Saturday, 15 June 2019

Lesbian Ghosts on a Road Trip, from Paris to Palermo and Istanbul at the beginning of the new century (A Love Journey of Discovery or Drifting from Sexual to Cultural Invisibility.)

It was the 14th of July, 2000.
I was flying from Paris to Palermo.
I was to visit Sicily for the first time. Years before I had graduated in Philosophy in Florence. When I was living in Italy I had often thought of Sicily but I had never seriously considered actually visiting the place. I liked to travel on my own and in my head, Sicily was full of Mafiosi and their friends and accomplices, the whole population of the island, in fact. A small island, cramped full with Mafiosi falling from the rim of the gigantic cup that Sicily was.
     Not my cup of tea, really!

I cherished choice, the opportunity to disagree, to be different and to change things. I also objected viscerally to women's’ subordination and oppression. I was obsessed with the ideals (and ideas) of Freedom, Choice, Dignity. The Dream was my attack line. My main belief was that you can force reality to respect you and to take into consideration your (female) wishes.
No, Sicily didn’t seem to allow all that.
So I have never been there.

This perfectly balanced picture of a world of freedom against a world of doom was to change soon.
As soon, in fact, as my plane touched the ground.
I was going to discover this hidden island, forgotten from history. Sicily. The whole island placed in a dark corner of our western world, suffocating under the weight of stereotypesDiscovery was awaiting me.

During that time, my first Sicilian lover was also waiting for me at the airport. She was the reason I was undertaking this adventure.
I had met her in Paris a few months earlier and I had been very surprised to discover that she was gay, professional and honest and, what was an even bigger surprise, she had chosen to remain in Sicily!
To be nourished with what? To be occupying what social space? To be enjoying what visibility and dignity?
And, lastly, paying what price of solitude and social exclusion?
I had wondered all this time and now answers were going to come my way, at last.

I respected her enough to finally act and attempt to clarify the black hole Sicily occupied in my mind.
Up in the sky my brain raced full of contradictory thoughts and feelings. Time was diluted. The flight was lasting forever. I was getting impatient. I couldn’t wait any longer. I longed for Sicily.

We landed with a spectacular turn of the airplane, seconds before it crashed against the black wild rocks standing on the side of the landing corridor.
First image: Blinding light, deep blue sky, earth releasing heat and the impression that something was hiding behind this typically Mediterranean scenery on a hot summer day.
My friend was waiting in her car and I asked her to show me the sea. We drove along the seaside motorway away from the airport and soon she stopped in the middle of the road. We got out and she showed me flowers left against the railing at this quite anonymous spot. She said, indicating the flowers: “This is where the mafia killed Giudice Falcone by placing explosives in his car and blowing the whole thing up”.
“A heritage of death and terror,” I thought with sudden clarity. The heat was suffocating us; the air was heavy with danger, envy, and hatred.
We needed a drink. The rest of the day made up easily for the dramatic start. We visited small seaside villages, nice food, warm sea, busy people shouting and going on with their lives. This was a perfect picture of summer on a Mediterranean island. Just as well: we were on holiday!
We rested a bit and in the evening a surprise welcome party was awaiting us: a garden party in a villa out of town, right in the middle of the countryside, a sort of green and hilly desert with no other houses or people in view outside our party.
A friend of hers, a married politician and mother, was inviting her female friends over, accompanied by her female lover.
“What?” I wondered;
“A married woman with her female lover?
A lesbian party at the house where she lived with her husband?
With her daughter present (a daughter who was a lesbian as her mother was) ?”
The crust of convention was breaking down and behind it, another more original, private and secretive, version was appearing.
OK, I was going to start uncovering the mystery of gay existence in Sicily.
The garden was the image of a luxurious paradise, palm trees, and banana trees opening up their sensual green leaves, touching a grass so well tended it seemed a Sicilian invention!
A buffet covered in immaculate white fabric was installed under the trees and waiters in tuxedos were offering drinks and snacks to the guests. I was missing such a luxurious underground while I was wasting my time in dark smelly bars, lost in the northern capitals of Europe for so many years, an innocent victim of my ignorance!
If this was invisibility, then I preferred it to the seedy visibility I knew, all screams and aggression. Here everything seemed so beautiful, serene and harmonious. I met the host, her daughter and the other women guests (the host’s husband was not there, strangely enough!) and I was informed about their Sicilian ways of being queer: Men and Women got married, somehow negotiated the intimate meaning of such a straight solution and then on they went with their gay lives, in secret of course. Closeted in a golden closet and big enough to contain all Sicilian Queers inside it...
I was told that evening that most of the gay men cruising by the port at night were in fact married!
Well, here you have it!
Then I found out about a great number of secret parties that were taking place at people’s homes where all the women were gay and had been around with almost everybody else in the room, an easy going queer atmosphere that seemed solid and established and which disappeared like smoke in the wind as the party was over and the women were back to their closeted social lives.
This was sheer madness; total schizophrenia; a confusing mental game; and a very fragile one. I almost saw the definitions written on neon lights over the clear sky of the island, perfectly invisible to anyone else but me.
Naturally enough, as soon as a love affair ended, the women fell into the open arms of void and invisibility.
A single gay woman didn’t actually exist; she needed a lover to acquire the secret, private dimension that society denied.

