Haris Metaxa Creative Queer Deconstruction Services (HM CQD), (c)Thought in Action Productions
(c)Haris Metaxa, A Cosmopolitan Parisian Philosopher Poet and Conference Interpreter Queer Lady and her Thoughts about life, creativity, creation, travel, art and culture in general.
I aim to please and Illuminate by deconstructing all hidden concepts and myths in a falsely perceived but inexistant "normality" and recompose it in a more thruthful way, closer to the way real people feel, think and create.
Adventures in Queer Cultural Mining and Showing.
A magic portal open for all.
In a perfect society, Art, among many other things, will be obsolete.
We can measure the distance that separates us from perfection by the strong need we feel to bath, to be cleansed and to discover hope again in the great warm swimming pool of Art.
I had such a cleansing experience assisting twice at the performances
of THE HUNGRY HEARTS in Paris during Cineffable International Lesbian Film festival, the first back in 1997 and the recent one, few days ago, in October 2013.
The Parisian public, as much as me, seemed to be too far from perfectionas it screamed and danced and repeated the lyrics, full of energy and enthusiasm.
The rest was forgotten.
The magic of THE HUNGRY HEARTS.
But what is it that moves audiences so much, even with the added obstacle of translation?
In my opinion, the strong point of this all-female group is putting together different cultural codes and different forms of expression (theatre, performance, song) to create a performance that has a dream-like quality, while at the same time managing to activate basic, raw emotions in the audience.
The sophisticated and the impulsive come together.
Also, the relative cruelty of some lyrics combined to the absolute coolness of their delivery seems to instantly unburden our tired hearts of excessive drama. And we need this calm, we need it badly!
Balance and dramatic tension are basic elements of any artistic expression and in the THE HUNGRY HEART’s case we have a successful cocktail.
Visually, we have codes that come from the absurd theatre tradition, tiny Beckett, Ionesco, Pirandello or even Kafka dramas that do not degenerate in despairbut come up like a balloon in the air looking and believing in the sky.
Anachronistic elements, like fifty fashion-style dresses, are combined with cow-boy boots and soft music to create this mysterious seduction we feel coming from them but also the desire to move towards a closed door that suddenly becomes visible inside us while we observe those strange Norwegian girls whispering words of love, hope, anger and pain.
The visual element is quite aggressive, the voices and music are soft and the lyrics oscillate between the two, anger and love.
The female bodies of THE HUNGRY HEARTS move in synchronicity, enhancing each movement and in their absolute freedom they protest against the absent captive female bodies that society continues to produce in series, constantly, non- stop, century after century and up to our days.
THE HUNGRY HEARTS are an all-female universe, a dancing and singing female utopiadreaming dreams of hope, friendship, communication and love.
By opening up boundaries and putting together cultural elements and codes forever separated.
In nostalgic feminine dresses, electric cow-boy boots, Amazon hair styles and the whispering voices of sirens that seem to have emigrated from Greece to Norway in our days...
“La citta delle donne” is not Pasolini nor Fellini that created it.
There is a group of Norwegian sirens that live in it and you have to make an effort to discover them for yourself.
Their song they sing in our mesmerised ears is that of subversive humanism and we all know how much we need it…
Signore e signori, open your hearts to THE HUNGRY HEARTS!
(c) ORIGINAL INTERVIEW BY HARIS METAXA WITH RISK HAZEKAMP, March 2008
Since we met and we had a talk at Paris Photo in 2002, what major changes have taken place in your work, or, to express it differently, how did your thematic research develop?
My research didn’t change so much, I am still interested in the same theme, which is gender.
I try to keep up-to-date with the debates that are going on a theoretical level.
I like what is happening in Spain and Germany.
(I am more aware of what is happening there then in other countries I will admit.)
What did change is my personal expression and involvement in the “gender-movement” (can we call it that?!). What changed is me getting a bit older, getting more secure of who I am, wanting to express more of my personal thoughts. I got a lot clearer in what is important to me (and what is not).
Less “neat” and “acceptable” the later works, what I shall call the “gender fuck” series, starting around “dress code” in 2004 and dealing more with real life positions and attitude, were they more painful to elaborate, to make, to show or quite the contrary?
For me it was important to put stress on the content of the work. I had enough of the “round moves” many people made around the content of the work. My work has always dealt with gender issues.
At a certain point I was so sick and tired of the fact that people could always ignore my subject matter. I wanted to make very clear what the work was about, that I am dealing with gender and not with “the figure in the landscape” for example.
