Nottingham Contemporary’s latest interactive art installation Ridykeulous is host to over thirty intergenerational queer artists all of whom utilise the distinct lens of the queer experience to satirise culturally conditioned forms of self-expression and modernise out-dated stratifications of gender identity…
Throughout history, the body has been presented as a predominately political unit, a way to channel social norms and regulate any form of individuality. But through an array of whimsical art compositions Ridykeulous takes this and, instead, transforms the body into an index of liberation, completely divorcing it from the predisposition of politics.
The opening gallery does this transformation through digitised means; a spatial split between a theatricalized on screen spectacle of gender dynamics and a cornucopia of small television screens playing a variety of queer short films, we are invited to spend as long - or as little - as we want listening and learning about the queer experience.
Sex as a means of subversion is the motif that ties each gallery piece together, but as we progress into the second gallery, a wide screen ballet performance, we branch out into the larger message that undergirds the whole exhibition; how the governing forms of masculinity harm, not only the queer community, but everyone - and in particular, young boys.
A young male ballet dancer, dancing at an awkward out of pace tempo amongst an array of ‘proper’ ballet dancers, the boy, purely through measure of his own existence, creates a sharp juxtaposition to the youthful feminine delicacy surrounding him. Curator Klara Liden explains that the piece is a representation of conformity in a capitalist society, asking the question, what happens when an outsider enters the group? Inside of the scope of the Ridykeulous exhibition this nonconformity speaks to the specific style of male self-contempt harnessed inside of a patriarchal culture, a culture that socialises young boys to live in a constant fluctuation between masculine pride and emasculating self-expression.
Each gallery garners visibility towards queer expression in their own unique ways, with the masculine/feminine symbolism in the ballet dancing presenting itself as a sort-of internal, private affair, but the rejection of queer stigma is anything but opaque and subtle in the galleries that follow suit.
Nottingham Contemporary's latest exhibition adheres perfectly to the evolving form of art enjoyment, and acts as the ideal exhibition to keep on revisiting and learning from
In Galleries four and five, the works of artists Young Joon Kwak and Alli Miller use over-exaggerated theatrics to poke fun at the purity-concept so invariable inside of pop culture, using eroticised subjugation as a comedic piece. Railing against a world of heteronormativity and masculine domination, the final galleries root themselves inside an echo chamber of absurdity, pieces of creativity that build upon one another to reach a climax of ridiculousness.
In contemporary culture, exhibitions like Ridykeulous are incredibly important in disintegrating gender barriers. They breathe fresh air into widely upheld outdated beliefs and they expose our own complicity in the modes of sexual oppression. Ridykeulous does not present itself as a lesson - in fact, quite the opposite - but it can certainly be engaged with in such a way.
It is true that there is a changing sociological structure in regards to modern art enjoyers , less so are galleries - particularly contemporary ones - reserved for the old cultural elite, and this is why it is more important than ever to have an exhibition as interactive and multifaceted as Ridykeulous. With such a surfeit of things to see, from such a large variety of artists, Nottingham Contemporary's latest exhibition adheres perfectly to the evolving form of art enjoyment, and acts as the ideal exhibition to keep on revisiting and learning from.
You can find Ridykeulous at Nottingham Contemporary until Sunday 7 January
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