pleasurehome: desiring queer space
four months—four new works—one by one—here; welcome to the pleasurehome. an exhibition inspired by Catherine Opie, featuring John Greyson, Evan Sproat, Kaeten Bonli, and Shawné Michaelain Holloway, curated by Logan Williams, in collaboration with the Art Museum at The University of Toronto and the Jackman Humanities Institute. we’re happy you’re here—in this queer home. this month: John Greyson’s International Dawn Chorus Day.
Self-Portrait / Cutting
40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm) Edition of 8, 2 AP
© Catherine Opie, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and
Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, London, and Seoul
you catch a glimpse of your body as you strip off your sweat-soaked clothes, naked in the mirror. breathing, moving. if only you could explode out of the container. two women carved rendered in childish forms a house the sun some gulls the “household” upended incisions made in Opie’s back drip and ooze palpable the transference of the pain on my body reaching out and touching me carnal hermeneutics the lesbian home corporeal ten commandments and the abject stains of blood and gore immediate refusal for some even vomit the scene is one of hope and violence audience oscillation desiring her pain a new story told the lesbians are me they are you too the scar will surely stay sprawled on supple skin reminders of otherwise horizons exploding like dormant volcanoes this body suffering for us opie’s drawing her skin too becoming life-size taking form making real communities desires pulsing unencumbered this new home what does that place look like? where do you come home to your queer desires? and when? imagining spaces arriving in your body carrying with you the crass and dull weights of expectation and survival shedding them now building new trusses a roof for us our desire our real real bodies exploding out of the container how did you get home?
1 – International Dawn Chorus Day
International Dawn Chorus Day, 2020
International Dawn Chorus Day was presented in January 2022 as the first installment of this project. For inquiries on where to view it, visit Vtape.org.
It is with great pleasure to announce the opening of pleasurehome: desiring queer space with John Greyson’s film International Dawn Chorus Day.
It begins with a poem by Attar of Nishapur, a Sufi epic that tells the story of thirty birds who outlast the tribulations of an enduring flight through seven valleys on their way to Simorgh, a benevolent bird-hybrid in Persian myth, in search of who will be the sovereign of the birds. When they arrive, however, they learn that they are Simorgh, it was within them through their journey and before, they had only to look at their own reflection. Thousands of years later, every May, participants across the world celebrate the early morning song of the birds, revelling in choral harmonies and distinctive chirping for International Dawn Chorus Day. For a moment, birdsong is repositioned from the background noise of daily life to a featured soundtrack; attentive ears pay homage to the complex stories inherit in each bird’s cry. This singular moment expands beyond just a day in John Greyson’s film International Dawn Chorus Day, as a collection of birds from across the globe meet through Zoom to discuss the day of celebration. These birds decipher the political expression of music in Egypt, using Shady Habash and Sarah Hagazi as their source material through subtitled chirps and chants, narrating and mimicking these powerful and tragic stories. Both Habash and Hagazi are caught in the terrifying chokehold of the Egyptian prison system, brutalized for their voices as artists and queers, and the birds nestled tightly in the Zoom compartment are their fellow jailbirds, restricted to a world forcibly resolved to online communication. Greyson’s complex weaving of birdsong with the voices of Egyptians who have been forced to flee the country or imprisoned illuminates the burden still carried in the pursuit for queer home, the fallacy of being ‘as free as a bird.’
Another lockdown marks an assured return to a Zoom-centric existence, truncated into small boxes and projected as pixels through space, communicating across landscapes that remain relatively empty. While the human goes into preventative hibernation, the bird spreads their wings through vistas of wide-open space, cooing into the quiet air. International Dawn Chorus Day asks: how might we spread our wings into these expanses when so much of our experience now, so much of the queer experience, has been restricted to boxes? And while our houses are the spaces in which we tune-in, how does distance effect the conception of home? The schism of violence opens, threatening to swallow those who can no longer endure the brutality of their marked difference, those who crave the sky in which to expand their tethered wings. Greyson’s film is a compelling reminder of the continued necessity of building homes in which to welcome queer desire—to stop and hear the birdsong.
An immense thank you to Barbara Fischer for her belief and guidance in the unfurling of this project; to Marianne, Maureen, and Esther at the Art Museum whom have made this project possible; to Kaitlyn Simpson for her genius; to Cathy Opie who helped sow the seeds of the exhibition; to Alison and Kim at the JHI for their unwavering support; to Cosita, SKP, and Z for their love and listening; to John, Evan, Kaeten and Shawné for their brilliance and versatility, to whom I dedicate this queer home. And to you, for being here. Thank you.