This live Zoom performance contains imagery from my personal archive as an artist from the last 25 years. Certain subsets of gay subculture promote themselves as generating inclusive spaces whilst containing aspects that discriminate. Disenchanted with the antagonisms in the gay male community particularly towards labelling (giving gay men an identity such as ‘cub’. ‘bear’ etc.) and body shaming, my performance work seeks to bring about re-enchantment with the community I am part of as a gay an but at times which I feel excluded from. This performance reflects on kinds of role that gay men are expected to conform to, where identity becomes something detached or external and how they can fit into that. Inspired by my experience of being amongst ‘cubs’ and ‘bears’ in the Kings Arms pub in London, this performance is in actual fact a ‘two fingers up’ to body shaming and label and saying clearly: ACCEPT ME! What function does stereotyping or strict boundaries to certain kinds of labels serve? Maybe it’s about being seen. If I can say that I am ‘this’ very definite thing. I can be seen through this kind of role whereas otherwise… We always think there’s a certain kind of playfulness with these roles, but its boundaries are policed so rigidly. This performance uses gay slang ‘bear, cub, wolf etc.’ and addresses power relations in queer subcultures and particularly within queer male spaces of conviviality which engage in processes of inclusion and exclusion. It employs protest art, of modes of representation, chanting within ACT UP and queer movements, of political campaign. Reminiscent of early guerrilla protest video art from the 1980s, the performance combines fine art and moving image by including my own drawings of my body. As a hairy slightly stocky gay man in the early 2000s in London, I felt at home in the Kings Arms pub amongst men who looked like me, whose bodies were like mine. I found men with this body type very attractive sexually and very desirable and likewise I wanted men to find my body sexy and desirable. But I soon learned that there were power relations and antagonisms: I was told I was too slim to be a bear and too fat to be a cub. So where do I go? Like I say in the performance ‘men bruising me like I’m the wrong kind of fat’. Defying the antagonists, I would continue to socialise and drink in that pub regardless (and desire and be desired).
Lee Campbell describes himself as \’a Londoner who makes experimental films and poetry performance about being gay and working class using barbaric wit and humour’. He trained in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London in 2005 and received his doctorate in 2016. He has recently performed at LGBT-centred online poetry events including INCITE!, London Queer Writers, SPORK! QUEER & STILL HERE and POETRYLGBT, as well as PICK’N’MIX hosted by Annabelszki. His recent films have been selected for many international queer film festivals including Queerbee LGBT Film Festival, The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, Kansas 2020, HOMOGRAPHY, Brussels and STATES OF DESIRE: Tom of Finland in the Queer Imagination, Casa de Duende, Philadelphia, USA.