I needed to make work that was no longer multi-multi-multi-interpretable.
In my work I do not use the computer, it is all analogue photography, I (still) use negatives.
Before the “Liberté pour tous” series I even never put on any make-up when I took the photos,
but with that series I started using facial hair (still nothing digital, all analogue photography).
The styling I do myself: the beard is my own hair glued on my face. This is important for me.
I recently started experimenting with hair on other parts of the face and body.
Facial hair often causes many different emotional reactions, and I wanted to play with that.
With my recent work my style of taking pictures changed. I think everybody has its own handwriting, not only in letters, but also in images that you create. My images look quickly "glossy and stylish".
I tried to work more documentary style with my recent work: you have an idea and you make it.
No endless redoing of a certain photo session.
The new works are more difficult to sell, for sure…
But I think that viewers/potential buyers have to grow with the artists. The artist makes a work, spends many time thinking about it, working on it. Then “all of a sudden” the viewer is confronted with it. So sometimes the viewer needs some extra time to understand or see the work in its full meaning.
On a personal level: Making the more recent work was a big relieve, a positive confrontation with my “inner I” and at the same time an intellectual challenge. When “thinking” and “doing” come together both the brain and the body take bigger steps. (Not sure if I am clear, do you understand?)
Making the “Liberté pour tous” series also made it very clear that I had to leave Rotterdam, that staying in Rotterdam meant a mental death for me. I did not have an own safe place in Rotterdam: not in society, not in the art scene, I felt like a complete outsider. Which can be great! But I didn’t want to start every conversation about my work with explaining what a dragking is, what transgender is, what queer is… or why it is important to address these subject matters, to make work about it.
So I moved to Berlin! Here gender has a place in society. Here gender is of importance and that way you can get to the more interesting parts of talking about it. How do you address it instead of why…
What are the reactions that your work provokes and how do you interact with them?
Very different ones! Positive, negative, I lost some people, gained some “fans”. I guess it is an obvious consequence of making (more) outspoken work.
I make the work because I want to, I need to, I have to. And afterwards I see the communication that evolves from it. That communication was staying at a certain level and therefore I could no longer find satisfaction in showing/presenting the work. I wanted to get my work in different scenes, reach different audiences. For me it was important to get recognition from people that understand the content of the work. That recognition is more important then selling the work. I hope I can keep saying that! I mean, the work gets sold, but not as easy anymore as the earlier work.
“How I interact with reactions?” The critiques I listen too and I get out of it what I think makes sense.
Is money and market acceptance a question for you or the inner research justifies all eventual sacrifice?
I already put something down about that: yes, money is a question for me, I never know if anything will come in next month. So it is a question, but I try not to get stressed about it. Till now it worked out fine (knock on wood!) .
I am not a materialistic person, I don’t care about a big studio or a fancy car or clothes. As long as I can do what I want, as long as I can survive from my work I am more than happy.
Talk to me about your move to Berlin. When/why and how do you feel living there as the time slowly goes by and transforms your life and work?
I decided to move to Berlin last summer, I still have a studio in Rotterdam where I got my storage and sometimes I work there, but mainly I live and work in Berlin now. Coming to Berlin (leaving Rotterdam) has been very rewarding for me. It opened up my eyes, my brain, my body…
I can breathe again!
So my basis is Berlin now, but I do move around a lot… I just been in Suriname for a month, will spend May/June in Barcelona and Spain, next year 3 months in New Mexico.
That’s the way it is and I like it a lot.
Berlin does influence me, but also the other places I go and live/work.
Right now I am still filled with Suriname. About the way they deal with gender there, how they define and talk about “I” in many different ways, very beautiful and powerful.
I will do a project there somewhere in the coming years.
Berlin is a fascinating place to be, it provides a lot of mental freedom for me. My work explores the fluency of gender-related concepts and in Berlin these gender-related concepts are tackled, played with and stretched in a way that goes far beyond any constructed, socially accepted boundary.
Berlin has for instance a long tradition in drag-appearances (as well "male to female" as "female to male"). This tradition and its historical context are still very present, visible, in the Berliner every day life. At this particular moment in time Berlin is the most interesting European city for me to be, to get inspired and to work.
In my most recent work I try to get a bit away from the clean framing of discussions about gender, that was so present in the arts in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. I try to show more of the ambiguity and complexity, of the gender fluency that is so present in Berlin.
Many… I want to continue working with gender related topics. I do miss nature in my work.
