest within society. So if you think about their hierarchy of society, homosexuality (like insects within the food chain) are at the lowest level.

Lee Hassall Image 1I came across this image I have that reflected this issue to me, how insignificant a life can be treated. It’s easy to almost miss the bug, and could easily be mistaken for an imperfection within the image, a smudge on the lens perhaps. Once realising the subject, you notice how fragile the insect is, and even though you notice it’s life has left it you feel very little (if any) sadness, because it’s so insignificant. It’s life is not worthy of any emotional remorse.

The cold distant response I get from the subject in this photograph is how I feel the conditions are currently within Russia. A similar lack of respect for this insect reflects the lack of respect for people within the LGB community. The casual act of exterminating a pest seems reminiscent of the ease in which homophobic attacks are carried out in Russia.




Felix Gonzalez Torres Interview with Robert Storr

Thoughts I’ve taken away from an interview I found on this Felix Gonzalez Torres website, between Torres and Robert Storr.

Art and politics are inseparable. There are those works that appear more political and so you list them off as being political artists, but all art is making some comment or interaction with society. Therefore on some level art is political.

From reading this interview it appears that Torres is a gay activist, but not as obvious and blatant about it. He doesn’t flaunt work that is obviously referencing gay men. He talks about being a spy, about disguising yourself in a mask in order to get at the center of a group, and once you’re in this position you can really effectively create change and make your impact. Because “The enemy is too easy to dismiss and to attack”, which is a perfect quote taken from this interview that sums up what he is attempting with his work, and the enemy in this case being the artist making work referencing homosexual desires. By not making something obviously offensive, the viewer is going to find it hard to attack it and be critical of the work. He describes his work as being more inclusive, so that everything ends up have a “sexual mission, the walls, the pavement, everything.”

He talks about when Senator Stevens comes to the opening of one of his exhibitions. Calling the senator one of the “most homophobic anti-art senators”, and that he came to the show looking for offensive images of phallic symbols of penises and asses. Looking for very limited ideas about objects of desirability for gay men, but was encountered with ordinary objects that don’t have these associations with homosexuality. It would be very difficult to explain how two clocks on a wall side by side is pornographic and homoerotic.

And whilst these works weren’t overtly homoerotic they infiltrated the mind of the viewer, and every time they look at a clock or pair of curtains from now on they are going to be confronted with these connotations of homosexuality.

Torres Clocks

Torres Curtains

In my proposal I talk about wanting my work to speak to people outside of the gay community, not wanting the message to be restricted to this relatively small demographic. What I also realise is that other gay people are already included in these issues, it is already happening to them and so it would seem pointless to create work that facilitates them. I want my work to make people outside the community feel as if these cases of inequality relate to them, to make it their problem as well as ours. After all it is fellow human beings that are being attacked by these prejudices, not just that separate social demographic that has nothing to with us.

In order to do this I have to be careful in choosing the subject matter in my work, making sure not to choose ones that only relate to homosexuality. So far I have shown keys in my work, as keys are free of associations with a sexual orientation, they are as Torres puts it ‘inclusive’.



We all expect to be treated as equals, to have support from the law and not live in fear of persecution for being true to ourselves. Yet these are serious concerns facing the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community worldwide.

Russian law encourages hatred towards the LGBT community. Not only is it illegal to publish propaganda of homosexualityit is also against the law to make neutral comments about the topic. Only negativity is allowed to be expressed when discussing ‘non-trdaitional’ relationships. The LGBT community are often likened to pedophiles and made out to be ‘perverted scum’. It is no wonder then that groups, targeting homosexuals, have formed to ‘hunt’ and physically abuse this community.

Even in America (whose own equality rights vary massively) organisations express support for the Russian governments recent legislation. Arizona has recently attempted to pass a law to protect religious freedom, this law allows people to discriminate and refuse service to gay people.

As close as the Republic of Ireland we can see similar cases of discrimination. Some employment laws don’t have basic protection for gay people. You can be fired within the medical and educational field if the institution believes their employees sexual orientation conflicts with their ethos.

Here in the UK we live within a society where our basic rights are protected. Therefore it is easy for us to be unaware of the struggles the LGBT community face abroad.

Only 6% of the population are estimated to be gay, which is a relatively small demographic. I aim to produce a piece of work that stimulates an emotional response, creating sympathy strong enough to gain proactive support from people outside of the LGBT community.

