by Carolyn Tripp

Gladstone Hotel June 23 – July 10th, 2011 1214 Queen Street West, 12-5pm daily, free.

That's So Gay: The New Queer

Toronto is always an interesting place this time of year. Pride has evolved from what was only a day or maybe a weekend’s worth of events into an entire week’s worth of getting-your-freak-on festivities and exhibitions. Pride, though albeit in a somewhat commercialized capacity, seems to have come a long way. Upon further inspection of this weekend of all party weekends, however, there are still some disturbing trends, presumably as a result of what we may presume is an exercising of those Fundamental Freedoms many of us enjoy.

From our prudish Mayor who, it’s true, can choose to march or not march where he likes, but it’s still annoying and embarrassing, to the much more serious round of anti-gay speakers addressing a sizeable conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre – it seems more important than ever for everybody to exercise their right to get their Pride on.

queerly canadian pride toronto world pride

In 2014, Toronto will be host to World Pride

Enter the age-old dictum “that’s so gay,” heard most frequently in high school corridors or Katy Perry ditties. Comedian Simon Amstell had the best retort to the latter by far: here – but the phrase remains painfully popular. Thankfully, like other slanderous terms, it can be taken back to mean “wicked awesome,” or in the case of the annual exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel, “relevant, contemporary, and also wicked awesome.”

The group show monikered “That’s so Gay: The New Queer”, consists of some of the city’s (and country’s) best contemporary artists including Scott Waters, art collective Team Macho, Emily vey Duke and Cooper Battersby, Alison SM Kobayashi, Fastwurms with Cecilia Berkovic, Michael Comeau and Shary Boyle.

Curator Sholem Krishtalka’s employs the term “Queer” to take in a multitude of meanings, including, but not limited to ones gender or sexual orientation. Alison Kobayashi’s work, “Pleasure Dome” sees the artist representing a multitude of characters, some male, some female. Emily vey Duke and Cooper Battersby’s print and video narratives playfully portray what is now well-documented homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

The Team Macho work exhibited includes “Baby Dyke” which has an adorable infant with the word scrawled across his/her forehead. The sweetness of the rendering is in stark contrast with yet another word that’s been bandied about by haters and then reabsorbed, branded by the queer communities themselves (e.g. Dykes on Bikes).

The collaboration by Cecilia Berkovic and Fastwurms adopts more long-standing queer and straight sexually-charged iconography. The pink triangle, a long standing queer symbol since it was used to label homosexual men during World War Two by Nazi officers, has been adapted as a series of album covers cut into trilateral pieces and surrounded by a heavy, stencil of a chain. The accompanying piece to this installation is a mound with a large unicorn’s horn sticking out of the top. Horns, and unicorns in particular (the image that also adorns the take-away multiple) have been part of sexual iconography for hundreds of years, virgins being the only ones who could “catch and tame” the wild, and ultimately fictitious creatures.

Ultimately, “the New Queer” does not portray exclusively gay content, but work that’s additionally challenging and against the grain. Attributing to the strange political climate in which we live, Pride isn’t the only week in which we may choose to consider a course of thought or concepts that differ from our own. And to quote Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s, Love Letter to My Community, “Pride belongs to each and every single one of us, and it’s our responsibility to challenge and celebrate the event. We never want to lose it.” (full article)