Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cruising with Keith and Bike Riding with a Legend: An Afternoon of Art Hopping with Jim Fouratt

 Saturday was a majestic day.  Enjoying the bright winter day, I rode my bike into the village to go see art and tell stories with my friend Jim Fouratt.

I’ve known Jim for years now. And we've frequently disagreed.  In the late 1990’s, we all knew him as someone  members of SexPanic! and Fed Up Queers fought with vociferously over the politics of trans identity.   As the controversy died down, I’d see him every once in a while when he made appearances at events.  And I came to see his story in a dialectical way, full of history, agreements, disagreements, and acknowledgement.  

Fouratt drew reams of print as a cultural figure and activist with roots dating back five decades to the years proceeding his role in Gay Liberation Front.  

Jim F through the years, including with Sylvia Rivera, the grand damme of the trans movement.

He spoke at my friend Bob Kohler’s memorial.  And he wrote eloquently when his friend Jerry Hoose, another Stonewall Veteran, passed a few weeks ago.

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY : For those of you who have been following the string on Jerry Hoose, a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front who was in hospice care at Beth Israel hospital , i wanted you to know that he passed, not willingly , Wed afternoon, Details to follow. . A death in our family is always a collective loss. Much of the history of the early post Stonewall Rebellion has been erased or confabulated about: Jerry Hoose was a founding member, a street kid who stood up , came out in public and fought with all of us to make a safer world for all lesbian and gay people of any gender expression and united with other oppressed groups to make a better, more equal world. Looking at the world today , we accomplished far more than we could have hoped for in 1969. The work for change continues on many fronts for most of us. Here is what i wrote and sent privately yesterday:
Dear Comrades: Monday I spent 7 hours with Jerry in Beth Israel hospital hospice. He had not been eating for the last five days except for some fruit and some juice. About 4:00 he told me I think "I am dying. The first time I had heard him say those words. He was in and out of consciousness. Some times full clarity and some times paranoid and delusional . He still wanted to go home. I did speak to his Doctor about this possibility. The Doctor said he was in the best place because in the hospice he would get pain medication when ever he requested it. Tommy Lanagan- Schmidt sat with me for about two hours. Jerry was happy to see him . Tommy had know Jerry since 1966. Tommy reminded Jerry that he was one of the first gay people he had ever met. Jerry was sitting Christopher Street stoop when Tommy went by and Jerry yelled something like "Hey Girl" .. and they became fast friends.
I will tell you there were no "walk towards the light " etc moments. He did not want to die but was in great pain. He was the cranky demanding Jerry ....with a twinkle of course .. that those of us who have know him over the years know... how he could be both exasperating and full of sweetness all at the same time.
It is hard to see any comrade pass... .I was glad I was able to be around him at the end ... Mark Segal, Brian, who he called his "daughter" and Tom from SAGE were the three people he depended on most to help him (not his words) on this last part of his life journey.
I hope all of you are well and thriving .. most of you are younger than me .. so please take care of yourselves and do write down your memories of how we a small group of people changed history. Most of our history has been erased from the politically correct history. So please do your own oral history
jim fouratt

Bob, Sylvia, and Jerry are gone, I wanted to talk with Jim again.  Whatever one thinks of him, he has staying power, making it out year after year.

Recalling Bobby Hutton, one of the early black panthers. 
When Occupy rolled around, I would see Jim at Occupy the Pipeline demonstrations.  Asked about his presence, he’d connect this story with movements dating back to the Black Panthers. After all those years of fighting, it was nice just to hear him connect the dots of his story with this movement. On August 22, 2012, he gave an interview to my friend Stacy for her blog, in the Heart of the Occupation in which he did just this.  

"What drew me to Occupy was that there was someone saying, “It’s not the Democrats. It’s not the Republicans. The whole system needs to be challenged.” The first week, I went down to the occupation. I went to a general assembly, and I thought I was at a Gay Liberation Front meeting. It was unbelievable. The process was exactly what we did in 1969, a circle where everyone got to speak before someone could speak again, consensus rather than majority rule, and it had the block where one person can block the whole thing, so you have to talk to that person until they unblock it. That’s exactly how we did it. That came out of Native American tradition. That came out of the Women’s Movement. That’s how people became empowered individually, not with leaders. 

"They say we don’t have any leaders. We do. Every single one of us is a leader. Every one of us can learn how to talk about something like the Fracking issue. We don’t have to look to somebody else, and the natural leadership comes out through consensus. Yes, there are multiple people that we listen to more than other people. For me, as an older person who has had a lot of political experience, it’s really important for me not to go down to Occupy and go, “Hey, these are my credentials. You don’t know who I am, but I’m going to tell you who I am” or “Oh, wait a minute, you’ve got it wrong.” No, it's important to listen and not talk in the ‘I’ word but talk in the ‘us’ word. Those are not easy things for old radicals. I would see them all down there, this sector, this leftist group. They were over there trying to influence Occupy.

