Archive for November, 2020


Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

My mom has been sending a selfie every day that she’s been able since her emergency surgery in late July 2020. It’s been a hell of a year. Because of the pandemic I haven’t seen her, and she doesn’t want to be seen—at least not fully. The selfie will have to do, it says enough. How she is feeling is up to the eye of the beholder, the facts of her illness she will haltingly discuss with me on the phone, the ugly physicality of the thing is something she knows I will listen to. The general “I am here-ness” of her daily selfie is the perfect Gwendolynism, my term for her being neither too close nor too distant. Gwendolyn is always summarily her own being. The five to seven of us on the ongoing family SMS text thread reply to her with a patchwork of responses, hours long tallies of the day: “here is our weather”, “here is a new household item”, “here is our cat”, heart emoji, heart emoji, thumbs up emoji. We are here too. Maybe we are fine. “At least you don’t have Covid” closed eye face emoji.

We all (in my immediate family) have dissociative disorders that make in-person contact pretty mumbly affairs. With the Covid-19 virus wreaking havoc in so many lives, and the related shutdowns dismantling the social fabric, and in parental parlance, “with everything else that’s going on”; meaning social unrest, social distancing and the President, my mother has never been more accessible, a thousand miles away on a video conference call in a time of crisis.

Gwen is 83 next year, her selfies are ongoing daily as is her treatment, and they have become both a window into her self-image and the hub around which I gather something resembling fortitude.

Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California in 1969. She was raised in Atlanta, Georgia from the age of 13 and lives and works in New York. Walker studied at the Atlanta College of Art (BFA, 1991) and the Rhode Island School of Design (MFA, 1994). She is the recipient of many awards, notably the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award in 1997 and the United States Artists Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008. In 2012, Walker became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her work can be found in numerous museums and public collections including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Tate Gallery, London; the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo (MAXXI), Rome; and Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt.


Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020


Recently, I was approached by Abdullah Qureshi, to make a contribution to his project – ‘Mythological Migrations: Chapter 2: The Darkroom’. It made me reflect on my personal history of cruising for gay sex that goes back to my earliest years when I was living in New Delhi. My archives following my trajectory of migration have abrupt interruptions. There are events that happened before I was fifteen that were highly significant that I hadn’t recorded or didn’t have the ability to record with a camera at the time. Suddenly I was transported to Canada where everything I learnt about gay cruising in India was no longer meaningful. Did Canadians even do this kind of thing? On the other hand being in Canada provided me with a new gay identity. There I met Saleem Kidwai who had come over to study at McGill. In the early 80s I was studying photography in London and he had returned to live in Delhi. I was finally able to make short photographic trips back to India. Sometimes we would meet and discuss what was happening with the local gay scene. It hadn’t changed much from my youth and gay liberation had yet to arrive. We reacted in opposite ways to this situation, I felt I could not stay and live in Delhi as I found it too suffocating and oppressive as an out gay man, but he decided that this was his home and he had to make the best of it.

Whilst I was visiting I wanted to make photographs of the gay scene but of course nobody wanted to be in the photographs. So I decided to record the landscape of my favourite cruising ground which was a famous Mughal monument called Humayun’s Tomb. It hadn’t changed much since my years there as a teenager desperately searching for sex in my neighbourhood. I lived right next door in East Nizamuddin. I had forgotten about these pictures and they had lain hidden in my negative files for the last forty years.

I had decided to make a short video piece for Abdullah, reminiscing with Saleem about our youthful days of cruising for gay sex in Delhi, and how that had led to the construction of gay communities. Especially with the advent of AIDS. We compared this with the current situation where most people just use apps on the Internet regardless of where they are in the world. We felt the gay world has lost something positive and significant, that giving up the possibilities of those random physical sexual encounters had created menu driven choices that fragment rather than bring together our communities. For one thing old fashioned cruising created physical sites that were regularly used and they became invisible yet public communal meeting places. Whilst editing the video I was trying to imagine what the visuals might be and I suddenly remembered that I had this roll of film that I had shot of my favourite site. Looking at them for almost the first time I was mesmerised by their power to transport me back to my adolescence. It reminded me of the ease with which the much maligned documentary photograph can capture a moment with all its associated emotional power.

Sunil Gupta was born in 1953, in New Delhi and is a Canadian citizen. He completed his MA at the Royal College of Art, London, England, and received a PhD from the University of Westminster, England. He has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration and queer issues. In the 1980s, Gupta constructed documentary images of gay men in architectural spaces in Delhi, his “Exiles” series. The images and texts describe the conditions for gay men in India at the times. Gupta’s recent series “Mr. Malhotra’s Party” updates this theme during a time in which queer identities are more open and also reside in virtual space on the internet and in private parties. His early documentary series “Christopher Street” was shot in the mid-1970s as Gupta studied under Lisette Model at the New School for Social Research and became interested in the idea of gay public space. His work is represented by Hales Gallery (New York, London), Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto) and Vadehra Art Gallery (New Delhi).


Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020


Maybe it’s the brightness of this optimistic yellow. A warped Picture-tainer that reads “Memories” embossed in plastic cursive.

I often think about the photograph’s portrayal as evidence. An indication of the “first dimension” described by Thich Nhat Hanh as;

“the events we experience and what we can see and know in our own lifetimes.”

I can’t help but feel the magnitude of this gesture. A compressed room of memories that has been given to me to preserve, until it’s time to be passed on.

In recent months, I have been returning to books that I have not visited since graduate school. In Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, I came across a faded-yellow highlighted passage. Roland Barthes writes;

“It is said that mourning, by its gradual labour, slowly erases pain; I could not, I cannot believe this; because for me, Time eliminates the emotion of loss (I do not weep), that is all. For the rest, everything has remained motionless. For what I have lost is not a Figure (the Mother), but a being; and not a being, but a quality (a soul): not the indispensable, but the irreplaceable.”

Troy Michie was born in 1985, in El Paso, Texas. He is an interdisciplinary painter and collage artist. His work engages black consciousness, Latinx experience, immigration and queerness through assemblage and juxtaposition. Utilizing textile, garment and archival paper, from newsprint to pornography, Michie subverts dominant narratives by placing past and present in confrontation. The resulting work is a non-linear exotification of political resistance and transgressive self-expression and gesture.


Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

On 5/4/20, Lieko Shiga wrote:

To everyone who has been worried about me

In the neighborhood where I live (population 370), fifty-three were killed and seven are still missing. The tsunami was nature in all its raw power. It was terrifying beyond imagining. When I think of all those who died, swept away in that unequaled terror, my mind simply stops working. No amount of caring for them on my part can reach those who, swallowed by the water, lost consciousness in such terrible suffering.

In one instant on that day, the value of time, life, death, emotion, and things was wiped out, and all was flattened into uniformity, as far as the eye could see. Then a heavy snow fell and a night of complete and utter darkness descended. Hearing on the radio that the bodies of several hundred people had been found on the coast, and the repeated reports of the nuclear accident at Fukushima Reactor No. 1, just 80 kilometers down the coast, as well experiencing the constant aftershocks, I was prepared for the worst. I was so deeply distressed that nothing seemed strange. Numerous unimportant, random thoughts floated through my mind, and I thought, this will be my end.

Now, I think about bringing back that deep, dark, uniformly black night, and though I hope there is never another tsunami, I am also afraid at the same time that those hours will fade from my consciousness.

At the same time, I am relieved and reassured to have been to resort to the value of things, discussing together with the many strong older women with whom I lived in the evacuation center what we needed, and then requesting them as relief supplies, and distributing them to the right people; and when after looked eagerly I found a single photograph sticking up out of the mud, I was delighted. But not just photographs but also houses and people are buried in the mud. I am living in a reality when all things have been reduced to equal value. That is clearly linked inside me to that dark night. The value of things has been torn apart and stands revealed before me now. And that’s fine.

What I feel compelled to confirm with my entire being is that what I started from January 2008, when I moved to Kitakama, is not over at this moment. If anything I have done in Kitakama up to now was rendered meaningless by the disaster, it was just the things that could be washed away. I was living amidst a pile of things, many of which I won’t miss. If one aspect of the unease I felt at the convenience of daily life arose from my dependence on things, than perhaps it was just the useless dregs of my material desires that were washed away. I was shocked by this. But that dark night during which I experienced that brief but noble epiphany seemed to be telling me not to think of my life solely in terms of attachment to and dependence upon material things; I felt that what really mattered was the way in which I had tried to relate to society. Or at least that’s what I said to myself.

There is still too little information about the nuclear power plant accident, and no one at the evacuation center talks about it. The media may not be reporting everything it should, but we are also avoiding the subject here. Perhaps we couldn’t bear to see the images. I think we find it impossible to conceive of something worse than the present situation, and are just refusing to accept it. I look it as my own fault, because of all the electricity I used to use.

There’s so much I want to write about that I’m afraid I could go on forever.

I am very grateful for your concern


Kitakami village on 13th of March, 2020

Our shelter in Natori city

My house has gone and there is noting like strange dream

But, my bathroom has left on the corner, it’s funny, sea water keep in bath tub.

Lieko Shiga was born in 1980, in Aichi, Japan, she currently lives and works in Miyagi, Japan. Shiga received the coveted Kimura Ihei Photography Award in 2008. Major exhibitions include RASEN KAIGAN, Sendai Mediatheque, 2012; IN THE WAKE, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2015; NEW PHOTOGRAPHY 2015. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015; BLIND DATE, Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, 2017; and HUMAN SPRING, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, 2019.


Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

2020 WOW

Mary Manning (b. 1972, Illinois) is an artist living in New York City. They have exhibited solo shows at Canada, New York (2018); Little Sister (now Sibling), Toronto (2018); and Cleopatra’s, Brooklyn (2017) as well as many group shows. Manning frequently collaborates with other artists, brands, and writers with their imagery; and has published their work in several magazines in addition to their own books and zines.