Taking inspiration from the artists Tammy Rae Carland and Derek Jarman, I’m going to create a portrait of this demographic, a portrait that doesn’t feature a human form. I don’t think its appropriate to express these issues using the homosexual body. This would restrict the issues to the LGBT community, whereas I want it relate to a wider audience. Therefore I will use objects as symbolic representations, that address these issues, such as the piece I’ve created below.

Keys Grid low resIn this series I have chosen to use keys as a reference to domesticated living. Being able to feel safe within your own environment with a partner you choose goes generally unquestioned in this country. Yet this is widely unimaginable to gay people living within Russia.

Given the time to further develop this piece I will use other objects as symbolic representations of this inequality. These photograms will join together to make up a larger scale piece that addresses multiple issues surrounding conditions of the LGBT community on a global scale.

I have developed this strict visual formula, inspired by the Bechers work, in order to unite the photograms together, as a way of creating a visual metaphor for uniting support for these issues. It also gives some indication to the diversity of challenges that face the LGBT community.

Derek Jarman: Blue

‘Blue’ is a film detailing the end of the artist, Derek Jarman’s life, which came to an end in 1994 because of aids related complications. For 76 minuets the screen of this film never changes from the colour ‘Klein Blue’. As you sit watching it you wait for the shot to change.

The setting and narrative of the piece are constructed using sound-scapes and voice overs. The script is narrated by various actors the artist himself, which explore the numerous meanings and thoughts surrounding the colour blue.

In 1986 Jarman was diagnosed with HIV. He began this film about the colour blue once his illness began to take his sight and his medication began to make him see the world as if through a blue filter.

That is why for 76 minutes the screen never changes from Klein blue. It begins to torment the viewer as time progresses. You transcend into the mind frame of Jarman at this particular period of his life.

The reason why I have been looking into this piece of work is because it is another portrait with the absence of a body. You are transported, as a viewer, into the world of this artists torment and connect with his suffering, just simply by looking at the colour blue, accompanied by a series of disturbing soundtracks and voice overs.

This work shows just how powerful a portrait can be delivered when it is so minimal, and although it appears to be so minimal and simple when initally viewing the work, after spending time with it all the layers of complex meaning are discovered.

Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Law

In 2013 Russia passed a law prohibiting the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors. This law makes amendments to the federal law which aims “to protect children from information that can bring harm to their health and wellbeing”.

The fine for breaking this law is 1 million rubles, whereas the fine public displays of Nazi attributes is 2,000 rubles. This suggests that the promotion of ‘non-traditional relations’ is deemed worse than the promotion of fascism.

Several conservative American organisations such as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and the World Congree of Families have expressed their support for the new anti-gay law in Russia. They believe it will prevent attacks made against the ‘natural family’, which is formed between the marriage of a man and woman. And that this ‘natural family’ is the “foundation of any human society”, which is entitled to protection. Without the protection this anti-gay propaganda law provides, they believe it would be destructive to society and that children need this protection “due to their innocence and immaturity.”

“LGBT citizens and activists in Russia are increasingly concerned, as this law is being implemented at a time and in an environment of increasing violence and hatred of LGBT individuals.” 

‘Hunted’ is a channel 4 documentary, which epitomises the level of homophobia in Russia today. The documentary follows groups of people that target the LGBT community, setting traps such as inviting gay men to a flat by using online dating website’s, to only physically abuse and humiliate these men upon arriving.

One of these groups called ‘parents of Russia’, targets gay and lesbian teachers. They offer to pay cash for information that would lead them to their victims. The leader of this group, Timur Isaev, said “This is Russia. This is hell for homosexuals… they should get used to it”.

Not only is it illegal to promote homosexuality it is also illegal to make neutral comments about it. The only comments allowed are negative ones, so that people are constantly fed this negative portrayal, leading to these attacks. Attacks which the local authorities are not taking action on, setting an example that shows you can get away with giving homophobic abuse.

There are constant associations made between homosexuality and peadophilia. President Putin made a statement welcoming gay athletes to the Sochi Winter Olympics, whilst at the same time asking them to leave Russia’s children alone.

One of the gay men interviewed on the documentary, after he was blinded in one eye from an attack by one of these groups, said “if it’s constantly drilled into people that we are… scum and perverts, I understand why these guy’s shot at me… essentially a hunting season is open and we are the hunted”.


Ireland: Equality Rights

The concern for religious freedom and being able to refuse service to gay people doesn’t appear to be something restricted to Arizona (as discussed in previous post).