So it wouldn’t surprise me if I get some nature in there again somehow, somewhere.
But most important is to stay happy when working. I think you can see it when someone enjoyed making a piece of art. I try not to make to detailed plans for the future. I like it to be open and flexible. I will go to New Mexico from April till end of July 2009, that I know. After that??
I want to stay as “movable” as possible. I mostly work alone and I don’t need special equipment, therefore I can work everywhere I go. Only thing I need is my (very old) camera.
Present project? Suriname experience?
Now I am in Berlin till end of April, dealing with some applications and with the Suriname experience! I still have to look at all the slides I took, no time till now… I had to give this lecture at the Rietveld Academy last week, which was amazing! So many students and very good questions.
End of April I will go to Barcelona and after that to Holland for an opening in the CoBrA museum. Frank Wagner, who also curated “The Eighth Square” in Museum Ludwig in Cologne, curates another big show about gender and he invited me to participate, among with 45 other artist that work with gender (we are not alone out there!). So that is great! The show will open in June.
In November I will do a solo show in the Basque Country. A young curator invited me to make a show in the Centro Cultural that he directs now. I will show my last 2 series and will make a new projection piece for it.
Apart from that there are some group-shows going on.
As a closure I will give you my favourite Judith Butler quote which tells a lot about how I regard my work I think…
“How is it that drag or, indeed, much more than drag, transgender itself enters into the political field?
It does this, I would suggest, by not only making us question what is real, and what has to be, but by showing us how contemporary notions of reality can be questioned, and new modes of reality instituted.”
END OF INTERVIEW
Touching, isn't it?
Past words, present emotion and an open path for everybody to follow in the way they wish to.
I have been deconstructing and queering the dominant cultural paradigm for more than 20 years, writing mainly about Art and Culture and having my articles published across a range of mainstream and alternative media, both straight and gay in a variety of languages.
I have recently realised that it would be interesting to try finding them somehow and put them together in an attempt to show that everything happening today has been present as a baby grain in the past, generations could be ignorant about what preceded them but they still stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, we are all together in this evolution of feeling about what is possible in art, culture, society and life.
We need strong alternative histories to create a new power balancequeering identity representation and all the aesthetic and moral codes that go with it, to share a more solid "us" against the dominant and loud "them" that tries to erase our lives and our stories.
Queering art and culture, here comes one of the most talented pioneers, Risk Hazekamp.
I am putting the link to the published article and I shall try to find the article itself and put it up with some old and new photos by beautiful Risk.
Thailand, Africa and the extreme elegance of an Italian shirt, revisited and rendered unisex.
Like a boat floating on the contemporary ocean of post-modernism, a fragmented individualism recomposed by positive action, good will, determination and research of new beauty and elegance.
It was in the days before Christmas 2016 in Paris, walking in these new institutions full of raw talent and creativity called Pop-Up Stores and growing like mushrooms in the French Metropolis (as all over elsewhere too) where I first saw the creations of Marian Eeckhout.
Among other talented creators I felt especially pulled by the work of this young French designer, his bold compositions made by combining very different national fabrics in one coherent item, a series of unique shirts and bags (made by recovering and recycling what was left from the making of the shirts).
I immediately liked and felt attracted to the extreme contrast between the intense colours and shapes of the Asian and African fabrics, combined among themselves to create something unexpected but appealing, a series of classic shirts, all with their own colourful twist.
I later met with the creator (designer and tailor combined), young French designer
Marian Eeckhout for a chat in preparation of this critical presentation of his work
and I found out more about his background and influences and how his life becomes a basis for his creations.
The young Marian Eeckhout has already -despite his age- a long and varied past, from Belgian parents of French origin, grew up in Brussels, did different studies and odd jobs before finding his way in designing and hand-making his trade-mark shirts and bags, a perfect example of how a creative spirit can find balance and beauty in putting together boldly and unapologetically, free from traditional conservative good taste, very different culturally and aesthetically fabric fragments into one very personal and coherent whole.
Like his own eclectic and adventurous life, enriched by living and working in several European countries before establishing himself in Paris from where he regularly travels
to Thailand and Bali several times a year to find inspiration and buy the fabrics and first materials that he will then revisit, interpret and integrate in his own creations.
I first loved and I am always inspired by his innocent coherence in creation by feeling,
his indifference to snobby and old school conventional “good taste”, his full-hearted openness and acceptance of difference.
