Open Letter to Christchurch Pride

Tēnā koutou,

This open letter responds to Christchurch Pride’s affiliation with Transphobic Events ; Jocks Party  and Blackout Mask Party ‘for cisgendered men only’.

We recognise the huge mahi put in by the Christchurch Pride Committee Members to put on Christchurch Pride annually. We acknowledge that this is done in a voluntary capacity and that these situations require huge personal emotional labour that is never really seen nor accounted for. We are thankful for the visibility and the myriad of exciting events that the committee organises, and the positive impact that they have on the wider Ōtautahi Rainbow Whānui.

However, for our Ōtautahi Trans* Whānau and for our Queer Rangatahi, we feel that it is necessary to publically engage; to be a visible group that stands against the transphobia inherent in supporting this event. We are pleased to see that Christchurch Pride has created a public discussion forum on this topic, but note that due to the content of many facebook feeds and the varying levels of impact on those involved, that the folx that this issue most deeply and personally effects (i.e. Trans folx)  will likely not feel safe to attend such a forum.  

Affiliating Christchurch Pride with ‘cisgendered only’ events is perpetuating transphobia. Whether the Committee/Venue intended to keep the Trans community safe by noting the venue was cis-only does not negate this. Noting ‘cis-men-only’ affirms the transphobic and damaging notion that ‘transmen are not real men’. It is transphobic. Trans men are real men. Trans men can be gay/bi/queer* men.

Not only does this negatively affect trans folx, this also affects cis-gay/bi/queer folx who are attracted to and/or are in intimate relationships with trans folx. By excluding trans men from this event, attraction to them is stigmatised. By supporting this event, Pride is supporting a damaging set of values which make cis-trans relationships or attraction seem lesser, or shameful. Pride is a time of year where marginalised sexualities and genders should be celebrated not stigmatised – and that includes the sexual desires of all queer and gay people in our communities.

Christchurch Pride has come a long way in supporting our Trans and Gender Diverse Whānau in the past few years; huge efforts have been made to make events inclusive. Supporting this event is a huge step backwards. It promotes this transphobia as a value of Christchurch Pride, and regardless of the myriad of other options on offer, for many Trans folx this will mean that they do not feel safe to attend Pride, because the organising committee has made space for transphobic events.

Christchurch Pride is the public face of our Rainbow Community, with affiliations to council. The implications of supporting a transphobic event as a Pride Committee has the potential to be used to further exclude our Trans Whānau from other events; if mainstream event organisers are able to see that ‘Pride supports venues that exclude Trans folx’ then it sets a dangerous precedent.

The damage that has been done to trans folx already by its inclusion and the transphobic commentary of many of the community members is significant. One of the first things levelled at those of us who make complaints is always ‘well, I don’t see you making events’. Please consider that many of us do not yet feel safe and welcomed by this community enough to do so, and this limits our engagement.

Remember also that in celebrating Pride, we stand on the shoulders of the generations that fought for our rights. Remember that the first Pride Parade was a protest and those that led the way, trans folx of colour, are still the least likely to have equal rights, and are still the most likely to be subject to violence and discrimination. If we cannot eradicate transphobia and discrimination from Pride, how can we expect the rest of the world to follow?

This is a moment where Christchurch Pride should be leading the way and taking a stand. Menfriends as a private venue can do as they like – they can be transphobic, and at least they are being upfront about it – it’s a bit like publicly saying ‘I’m racist and I’m fine with it,’ but that’s their prerogative. We note that other msm venues in Aotearoa are accepting of transmen.

However, if Pride truly values its trans community and their safety, these events are not ones that should be supported by Christchurch Pride. They should not be events advertised by Christchurch Pride, and they should not be actively promoted by Christchurch Pride or associated with it directly.

We urge you to remove this affiliation, to put in place protocol which mean transphobic events can not be a part of Christchurch Pride in future, and to demonstrate Christchurch Pride Committee’s stance of zero tolerance of transphobia.  

Ngā mihi nui,

AJ Fitzwater
Aliyah Winter
Amy Blinkhorne
Anne Russell
Ater Belobeeva
Audrey Baldwin
Aya McCabre
Aych McArdle
Cushla Donaldson
Caitlin Clarke
Dana Dee
Dara Brown
David Thompson
Em Rushworth
Emma Feather Shaw
Gemma Syme
Hadassah Green
hamish petersen
Hannah Rossiter
Haylee Ellis
Jamie Hanton
Jen Shortly
Jennifer Shields
Joe Horton
Joel Lawry
Joey Macdonald
Julie Gaudin
Juliet Thomborson
Karen Healey
Kayla Collins
Khye Hitchcock
Kristy McCormick
Lauren Freyja May
Leilani Lemusu-Read
Leonard Hollbrook
Lib Edmonds
Maria-Jane Brodie
Melanie McKerchar
Nic Dorward
Ollie Scott
Poy Ling Agnew
Rachael King
Ray Shipley
RikTheMost
Robin Steel
Sam Orchard
Sarah Ann Kelleher
Sionainn Byrnes
skye amaryllis
Sheryl McLennan
Stace Robertson
Stephanie Grose
Sue Turner
Tabby Besley, National Coordinator of InsideOUT
Taine Polkinghorne
Taylor Swan
Tom Hamilton
Tusiata Avia
val smith
Vincent Konrad
Whetu Bennett

And 1 other who could not sign publicly.

