The Decade Spanning Party by Matto Lucas
Through exploring my decade-spanning archive of queer event photography across Melbourne and within the Darebin municipality, I have created a series of photomontage works that aim to celebrate and canonise the queer performers, patrons, parties, residents and community at this time when I am deeply missing both working at these events and the community engagement with my queer family. It has been a surprisingly emotional journey, traversing a decade worth of external hard drive archives to rediscover moments and captures that mean a lot to me, both personally and professionally. I have experienced a lot during the last decade, and I hope I can continue working within my vibrant, diverse and resilient community into the future.
Who makes the parties? Well, obviously the (often unseen) event producers, but also the entertainers. Cabaret, drag, theatre, music, fringe festivals, comedy, stand-up, film, television, art – all made by incredible, creative queers. We lean on them so hard to be entertained, to be enchanted,
to uplift us when times are grim, and they do. We need to acknowledge them more. We wouldn’t have parties without them, we couldn’t have these celebrations and spaces full of enchantment, of wonder and magic, without the hard work and talent, the witchcraft of these individuals. Even after a decade of photographing various amazing events, I am still amazed, my jaw still hits the floor, I am still enchanted by the spell that is cast by performers.
Real art, the avant-garde, no longer exists in the galleries, it is on the dance floor, it is in the club, it happens at 3am, in the bewitching hour, as activations amongst the dancing bodies on the dance floor, or on the runway or makeshift stages. Real art is happening at Melbourne’s queer parties and events. Art that is alive, and inclusive and subversive and vibrant and transient – and I have been lucky enough to experience
and witness and document it.
We owe everything to the femmes; the dykes, the sissies, the lesbians, the queens – we are a community that owes everything to our female and feminine energies and power. Femme’s are strong, political and unapologetic. Femme energy liberates us from the restrictive performativity of toxic masculinity. Femme’s make the party, they bring the unapologetic political power to the party and we need to acknowledge them, and their progressive power, more. If it weren’t for the bada** boss femme’s in my own life, I don’t think I would have made it. Femme energy is inside all of us; the flamboyant, the supportive – these energies strengthen, embolden and add dimensionality to us, and the spaces I have been privileged enough to work in and visit, have been cultivated by the best femmes. (Feminine energy can be embraced by men, women, gender non-specific, intersex and gender non-conforming peoples, by drag queens and drag kings, by our trans siblings and by everyone. Choose femme, choose strength, choose life.)
Gustav Klimt painted “The Kiss” (a depiction of a heterosexual couple painted in gold leaf, locked in an embrace) in 1907 and created scandal; being branded perverted and an enfant terrible. He said, “if you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please few,” and that is how I feel toward people seeing queer people embracing or kissing. Often censored out of television, advertising, film and mainstream media, my decade-spanning archive of event and party photography includes a beautiful compendium of images of lovers kissing, embracing, on the dance floor. I think it’s beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful, affirming images to see; a couple kissing is a communal proclamation; “we are safe, we are here, we love.” Some say, that every time we kiss, we win, and I truly believe this. We invented love; in the darkness, in the privacy and secrecy from abuse, from ridicule and death, in the sewers, in the clubs, in the spaces we made safe for us to kiss each other in. This is my love letter to the countless figures who have kissed in front of my camera lens; platonic or romantic (or sometimes something more) every kiss was a beautiful confirmation of my life, and who I love.
Gay, Gay, Gay
A party or an event can sometimes be characterised or take on the personality of the collective of the patron or punter who attends them.
And, like giving birth to a new lifeform (not that I would know) or making an artwork – once you hand that party over to the public, you have little
control on who attends or what personality is formed. Of course you can promote to specific audiences and markets, and one could be under the assumption that our community is small (which it is) and the market is limited (fairy true, too) however, I am privileged and hashtag blessed to have worked for events and spaces that work hard to include all segments of our diverse community. The people who fill the dance floors I work on are friendly, supportive, energetic, welcoming and diverse. I long for those dance floor conversations with strangers, meeting new people who embraced me, encouraged me, offered me words of wisdom and support.
It’s strange to consider strangers my family, but I do – there is a connection and an understanding that we have, which I miss immensely at the
moment. The patrons make the party.
Body Freedom, Autonomy & Celebration
Our queer bodies operate as the ultimate tools of celebration, expression, desire, lust, protest and autonomy. Queer people have historically used heir bodies and figures as signifiers of these abilities, but there is something empowering about going through an archive of ten years’ images to see all manner of type of shape, form, colour and archetype of body. Hairless, smooth, bear, twink, skinny, large, femme, masc – all of these clichés and tropes are embraced, or have been more so than online queer media would have you believe, and I am lucky enough to have worked in spaces where these body types have been celebrated, desired, made space for and embraced. It’s so easy to get down about ourselves, about our bodies, but what has empowered me, is finding images of bodies expressing themselves autonomously and unapologetically – with power, strength and acceptance. These events, these parties and spaces we make, where we are able to do this, is so important; for our mental health, being able to see a variety of bodies being celebrated, as well as for our leisure and our connectivity. We are all valid, and we are all welcome, and I am so grateful for the events, the parties and the people who have championed those philosophies.
Matto Lucas is an Australian artist, photographer, creator, curator and art facilitator working within mixed and digital media, with a preference for photography and performance. In 2013 Lucas was awarded a Lifetime Membership to Midsumma for his continuous work and commitment as a visual artist within the LGBTQI community.