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Queer Algorithms exhibition at Gus Fisher Gallery

February 15th – May 2nd 2020
Opening Event: Friday February 14th 5.30 – 8.00pm
Gus Fisher Gallery

John Walter (UK), New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Evan Ifekoya (UK), Ursula Mayer (Austria / UK), Aliyah Winter (Aotearoa New Zealand), Shannon Novak (Aotearoa New Zealand),
Yuki Kihara (Samoa / Aotearoa New Zealand), Shu Lea Cheang (Taiwan / France),
Bronte Perry (Aotearoa New Zealand), micha cárdenas (USA), Martine Gutierrez (USA),
essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa, Aotearoa New Zealand)

“We look at things as black and white when there’s so much grey. Even people that think they’re in the black and white – they often have a foot in the grey. We all do. Its impossible not to.” Martine Gutierrez

Queer Algorithms features artists whose artwork, commentary and activism is reconfiguring new algorithms for change against continued systems of exclusion. Resisting labels, binaries and the need to categorise, Queer Algorithms is conceived from an intersectional viewpoint where gender fluidity and identities are understood as always multifarious and in flux. The timely nature of this exhibition cannot be overstated with a severe lack of programming of major group exhibitions by queer artists in New Zealand’s public art galleries. Featuring artworks never seen before in Aotearoa alongside six individual panels from the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt, Queer Algorithms provides a nuanced look at what it means to exist beyond the binaries.

Greeting visitors to the exhibition is a monumental installation by Evan Ifekoya called Ritual Without Belief (2018). A floor of oceanic patterns stretches across to a peaked crest of a wave, while a canopy of balloons lie overhead in reference to alternative dance parties in 1970s New York. Ifekoya’s soundtrack – a six-hour multi-layered compilation of techno, underwater samples and vocalised streams of consciousness – reverberates across this landscape. Described by the artist as a “black queer algorithm,” Ritual Without Belief is a repeating and responsive code that starts from a place of abundance rather than scarcity.

Extending Ifekoya’s queer landscape of abundance is the work of British artist John Walter whose immersive installations fuse pioneering scientific research into viruses such as HIV with a maximalist aesthetic of exuberant colour, pattern and absurdist humour. Featuring large-scale paintings, wallpaper, film and costume, Walter’s visual lexicon embeds scientific knowledge about the spread of viruses, bringing this knowledge to wider public attention to importantly address a crisis of representation surrounding HIV in contemporary culture.

Queer Algorithms showcases ambitious new work by three Aotearoa-based artists, Shannon Novak, Bronte Perry and Aliyah Winter. Shannon Novak’s new series of layered and symbolic paintings of key figures in Aotearoa’s LGBTQI+ community join three site-specific interventions by the artist. Following on from a recent presentation at the Hobart Biennale, Aliyah Winter’s video Speaking Without Words (2019) draws on her research into the language of social justice and TERF groups to question the promise of visibility in an era of anti-trans sentiment. Bronte Perry’s new series of textile banners extends their research into homonationalism, indigeneity and trans-gender politics which will also inform their curation of three workshops as part of the exhibition’s public programme.

The exhibition will foreground the experience of Trans artists with recent work by Venice Biennale exhibitor Martine Gutierrez and her landmark publication and parody of a glossy beauty magazine, Indigenous Woman (2018). Pioneering Taiwanese artist Shu Lea Cheang and her collaborative internet artwork Brandon (1998-99), enables access to a series of multi-layered narratives, activations and research that have confronted Trans people in contemporary society since the tragic death of Brandon Teena in 1993. This joins micha cárdenas’ insightful video Pregnancy (2017), a personal narrative and documentation of her biological material that refuses the voyeuristic gaze of that demanded by cisgender audiences of Trans experiences.

A sense of community and connection is found in Ursula Mayer’s film Atom Spirit (2016) where the exhibition’s premise of algorithms and transformation take us to a speculative narrative where affinities between human and non-human life forms intertwine. Photography by acclaimed Samoan artist Yuki Kihara explores the performance of ritual through her experience as fa’afafine while essa may ranapiri’s poetry and paintings address the difficulty of understanding an unwieldy self through an inherited language as Takatāpui.

For the first time, the exhibition’s programme will expand onto the building’s third floor to a thunderous finale with Martine Gutierrez’ hypnotic and joyous critique of gender through dancing in her video Clubbing (2012). Queering the music video format is Evan Ifekoya’s The Gender Song (2014), a defiant call against gender categorisation with a memorable chorus that is a mantra for us all “female, hemale, shemale it don’t matter.” And so Queer Algorithms ends where it begins – an abundant queer landscape where anything is possible.

Supporting this exhibition is our most extensive public programme to date including a series of events curated by and for queer and Trans communities. On the opening day of the exhibition, The New Zealand AIDS Foundation will be onsite to discuss the state of HIV in Aotearoa today and the ongoing community art project, The New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt. UK-based artist John Walter will be visiting Tāmaki Makaurau in March to perform one of his beloved ‘jestered-drag’ performances, and other highlights include a queer coding workshop and a panel talk on banning conversion therapy in Aotearoa.

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