Anyway, after visiting beautiful places all over the island and seeing examples of extreme poverty next to luxury and glory, I and my lover decided to consolidate our newly formed emotional partnership by sharing a love journey of discovery: A road trip!
She wanted to visit Greece as she had her own Greek at her disposal for once (me!) and I wanted to go to Turkey, a country that had always intrigued me and I had never visited. So we made a compromise deciding to go first to Greece and then to Turkey.
As my friend had a problem with her knee it was decided that we would travel by car from Palermo to Brindisi and from there to Patras, Athens and finally to Skopelos and Alonissos, two small Greek islands that were not too touristy and had the vital privilege of wonderful sandy beaches and rich vegetation, an exception in Greece where most of the islands are hot and arid.

And so we did depart for Greece a few days later, traveling by car then ferry and alternating between the two several times before we reached our final destination. The Greek islands were both very beautiful and peaceful and we encountered no problem at all as a gay women's couple.
We performed our romantic rites amongst the most widespread indifference. Nice.
After spending 2 weeks in the islands we drove north to Thessaloniki and from there to Turkey, arriving to Istanbul a few days later.

An anecdote illustrating both the hidden surprises of beautiful Istanbul and the silliness of stereotypes about uncivilized Turks and Turkey: Upon our arrival my friend wanted to offer me some of the beauty and refinement of the town in the form of a romantic evening out. So we looked in our Gallimard Travel Guide that I had brought from Paris for a restaurant with a panoramic terrace. There was a mention of a “small brasserie” but with a magnificent terrace. We set off to discover it. Nothing prepared us either for the magnificence of the venue or the extreme example of French arrogance that was unfolding in front of our surprised eyes: A huge white building made of marble, offering a long water facade and huge parking was standing in front of us.
The “small brasserie” was a huge, marble palace worthy of a Disney princess!

The following days we visited more sites and markets, ate at very good restaurants, didn’t manage to talk to local people at any meaningful length and so in the middle of our stay we decided to explore the gay dimension of the town looking for secrets and ways to understand its people. We didn’t have the “Lonely Planet” Guide where there is always a gay section and we didn’t want to buy one. No mention of gays in our hip Gallimard guide, of course. So we followed two Italian guys who happened to cross our street one sunny day and naturally enough they did carry the object of desire, Lonely Planet and they also offered us personal accounts of the Turkish scene. We wrote it all down and we were ready for adventure the very same evening. We chose a mixed disco, a place where both boys and girls went, close to the center, in a large back street. We found the place quite easily as a long queue of young Turkish people was formed outside, noisily chatting and joking. The guys were more gay looking than the girls and the girls were all extremely good looking. A beautiful young girl with long black hair came over to us, Susheila, a gay girl who worked as a model and who confessed to us that she was forced to get married to calm social and family violence down. Be a gay girl was unthinkable, she explained, you actually put your life at risk. You had to behave like a straight woman, embrace all conventions, husband included and then you were left alone to your secret and worthless life. Society was like a stone sitting on gay people’s heart and suffocating them. Reality was especially violent against girls as a society allowed men to do what they liked as far as they had, or exhibited, a woman.
We had a great time as the whole disco was dancing together and people came to talk to us, smoke a cigarette and share a drink, all were friendly and smiling and no power and punishment games were played openly as is the case in Western gay discos. Later Susheila offered to show us the town at night as we had our car waiting outside and the weather was warm and inviting. We were driving on a busy street very late at night when a police car stopped us. The three policemen peered inside our car and asked Susheila to show them her I.D. Then they let us go after asking her a few questions about her address and her profession. They were not aggressive but they emanated the sure confidence of people who could abuse you if they so wished. The danger I had anticipated outside the disco earlier this evening was showing a small corner of its ugly face.