To add your name to this list please email wherechch@gmail.com. Your name does not have to be public to be added; we will add a tally of those who would like to add their names but cannot publicly for various reasons.

It’s time to step it up

An open letter to Palagi written in response to the Pacific Arts Association conference: Making the Invisible Visible – Khye Hitchcock

Talofa Lava, Kia ora koutou,

I was privileged to be at the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) conference in Apia, Sāmoa last week. It was an incredible experience, and the hosting of the Sāmoan Arts Council and National University of Samoa was generous and warm. I’d like to acknowledge the huge efforts put in by all those involved in organising the PAA and to thank everyone who has presented, asked questions, or held space by being there during the conference.

That said, since returning, I’ve felt compelled to articulate some things that have been bouncing round my brain over the past week. As I mentioned in my talk during the conference, it’s not the role of those who are disadvantaged by a system to educate those who benefit from it at their expense. So my fellow palagi, I’m talking to you.

We are the descendants of colonisers. All of us. We are raised in a system which places our narrative in the centre, untold and thereby naturalised.

We are raised entitled.

We are raised racist.

Many of you have had amazing careers and contributed hugely to a discourse about Pasifika arts practice over the years. Maybe you helped preserve cultural knowledge that might have been lost or gave value to something that was being forgotten. I ask you to consider the circumstances of your ability to make these contributions. Remember that many of the conditions for the loss of cultural practices and artforms occured in the wake of colonisation, where our ancestors came and saw, not an equal yet different culture with its own governance and practices, nor a living land interconnected with its people’s through the Va or whakapapa, but an inanimate resource pool and an inferior people who they could stamp their laws over.

Consider that whilst the western academy funds our study, our travels across the Pacific, and provides our livelihoods, many of our hosts, as well as other indigenous peoples, who, along with their ancestors, create the materials of our research, are struggling to survive in an economic and legal system we imposed; a system that was designed to advantage us. Remember that, whatever judgement we place on how they lived, they nevertheless thrived for countless generations in a state of complete synergy with their lands before our value system interrupted their ability to be self reliant. Remember too that the colonial ‘motherlands’ also have their own complex, violent histories, including huge social inequalities. Histories are framed to suit our self narratives; the myth of the ‘white saviors’ is just that – a myth. Further, the lens we view ‘failure’ in our economic systems is fictional, also designed to support our reality and authority within an inequitable structure.

We need to remind ourselves that the western academy’s ‘new’ discoveries or categories appropriate knowledges and artworks which already existed, and continue to do so, embedded within their own culture. Even years of living within the culture doesn’t necessarily entitle us to translate for or speak on behalf of. We need to consider that it is not ok to make what is intentionally invisible to outsiders visible in the name of colonial knowledge systems.

In the undercurrents of this conference, it has felt like the most invisible thing made visible has been our white privilege and our varying relationships to that. I would love to see a PAA where the values and cultures of the land on which we stand and the folks and ancestors whose cultures we engage with are respected. Where we are more conscious of the words we use and the things we say. Where we get rid of the microaggressions and be more open to criticism and feedback. We need to consider the reasons why we’re involved in these fields, and find ways to make sure that we are not the sole recipient of the benefits of the research. We need to include content warnings. We need to respect the right to cultural opacity. We need to keep our promises about not publishing when we’re given access to sensitive information. We need to listen to shared stories for the value they contain, not for the ways in which they could serve our research. We need to unlearn white supremacy.

As a trans person constantly misgendered, I have a small understand of death by 1000 cuts that the week may have been to some of our hosts, (kia ora to those of you who remembered I’m ‘they’ not ‘she’), however, we are in different strata of oppression. My whiteness gives me a power that, while I did not ask for it, is still present in every interaction. It needs to be a choice for all of us to acknowledge this power and consciously work to even the playing field. This is uncomfortable work, but it needs to be done. Between now and the next PAA, wherever and whenever that may be, I would love to find a way to discuss strategies for making it, and all of our cross cultural interactions, a safer space. If you’re interested in further talanoa or kōrero on this let me know, because we need to do better.

To our hosts and all those who have held space graciously, and certainly more graciously than I’ve managed at times, and who have had the courage to ask the gnarly questions, who called us out and called us in, fa’afetai tele lava. Thank you for all the care you have shown us and for the generosity of all you have shared.