"I go to the Environmental Survival, the working group that has been doing the Spectra Pipeline on West Street and Gansevoort. They are a really tight knit affinity group. Affinity groups are what carry all these actions out. A lot of what Occupy does is in terms of affinity groups, not individualism, not individual acts. I see this group of Occupy people down on West Street, and they are so tight knit. They know each other. They trust each other, and they take care of each other. They don’t know who I am, and it’s my job not to be offended by that. My job is to sit there and listen, and maybe I do have something to share. Maybe I could help with some kind of training. What’s great about that group is that it’s art driven. They love the posters. They love the banners. They love the puppets. They love the music, and they are so totally committed. 

"We live in a time of such apathy. People are so turned off by the political process. I think it’s critical that human being put their bodies in front of whoever is doing something they don’t agree with and not just click the 'like' button on a computer page. I’m not anti-Facebook. I’m not anti-computer, but you have to get out of the seat, and we have to stand together and feel each other’s body heat. The computer is not warm. When we stand together whether we are five people or three hundred people, we know we’re not alone. With the computer, that inauthentic community of friends, that can feel very lonely.

"What’s wrong with the world is greed, the fact that greed and money has become the dominant cultural value and what we teach our children. Education today doesn’t teach authentic history. It teaches economic theory, which doesn’t work. Our kids, there are no jobs. We have PhD’s working at McDonalds. The kid who opened fire in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado last month was on his way to a PhD. He was really smart. He was deeply troubled, and no one seemed to recognize it. The only job he could get was working at McDonalds. There's nothing wrong with working there, but if that's the only job that's available, there is a problem. We have a big student debt problem. We need to get rid of the debt, get rid of the greedy banks and greedy companies that took advantage of kids and parents who wanted education.

"As far as the world I want to see, I like the Black Panther's Ten Point Program -- Freedom and the power to determine our destiny, full employment, end of robbery by those in power, decent housing, education that teaches true history, free health care, the end of police brutality, end to all wars of aggression, freedom for all political prisoners, and land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and community control of modern industry. They recognized that everyone was not going to live in the same neighborhood and that everyone was not going to like the same food and that everyone was not going to dress the same. There would be different communities, but there would be common things that each of these communities had. 

"My mentor Harry Hay taught me to question, "What is my role as a gay man here? I’m not a straight man. I’m different.What is my role?" We've always been the teachers. We've always been around children. I never particularly wanted to have children, but I knew people that really wanted to be parents, really wanted to be, and they weren't allowed to be, so they became teachers. The world that I envision is where we can look across and really see our differences. Let’s talk about identity politics for a minute. I’m an architect of identity politics in some way. The goal was never to stand over there and say, “Ah, this is who we are.”  The goal was to know how we are different from someone else. That can be race. That can be sexual orientation. That can be economic conditions. That can be history. It's important to ask, "How am I different?" Once I know that, “Hey, I’m a gay man,” I know that means something. It's important to know what we have in common with others, “Hey, what do I have in common with that cop?” "Both of us are not rich, and that cop is seduced into defending a system, which actually hurts him and his family as it hurts me and my family and my community." That’s what we need to talk about.

"I want to thank every single crazy Occupy person anywhere in the world who is not afraid to let go, let go of all the things that tie us down to thinking we can’t do anything. That’s scary. That’s risky. That’s exciting. That’s invigorating. I just want to say thank you. Be kind to each other. Be true to your own human nature. The strongest person doesn’t have to be the toughest person.

Last fall, I started running into him at  the Commons for Saturday classes on dialectics with Stanley Aronowitz.  In between Stanley's rants, he would ask us all to think about our mistakes in dialectical ways. What are the lessons we can make from our losses, successes, victories and feelings of depression or failure in social movements?

Phil, Jim, and Stanley

As I get older, I think there is something to talking with people one disagrees with, as Pete Seeger used to remind us.  With all the heated debates about PreP, I see less value in the sex debates being so loud and with so much invective.  Wouldn't it be better if we heard each other?  Some of the longest chapters in my book Queer Political Performance and Protest, consider these fights.  But what of the space in between, where the messy blurry realities of our lives meets?

 Saturday, we’d meet to talk about art and class, movements and ways to see the streets of the city as works of art.  We mused about the line between the port authority and show world, and the people you’d meet along the way, the friends from the past you'd greet, and strangers from the streets and peep show booths you might make new friends with, the arts communities which come together, between movements and hopes in time.  Here, the blur between sex magic and social eros, stories and social struggle open up a way of looking at the city.  From Stonewall to Studio 54, Jim had seen a lot of it here.    