Next evening we discovered for ourselves how overbearing police presence could become, even for foreigners.
We were sitting in the car parked not far from the Casino by the water edge and were looking at the dark outline of the city emerging over a straight line of water and preparing to act romantic thoughts when we heard a loud metallic knock against the closed window and we came quickly back to reality, seeing fully armed policemen that had surrounded our car and were asking us questions about what we were doing there.
We pulled quickly away from each other and explained that we admired the beauty of the landscape and they let us go away, banging their guns over the opened windows.
We did so and we drove away from the town looking for more time and new images to catch our breath and recover from our shocking surprise.
Soon we discovered that we were not far from a huge military camp. We started laughing thinking about what would have happened if they had come a few seconds later and found us kissing!
Two Western women in an Italian car kissing, what would the police do?
Beat us up or smile and pretend nothing happened?
A mystery destined to feed on suppositions!
After two weeks spent in Istanbul, we left for Ismir, the Greek Smirni and a very important town for the Greek Diaspora.
Entering what now was called Ismir on all maps, our most urgent problem was to find the appropriate hotel for my friend who had special requirements to impose on the local tourist industry.
I asked my ritual question and the kind reception staff answered in a chorus that “...Yes, Madam, we do have a king-size bed for you”.
I smiled in thanking them and asked my friend to come in.
She came; white-haired with a pearl necklace around her neck dressed in elegant sportive Italian style. Her arrival caused quite a disturbance that I couldn’t explain till I was addressed by the reception clerk as he was handing me our key. Then I immediately understood. “Here you are, Sir,” he told me with a timid smile.

Next day more theatrical enjoyment was awaiting us when we visited the swimming pool.
We were both wearing flowery swimming suits as we laid down on our chairs asking for a chilled drink. When the waiter came with our drinks we had the right to more “thank you, Sir” for me and “thank you, Madam” for her.

So our trip ended on this surrealistic image, two women sipping their drinks by a Turkish swimming pool, one hiding an invisible Gentleman inside her.
Social prejudice and deeply buried homophobia gave us a phantomatic company that transformed reality to suit its deformities.
That didn’t stop us from enjoying our trip and the many opportunities it offered us for both cultural and personal discovery for ourselves and others.

(c) Haris Metaxa, Paris 2002

Monday, 6 November 2017

Open your Heart to the The Hungry Hearts, Glossy Queer Megastar Ladies from Norway (2013 Article)

I have a dream. I dream of perfection.

In a perfect society, Art, among many other things, will be obsolete.

We can measure the distance that separates us from perfection by the strong need we feel to bath, to be cleansed and to discover hope again in the great  warm swimming pool of Art.

I had such a cleansing experience assisting twice at the performances
of THE HUNGRY HEARTS in Paris during Cineffable International Lesbian Film festival, the first back in 1997 and the recent one, few days ago, in October 2013.
The Parisian public, as much as me, seemed to be too far from perfection as it screamed and danced and repeated the lyrics, full of energy and enthusiasm.
The rest was forgotten.
Magic moments.

But what is it that moves audiences so much, even with the added obstacle of translation?
In my opinion, the strong point of this all-female group is putting together different cultural codes and different forms of expression (theatre, performance, song) to create a performance that has a dream-like quality, while at the same time managing to activate basic, raw emotions in the audience.
The sophisticated and the impulsive come together.
Also, the relative cruelty of some lyrics combined to the absolute coolness of their delivery seems to instantly unburden our tired hearts of excessive drama. And we need this calm, we need it badly!

Balance and dramatic tension are basic elements of any artistic expression and in the THE HUNGRY HEART’s case we have a successful cocktail.

Visually, we have codes that come from the absurd theatre tradition, tiny Beckett, Ionesco, Pirandello or even Kafka dramas that do not degenerate in despair but come up like a balloon in the air looking and believing in the sky.

