December 21, 2012

Hurray! The Siegessäule Bridges The Gap Between Man/Woman And Gay/Straight

For some reason it is easier to write about things that upset one. The anger makes the blood run faster. The writers block dissolves into thin air. A shortcut between brain and hands produces a stream of words that effortlessly fill the blank computer screen. Uhu, I do wish to write only about the many good things that I encounter in the beautiful world of art. That way I could send out positive vibrations and play a part in making the world a better place. Especially in this pre-Christmas time, with sandalwood yogi tea and sugar sweet Stollen on my writing desk, it must be possible to do so. Oh well, at least the thought crossed my mind and it is now definitely high on my list of resolutions for the year 2013. For now, the closing of 2012, allow me to spit my frustration about the November and December-issues of the Siegessäule, a magazine about Queer Berlin.

Let me first tell you that I have a hard time concentrating on newspapers and magazines. I admire people who, in the morning at the breakfast table, can read the newspaper from beginning to end. Even speed reading, scanning the page diagonally, does not work for me. I just loose interest very easily. That's why I only read two articles in the November and December-issues of Siegessäule. As such I'm not in a position to generalize about its overall tendency. Yet I expect this magazine about queer culture to be crosscultural, critical, reflective about discrimination in society, and to promote a thinking out of the box. I also have to admit that I had a secondary motive reading the Siegessäule. It failed to publish a piece about Gunter Trube – a Berlin artist whose work is now exhibited at the show Gesture Sign Art. Deaf Culture / Hearing Culture that I curated together with Wolfgang Müller in Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien (check it out! still on show till January 13, 2013). Trube, who died at a young age in 2008, played as a performer a key role for deaf culture not only in Germany but worldwide. He was the founder of the “Verkehrten Gehörlosen” (Queer deaf) in Berlin. In 1996 he conceptualized and created together with photographer Barbara Stauss an AIDS-brochure in DGS (German Sign Language). It seems evident to me that this multifaceted figure should interest Siegessäule in such a way that his picture fills its front page. Apparently not, so I wondered: what does interest Siegesäule? How does one hit its headlines and get a double spread?

In the November issue I checked out the article “Trans* american Ride". It relates the story of “Dutch artist Risk Hazekamp who traveled the American South – disguised as a man”. The picture shows a woman with a fluffy beard – so far the disguise part of the art project. The artistic concept to dress up as a man to travel the South of the United States makes kind of sense in its nonsense: one might interpret it as a protest against the tendency of many male artists to dress up as a woman in a desire to obtain more liberty – I don't know how many performances I have seen with male artists walking around in woman clothes and glitter on the face, yet with a glimpse of the naked male torso underneath (look, we are men and we dress up like a woman, how exhilarating!). Yet Risk Hazekamp's art project goes wrong in the very first sentences of its travel report. The art project is inspired by the “(white) American writer John Howard Griffin, who in his book Black Like Me (1959) reports of his travels as a supposedly “Black” person (with the help of medication and make-up).” I guess the Siegessäule must have totally missed out on the discussion about Blackfacing in January when the Berlin Schlossparktheater staged Herb Gardners Ich bin nicht Rappaport casting a white actor who made himself up as black. Or maybe the redaction supports the idea that it is brave trying to really feel how it is like to be the “other”. Easily done though: one can go for dinner in a totally darkened restaurant to feel how it is like to be blind, empathize and really experience it, and then, pfew, leave the restaurant whenever one wants to.

So to know what it is to be a man, grow a beard and travel through the South. No need to mention that the trip of Hazekamp through the deep South did not lead up to anything. Nobody bothered Risk Hazekamp: did they ignore her? – oh, these damn Southern people. Sleeping one night in the cold in the back of her truck might have been the nearest to adventure that Risk Hazekamp got. Finally she arrived at the Gay-pride in New Orleans and was asked: “What are you?” A very dramatic moment of revelation for Risk Hazekamp: “It was the first time in all these weeks traveling in drag that someone addressed me as trans*.... It felt like someone finally saw me. As if I were a ghost before and suddenly her voice turned me human again. ´”

No despair! More harmony in the December-issue of the Siegessäule. In the article “Der kleine Unterschied” (The Small Difference) the new book “Vertragt euch!” (Get Along!) by Martin Reichert is reviewed. Martin Reichert writes on gay politics and lifestyle issues for the leftist newspaper TAZ. His new book is about heterosexuality written from a gay perspective. At first sight a good idea – turn around the hierarchies and study heterosexuality as an interesting phenomenon that needs more in depth analysis. But no such luck. Reichert is on a “peace mission”, so he says. Based on interviews with straight men and women about love and sex Reichert discovers a history full of misunderstandings. The war between women and men? Not so dramatic as one might think: “Especially men have evolved amazingly during the past years.” Another revelation: straight people have more sex than one imagines. So quite comparable to the exciting sex life of gay people, I assume. And gay and straight have a lot more in common! For example: on sunday afternoon both gay and straight singles have a challenging time looking at all these happy couples walking by...
For a critical analysis of Martin Reichert's writing, have a look at this great genderwiki-page:

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