The explosion of colour and anarchy of shapes the Asian and African fabrics bring to the elegant Italian shirts and bags -all unique and hand-made at this point- is a breath of fresh air of intense, chaotic, energised feeling in a Western world and fashion a bit dried-up in terms of real honest emotion, generosity and acceptance of diversity and alterity.
Marian Eeckhout naturally, by instinct and with no theatrics, is simply crossed and
penetrated by this colourful and chaotic alterity, the perfect postmodern creature, open in his flesh and heart, almost happily fragmented and floating in the unique global ocean
that contains us all in what remains of our shared humanity.
In coherence with how he finds his inspiration, he is concerned about recovering and recycling fabrics used and tossed aside as well as practicing what a friend of his called “chirurgie textile” (Fabric Surgery), taking old items of clothing that carry a special emotional value for their owners and revisit them by cutting away old and adding new elements, always colourful and rich in patterns.
I like these open-hearted, inclusive, colourful and chaotic elements, disciplined as it were in the sober, elegant and decisive lines of the minimalistic designed shirts and bags.
I also like this postmodern aesthetic fragmentation of the basic components becoming a harmony out of difference and a contrast that we can actually wear.
I recommend a visit, the discovery of young, fresh, honest talent with an optimistic message of acceptance, fraternity and elegance we can wear and feel better and more hopeful and colourful about ourselves and the future of our world, so grey nowadays in the Trump era...
(SIVAN NOAM SHIMON and HADAS JADE SAKORI during promotional shooting)
How can you pack and unpack emotions outside,
how can you trasmit what goes on in your heart, your body, your memories?
How can you represent the complex, compact feelings,
the speleological experiences that make you who you are?
How to tell Life in Art?
How to make Your Life an Universal Tale
while conserving its individual personal and cultural color and taste?
Well, with great difficulty, commitment and exercise, if ever.
With a hermetical, life-long dedication and social convention's abnegation,
with the acceptance of social exile and relative poverty
in exchange for inner freedom and truthful expression.
And how to do all those things when you are a young Queer Lady in Israel today,
in your early forties with a passion and a deep-felt commitment, an actual existential urgency,
like a bite on your soul, an itch on your nose that won't go away,
to tell the tale of gay girls falling in love for the first time in Israel
at a historical period of extreme personal, familiar, social and political fragmentation?
Well, again, you shall need the genious, the refreshingly uncompromising attitude,
the single-minded dedication and matter-of-fact unapologetic obsession
of young Irsaeli filmmaker and scriptwriter MICHAL VINIK
and her rare talent to tell the story of a
"girl to girl" coming of age
and the pleasures and pains of queer love and identity quest,
set deep inside and told against the background of a disintegrating Israeli society
that protects no one and even less the queer lost in space girls.
pic (c) Haris Metaxa
This is all brilliantly done in Ms Vinik'sfirst feature film"BARASH",
released last year (2016) and presented last November
during the rich and challenging Cheries-Cheris Lgbtqi Film Festival (CCFF) in Paris
where I had the pleasure of seeing it
and immediately run to interview MICHAL VINIK first
and later her two main actresses,
SIVAN NOAM SHIMON and HADAS JADE SAKORI
in order to tell you my story of discovering this new Queer Verismo
in Contemporary Lgbtqi Cinematography.
pic (c) San FEDE
pic (c) San FEDE
Presentation of the filmmaker during the CCF Festival
with a very good interpretation into French, rare event..
pic (c) Haris Metaxa
The Interview in a cafè by the MK2 Beaubourg where BARASH was shown the day before.
The filmmaker at the centre with the two main characters, protagonists of the love story.
pic (c) Haris Metaxa
(Writing the article at night at a Parisian cafè, CCFF catalogue.)
So, now you have seen the pictures and taken a breathe from this intense eulogy,
let's go back to our analysis.
As I was saying, Israel is shown in punk hyper-realistic, quite naked and cruel colors
(that do justice to the feeling depicted) to be totally fragmented and humanly alienated,
the social tissue irrimediably broken and all individuals let loose to their own devices
like crazy atoms with no unifing centre,
like lone apples falling from a tree in a no-gravity enviroment, suspended, never quite touching ground.
Lost in space, floating in a liquid universe that has lost all fixed and solid reference points.
Nobody has its place during historical ages and in places
when and where Reality explodes
and we cannot quite catch up,
as is our case in the film narrative with Contemporary Israel,
Reality escapes comprehension
and our ideas do not correspond any longer to the world around us.
All the characters in BARASH are lost and we feel for them.
