Pride is a Verb started with the need for something at my place of employment (Real Art Ways) to celebrate Pride Month, the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, and a means to help center the conversation towards the future of queer rights and liberation in America. The result is a semi-sanctioned installation in our largest gallery space acting as a photo booth for visitors and attendees of our various events throughout the month.
Real Art Ways is unique for many reasons, not limited to our arthouse cinema that runs 7 days a week. Unlike many other arts institutions, our galleries are open to the public every single day of the week. We specialize in emerging and mid career artists who produce innovative work. As an artist myself, this puts me in an awkward position. I often help other artists achieve their exhibition goals that I otherwise lack access to similar resources. Granted, where I’ve traded my ability to hop from residency to residency, the need to teach adjunct to piece together a living, and other terribly unstable means of surviving for a full-time job in curating, I can’t help but yearn for the lives of the artists I work with.
So for June, I proposed using the space in such a way that allows it to be flexible for our events (including a community-led dialogue, youth oriented film festival, and the gayest possible version of our monthly cocktail hour). I had hinted here and there about the content of the photo booth, something we’ve done before, and wanting it to be centered on protest and the political origins of pride celebrations. As I continued to make the signs and cardboard cutouts, I started thinking more and more about my reactions to the commodification of contemporary pride movements, and how rainbow capitalism is starting to truly harm queer liberation.
In going forward with this new, unintentionally ridiculous project that I’ve created for myself, I’m exploring how to utilize the structures and aesthetics of contemporary pride festivals to subvert their commodified realities. How is it that we continue to perform mental gymnastics, becoming excited when Listerine releases a rainbow bottle for the month of June, only to ignore any other whisper of the word “gay” throughout the rest of the year? Why is it that mainstream queer movements fail to acknowledge these corporations and organizations only want our business like this when it is convenient and socially acceptable for them to engage in this kind of branding? Why is it faggots like me are only valuable to others when my wallet is open?