On The Nolan Radio Show, Stephen Nolan (presenter) discussed issues surrounding gay equality rights within Northern Ireland.

Several of the callers who rung into the show were Catholic, expressing their views on equality rights. Believing that gay people have far more many rights that Catholics. More than one caller believed that, for example a B&B owner should be able to refuse service to a same sex couple if they believe it to be morally wrong for two people of the same sex to share a bed. If this hypothetical business owner refused service and were taken to court and sued seemed unreasonable to these same callers and they should have the right to religious freedom.

A recent incident in which two men who were ordered out of a taxi in Northern Ireland after kissing was also discussed on the show. This news article details how a taxi driver ‘objected and swore’ at the couple who had kissed in the back of the taxi, before ordering them to leave the car.

The taxi firm released a statement that said they do not approve of their employees actions and an investigation was being made into the incident. But whilst the taxi firm do not condone the behaviour, many of the callers in ‘The Nolan Show’ thought otherwise and believed the taxi driver should not have to serve homosexuals.

Being a heavily religious country these views from the general public might not be surprising and neither is their belief that religious freedom should allow them to discriminate. But within the Republic of Ireland there are parts of the law that do not provide basic protection for gay people within employment.

“Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, does however allow religious organisations, medical institutions or educational institutions an exemption on employment grounds. If such an organisation wants to maintain the religious ethos or prevent the religious ethos from being undermined then it is not illegal under section 37 for them to discriminate. This applies to employment only.”

Arizona and Ireland are just some areas where equality rights for gay people are not as progressive as our own countries, and there are areas where conditions for gay people are drastically worse, which I have yet to explore.

Arizona: Religious Freedom Bill

Recently in Arizona a bill was passed that would allow business owners to refuse service to gay people, on the grounds of religious belief. The bill was proposed as a way to protect anyones religious liberty. That being said there is not one case, within Arizona, where a business owners religious rights have been challenged in this way.

The video below shows an interview between Anderson Cooper and an Arizona Senator (Al Melvin). Melvin fails to come up with one case in which a business owners religious freedom has come under attack. He claims that the bill is pre-emptive, because of cases which have happened in other states. For example photographers have been sued for refusing to photograph at a gay wedding. But Cooper points out how unnecessary this bill is, as there are no laws within Arizona that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When the Arizona Senate is questioned about this he fails to answer why they feel the need to re-affirm a right that can not come under threat in the first place.

Not only is unnecessary the bill appears that it could also affect Arizona’s economy. It has been reported on the sports illustrated website that the NFL are considering relocating out of Arizona for the next season, in response to this anti gay law and have already begun investigating the first steps in making it happen.

As the bill is unjustified and it could drastically affect the economy, Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the anti-gay bill after realising the damage it could do.

Tammy Rae Carland – Lesbian Beds

Tammy Rae Carland’s body of work titled “Lesbian Beds” consists of a series of photographs documenting unmade beds.  These photographs represent a demographic who’s histories and current position within society are often marginalised. A representation which is achieved through the absence of a body.



The voyeuristic photographs, full of references to the people who once occupied these spaces, can be seen as portraits. Not necessarily of the individuals who once occupied these spaces but rather a portrait of a group of people within society, who have often been judged for their sexual preferences.

It’s the personal domestic view we get of these peoples lives that seems strange and intimate. As a viewer we are confronted to see beyond the label plastered to them (lesbian). The women who own these beds are aged between 20-30 years old. Their sheets reflect this, the vintage ‘hand me downs’ show women who’ve not quite reached adult maturity and independence. A period of life that most will relate to.

Carland is ultimately representing a group that has a scarcity when it comes to representation. Who are often sidelined and deemed less important in our culture.

As mentioned in a previous post I want to create a portrait, without using a body as representation. Like Felix Gonzalez-Torres this is something Tammy Rae Carland has achieved with this body of work. The numerous visual references depicted in these photographs, the style of bed sheets, a suggestive looking slit in a pillow, are all indications to people who sleep in these beds.


Below is a video of Tammy Rae Carland talking about this body of work.

Tammy Rae Carland speaks about the Lesbian Beds Series from Kadist San Francisco on Vimeo.

Initial Thoughts

For this module I am intending to follow on from a project I had began for ‘photographing the narrative’. This project was exploring gay culture, the issues that surround this community and how I personally responded to them. I had purposely left the project open, as a work in progress, that I could re-visit it and explore other avenues.

