liv wynter's "Rupture": a write up
Written by Georgia Mitchell
When we interviewed Liv Wynter in February for FEM II: Night Life, they told us excitedly of the night they were curating as part of Hayward Gallery’s Art Night on the 7thJuly.
Liv prepared us for the night all those months ago in saying ‘It’s called RUPTURE, and it’s about this sense of urgency, this sense of necessary change, and creating these big rupture gestures where it’s like “this has to change right now”’. When we attended the event, we understood the full force of what they meant. Although the night was carefully curated, and felt, to a degree, formal; the setting was Lambeth’s beautiful Garden Museum on the Thames; it was the most involving, engaging and challenging event organised in affiliation with a major gallery that we have ever been to.
Liv Wynter’s RUPTURE wasn’t intended to make you comfortable. The performances were each created to challenge the audience, who changed completely at each of the three acts. We were lucky enough to see it all, and experience the way that Liv had created a space at once so inclusive and so angry, anger and hurt about society’s injustices and ingrown prejudice stemming from each artist who performed. The mainstream reach of Art Night ensured the audience would be a different demographic than Liv’s usual performances, and thus there was a pointed intent to create rupture in a space sanctioned by the arts establishment. Liv’s charisma and ease carried the audience through the night, opening with their amazing spoken word poetry. In the third act, XANA, a spoken word poet, rapper and musician, analysed white privilege keenly in her music, before gently remarking ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s less melanated in this room… so shout out to those who have performed before’. They were referring to PoC artists like Jamila Johnson-Small AKA Last Yearz Interesting Negro who in the second act moved through the crowd in a mesmerising, unearthly dance, placing her ‘othered’ body uncomfortably close to the bodies of the mainly white audience. At the end of her dance, her body seemed to collapse and fail; and, safe within the context of performance, we all watched as it broke down.
On the same day as the London Pride parade, RUPTURE was decidedly anti-Pride; or anti the monopolisation of Pride by corporations, and this year, by exclusive and hateful groups. The Pride parade on the 7th, as is well known, was opened by a group of TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) holding anti-trans signs and signs reading ‘Lesbian not Queer’; dividing their notion of gay women from the wider queer community. In the Garden Museum, hurt was palpable. Before her musical performance, Kevin Le Grand took the floor to remind (or inform) the audience of the TERF takeover of Pride.
Travis Alabanza’s slot, closing the night, was an analysis of the perceived performativity of the queer and trans body, in how trans people are celebrated when on stage; but the mainstream gay scene ignores the stark fact that the life expectancy for a black femme trans person is 35 years. Travis shouted through a megaphone ‘You care about my death drops but not about me dropping dead’.
The performance was simultaneously a call to arms and an accusation of the audience’s complacency. As Liv closed the show, they called for the queer community as they know it to remember unity and to stay angry.
Between each act was a DJ set by BBZ, which was perhaps Liv’s master stroke; the sudden tonal shift challenged the audience to celebrate after the artists had shed light on society’s inconvenient truths. The largely white and heteronormative-presenting audience was constantly pushed to examine their own privilege.
Addressing the audience again, XANA asked about the PoC artists at RUPTURE that we ‘book their art and not their identity’. Liv’s night, covering a myriad of issues and facets of privilege, was naturally non-tokenistic. Each artist felt chosen with care and intention by Liv.
The night was intensive, beautiful and provoking. There were moments of pure joy, like when Liv and the other half of punk band Militant Girlfriend, Caitlin King, sang a cover of ‘What’s Going On’ by 4 Non Blondes, dancing with the audience.
Sitting under the night, however, was a sense of sadness and rightful anger; about anti-queerness at Pride, about the very hatred and ignorance each artist was analysing, about the fact that a night like Liv Wynter’s RUPTURE; a night not manicured and cleaned up for a mass audience, a night of art which challenged and incited as art should; is not a regular occurrence for major galleries like the Hayward.
Kevin Le Grand: