When I arrived to Guangzhou at the beginning of this year 2018 I was introduced almost immediately to the LGTBQ world of the region thanks to a reception the General Consul of Belgium in Guangzhou, Joris Selden, and his husband Fabio Melchiorri, gave to celebrate the beginning of a new year. At that reception I had the opportunity to meet – among many others – two very interesting Chinese personalities: Wing and Ryan, in their English names. Their stories opened to me the world of some LGTBQ organizations in the city, working with all the joy and complications that living openly as a gay person means within a culture that slowly and little by little is opening its doors to minorities.
Ryan is one of the people in charge of Zhitong, an organization that helps and gives advise mostly to members of the gay community. Wing is an energetic person who organizes a monthly LGTBQ session called Tango Queer at the Tango academy, where he learns and practices.
In China it is prohibited to make a public display of LGTBQ pride (parade, rights demonstration, gatherings without police permission). Any celebration must be in private, as it is the Tango session, or very close monitored by the government, as it is with Zhitong.
The two groups, each in its own way, offer to me a Chinese-style vision of the melting pot of colors that is the LGTBQ rainbow. They’re proud Chinese, proud of their orientation and their personal choices. They are fighters expressing their Pride in their unique ways.
I decided to start my first photo-performance project in Guangzhou with them, about them, and about the people they gather and work with, watching and analyzing their way of being LGTBQ, but from my own perspective, that of a Photo and Butoh performer man married to another man in a society like Mexico’s and who, after many years of legal and social rejection, has opened almost completely to the different possibilities of gender.
About the project
This project, which will continue to grow and develop during the three years I plan to live in Guangzhou, includes documentary photography, digital interventions and Butoh performances inspired by the daily work and life of these two groups, as well as others that may offer me access to their unique worlds and spaces.
In this starting first phase, which I’ve called “Document”, I’m working with portraits and images that, by themselves and without further embellishment, tell us the stories of the protagonists of these two groups, Zhitong and Tango Queer, with a focus on their places, their bodies and their movements, in their simple and daily tasks and activities. There is no digital intervention yet, but a small bite of Butoh through some improvisations with Wing and Juan from the Tango Queer group.
My idea for the Butoh work in this project is what some people call “intervention”, going directly to the real places my subjects are working and do some improvisations while they are doing their daily tasks, and probably, if that works, doing a whole performance mixing my surreal Butoh performance with the real time of their normal life. Of course, working with Tango Queer was easier, as they are performers too, but more difficult with Zhitong whom members are not close to any artistic attitude. It is a risky adventure, and I’ll see how this goes.
The first show
What it was a great surprise was that the Mexican Consulate in Guangzhou gave me the opportunity to show the results of the fist phase of the project taking part of the LGTBQ month celebrations in the city. They were organizing, with many other consulates and organizations in the city, a film festival around the LGTBQ subject, so they thought it was a good moment to show my work and it really was. We prepared a photo exhibition and a Tango and Butoh improvisation for the opening. A kind of success because they asked for another show one week later.
Even I’ve built a website around the project ( Pride Chinese Style ) I’d like to share the same information and images here in my Butoh Blog, specially to keep track of it as part of my Butoh world.
Phase 1, Document, “Zhitong”
(Photographs for exhibition)
Phase 1, Document, “Tango Queer”
(Photographs for exhibtion)
Phase 1, Documents/ Butoh.
(Butoh performance preparation) *(1)
EXHIBITION AND PERFORMANCES
Finally some images of the two presentations we had at the gallery of the Mexican Consulate on June 21st and June 26th. You’ll notice that the name of this exhibition was “Rainbow in Chinese Style”; the consulate asked to avoid the word “Pride” because could cause problems with Chinese authorities; I thought this was not an issue that affected the body of the project. *(2)
*(1) All photographs in this section was taken by Zangtai Taizo and processed by Gustavo Thomas.
*(2) Photographs taken by the public, by people from the Mexican Consulate and stills I extracted from a video.