Anachronistic elements, like fifty fashion-style dresses, are combined with cow-boy boots and soft music to create this mysterious seduction we feel coming from them but also the desire to move towards a closed door that suddenly becomes visible inside us while we observe those strange Norwegian girls whispering words of love, hope, anger and pain.

The visual element is quite aggressive, the voices and music are soft and the lyrics oscillate between the two, anger and love.
The female bodies of THE HUNGRY HEARTS move in synchronicity, enhancing each movement and in their absolute freedom they protest against the absent captive female bodies that society continues to produce in series, constantly, non- stop, century after century and up to our days.

THE HUNGRY HEARTS are an all-female universe, a dancing and singing female utopia dreaming dreams of hope, friendship, communication and love.

By opening up boundaries and putting together cultural elements and codes forever separated.

In nostalgic feminine dresses, electric cow-boy boots, Amazon hair styles and the whispering voices of sirens that seem to have emigrated from Greece to Norway in our days...

La citta delle donne” is not Pasolini nor Fellini that created it.
There is a group of Norwegian sirens that live in it and you have to make an effort to discover them for yourself.

Their song they sing in our mesmerised ears is that of subversive humanism and we all know how much we need it…

Signore e signori, open your hearts to THE HUNGRY HEARTS!

(c) Haris Metaxa, Paris 2013

Risk Hazekamp Queers Reality up for some time now. Our 2008 Interview published here for your present pleasure...

  1. Since we met and we had a talk at Paris Photo in 2002, what major changes have taken place in your work, or, to express it differently, how did your thematic research develop?

My research didn’t change so much, I am still interested in the same theme, which is gender. 
I try to keep up-to-date with the debates that are going on a theoretical level. 
I like what is happening in Spain and Germany. 
(I am more aware of what is happening there then in other countries I will admit.)

What did change is my personal expression and involvement in the “gender-movement” (can we call it that?!). What changed is me getting a bit older, getting more secure of who I am, wanting to express more of my personal thoughts. I got a lot clearer in what is important to me (and what is not). 

  1. Less “neat” and “acceptable” the later works, what I shall call the “gender fuck” series,  starting around “dress code” in 2004 and dealing more with real life positions and attitude, were they more painful to elaborate, to make, to show or quite the contrary?

For me it was important to put stress on the content of the work. I had enough of the “round moves” many people made around the content of the work. My work has always dealt with gender issues. 
At a certain point I was so sick and tired of the fact that people could always ignore my subject matter. I wanted to make very clear what the work was about, that I am dealing with gender and not with “the figure in the landscape” for example. 
I needed to make work that was no longer multi-multi-multi-interpretable. 

In my work I do not use the computer, it is all analogue photography, I (still) use negatives. 
Before the “Liberté pour tous” series I even never put on any make-up when I took the photos, 
but with that series I started using facial hair (still nothing digital, all analogue photography). 
The styling I do myself: the beard is my own hair glued on my face. This is important for me. 
I recently started experimenting with hair on other parts of the face and body. 
Facial hair often causes many different emotional reactions, and I wanted to play with that.

With my recent work my style of taking pictures changed. I think everybody has its own handwriting, not only in letters, but also in images that you create. My images look quickly "glossy and stylish". 
I tried to work more documentary style with my recent work: you have an idea and you make it. 
No endless redoing of a certain photo session.

The new works are more difficult to sell,  for sure… 
But I think that viewers/potential buyers have to grow with the artists. The artist makes a work, spends many time thinking about it, working on it. Then “all of a sudden” the viewer is confronted with it. So sometimes the viewer needs some extra time to understand or see the work in its full meaning.

On a personal level: Making the more recent work was a big relieve, a positive confrontation with my “inner I” and at the same time an intellectual challenge. When “thinking” and “doing” come together both the brain and the body take bigger steps. (Not sure if I am clear, do you understand?)

Making the “Liberté pour tous” series also made it very clear that I had to leave Rotterdam, that staying in Rotterdam meant a mental death for me. I did not have an own safe place in Rotterdam: not in society, not in the art scene, I felt like a complete outsider. Which can be great! But I didn’t want to start every conversation about my work with explaining what a dragking is, what transgender is, what queer is… or why it is important to address these subject matters, to make work about it. 
So I moved to Berlin! Here gender has a place in society. Here gender is of importance and that way you can get to the more interesting parts of talking about it. How do you address it instead of why…

  1. What are the reactions that your work provokes and how do you interact with them?

Very different ones! Positive, negative, I lost some people, gained some “fans”. I guess it is an obvious consequence of making (more) outspoken work.

