Los Angeles Queer Biennial 2018: What if Utopia

A celebration and coming together of culture and community in DTLA

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by Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick

Running through Pride month in Los Angeles, the third incarnation of the Queer Biennial is currently underway, bringing together artists from around the world to activate the city’s communities through LGBTQ+ art. Set to the titular theme “What If Utopia,” the Biennial’s various programs seek to define what a queer paradise could be. From nude dinner parties with drag queens to emotional one person shows to alt-pop manifestoes, each entry into the Biennial offers how LGBTQ+ persons and artists envision ways of seeing and being seen, to validate a point of view and way of life.

The center of the Biennial is a group show at Downtown LA’s NAVEL, an art space dedicated to community engagement and collaboration. The show features various styles of visual arts and goes to great lengths to display the new (Vanja Hedberg, Homoriot) and the old (Tom of Finland, Keith Haring). All works manifest an untapped queer power in myriad forms, reminding us through works like George Summers’ “A Shroud for a Coffin of T-shirts… Lived” (a meditation on life and death as a late 20th century American queer person) and Gil Yefman’s crocheted Hitler—a bright yellow figure inspired by the work of a gay artist who survived the Holocaust.

“What is a queer utopia? The artists were invited to explore, in whatever the sense of the word,” Michael Holt, co-founder of NAVEL and one of the many curators of the Biennial, explains. “It could be carnal. It could be cerebral. It could be fantastical. As you see, it’s not really a monolithic interpretation of utopia. It’s all of these individual visions… There’s not one idea of what a utopia will look like: it’s what all these individual artists are thinking about.”

For Holt (whose focus has been on performance) and fellow curators like Biennial founder Rubén Esparza, the various ways the Biennial presents itself inside and outside of the gallery proper represent the diversity of the queer community in Los Angeles, a deeply multicultural group that is full of many micro-communities within a micro-community. “The complicated nature of the world we are living in requires us to break out of what is considered to be traditional practices,” Holt says. “To bridge the gap between disciplines and bridge the gap between experiences.”

“There is something about a queer biennial that is necessary,” he adds. “To showcase and to bring all these different communities in this room.”

LA’s Queer Biennial is open to the public Thursday to Saturday through the month of June, from 12PM to 6PM. Check the online schedule for various one-off events from film screenings to dinner parties and more.

Images by Cool Hunting