Derek Jarman / Scott Treleaven / Ulrike Ottinger
Isaac Julien / Bruce LaBruce
Presented as part of World Pride
The core values of inclusivity and community-building help build support for global LGBT civil rights, and so rightly form the inspirational centre of events like the WorldPride celebrations in Toronto. But the emphasis on these values can sometimes mute more radical voices in the LGBT community, including many artists working at the intersection of film and the visual arts. These artists have distinguished themselves not only by asking provocative questions within the LGBT community itself, but by utilizing their work to open debates about alternative sexual, romantic and aesthetic practices that go unrecognized by mainstream society, as well as by the artistic and cultural institutions that speak to that society.
This oppositional tendency has acquired many names over the years, but "queer" seems to have stuck as an umbrella term for those voices which do not fit comfortably within the LGBT identity constellation. Many of the pioneering figures who fall under the queer banner have also been dubbed "outlaws," often in the strictest sense, as their principles and practices placed them outside the protection of the law. Artists in particular sought highly visible opportunities to provoke a response from a largely complacent mainstream society, often risking jail and injury to do so. And their influence remains evident in the contemporary queer identity that took shape in the terrifying shadow of AIDS, when much of the LGBT community believed — and with good cause — that governments the world over were happy to stand by while the disease ravaged its ranks.
The British artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman looms large in this company, not only for his creation of a vibrant new queer cinema aesthetic in such films as Sebastiane, The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio, but for his courageous and outspoken opposition to the hateful anti-gay laws of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and campaigning against government indifference to the AIDS crisis. Though Jarman sadly passed away in 1994, his groundbreaking linking of art history, radical politics and exuberant sexuality lives on in the work of many of the artists featured in this exhibition. We hope that Queer Outlaw Cinema can function as both a tribute to the legacy of this extraordinary artist, and as an expression of gratitude to the countless number of queer artists and thinkers we have lost over these past decades.
Photography by Tom Arban