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Wu Tsang & Nikita Gale : 15 Young LGBTQ Artists Driving Contemporary Art Forward

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Wu Tsang
B. 1982, Worcester, Massachusetts. Lives and works in New York City and Berlin.

Can you tell us about your film One emerging from a point of view (2019)?

One Emerging is a hybrid fictional documentary. It’s a collaborative portrait of two women whose paths crossed in Lesvos a couple years ago. One is a photojournalist who was documenting the refugee crisis on the island and the other is a young transgender refugee from Morocco who was in a camp there. Together we created parallel fantasy worlds that overlap through the narrative and projected image.

You were previously involved in community organizing. How has that affected your artistic process?

When I was young, artmaking totally revolved around my community. Particularly in a place like L.A.—where immigrant and trans communities are particularly affected by violence and policing—being involved with community also means organizing. I used to do a queer nightclub with friends called Wildness, and this inevitably got political. As I began having to travel for work, my politics have shifted into the work itself. In some ways, I miss living in a consistent place, but in other ways I feel excited by the opportunity to exchange with so many different people I come into contact with. Also, getting older means the world is more nuanced, so I am trying to find new languages for issues that remain important to me.

Does your relationship with performance change when you know it is being filmed?

I don’t think films could ever represent us or our experiences, nor would I want to even try. For me, filmmaking is more of a ritual or devotional practice of repeated attempts at capturing and escaping the frame.

You received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2018. Has it affected your practice?

I’m still trying to process what it means. But in the short term, I have noticed it makes me feel a bit bolder and uncompromising, like I can take bigger risks and invest more. It feels like a mandate to keep doing what I have been doing, but to trust more in the process.
Nikita Gale
B. 1983, Anchorage, Alaska. Lives and works in Los Angeles.

Do you believe your work responds to, or critiques, ideas of vocalization?

I think that speech can be objectified in the same way that artworks and images can be objectified. And once objectified, speech or political gesturing can be reproduced, commodified, and rendered politically ineffective—pure spectacle. I hesitate to say what my work does or doesn’t do, but the best I can do as an artist is offer up situations or considerations that can serve as objects for reflection and discussion. Currently, I’m thinking about silence and noise as political mechanisms, and the work I’m making is an invitation to think about these things.

How have the sites of protests—or dissents—influenced the materials you work with?

I believe in the power of materials. I rely on the materials of infrastructure like concrete, steel, wood, fibers like cotton and denim to support me and my activities without much consideration on a day to day basis. All of these materials are accompanied by strategies for how they are produced and implemented, and it is these strategies that I think about when using the materials in sculptural works. In thinking about the street and the music production studio as two sites in which more “popular” manifestations of dissent take place, objects and materials like concrete, music stands, and towels—a DIY, cheap way to create acoustic paneling in a music studio—have become important to my material vocabulary.

LGBT and Art 91.jpg

LGBT and Art 92.jpg

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