Sinbad in the Rented World (2004)
what it feels like for a girl / Sinbad in the Rented World, Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 2005
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Sinbad in the Rented World and what it feels like for a girl were published as one volume since I originally conceived them as one exhibition at the Power Plant. When the then director wasn't interested in this exhibition of Toronto queer and feminist artists, I walked, and put them on as the first two exhibitions as Director of the Art Gallery of York University, Sinbad in early 2004.
On the Other Hand: Sinbad in the Rented World
With the title, Sinbad in the Rented World, I pay homage to the legacy of the legendary underground filmmaker and performer Jack Smith, referring to one of his unfinished film projects. Not that I suspect Smith’s legacy to be fulfilled by the artists in the exhibition––or even his amazing achievements in film, experimental theatre, and installation necessarily to be known. What I want to explore is a queer aesthetic in Toronto art but as applied to social function. Is this a new phenomenon? Perhaps, if we are willing to stretch our understanding of the parameters of visual culture––or queer art. One might not think that glamour or the superficial excess of glitter could have a social function, but Smith adamantly believed so saying: “Could art ever be useful? Ever since the desert glitter drifted over the burnt-out ruins of Plaster Lagoon thousands of artists have pondered and dreamed of such a thing, yet, art must not be used anymore as another elaborate means of fleeing from thinking because of the multiplying amount of information each person needs to process in order to come to any kind of decision about what kind of planet one wants to live on before business, religion, and government succeed in blowing it out of the solar system.”*
The environmental costuming of the gallery (to extend a phrase of Charles Ludlam’s) that takes place here can be considered co-extensive with social practices in the world, even if the works herein contained seem too playful. Social function can be defined in such a way that also re-defines what we consider the work of art to be, so that the visual paraphernalia that surround the performances of a band, its publicity, and product dissemination, for example, could be considered an aestheticizing-socializing role. Flamboyant and flaming, social and subversive are no longer opposing terms. So let’s not think of this work as the “silly side of subversion” but rather as the social side, for instance, of stitchery of boys who sew and then some.
*Jack Smith, “Capitalism of Lotusland,” Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool: The Writings of Jack Smith, ed., J. Hoberman and Edward Leffingwell (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1997).