The Will Munro retrospective can be currently found on display at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). This illustrates the crucial role of community in shaping sexual identity while also demonstrating that queer identity is part of a constantly shifting, boundary-free world that sits on or outside of the margins of mainstream Canadian society. Through this comparison / contrast essay of these two political art-forms, by the end the lack of homosexual inclusion, even within the first-world nations of this globe, will become quite evident. Moreover. several depictions will further illustrate this queer exclusion.
“Spoon” can be considered a violent comedy, metaphorically depicting sexual orientations among minorities in the society. The author described it as a postdramatic implosion of queer dynamics (Smith, 2012). The play contained elements of sexual battery, indiscriminate sexual violence, and bisexual relationships, and nudity. It presented a theater of the absurd which suggested that modern, developed society may need to transform its notions regarding gender identity and sexual interactions.
The queer theme was presented in the play’s overall structure and the sexual practices displayed by actors were a deliberate attempt to establish queerness theory. The play also included really violent sexual encounters. One would tend to think that only in cases of rape would sexual violence be enacted, but from the play it might be interpreted as an accepted practice among minorities, homosexuals being the minorities in this case.
Further, this aggressive violence demonstrates the bipolar sense of dignity that these homosexuals feel socially allowed to experience. Personally, that natural desire is the pinnacle of their being; humans are sexual beings. Socially, these characters have repeatedly been told that what they desire and feel inclined to pursue and nurture, their entire nature, is wrong. Only with homosexuality and individual homosexuals does society “put the marginalized at the front of the line” (Benjamin Boles). This social and personal angst creates this conflict depicted here.
Social acceptance of homosexuals seems the final step before we can all just get along, before humanity will finally become able to accept another. “Many people long for a place where they feel they belong, but Will Munro actually built those spaces–both for him, and for everyone else who needed it. Queer Queen West is a cliche now, but we wouldn’t have it without him” (Boles). Since Ben Franklin and the development of electricity, humans have found a means to relate, to communicate, and finally attempt to understand one another. Successfully, or as dominant as it will be, people get along with folks of other races, creeds, ethnicities, religions; all but homosexuality. This social torment and non-acceptance would create quite a self-battle; that’s what was symbolized by that violence.
Smith (2012) was showing the real deal that exists in modern societies, thus forcing the audience to recognize that these events are very much part of real life, and that people do enjoy them. They are not found only within the context of a minority group, since from the response of the audience it could be interpreted otherwise.
More importantly, it could be theorized that queerness was highlighted as the theme from the beginning, when a “Spoon” streaked blood. That spoon symbolized a queer, and the blood symbolized humanity; queers, or homosexuals, therefore are human. Despite that, sexual deviance was not the focal point of the play; the actors were having fun even in the violent scenes. Therefore, from a more contemporary point of view, the play writer might have achieved the goal of allowing the audience to understand that queerness is acceptable, and that humans are about relationships, and that these “queers” are people. The spoon and the implication of that absence-of sexual deviance were both attempts to humanize the queer.
Sexuality in this play is both linked to, though also outside of, the prevailing culture and its impact on race, gender, class and ethnicity. Thus, it can be focused on for its own sake rather than requiring it to be viewed in relationship to other issues. This play displayed sexuality from a transgender analogy. Race was not emphasized, and neither was either class or ethnicity. These qualities are not relevant to expressing sexuality. Sexuality, evidently, extends its borders toward inequities in class, race, gender, ethnicity and nationality; no hierarchy stands to be met or achieved. Sexuality is human.
For example, Her Tongue on My Theory begins by asserting that, had it been produced outside Canada, it would never be allowed into the country (Her Tongue on My Theory, 1). It would have been banned entirely due to its lesbian sexual orientation. Nonetheless, this would not allow the queer culture to subside within its Canadian nationality boundaries since as was demonstrated in “Spoon” and many other queer presentations. The capacity for growth amidst these barriers does exist (Her Tongue on My Theory, 1-2).
Munro told a reporter in 1999 at the National Post that his underwear project cam about due to an event where his mother wouldn’t buy him Superhero Underoos as a child. This brings a certain level of innocence to the project, despite the implicit sexuality in underwear, while also forging a bridge between the world of childhood (where silliness in underwear and other things is encouraged) and the world of adulthood (where plain white Y-fronts dominate). This symbolism also furthers that point on acceptance. His mother would not condone his sexuality, and that must have been reminiscent of when his mother refused to purchase those desired undergarments; more than queers alone comprehend rejection and abandonment.
In terms of gender considerations, “No Bikini” is a classic example of how gender influences the way sexuality is perceived personally as well as from a societal force. The boy portrayed had a sex change. When the character was a girl, it was prohibited for certain parts of the body be shown since it runs the risk of molestation or incites sexual indulgence. When the character was a boy, it was acceptable that those parts be exposed. In enacting the queer theory he was chided by his parents for not being trusted, which is indicative that sexuality cannot be focused on for its own sake. So far gender and nationality play a vital role in forging acceptance of one’s sexuality (Coyote, 2000, 21-24).
