Well done to the Hayward for using art to address a difficult issue in our society. While gay rights may be enshrined in law, emotionally and intellectually many people still have difficulties in coming to terms with how these issues are presented, as for example in the recent Muslim parental demonstrations against LGBT lessons at the Parkside Community School in Birmingham. Even in the UK, LGBT rights are still a sensitive subject, though the Stonewall Riots took place in New York half a century ago. We still, in the UK, have a long way to go and, despite the pioneering efforts of Freehold and other organisations, it still remains a difficult issue in the male-dominated, macho, construction industry and professions.
So, while the centre of London was celebrating Gay Pride, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the Hayward – perhaps conscious that all its potential audience would be busy in central London – opened up its exhibition ‘Kiss My Genders’ for free for the day.
It is a fascinating exhibition, with 35 artists from around the world, including the UK, Canada, the USA, India, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and South Africa showing over 100 artworks from the last 50 years. That, perhaps is one of the difficulties – the countries (apart from India) were almost all predicable – what about others where artists are really struggling to have their voice heard on this subject?
Having said that, it was a good range of artworks including paintings, photographs, installations, sculptures, wall installations and videos from artists who describe themselves as non-binary, pan gender or trans-gender.
There is inevitably a great deal here of cultural, societal and political issues around the subject, with many personal views from the artists embedded in the artworks, sometimes quite disturbing. A question for the Hayward, with this challenging exhibition, is how do you attract the visitors who are not in tune with the subject, will not naturally wish to visit such an exhibition and find the subject quite difficult. It cannot be left to the Hayward alone – partners are required!