Since leaving that project I have been exploring visual representations of gay men, which I believe is going to inform the outcome of this module. I was researching into the dipiction of gay men around the time of the aids epedemic, and found how this community were connected with the disease. Using Nicholas Nixon’s work ‘people with aids’ as an illustration of this point. Nixon’s portraits from this series (whether intentional or not) gave aids a body to associate with and some of the subjects he photographed were gay men.

To tackle these complications of using the body as a form of representation the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres took a different approach to dipicting aids. His still life photograph (below) features an unmade bed, which he describes as being a memorial to his late partner who had died of aids one year before this photograph was exhibited. Gonzalez-Torres’s intention was to associate the grief signified in his work with aids and not a human form, as a way of avoiding stigmatising a minority.

Torres 3

I intend to explore how other artists have used a similar approach to Felix Gonzalez-Torres, by not using the body as a means of representation.

What I also aim to look into is gay rights within other countries, as it is an issue that keeps cropping up lately. Such as the anti-gay laws recently passed within Arizona, Uganda and Russia. I am going to explore this topic more in depth, as I am interested in how drastically they conflict with our own society. And it makes me realise the gay community isn’t one just restricted to our own countries borders, but spreads out worldwide and the way in which this community is treated can change enormously.

350 MC Digital Presentation & Evaluation

Script –

“I am going to be discussing various forms of representations of gay men, using examples from film and photography. Before moving on to discuss issues surrounding representations within contemporary society.

Firstly I would like to discuss this piece of work by Duane Michals. I’ll read out the piece of text he wrote beneath the image.

“The unfortunate man could not touch the one he loved. It had been declared illegal by the law. Slowly his fingers became toes and his hands gradually became feet. He began to wear shoes on his hands to disguise his pain. It never occurred to him to break the law.”

Michals talks about the message he is attempting to deliver with this image at the Leslie + Lohman museum. That message is to not let people define you, because if you do you will never be free. Not to let the law, the church or the public, define you, or else you’re going to be forever limited to these ideas others have of you.

This is a message I want you to keep in mind throughout the talk, because I am going to keep referring back to it, as it is what I think each of the examples I am talking about are ultimately achieving.

Charles Hawtrey, most famous for his appearance in the ‘Carry On’ films. Plays a very over exaggerated typical stereotype of a gay man at the time of the 1950’s/60’s. His effeminate mannerisms remain a constant throughout all the roles he plays, even the heterosexual characters he plays.

In the film ‘Sergeant’ he plays an army recruit. The army attempt to make a man out of him. His flamboyant character over exaggerates any attempts at masculine values in the army. Showing them to be ridiculously stiff and rigid.

This as a result mocked the heterosexual definitions and ideas of what a man should be.

Around the same era another actor began to reframe peoples understanding of the masculine and the gay man. Rock Hudson, an American actor, often featuring in romantic comedies embodied the ideal heterosexual man. With all the masculine traits woman loved and men styled themselves off.

It came as a shock then that he was gay. People believed characters such as Charles Hawtrey were gay not Hudson, he was too heterosexual.

This shock was reinforced by media coverage of the time. Papers released headlines such as ‘Secret Torment of Baron of the Beefcake.’ And ‘Rock Hudson’s Jeckyll and Hyde existence’.

So this representation within film shows how ideas of gay men have been challenged before. It told people they didn’t have to conform to the narrow minded expectations of others.

Moving onto around the late 80’s there was the aids epidemic. From the start gay men were quickly associated with the disease.

“Our homophobic culture produced an illness which was restricted to the (homosexual) body and it’s engagement in deviant sex”

This association between the homosexual  body and aids was so strong they conflated into one. Visual representations only strengthened this connection often featuring gay men as victims. This is exemplified in Nicholas Nixons body of work ‘People with aids’

This work gave aids a body, an image, that showed victims, such as the gay men in these images as weak and defenseless.

These portraits individualized the disease, made these suffering subjects the face of aids. It didn’t appear that it could affect anyone, just these people. They became portrayed as ill outcasts, stigmatized for their illness.

The artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres challenged this association.

In 1992 this photograph was exhibited in the museum of modern art in New York. Simultaneously the photograph was mounted on 24 billboards throughout the city.

These billboards would appear rather ambiguous to pedestrians passing by. With no context or knowledge of the artist they’re left with what the image signifies to construct meaning.