Race, class, and ethnicity stereotyping are combined forces which denote the ways society controls how its members vary from social norms and laws. Hence, queer life styles are labeled and face adversity across cultures around the world. Smith’s (2012) “Spoon,” while forging a subtle acceptance through the celebratory atmosphere by which violent scenes were enacted, presented a message that nothing will eradicate such alternative sexual practices regardless of labels placed on such a lifestyle by society.
Therefore, the other aspect of this production which ought to be considered is how it was perceived by the Canadian lesbians, gays, heterosexual, and transgender community. The artists’ sexual orientation appears to be exactly what they portrayed in order to enact roles with such ease and alacrity. From observation during this Sunday afternoon performance, the audience seemed to be divided into three sections: a substantial group which enjoyed every aspect of the production; a second small group which walked out during the violent scenes; and a third group, which sat there apparently dumfounded by the play’s message and themes.
In interpreting this reaction to the production it is quite clear that some people were uncomfortable with the scenes even though they received advanced notice from the producers that the play was explicitly sexual and violent. Other members of the audiences quietly interpreted the queer dilemmas portrayed. Overall, the majority of the audience appeared to be quite comfortable with the play and its message.
So far no public reviews have been written for this play in newspapers or magazines. However, there was a FaceBook page advertising the show which included comments made by friends of Smith( 2012) about the upcoming production. For example, comments from Kevin Devaux on March 4th, 2012 were,” Great Show! Hope to see more! Michel Erickson commented on March 4th 2012; ‘Last night, “Spoon” played to a FULL HOUSE with some fantastic feedback. Can’t wait for this afternoon and moderator Sky Gilbert!”
More information concerning how the play was promoted could be found on Fresh Daily Blog. On Thursday March 1, 2012 Grid advertised a preview of the play and alerted the public to expect “sexy violence…campy music and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of cutlery…Oh, and it’s rounded out with coarse language, explicit sexuality, nudity and extremely loud noises” (Livingston, 2012). Indeed, the play was peppered with sexy violence and noisy clanging of cutlery—too noisy sometimes to concentrate. At times it seemed that the noise was a deliberate attempt to brainwash the audience into accepting profanity.
The Camilla Gibbs work “All Fours in Brooklyn” is a classic example of how even in high schools around the world students are expected to conform to a script of hiding their sexuality (Gibbs,2000). Heterosexual practices before a certain age can be considered a crime and sexually active youths can wind up labeled sexual predators for life; this is even more true if the sexual expression was queer instead of heterosexual.
“The Value of X” (Schultz, 2002) is another depiction of how queer issues regarding sexuality are presented in literature. It is sad that perhaps youths do not have the foundation whereby they can assert their sexuality without being called “queer.” They need to understand that while chromosomes determine gender, they may not really decide one’s sexuality since sexual identity may be more complex than that determined by simple genetics (Shultz, 2002). Smith’s (2012) “Spoon” is an attempt to bridge these gaps through this production. This piece by Benjamin Boles, concerning the Will Munro retrospective currently on display at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), and how it “illustrates the crucial role of community in shaping sexual identity while also demonstrating that queer identity is part of a constantly shifting, boundary-free world that sits on or outside of the margins of mainstream Canadian society,” clearly exhibits how so many artists, designers, creators, originators, producers, and activists “have long been on a quest to articulate an alternative vision of life, love, and labor and to put such a vision into practice” (Halberstam 2). Nature has been stifled.
Boles, Benjamin. “Will Munro RIP.” NOW, 22 May 2010. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.
“Estate of Will Munro: Inside the Solar Temple of the Cosmic Leather Daddy.” Paul Petro Contemporary Art, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.
Halberstam, Judith/Jack. The Queer Art of Failure. Charlotte, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.
“Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic.” The Art Gallery of York University. AGYU, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.
“Will Munro: 1975-2010.” Aid & Abet, 24 May 2010. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.
Coyote, I.E. “No Bikini.” Close to Spider Man Vancouver: Aisenxl. 2000. 21-24. Print
Gibbs C. “On All Fours in Brooklyn.” Carnal Nation: Brave New Sex Fictions. Ed. C. Brooks and B. Josef. Vancouver: Aisenxl, 2000. 136-145. Print
Her Tongue on My Theory. Unpublished. Class reading. Print.
Livingston-Aguirre, P. “Life- society.” The grid. Toronto’s best parties, Web. 9th March. http://www.thegridto.com/life/society/the-night-list-march-1-7
Smith, C.S., “Spoon,” Friday March 2-Sunday March 42012. Theater performance at Glen Morris Studio Theatre, Toronto.
Shultz, E. “The Value of X.” Black Coffee Night. Toronto: Insomniac. 2002. 25-39.Print.