I make the work because I want to, I need to, I have to. And afterwards I see the communication that evolves from it. That communication was staying at a certain level and therefore I could no longer find satisfaction in showing/presenting the work. I wanted to get my work in different scenes, reach different audiences. For me it was important to get recognition from people that understand the content of the work. That recognition is more important then selling the work. I hope I can keep saying that! I mean, the work gets sold, but not as easy anymore as the earlier work.

“How I interact with reactions?” The critiques I listen too and I get out of it what I think makes sense. 

  1. Is money and market acceptance a question for you or the inner research justifies all eventual sacrifice?

I already put something down about that: yes, money is a question for me, I never know if anything will come in next month. So it is a question, but I try not to get stressed about it. Till now it worked out fine (knock on wood!) .
I am not a materialistic person, I don’t care about a big studio or a fancy car or clothes. As long as I can do what I want, as long as I can survive from my work I am more than happy.

  1. Talk to me about your move to Berlin. When/why and how do you feel living there as the time slowly goes by and transforms your life and work?

I decided to move to Berlin last summer, I still have a studio in Rotterdam where I got my storage and sometimes I work there, but mainly I live and work in Berlin now. Coming to Berlin (leaving Rotterdam) has been very rewarding for me. It opened up my eyes, my brain, my body… 
I can breathe again!

So my basis is Berlin now, but I do move around a lot… I just been in Suriname for a month, will spend May/June in Barcelona and Spain, next year 3 months in New Mexico. 
That’s the way it is and I like it a lot. 
Berlin does influence me, but also the other places I go and live/work. 
Right now I am still filled with Suriname. About the way they deal with gender there, how they define and talk about “I” in many different ways, very beautiful and powerful. 
I will do a project there somewhere in the coming years. 

Berlin is a fascinating place to be, it provides a lot of mental freedom for me. My work explores the fluency of gender-related concepts and in Berlin these gender-related concepts are tackled, played with and stretched in a way that goes far beyond any constructed, socially accepted boundary. 
Berlin has for instance a long tradition in drag-appearances (as well "male to female" as "female to male"). This tradition and its historical context are still very present, visible, in the Berliner every day life. At this particular moment in time Berlin is the most interesting European city for me to be, to get inspired and to work.

In my most recent work I try to get a bit away from the clean framing of discussions about gender, that was so present in the arts in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. I try to show more of the ambiguity and complexity, of the gender fluency that is so present in Berlin.

  1. Future plans? 

Many… I want to continue working with gender related topics. I do miss nature in my work. 
So it wouldn’t surprise me if I get some nature in there again somehow, somewhere. 
But most important is to stay happy when working. I think you can see it when someone enjoyed making a piece of art. I try not to make to detailed plans for the future. I like it to be open and flexible. I will go to New Mexico from April till end of July 2009, that I know. After that??
I want to stay as “movable” as possible. I mostly work alone and I don’t need special equipment, therefore I can work everywhere I go. Only thing I need is my (very old) camera.

  1. Present project? Suriname experience?

Now I am in Berlin till end of April, dealing with some applications and with the Suriname experience! I still have to look at all the slides I took, no time till now… I had to give this lecture at the Rietveld Academy last week, which was amazing! So many students and very good questions.

End of April I will go to Barcelona and after that to Holland for an opening in the CoBrA museum. Frank Wagner, who also curated “The Eighth Square” in Museum Ludwig in Cologne, curates another big show about gender and he invited me to participate, among with 45 other artist that work with gender (we are not alone out there!). So that is great! The show will open in June. 

In November I will do a solo show in the Basque Country. A young curator invited me to make a show in the Centro Cultural that he directs now. I will show my last 2 series and will make a new projection piece for it. 
Apart from that there are some group-shows going on.

As a closure I will give you my favourite Judith Butler quote which tells a lot about how I regard my work I think…

“How is it that drag or, indeed, much more than drag, transgender itself enters into the political field?
It does this, I would suggest, by not only making us question what is real, and what has to be, but by showing us how contemporary notions of reality can be questioned, and new modes of reality instituted.”


