A quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of persons; it is a ‘state of enforced isolation’. This is often used in connection to disease and illness, such as those who may possibly have been exposed to a communicable disease. The term is often erroneously used to mean medical isolation, which is “to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. The plain yellow flag (“Quebec” or Q in international maritime signal flags) perhaps derives its letter symbol for its initial use in quarantine.
In furthering his continued exploration of the male body value systems and endurance performance works, Matto Lucas visual artist, (in a new, specifically designed work for “Company Of Men” group exhibition for Midsumma 2015) presents time-based, interactive performance installation work “Q / QUEBEC.”
“Q / QUEBEC” explored, as a site-specific performance work, concepts of beauty and ugliness, in relation to masculinity, the ‘adonis-syndrome’ and superficiality value systems within the queer community. In an attempt to reveal, in response to, and with the audience, notions of quarantine, contamination, hiding and revealing, “Q / QUEBEC” used symbols to engage the audience to question our responses and actions to other queer men in our sub-culture as well as our progressing values within queer history.”
Within the performance installation, that spanned 2 hours for the opening night of the exhibition, Lucas utilized multiple equipment that had quantitative powers.
Headphones and an iPod were used to isolate Lucas from normal conversation with patrons, however they were invited to interact with him. An iPhone, with gay dating app Grindr, loaded gave patrons a digital platform to converse with Lucas as he was sat, centre gallery on a plinth. Lucas consumed two bottles (in addition to the drinks that were gifted to him by other patrons) over the two hour performance - again isolating him, his state-of-being and cognitive abilities.
Finally, a transparent burqa (initially used in 2014 solo exhibition and performance, KILL ME, CHARLIE) was donned over black Doc Martins, black BOND jocks and a black leather harness. The use of the transparent burqa not only acts as a quarantine of sorts, but also a reveal / conceal of the male body - a body type that was not celebrated, but shamed within the “Company of Men” exhibition, an exhibition that fetishezes and promotes the hyper-Adonis body type (one which is psychologically detrimental in queer culture.)
“This performance was difficult - physically and psychologically. Mentally, putting my body - one that I feel is overweight, disgusting, repulsive, on display, amongst the other works - which were mostly photographs of underwear models with chiseled bodies, abs, 0% fat content - I was a mental wreck. It was cathartic, but ultimately really traumatic for me.
The responses, through the Grindr app, were mostly quite tame except for a few explicit ones (of course) and not particularly interesting, however, it was quite nice - post performance - the feedback I received in relation to the work.”
ANONYMOUS RESPONSE TO “Q / QUEBEC”
‘Company Of Men’ at BrightSpace Gallery felt like a ‘fuck you’ to society for refusing acknowledge the beauty and sexuality of homosexual men. The exhibition was of a display of masculinity that you’d have to squint hard to recognize it as queer. And although a lot of the work could be considered a beautiful, though simple notion of rebellion, it felt like an echo of the patriarchy and capitalism in queer culture. Despite this, it was a warm feeling to be in a room with a few hundred empowered LGBT people, who were working to define and explore their sexuality through their art.
“Q / Quebec” by Matto Lucas was a time based installation, that gave a unique voice that acted as a painful killjoy response to the surrounding art. His work often focuses on the pressures and expectations that come with being a gay man, pressures that his previous work suggests, have almost taken his life. Exposed in the centre of the gallery, wearing a sheer polyester cloak and white underpants, the artist moved awkwardly, headphones on, phone in hand.
Using the male dating app, ‘Grindr’, he interacted with the people moving through the gallery. As I watched him type and read messages, his hunched posture and shaking hands that were constantly topping up his sparkling wine, suggested that this perhaps was not a performance anymore. I opened Grindr and sent him a message ‘Hey,’ and he responded quickly, ‘ I want to die’.
While viewing other work by Lucas, I have viewed to understand. This time I looked away because I got it, the reality was so confronting. His vulnerable, unedited, uncensored presence in a sea of clothed and polished bodies, watching images of other shining bodies on the walls, ultimately became his performance. In a bizarre way the rest of the exhibition became tools for his piece, a piece which he set out to discover the idea of quarantining each male body unless is it represented as a perfectly sculpted ‘Adonis’. Each super sized erection on the wall, oiled body and quiet laugher, each unrelated to Lucas, became part of his piece.
“Q / Quebec” was heartbreaking, but refreshing. I truly witnessed the reason that Lucas makes art, and why his voice is so important. While we view him online and in a gallery as a solo artist, we fail to understand the background and community that created this person, and Q/Quebec gave the context that was painful, yet perfect. “