We met at the Center, where I glanced at the majestic “Once Upon a Time” , Keith Haring’s work mural in the second floor. With bodies writhing, this homage to a bygone time honors a loss of self into the multitude, a theme coursing throughout the history of art, always reminding me of the garden of earthly delight by hieronymus bosch (which we were fortunate enough to see last summer in Madrid).

the garden of earthly delight by hieronymus bosch
proceeding what haring would bring.

We'd make our way down to the Bureau of General Services-  Queer Division, a zine/independent bookstore at the Center.  There we gossiped about writers and appreciated that a queer commons was still alive and well after so many of the book stores, porn shops and other venues of our from our public have eroded, consumed by the private.  I brought a Guy Hocquenghem semiotext manifesto and a memoir i would have never found otherwise. Thank you goodness for zines and spaces to look at them. 

Finishing, we strolled out for coffee, walking in the winter sun.

And we made our way down to Wooster Street, past the hospital where Sylvia died and we all visited Bob over and over until he passed. Today, it is a condo like much of NYC. All that is solid melts. 

 We rode to the Lohman museum, which was revisiting the theme of Censorship.

Reviewing these works, many of which are old friends by now, these clashes in time remind us the arbitrary ways art moves from the cutting room or pornography shop into the art gallery, just as AIDS activism moves from the streets to the museum and back again.  

It was odd to see the photos from ACT UP’s zap of the NYPL show on AIDS activism, declaring  ‘AIDS was not History’ moving from the gallery through the halls to the streets, photographed, and back into the gallery once more.

Nanni Fontana Out of Sight  ( Of nanni fountain: A reportage intense achieved between thailand, mozambique, brazil, ukraine and uses that tells the epidemic of Aids / hiv after 30 years.

It was only five years prior when we marched against the censorship of  David Wojnarowicz, fighting  the only way we know... with signs and fun chants... "There's a fire in my belly. There's ants in my pants."

And we strolled through the show, reveling in images which have caused a ruckus, ignited a reaction, and counter thesis for years now. It is useful to think of our lives amid these conflicts, and even some radical forgiveness, a few lessons, understandings and maybe a resolution.  

Irreverent: A Celebration of Censorship

Exhibition dates: February 13 – May 3, 2015
Public Opening: February 13, 2015, 6 – 8 pm

[New York, NY - January 2015] Inspired by the creative and activist responses to the censorship of Robert Mapplethorpe’s art in the 1980s and 1990s and the more recent withdrawal of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, Irreverent explores how sexuality has been, and continues to be, used as a tool to prohibit LGBT cultural artwork.

Museum Director Hunter O'Hanian says, “The focus of this exhibition will be the work which has been excluded from other mainstream institutions due to its gay content. Going back to the ‘Culture Wars’ of the 1980s, the exhibition landscape has changed as certain works of art have been excluded because they were considered ‘offensive’ or ‘too risky.’ While in some ways we live in a time which appears more tolerant, exclusion of artwork, and certain facts about some artists, are still excluded because of the person’s sexual orientation.”

Work in the exhibition will span more than three decades and will tell numerous stories of intentional exclusion of works, as well as acts of violence and vandalism.

Guest curator Jennifer Tyburczy says, “The exhibition draws inspiration from the innovative responses to watershed moments in the history of censoring LGBTQ art in Canada, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States. In concept, the show is principally drawn from two events: the censorship of Robert Mapplethorpe’s art in the 1980s and 1990s and the more recent withdrawal of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery in 2010. In practice, it seizes on the international fame of these controversies to delve deeper into the many ways that censorship functions in queer artistic life.”

Curating from the perspective that censorship occurs differently and in multiple ways, locations, and moments, the show includes spaces for the restaging of the social, cultural, and political components that led to, followed, or influenced diverse episodes of controversy. In all, the exhibition will feature the work of seventeen artists. It will depict approximately a dozen episodes of exclusion and censorship including:

• In the Being series (2007), Zanele Muholi interrogates black lesbian relationships and safer sex. On the surface, the visuals capture couples in intimate positions and moments showing their love for each other. However, Muholi’s photographs also critique HIV/AIDS prevention programming in South Africa, and how, in her view, it has failed women who have sex with other women. For years, Muholi has documented gay, lesbian, and transgender people in South Africa and beyond. In April 2012, Muholi’s apartment was broken into while she and her partner were away. The thieves took nothing but her archives, and little has been done to retrieve her works.

• In 2010 in an art gallery in Lund, Sweden, a group of individuals who local authorities believed to be neo-Nazis used axes and crowbars against Andres Serrano’s photographic series The History of Sex in a spectacular display of terror and vandalism. Death-metal music played in the background as they destroyed $200,000 worth of photographs while shouting expletives and, “We don’t support this” in Swedish. The vandals left behind leaflets reading, “Against decadence and for a healthier culture.” No arrests were made.