Touching, isn't it? 
Past words, present emotion and an open path for everybody to follow in the way they wish to.

Risk site's again:

Risk Hazekamp, Queering the Identity Codes in Photography and Life Before You Did!

I have been deconstructing and queering the dominant cultural paradigm for more than 20 years, writing mainly about Art and Culture and having my articles published across a range of mainstream and alternative media, both straight and gay in a variety of languages.

I have recently realised that it would be interesting to try finding them somehow and put them together in an attempt to show that everything happening today has been present as a baby grain in the past, generations could be ignorant about what preceded them but they still stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, we are all together in this evolution of feeling about what is possible in art, culture, society and life.

We need strong alternative histories to create a new power balance queering identity representation and all the aesthetic and moral codes that go with it, to share a more solid "us" against the dominant and loud "them" that tries to erase our lives and our stories.

Queering art and culture, here comes one of the most talented pioneers, Risk Hazekamp.

I am putting the link to the published article and I shall try to find the article itself and put it up with some old and new photos by beautiful Risk.

Risk's site:

My article's site (with the title "Risk? Take it!") which made the cover of the Greek lgbtq magazine City Uncover in April 2008:

Friday, 24 February 2017


Thailand, Africa and the extreme elegance of an Italian shirt, revisited and rendered unisex.
Like a boat floating on the contemporary ocean of post-modernism, a fragmented individualism recomposed by positive action, good will, determination and research of new beauty and elegance.

It was in the days before Christmas 2016 in Paris, walking in these new institutions full of raw talent and creativity called Pop-Up Stores and growing like mushrooms in the French Metropolis (as all over elsewhere too) where I first saw the creations of Marian Eeckhout.

Among other talented creators I felt especially pulled by the work of this young French designer, his bold compositions made by combining very different national fabrics in one coherent item, a series of unique shirts and bags (made by recovering and recycling what was left from the making of the shirts).
I immediately liked and felt attracted to the extreme contrast between the intense colours and shapes of the Asian and African fabrics, combined among themselves to create something unexpected but appealing, a series of classic shirts, all with their own colourful twist.

I later met with the creator (designer and tailor combined), young French designer 
Marian Eeckhout for a chat in preparation of this critical presentation of his work 
and I found out more about his background and influences and how his life becomes a basis for his creations.

The young Marian Eeckhout has already -despite his age- a long and varied past, from Belgian parents of French origin, grew up in Brussels, did different studies and odd jobs before finding his way in designing and hand-making his trade-mark shirts and bags, a perfect example of how a creative spirit can find balance and beauty in putting together boldly and unapologetically, free from traditional conservative good taste, very different culturally and aesthetically fabric fragments into one very personal and coherent whole. 

Like his own eclectic and adventurous life, enriched by living and working in several European countries before establishing himself in Paris from where he regularly travels 
to Thailand and Bali several times a year to find inspiration and buy the fabrics and first materials that he will then revisit, interpret and integrate in his own creations.

I first loved and I am always inspired by his innocent coherence in creation by feeling, 
his indifference to snobby and old school conventional “good taste”, his full-hearted openness and acceptance of difference.

The explosion of colour and anarchy of shapes the Asian and African fabrics bring to the elegant Italian shirts and bags -all unique and hand-made at this point- is a breath of fresh air of intense, chaotic, energised feeling in a Western world and fashion a bit dried-up in terms of real honest emotion, generosity and acceptance of diversity and alterity.

Marian Eeckhout naturally, by instinct and with no theatrics, is simply crossed and 
penetrated by this colourful and chaotic alterity, the perfect postmodern creature, open in his flesh and heart, almost happily fragmented and floating in the unique global ocean 
that contains us all in what remains of our shared humanity.

In coherence with how he finds his inspiration, he is concerned about recovering and recycling fabrics used and tossed aside as well as practicing what a friend of his called “chirurgie textile” (Fabric Surgery), taking old items of clothing that carry a special emotional value for their owners and revisit them by cutting away old and adding new elements, always colourful and rich in patterns.

I like these open-hearted, inclusive, colourful and chaotic elements, disciplined as it were in the sober, elegant and decisive lines of the minimalistic designed shirts and bags.

I also like this postmodern aesthetic fragmentation of the basic components becoming a harmony out of difference and a contrast that we can actually wear.

