coming out @ bmag


6 december 2017

page 1

Coming Out (2017) is described as a major exhibition featuring over 80 modern and contemporary artworks by internationally renowned artists who explore themes surrounding gender, sexuality and identity in art.


A lot of it I was already over before evening seeing it. So here, you can find discourse on some of TOMBOY’s ethnic standouts from the show.

Zanele Muholi: Miss Lesbian I (Amsterdam) and Miss Lesbian VII (Amsterdam) (2009)

Zanele Muholi: Miss Lesbian I (Amsterdam) and Miss Lesbian VII (Amsterdam) (2009)

I don’t usually read descriptions. It stifles what’s in front of me and sets an expectation I try relentlessly to not have affect my natural feeling about a work. 


But I didn’t know this artist’s name, so I had to found out. I couldn’t help but read on.


In it’s description it is explained that Muholi’s series challenges the idealised stereotype of female beauty that is reinforced through contests such as beauty pageants. Instead, Muholi celebrates different kinds of female beauty rather than those conforming to idealised stereotypes. Here, for example, hairs are visible on her legs… In another photograph, a tattoo is visible on her arm.


It’s so much more than this. There is no such thing as a beauty pageant, this is our daily. The hair on her legs and a tattoo on her arm are so trivial in comparison to BLACK, LESBIAN and BLACK LESBIAN. The true celebration lies in the depiction of being. 

Sunil Gupta: [left to right] India Gate, Humayun’s Tomb, Lodhi Garden, Pragati Maidan (1987)

Sunil Gupta: India Gate, Humayun’s Tomb, Lodhi Garden, Pragati Maidan (1987)

These prints are jovial. It reminded me instantly of the differences in socialisms and cultures clashing across South Asian borders. By this, I’m referring to how normative behaviours that have been fed to NRI’s compare to that of brown people from India, or South Asia in general.


Here in the UK, the idea of two men touching in any way other than to enforce one another’s perceived masculinity is deemed grotesque. It’s gayand it’s girl. In India, self-awareness and logic for the brown person is not something that seems to separate itself from the physical body and therefore the idea of brownness and physical contact doesn’t fight against one another. Over there, it’s perfectly normal for two men to walk into the literal sunset hand in hand. Here? It’s derogaytory.


Imagine then, dealing with the anxiety of homo-behaviour intersectionally and it being a truth more honest than what is taken at face-value. Imagine, living in secrecy through such an open gesture, like a hug.


India Gate(left) is especially effective in emphasising this and actually leaves the viewer with infinite uncertainty. What exactly are we looking at here? The cultural, behavioural norms of Indian men in India? The taboo of a homosexual exchange in broad daylight? The intersection of gay and brown being a sight for straight eyes? Does it matter?


In the wake of all these questions, I feel vigilance.