A bed with impressions left in the pillows suggests the absence of a body, signifying loss or even death.

The photograph was a memorial to the artists partner, who died from aids in 1991.

With this knowledge the image becomes a depiction of aids. But it does something different from the usual depictions. Aids has no body to associate with here, instead it just has the grief and loss suggested in this picture to associate with.

The artist had refused the definition that gay men and aids were one and began to break the link that joined them.

Looking at representations today we see several in TV & film but there appears to be a lack within the sporting world.

23 out of 14,690 athletes in the London Olympics were openly gay.

An improvement on the 10 in Beijing.

The 23 made up 0.16% of athletes in London. Considering 6% of the population are estimated to be gay this suggests there are a lack of participants from the LGB (standing from Lesbian Gay Bisexual) community or not everyone is openly gay.

This lack of gay people in sport isn’t surprising if we look at this term “orthodox Masculinity”

“The principle conditions are that one be heterosexual and hyper masculine. This combination is so strong that heterosexuality and masculinity are deemed synonymous; cultural conflation that Progner (1990) calls heteromasculinity”

and so what this theory of masculinity suggests is that sport has been used to promote male dominance over woman. It gave the opportunity to demonstrate strength and violence. The competitive nature of sport was used to justify social dominance.

This process of gaining male dominance can only work when women and gay men are excluded from participating. As heterosexual men wouldn’t have ‘proof’ with sport as being superior.

Stonewall a leading charity fro the LGB community conducted a report of views from LGB’s about sport.

The participants views in this report were that sport is a way for boys to express masculinity because it is “macho”. They also make direct associations between football and rugby as being ‘masculine’ and for straight men. Stonewall believed these views can be tackled by a

“A more diverse experience of sport at a young age could challenge existing stereotypes and encourage a broader range of people to play sport”


“Their participation could be increased if there were a stronger presence of LGB role models in grassroots and high-profile sports”

So looking into football specifically I found that in 2012 there were no openly gay men in football in England’s top 4 divisions.

Recently Thomas Hitzlsperger former player for Aston Villa came out not long after retiring.

A similar story happened with Robbie Rodgers, who announced he was gay after retiring from Leeds.”

These footballers believe there are certain fears about being openly gay within sports, such as football. These fears are that it could jeopardise sponsorship deals and their abilities could be questioned from fans/ coaches and team mates.

It appears, at least to me, there is this stigma for gay men within sport. Because of these rigid ideas of sexual orientation and gender. As well as a lack of representation.

Representation that stonewall believes could work, as various other representations have worked previously.

As we’ve seen before representations can work in altering perceptions.”

Evaluation –

I found producing a proposal towards the start of the project to be incredibly valuable. It began to really make me reflect upon the issues I was exploring and identify objectives for my research project. This is what led me to pursue looking into visual representations and the effects they had.

Although it began to become clearer where the project was headed I did need to seek guidance from other people to find appropriate material to research. This is what led me to have a tutorial with Anthony Luvera, after discovering the current project he was working on, which was the representation of the LGB community in Brighton. Not only did he provide me with a very useful list of artists to research into, the conversation I had with him was very encouraging and inspiring, making me more passionate about the project. I discovered from this tutorial that I can really benefit from talking to like minded people that were also interested in the subject. Not only are they likely to recommend potential avenues to take the project, it makes the research I am doing seem much more worth while, inspiring me to carry on.

Now having had gained a whole range of research and knowledge about my topic it came closer to the presentation date. Having to start to put together a presentation was also very useful in formulating an argument and conclusion from the research I had already gathered. Before this point I had numerous resources with no solid argument that linked them together, but when it came to writing my script this became much clearer.

Also by only having 10 minutes to discuss my project, this made me really think about the key points coming from each piece of research. Having gone into detail about them on this blog, I had to create condensed summaries about each one. This was a challenge, yet incredibly useful in realising what the research was about, and what the conclusion was going to be.

I believe the presentation itself went well, due to rehearsing and having a solid understanding of the content in the talk. Being passionate about the topic helped with the delivery and is something I hoped would make the talk more engaging. I am pleased with how I structured it, having considered it from an audiences point of view I thought of breaking it down into sections, in order to make it more digestible.

Overall I am pleased with the stage I am at with this project. I have discovered practitioners work relevant to my project, which will inspire me in my own practice. I have also identified current issues for me to carry on exploring. Due to this research project I have been able to identify clear objectives and ambitions for my future practice.



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