I recommend a visit, the discovery of young, fresh, honest talent with an optimistic message of acceptance, fraternity and elegance we can wear and feel better and more hopeful and colourful about ourselves and the future of our world, so grey nowadays in the Trump era...

Fashion with a real message, for a change...

(c) Haris Metaxa, February 2017


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

WOM, Wear A Masterpiece and then gradually become it!

Monday, 2 January 2017

BARASH, An Israeli Film of Truthful Girl to Girl Love, Sorrow, Hope and Talent. For the country too!

(SIVAN NOAM SHIMON and HADAS JADE SAKORI during promotional shooting)

How can you pack and unpack emotions outside, 
how can you trasmit what goes on in your heart, your body, your memories?
How can you represent the complex, compact feelings, 
the speleological experiences that make you who you are?
How to tell Life in Art?
How to make Your Life an Universal Tale
while conserving its individual personal and cultural color and taste?

Well, with great difficulty, commitment and exercise, if ever.

With a hermetical, life-long dedication and social convention's abnegation, 
with the acceptance of social exile and relative poverty 
in exchange for inner freedom and truthful expression.

And how to do all those things when you are a young Queer Lady in Israel today,
in your early forties with a passion and a deep-felt commitment, an actual existential urgency, 
like a bite on your soul, an itch on your nose that won't go away, 
to tell the tale of gay girls falling in love for the first time in Israel 
at a historical period of extreme personal, familiar, social and political fragmentation?

Well, again, you shall need the genious, the refreshingly uncompromising attitude, 
the single-minded dedication and matter-of-fact unapologetic obsession 
of young Irsaeli filmmaker and scriptwriter MICHAL VINIK 
and her rare talent to tell the story of a 
"girl to girl" coming of age 
and the pleasures and pains of queer love and identity quest, 
set deep inside and told against the background of a disintegrating Israeli society 
that protects no one and even less the queer lost in space girls. 

pic (c) Haris Metaxa

This is all brilliantly done in Ms Vinik's  first feature film "BARASH", 
released last year (2016) and presented last November 
during the rich and challenging Cheries-Cheris Lgbtqi Film Festival (CCFF) in Paris 
where I had the pleasure of seeing it 
and immediately run to interview MICHAL VINIK first 
and later her two main actresses, 
in order to tell you my story of discovering this new Queer Verismo 
in  Contemporary Lgbtqi Cinematography.

pic (c) San FEDE
pic (c) San FEDE

Presentation of the filmmaker during the CCF Festival 
with a very good interpretation into French, rare event..

pic (c) Haris Metaxa
The Interview in a cafè by the MK2 Beaubourg where BARASH was shown the day before.

The filmmaker at the centre with the two main characters, protagonists of the love story.

pic (c) Haris Metaxa
(Writing the article at night at a Parisian cafè, CCFF catalogue.)

So, now you have seen the pictures and taken a breathe from this intense eulogy, 
let's go back to our analysis. 
As I was saying, Israel is shown in punk hyper-realistic, quite naked and cruel colors 
(that do justice to the feeling depicted) to be totally fragmented and humanly alienated, 
the social tissue irrimediably broken and all individuals let loose to their own devices 
like crazy atoms with no unifing centre, 
like lone apples falling from a tree in a no-gravity enviroment, suspended, never quite touching ground. 
Lost in space, floating in a liquid universe that has lost all fixed and solid reference points.

Nobody has its place during historical ages and in places 
when and where Reality explodes 
and we cannot quite catch up, 
as is our case in the film narrative with Contemporary Israel, 
Reality escapes comprehension 
and our ideas do not correspond any longer to the world around us.

All the characters in BARASH are lost and we feel for them. 
Every single one of them.
But, still, we have seen similar characters before, we can decode their despair, 
feeling of loss, the pull of a social escape.

But what we shall see for the very first time in this deeply touching and elegantly constructed, directed, 
and interpreted film is how it feels to be a young girl falling in love with another girl.

The Social Void is actually helpful in Queer Love Dynamics, 
socially you do not exist as a Queer Individual 
so at a personal level you are totally free to define and position yourself inside this deep intensity of feeling, this carnal desire you are not supposed to feel and from which you cannot quite escape, 
this uncharted emotion of making love fom the first time 
(like a Golden Gender Austronaut walking for the first time on a Virgin Velvet Rainbow New  Planet)
to a body specular to, yet not quite like, yours.