• Alma López’s digital print Our Lady was shown in the exhibition CyberArte: Tradition Meets Technology curated by Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn for the Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2001. The exhibit consisted of four Latina artists whose visual work incorporated imagery containing traditional cultural iconography (such as the virgin of Guadalupe) that the artists reconfigured using digital technology. Soon after the opening, Jose Villegas and Deacon Anthony Trujillo were joined by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan in organizing protests demanding the removal of the small digital print. The protests were violent. The museum, curator, and Alma López endured constant verbal abuse and physical threats. Our Lady went on to be censored again in Oakland, California and Cork, Ireland.

• The censorship of Michelle Handelman’s video installation Dorian: a cinematic perfume is a classic example of the moral panic that can ensue when queer art is shown in mainstream museums. After the video was originally shown as one part of a larger exhibition at Austin, Texas’s Art House in 2011, Dorian was shut down for certain periods of time without explanation. Following this, the looped video was then presented with only limited screening times, before being removed altogether. These decisions were precipitated by one particularly powerful board member who was personally offended by the film’s content.

• At the 2012 exhibition Aykırı (Contrary) municipal officials of the İzmir Art Center in Kültürpark, Turkey pulled from view three photographs each by three different artists: Baris Barlas’s photograph Invisibles of two men kissing in a crowded Mexico City subway station, Damla Mersin’s powerful shot (Confuse) of a woman in a headscarf striking a haughty pose and fully in control of her sexuality, and Seray Ak’s untitled photograph of two women kissing while wearing headscarves. These artists boldly started a conversation on the politics of display in İzmir, Turkey during a time of vigorous debates about women’s legal right to wear headscarves and the future of the LGBT rights movement in Turkey.

• In 2010, curators and volunteers at the GFest, London’s Queer Arts Festival, were ordered to cover up some of the works with masking tape and tarps. Of these artworks, Irreverent will display Corrine Bot’s Jack & Jill 01-03, Kimi Tayler’s The Stags In Drag (THE NATURE OF BEAUTY), and Jason Woodson’s tribute to David Wojnarowicz’s, One Day This Kid (20 Years On)

“Sex—queer, dissident and explicit—is central to the exhibition,” says Tyburczy, “The acts depicted in these works of art by established artists is what caused the censors and vandals to take the steps they did. The exhibition shows how the defamers of queer life have consistently used sex as a political tool to silence all kinds of minority voices on issues that range from immigration to religion, to race, gender, and disability, to globalization and capitalism.”

Artists slated to participate in the show include Seray Ak, Baris Barlas, Corrine Bot, Alex Donis, Harmony Hammond, Michelle Handelman, Alma López, Robert Mapplethorpe, Damla Mersin, Kent Monkman, Zanele Muholi, Barbara Nitke, Andres Serrano, Kimi Tayler, Tobaron Waxman, David Wojnarowicz, Jason Woodson and others.

This exhibition will be the featured exhibition of the Queer Art Caucus of the College Art Association ‘s 2015 national convention scheduled in New York in February. A panel will be presented on the exhibition at the conference.


Jennifer TyburczyCurator: Jennifer Tyburczy is Assistant Professor of Speech Communication and Rhetoric and English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University in 2009 and has since held teaching and research positions at Columbia College Chicago, Rice University, and el Colegio de México in Mexico City. Her work has been published in Criticism, Museum & Society, Radical History Review, Text & Performance Quarterly, Women & Performance, and The Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. Her book, Sex Museum: The Politics and Performance of Display, is forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press in 2015.

About the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
“…invaluable museum.” Holland Cotter, New York Times, June 2013 Best place for gay culture, Time Out New York: New York's Best 2012

The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the first and only dedicated gay and lesbian art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve gay and lesbian art, and foster the artists who create it. The Museum has a permanent collection of over 24,000 objects, 6-8 major exhibitions annually, artist talks, film screenings, readings, THE ARCHIVE - a quarterly art newsletter, a membership program, and a research library. The Leslie-Lohman Museum is operated by the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Inc., a non-profit founded in 1987 by Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman, who have supported gay and lesbian artists for over 30 years. The Leslie-Lohman Museum embraces the rich creative history of the gay and lesbian art community by educating, informing, inspiring, entertaining, and challenging all who enter its doors.

The Museum is located at 26 Wooster Street in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. Admission is free, and hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 12-6 pm, and Thursday, 12-8 pm. The Museum is closed Monday and all major holidays. The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization and is exempt from taxation under section 501(c)3 of the IRS Code. The Museum can be reached at 212-431-2609. For more information, go to

graffiti on the Chinatown walls and ice in the river along the way home

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