On 13th July I met up with a newly formed London group for an informal study visit to the Heyward Gallery.
This exhibition left me confused. I wasn’t sure whether the fundamental aim was to shock or educate. Furthermore, the title was misleading because I expected works on both male and female fluidity. In fact all the subjects were males who were addressing their gender fluidity.
Nonetheless, when I entered the exhibition I was met with a stunning installation consisting of white satin material draped from floor to ceiling onto which was projected an image of a person dressed beautifully as a woman. A voice projected over the image to imply she/he was on stage. Whichever angle I viewed the installation from, the beauty shone through the material.
The other images in the same area of this installation were mixed, and I found it difficult to follow a theme. But maybe the curator intended to create this feeling of uncertainty.
The final sentence in the description above certainly bore out my views: “…remains in a permanent and productive state of irresolution”.
The second half of the exhibition had more disturbing images, such as the image of a brutally murdered body in South Africa, indicating the way members of the LGBTQ community are treated in some cultures. But was this image staged?
In the centre of this area was a manikin wearing an elaborate black silk ball gown created by Hunter Reynolds on which was printed in gold the names of some 25000 people who had died from AIDS related illnesses. On the wall behind the installation were a series of newspaper cuttings giving more information on the dress, and highlighting the prejudice at that time against AIDS. I found the whole installation very moving and poignant.
Finally I wandered into what appeared to be a nightclub. The entrance tunnel was draped in red velvet, and inside a video was being shown to create the sense of being in a club. Some of the footage was fascinating and extremely well presented, but I found the pornographic footage unnecessary. (There was a warning notice at the entrance!). Rightly or wrongly pornography exists in all areas of life, and I was at a loss to understand why it should be included in an exibition which was celebrating gender fluidity.
Overall I thought the exhibition was a bit muddled in its layout and I didn’t feel there was any cohesion between the images. They appeared to be displayed at random with no “flow”. However, the Heyward Gallery coffee shop was excellent. The group met afterwards in the coffee shop, and offered feedback on work presented by some members of the group.