The Bareback Museum is an art project which has developed out of my intimate experiences with sex and institutions. In 2014, PEP and PrEP changed. The medication was no longer a cocktail of drugs which had bad side effects but became a practical treatment to overcome the desires for unprotected sex. I used PEP three times within 2014-15 and started to have conversations with health institutions. There are many narratives which follow on from front facing perspectives, as medical staff distributing treatment and also the view from the users and non users of the drugs. After the third course of PEP I began to realise that I was starting to become depressed by the reality of a bio political event, taking place between institutions, my body and in the conception/ possibility of risk from the disease. It also effected the personal and interpersonal sexual scripts around condom use. Bareback was now institutional and not simply a taboo.
As a means to open up the dialogues of conversation about Bareback sex, I began seeking the research of queer. How can queer methodologies disrupt the organised mechanisms of institutions? One of the artists creating action research in this area was Owen G Parry. Owen disrupted the expectancy of an art organisation by subverting his and its’ practice. In 2015 I performed in Owen’s work at Latitude festival, where we created a mock/fictional band interview and gave turns for the audience to switch places. In 2014, we also performed ‘how to faint’ at a festival in Yorkshire, specifically teaching an audience to faint through a series of steps. This was a specific subversion going against the grain of event planning.
In a workshop lead by Oreet Ashery in 2011, which also included Owen as a research participant, I performed naked and explored the narratives of nudity and religion, developing my perception of nudity for film and 121 performance. I experimented in a 121 performance with Erini Kartsaki, naked in a bath tub. This was contextualised within Oreet’s workshop and the violent rhetoric of Western and Middle Eastern institutions. Erini both drowned and kissed me with intimacy.
The establishment of theoretical love, discussed in philosophy as the State and family through psychoanalytical and enlightenment/colonial thinkers, is presented in my work as an institutional pedagogy. I performed naked in my Bachelor’s Degree to present my rejected dissertation, formed as a semi fictional text with quotations and citing’s (instead of an factual essay) about an imaginary family/group of asylum seekers (and illegal migrants) encountering ‘Touched’, the public art biennial in Liverpool in 2010. The structure of the text was used to illustrate complexity and I developed Queer Methodologies of Performance, including Nudity.
Since my education at Camberwell University of the Arts London, I received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for my Masters Degree in Fine Art. I formed a project which grew in representation from ‘The Precariat’, describing students in the Museum, to ‘Bareback the Precariat’ – and from learning Post-Critical Museology – ‘Bareback the Precariat Museum’; finally abbreviating to the ‘Bareback Museum’.
I also developed methods within the University for nudity and exhibitionism, which was realised in the subversion of a life drawing class. The ‘Bareback the Precariat Museum’ was a live art, painting and life drawing performance with collaborators including Peter Hollamby (artist and retired head of printmaking), WERK (run by Alun Davies Fashion) and House O’Dwyer (The director of the Dalston Ballet Company of which I was a member). This performance was a queer and temporal experience creating conversations about the public space, collectivity, participation and mobilisation of an audience. The Bareback Museum had begun.
The Bareback Museum has since performed at academic events, the association of medical humanities and art institutions including Tate Britain and the Barbican Centre (with Owen G Parry). The work that has developed out of the life drawing into a life drawing performance workshop, which subverts the activity of life drawing and performance and presents the audience with considerations about intimacy, sexual health and exhibitionism.
My motivation for creating live art life drawing performance workshops is also part of an exacerbated process of displaying my own paintings. As a live artist and painter I struggle with accessibility to art and fear that paintings may not meet the spectatorship of their community. Subverting the life drawing workshops or any other kind of performance, be it cabaret or theatre, to show public art in the form of a collectible asset to a collective audience is important. It questions whether art should be sold to the communities. It is a contract of engagement between audiences, collectors and artists.