Every single one of them.
But, still, we have seen similar characters before, we can decode their despair,
feeling of loss, the pull of a social escape.
But what we shall see for the very first time in this deeply touching and elegantly constructed, directed,
and interpreted film is how it feels to be a young girl falling in love with another girl.
The Social Void is actually helpful in Queer Love Dynamics,
socially you do not exist as a Queer Individual
so at a personal level you are totally free to define and position yourself inside this deep intensity of feeling, this carnal desire you are not supposed to feel and from which you cannot quite escape,
this uncharted emotion of making love fom the first time
(like a Golden Gender Austronaut walking for the first time on a Virgin Velvet Rainbow New Planet)
to a body specular to, yet not quite like, yours.
And still, lost as you are, it feels so queer and so natural at the same time
to be where you are
and to do exactly what you are doing.
The Cultural Taboo, your Natural Enviroment.
You are an Alien stranded in a Foreign Planet,
the one of Global Normative Heterosexuality.
Divorce from Society.
Home in your Desire.
Desire is your Home.
You have found Home.
You have found your Identity,
you know you shall Exist from now on in this Double Female Body,
in this New Hidden Continent on the border of Social Reality and Acceptabilty.
You are on the Border but you are Not Alone anymore.
You can scream with pleasure and delight
as one of the young girls, Naama, does in the movie
after she has made love to the girl she desires for the first time.
So just, so truthful, so simple.
Here, exactly at this Banal Point of Codification and Symbolic Representation,
Reality becomes Art,
Life becomes Film Narrative
and you do not feel in Exile anymore.
End of the Sexual and Social Exile for the Girls in the Movie
but also for the Queer Ladies in the audience,
"partout dans le monde",
everywhere in the world.
Now you can inhabit HER.
"HER" in general,
not as in This Specific Lover,
This Specific Double Body,
This Shared Carnal & Erotic and Sensual Queerness.
But the narrative in BARASH goes on, Joy, Loss,
Discovery of personal Strength and depth of personal Freedom.
"Even if Love doesn't flow, Life still can", as the poet in me has said.
MICHAL VINIK brilliantly tells us in words and images, in bodies and faces, in smiles and tears,
with the help of the incredible performance of both the two young real-life Queer Israeli actresses,
she tells us and offers us as a gift
this touching tale of girl to girl first love
and we feel the emotion of their eyes,
voices and bodies
almost on own skin.
Well, I did.
But, then again, I am quite partial.
Be as it may, it doesn't really matter what your Gender Identity and what your Sexuality is,
this is a Wonderful Film for Everybody who believes in Emotion and Truth and Beauty and Cruelty
told and shared through ART,
I am writing this a lot more than a month after I've seen the film at the fantastic CCF Festival in Paris
in the second week of November last, back in 2016.
My emotion still flows, fresh like when I first saw BARASH.
pic (c) Haris Metaxa
The film went on to win the Jury's award at the CCFF.
As I had already chosen the film to write about and had already interviewed the filmmaker,
I felt proud of Jury's good taste
and went on to cheer and to immediately tell the film crew on Social Media,
happy and proud myeself as if I had helped in its making!
Bravo to Economical, Punk, Cruel and Optimistic
(that's Dialectics for you, Folks, it moves by Embracing Contraddiction!)
Directing (and solid Script Writing) of MICHAL VINIK
and bravo to SIVAN NOAM SHIMON (Naama Barash)
and HADAS JADE SAKORI (Dana Hershko)
brilliantly and convincingly playing the girls discovering love and life.
They gave everything they've got, tried to find the truth of the characters in themselves
and they managed to make the characters complex, touching, convincing,
similar and separate at the same time.
We escaped with volatile life-pirate Dana and we felt lost and found and lost again with Naama.
They both felt like two girls we have met or we could meet in our real lives.
Complex, deep, uncompromising
and fighting to keep their heads above troubled waters and learn how to swim too.
I was very impressed when I found out that both were, at the time when the film was in the making,
Well, now they showed they can become professional indeed or, better still, they really are already professional.
I wish them all the best and I hope they continue their creative careers, in movies and else.
Actresses and filmmaker make an incredibly talented and quite courageous triad
we have to keep in mind and follow.
BARASH, one of the best movies I have seen,
in all categories and not only as a Lgbtqi potrayal of love and loss.
IN ART WE TRUST,
IN FILM WE REST AND DREAM
(and CRY too sometimes...).
Can't wait to see what the trio will come up to creatively,