Monday, October 26, 2009

"Tribe Party" in Toronto. No more 'underground art' in my mind.

Last night I attended "Tribe", one of the biggest festivals in the world devoted to "fetish" ( "Fetish Party" is its name in English) where the world of alternative options for sexuality becomes a sideboard for theatrical costumes and attitudes on a seemingly perfectly normal night. Around 4000 people rush, the days before the event, to the two or three specialised fetish and leather shops to acquire their "costumes" for that night and look perfect, in all their finery of sexual fantasy, to others, at a place where people with these rarely seen inclinations concentrate.

Ultimately, this party was nothing extraordinary, nothing that had not been seen before (1), but it was something that changed my way of documenting certain mental attitudes as someone born into a society of an underdeveloped country. Living now in one of the most developed societies in the world and having assisted to an event of this nature made me restructure my way of documenting art and its expressions, sexual choices and their different manifestations.

In this world of tolerance and civility everything has achieved its own place and these expressions of sexual life have found too, their part in the social game.

Toronto is a city famous for its gay life and its legal accomplishments for the community, but in reality it is much more than that, it is a city that has had to adapt to massive immigration and an impressive multiculturalism beyond their old closed traditions, expanding the scope of its civility, lawfulness and virtually everything finds a place within a law even if not for the most sensible of reasons, then with a great good will to harmonize all aspects of life in society.

I hadn't had such freedom of life since my visits to other cities recognized for their "alternativeness" (San Francisco and Amsterdam, for example). Amsterdam and San Francisco have the other largest fetish holidays; the most famous, perhaps in the world, is the Folsom Street Fair, where an entire city street offers itself for display in broad daylight and hundreds of thousands of visitors from almost all possible sexual positions attend.

Earlier this year (and still I owe you a blog entry about this event) I visited, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the exhibition of American photographer Catherine Opie, with a retrospective of his career, and hundreds of photographs considered years ago as "underground" but now exposed at one of the most visited museums in the world and, as the main part of the exhibition, at the gallery on the top floor of the museum were several mural-size photographs with characters and bodies transformed by tattoos and piercings in moments of pleasure-pain, some of them including AIDS patients and others in positions possibly shocking for many; this exhibition was accompanied by music in earphones that provided guidance and switched on during the visit, lending your visit a a genuine atmosphere of religiosity, acquiring a fully theatrical environment, a performance by itself. This event was not the worship of some intellectuals to an alternative art, it was the assessing of the lifetime of an artist dedicated to a different way of expression and was exhibited in a fully open way at one of the temples of modern art. Catherine Opie is heir to Mapplethorpe, who never received recognition of such magnitude during his lifetime.

The next is the video I edited for my post dedicated to this special part of the exhibition of Opie:

Where is then the presence of the art of alternative options? Where is the art in a world that was born and developed within him because of its inability to be disclosed or accepted by society?

Today anyone in Toronto can go every Wednesday or Friday between 8 and 10 pm to a workshop - exhibition of different ways to use sex toys or sexual practices using fire, electricity, metal, slaps, etc ... A lot of it is as a way to avoid the danger of these practices when done without knowledge of their effects, showing only and without any extra comment the technically correct way to do it. Is it clear what I discuss here? They are education and prevention workshops! Those are also "performances": they are doing what they usually do and what they know on a stage, in front of a group of people as spectators.

What has become of the attraction of Foucault to the occult and the attractiveness of the danger of all these practices that ultimately led him to die for them? "What could be more beautiful than to die for the love of boys" said he, referring to his incurable illness during a moment of sarcastic lucidity. He was afraid that, in the search for sexual rights, they'd lose their value as a hidden movement and source of ideas and art ... You lose something, yes, undeniably, but what is gained?

Yesterday's event, and that's what I'm writing this post in this blog, was a theatrical event, there was a "show" performing an initiation "within the tribe (the feast was called Tribe) of the fetish contemporary world, a "performance" that offered, among the clichés of this world (vampires, native Africans, Balinese and Papuans) the exhibition of many tattooed bodies, naked characters, all of them full of piercings, with painted genitals, bound, real bodies processed through many bizarre surgeries, etc ... all within an atmosphere of cordiality, festivity, and freedom.

I remembered so many theatrical and artistic events in which I had participated, where I had also been a spectator, and which I had considered scandalous because they showed a little of what in my society was not accepted or was seen as evil and monstrous, I remembered everything that I was now watching in the open, as a big open party. I also recalled some of the myths of literature, theatre, art in general, the myths of the "underground" and how I idolized them at the time, and I remark that I am still living in the back of my memory. Those bodies, those spectacles, those exhibition, those artists, that life, now are all part of our daily lives and have a place in the world, in various parts of our world. It had always been so, yes, but no in this way, not with this openness, civility, not as a part of everyday life.

An alternative sexual event like this, even with its great showmanship and frivolity, is in conflict with several ideas and moral structures that still exist strongly in the world, but their existence, their viability in our society, their commercial and social force are clear and conclusive. There can no more be a matter of scandal today, with what I saw all we have left is to see them as motive for contemplation, for analysis of their expression, as a aesthetic exposure and, ultimately, as a source of pleasure and play (can we talk about lost art then?)

Remember? God was declared dead over a hundred years ago and this does not mean that there are no more societies in which humans kill to maintain their idea of god, but the evolution of human thought that led to the mental corroboration of his non-existence is absolutely unavoidable, it happened and has had tangible consequences in the way we see the world and live ...

The destruction of the barriers of the unseen and the underground is already an active part in the open societies of our planet, is being regulated, and is finally becoming normal. "Normal" is not a word I dislike, on the contrary, it is a word and an idea that gives me peace because it avoids unnecessary disturbances.

There will be new "undergrounds," but it was time to overcome them (at least in my head). We will create new forms of concealment, because that's part of our never linear and always random human evolution.

Video Playlist (10 videos) of the party, "Tribe". Toronto, 2009.
(Videos were taken with a cell phone, therefore their short length and their low quality)

(1) Actually the theatrical event in the party was painfully bad.

(All this post have been written in Spanish and English by the author, and revised and corrected by Tadeo Berjon.)

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