Today I bring you a story. Having discovered Barbette through the project The Yellow Book by my dearest Jaro Varga, many of the conversations in the room have revolved lately around the question of gender. We always talk about a bit of everything here and this subject is so deep, has so many layers, meanings and signifiers (probably one for everyone who wants to have an opinion) that I'm very happy to put it on the table with the delicacy that this figure inspires in me. I am also very grateful that Noemi has taken the time to write this beautiful text so that we can know more about the story. Because I think it is important to know who, born Vander Clyde Broadway in Texas in 1898, became an artist of enormous reputation in the Parisian cabaret of the 1920s and 30s. Her/his show (Le numéro Barbette) and her/his name (in reference to little beard, in French) explored for the first time on stage the limits, overlapping and deconstruction of gender roles in a binary sense, and did it in a very relevant and also very elegant way.
I often wondered how it was possible that Barbette, having generated such a buzz among the public of the time, having caused so many rivers of ink to flow a century ago (many from Jean Cocteau's pen), should so quickly be forgotten. How is it that she/he is not present in our collective memory such as Picasso, Duchamp, Bréton, Éluard or Tzara are? Perhaps because nobody thought it was unimportant to omit her/his name under the photograph Man Ray took of her/him and included in the book Men before the mirror (1934). So I thank Jaro and Noemi for their strong desire to recover her memory and bring her figure back to the stage. And I thank Jaro for discovering us, through his project, the book Decolonizing Sexualities: Transnational Perspectives, Critical Interventions: a collection of texts in various styles and formats (including poetry, essays, statements, manifestos or academic compilations) that contributes to critical studies in the decolonial-queer sense on how sexuality, race, gender or religion intersect transnationally and how uncovering the epistemic categories that classify people can help us resist, re-exist and re-emerge from that limiting categorisation.
While the gender issue is more visible today than ever before, a man who goes out dressed as a woman on the street still risks a beating. A century after Barbette and still too often, these people have had to confine themselves to the safety of a cabaret stage or a drag queen show. So today I want to publicly hail this subversive creature in the duality of black and white, I want to love her/him and exchange the best cosmetic tricks, explain how much I miss using lipstick after mask became mandatory or how I have doubted whether I should go back to plucking my eyebrows and moustache. I want to share with her/him my concerns about how to incorporate inclusive language while respecting language, but above all respecting people, and ask what she/he thinks of my idea to bring back the game of hangman so that everyone can choose the letter or pronoun that best represents them. I would then confess my fear about this meaning that we would have to hang ourselves every time we wanted to define ourselves, whether in the privacy of the mirror or in the publicity of social networks. I've prepared a nice cup of coffee and a glass of absinthe for us to discuss it, along with other little stories below. Before we go to them, I remind you that Saturday 15 May is the last day to see The Yellow Book in the gallery, and to enter Jaro Varga's personal library, full of very interesting titles.
👉 You already know that in just over a week Colleen will present her latest album, The Tunnel and the Clearing, to the world in general and to Chiquita's friends in particular. Well, today I bring you a new sample of this exquisite work through the track "Hidden in the Current", which Daniel Barreto has animated with great virtuosity in the form of a videoclip-explosion of light and colour. When I listen to Cécile Schott singing these lyrics, I wonder whether the need to hide, as well as the need to wake up and uncover oneself, must be something inherent to human condition.
Meanwhile, Andrea has already silkscreened the artwork for the album, an original work by artist Andrés Gómez Servín, which we will present during the concerts. Please be warned, because there are few tickets left, that you still have the chance to come to the show on Friday 21 May at 5pm, Saturday 22 at 8pm, or the two shows on Sunday 23. Don't say then that grandma smokes.
👉 A new adventure in the room comes from psychoanalyst Montserrat Rodríguez Garzo, who proposes here the seminar Otrografías. On the emergence of artistic production and its use value in three different sessions, on the first three Thursdays of June, from 7 to 9pm. The aim is to answer questions such as: What regulates artistic writing? What order does it express? What does it satisfy? What does it say? What is it about?
Through the works of four artists with whom she works regularly: Estanis Ferrer, Dolors Salillas, Rosalina Sicart, Margarita Veiga and Gustavo Collado, a mathematician challenged by the artistic event that tries to say something, knowledge proposes and Montse disposes. Using texts by Graw, Jakobson, Lacan, Derrida, Deleuze, Klein, Winnicot and Wittgenstein, she guides us to find out more about artistic production, otherness, the wound and the wounded. More information and registration for the sessions here.
🦆🦆 Today I bid farewell with a poem by my dear Mary Oliver, an avid walker whose creativity was spurred by nature and her walks, and whose poetry combines the darkness of introspection with joyful release. Influenced by Whitman, Rumi and Thoreau, she is known for her spare language and accessible topics, as well as woodland anecdotes such as hiding pencils in trees after finding herself with nothing to write with. Here are her wild geese, coming home.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
1. Barbette (1937)
2. Hidden in the Current, music by Colleen and video by Daniel Barreto (2021).
3. Otrografías. Rosalina Sicart. 4. Wilde Geese, Mary Oliver.