And still, lost as you are, it feels so queer and so natural at the same time 
to be where you are 
and to do exactly what you are doing. 
The Cultural Taboo, your Natural Enviroment. 
You are an Alien stranded in a Foreign Planet,
the one of Global Normative Heterosexuality.
Divorce from Society. 
Home in your Desire.
Desire is your Home. 
You have found Home. 
You have found your Identity, 
you know you shall Exist from now on in this Double Female Body, 
in this New Hidden Continent on the border of Social Reality and Acceptabilty.

You are on the Border but you are Not Alone anymore.
You can scream with pleasure and delight 
as one of the young girls, Naama, does in the movie 
after she has made love to the girl she desires for the first time.
So just, so truthful, so simple.

Here, exactly at this Banal Point of Codification and Symbolic Representation, 
Reality becomes Art, 
Life becomes Film Narrative 
and you do not feel in Exile anymore.

End of the Sexual and Social Exile for the Girls in the Movie 
but also for the Queer Ladies in the audience, 
"partout dans le monde"
everywhere in the world.
Now you can inhabit HER. 
"HER" in general, 
not as in This Specific Lover, 
This Specific Double Body, 
This Shared Carnal & Erotic and Sensual Queerness.

But the narrative in BARASH goes on, Joy, Loss, 
Discovery of personal Strength and depth of personal Freedom.
"Even if Love doesn't flow, Life still can", as the poet in me has said.
MICHAL VINIK brilliantly tells us in words and images, in bodies and faces, in smiles and tears,
with the help of the incredible performance of both the two young real-life Queer Israeli actresses, 
she tells us and offers us as a gift 
this touching tale of girl to girl first love 
and we feel the emotion of their eyes, 
voices and bodies 
almost on own skin.

Well, I did.
But, then again, I am quite partial.
Be as it may, it doesn't really matter what your Gender Identity and what your Sexuality is,
this is a Wonderful Film for Everybody who believes in Emotion and Truth and Beauty and Cruelty 
told and shared through ART, 
through FILM.

I am writing this a lot more than a month after I've seen the film at the fantastic CCF Festival in Paris 
in the second week of November last, back in 2016.
My emotion still flows, fresh like when I first saw BARASH.

pic (c) Haris Metaxa

The film went on to win the Jury's award at the CCFF.
As I had already chosen the film to write about and had already interviewed the filmmaker,
 I felt proud of Jury's good taste 
and went on to cheer and to immediately tell the film crew on Social Media, 
happy and proud myeself as if I had helped in its making!

Bravo to Economical, Punk, Cruel and Optimistic 
(that's Dialectics for you, Folks, it moves by Embracing Contraddiction!) 
Directing (and solid Script Writing) of MICHAL VINIK 
and bravo to SIVAN NOAM SHIMON (Naama Barash) 
and HADAS JADE SAKORI (Dana Hershko) 
brilliantly and convincingly playing the girls discovering love and life.
They gave everything they've got, tried to find the truth of the characters in themselves 
and they managed to make the characters complex, touching, convincing, 
similar and separate at the same time.
We escaped with volatile life-pirate Dana and we felt lost and found and lost again with Naama.
They both felt like two girls we have met or we could meet in our real lives. 
Complex, deep, uncompromising 
and fighting to keep their heads above troubled waters and learn how to swim too.

I was very impressed when I found out that both were, at the time when the film was in the making, 
non-professional actresses.
Well, now they showed they can become professional indeed or, better still, they really are already professional.
I wish them all the best and I hope they continue their creative careers, in  movies and else. 

Actresses and filmmaker make an incredibly talented and quite courageous triad 
we have to keep in mind and follow.

BARASH, one of the best movies I have seen, 
in all categories and not only as a Lgbtqi potrayal of love and loss.

(and CRY too sometimes...).

Can't wait to see what the trio will come up to creatively,
together in any combination and quality 
or separately. 

Young Queer Female Israeli Talent.

Brave Ragazze et Merci, 

GENERAL LINKS and Photo Credits

CCFF site program link, Barash:

CCFF Photographer, San FEDE, FB page:

(c) Haris Metaxa, Paris, 1/1/2017!