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An old work in a new exhibition

Flash (video still), 1993 Print 50 x 75 cm

Space YZ is up at Campbelltown Art Center. Curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham. It’s a massive survey of 88 UWS art alumni. I have a work in it.

The boy in the photo is posing in front of a mirror in the family bathroom in a new house in the Glenmore Park housing estate in 1993. I was in my first year of Visual Arts at UWS. The image is a still from a video shot directly from a CRT TV screen during playback, hitting manual pause, creating a strong, gorgeous moire effect. For the video, holding a detachable camera flash on a very fast setting, I’d create random shapes in different domestic settings. As you watch the video it’s pitch black with quick intermittent flashes of a frozen figure. I wanted to evoke some kind of everyday magic. An (almost) silent movie where it was difficult to work out what was going on but with a sense of fumbling in the dark. At the time I was interested in autoerotic art by Charles Ray, queer stuff by Robert Gober and desperate to lose my virginity. The VHS recorder is out of shot. Dad had purchased the expensive, bulky camera for a family Disneyland trip a few years earlier and it became my main tool in my first year or two at uni. The video was the work. The images taken from the TV screen were documents of that. This one has been scanned and blown up for the show. Fingerprints from the TV screen are still discernible on the image. What else do I see in the image? An 18 year old gay boy in his first year of uni discovering the freedom of just having come out to his new friends, something he didn’t dare do in high school. They were cool new friends. It was art school... a groovy, brave new world full of potential and it was beyond exciting to be around queer and queer-friendly students and teachers for the first time.

I started the Vis Arts degree in ‘93 and graduated in ‘96. Some of the beautiful old UWS connections are still there, however tenuous, and probably wouldn’t exist without social media. Strong bonds with UWS connections that are ongoing were formed a long time after graduating. Around 2005 I fell in love with a new generation of golden-hearted westie art students, the core of which was formed by Liam Benson, Sari Rossi (née Kivinen), Naomi Oliver and George Tillianakis. I felt an instant connection. I’d just started exploring drag as an art option. Any excuse really. It didn’t really matter what you were doing as long as you were out there and fucking things up a bit, crashing art openings and pretending to be famous or whatever. It was a whole new level of freedom. Alongside them I discovered the confidence to start doing drag more seriously and somehow calling it art (or not). We continue to collaborate on stuff and support each other and I’m so grateful for that.

I’d like to thank Daniel Mudie Cunningham for digging up the photo and and suggesting we could blow it up for the show. I’m so glad he encouraged me to be a part of it because it really is magic that happened. I’d also like to send a special big kiss to two of my favourite lecturers who occupy space in my mind and “speak” to me now and again even though we haven’t had proper contact for many years. That’s Chris Fortescue and the incredible Joan Grounds. You guys are amazing. I want to thank you for the encouragement and support you gave to a scared little queer boy at uni. It really means the world.

He's So Naughty, 1995, passport photo detail from installation

18 year old me in my first studio at UWS Nepean. Photo by Jennifer Leahy (1993).


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