Ngā mihi nui,

Khye Hitchcock

 

Gateway: The Paranoid World of Vaporware

This essay was produced by Charlotte Filipov on the occasion of Vapourware, an exhibition as part of First Thursdays on the 3rd of August 2017. You can find and read the full print publication here.

This essay is written as an experimental piece, designed to read alongside the installation [The Condition of The Digital Native] providing gateways of thought to each of the objects contained conversations, not just in their materiality, but where they came from, how they manifested in this place at this time, and how they interact.

Almost two decades into the 21st century, humans have made astounding technological advancements. AI deep learning is constantly developing with the aid of the archive from prehistory and into the foreseeable future, smart cars and fridges have been invented, we have even developed a small but notable community of cyborgs, or BioHackers. Those who use technology to further their abilities beyond human capabilities. We cannot think about these developments in technology as isolated phenomena, we must also examine the social and cultural influence they bring.

Vaporwave was a short lived virtual image-based subculture [circa 2010-2014] that existed in constant state of flux before dispersing itself into the ocean of mass culture. The aesthetic values of ‘Vaporwave’ revolve around a clean hyper-virtual environment, pink and blue hues, appropriation [by use as a flat aesthetic] of Japanese Katakana, 80’s-90’s corporate design, and glossy roman busts. The musical counterpart manipulates found commercial pop music and audio, remixing them often by slowing them down and making the data yield to its own digital decay. The audio-visual experience of the phenomenon creates an unsettling view of the future, as many-a-contemporary philosopher has warned us about the enticing nature of technology and cybernetics.

1 Land Meltdown.png

Nick Land’s proto-vaporwave video work Meltdown created over a decade earlier than the phenomenon began to develop, laid the groundwork for what was about to be flattened into an ‘aesthetic’. A virtual phenomenon where politics, philosophies, and canonical objects are stripped of their meaning. The images used in a principally visual manner for mass-image circulation, with no practical application other than desktop images and mood-boards. These were popularised on image-sharing websites such as 4chan, Tumblr and Reddit, where visual vocabularies are popularised and become memetic, known as ‘memes’; words and images, repeated until they became cliched, somewhat of a community-specific in-joke, often within a very short timeframe.

2 A Banks.png

The debris of these short lived phenomena can often be found throughout popular culture, for example, in the return of the coveted-yet-defunct limited-release cassette tape, Fiji water suddenly being a very trendy kind of water to have despite the ecological implications of draining ancient aquifers full of ‘Earth’s Finest Water’ for company profit, while the country witnessed a typhoid outbreak due to lack of clean drinking water (Berger, 2017), with visual culture as in music videos, and commercial advertisements. Visual languages that evolve online often perforate the fabric between the IRL and URL. The unrelenting self-referentiality of postmodernism gains traction with each new meme, revealing to us a dark, shallow and chaotic view of our present, tempting us with the secret places of paradise and perfection that we must pay [a private company] to experience.

3 Fiji Water.png

The blending of our IRL and URL subjective experience of reality is in a way, proof of the promised land of the future metropolis as envisioned in the 20th century. The slow bleed of URL into IRL will continue its metamorphose, it begins with our minds and our ego, and it slowly extends to reshape our experience of our intersubjective realities (Harari, 2016). One’s lived experience of the fitbit and the undeniable truth of the smart-fridge.

In Circuitries (1992) contemporary philosopher Nick Land displays his concern for the implications of the future, social, economic, personal. Vaporwave is founded from this principle, Circuitries, often cited as the cyber-punk origin of vaporwave lays out for us the underlying fears of technology and AI systems, realising their very real potential for mass surveillance and control. In Meltdown (1994) Land foresees a reality where you are no longer a human being, you are now only viewed by these systems as pure algorithmic material, a data mine. In the age of information, this is the way you are interpreted, as this is the way computer systems can understand and predict you, nothing but algorithmic functions (Harari, 2016). The extended argument of this is whether humans will be able to remain relevant, when the competition is algorithmically perfect, unable to make mistakes.

Meltdown simultaneously lays the aesthetic groundwork for Vaporwave and its nostalgic pining for a slow world stuck in stasis like a skipping track. The rise of cassette tapes as a cheap and easily circulated tangible format for music, despite its vulnerability to decay, has made our human need for sentimentality and something that appeals to our idea of the soul clearer than ever in the age of lossless FLAC files.

The nostalgic pining of the ‘aesthetic’ for the early 1980s runs alongside significant developments in culture and technology, the bleed of postmodern discourse into the imagined modernist utopia, questions arose whether the imagined future was in fact an unachievable utopia, or would continue the stifling of humanism. Ayn Rand was a significant figure in influencing the development in laissez-faire capitalism (privatisation), individualism, self esteem and acting in one’s own self interest. Her revolutionary work Atlas Shrugged was such a radical book for the conservative environment of 1950s America, and the second most influential book for contemporary USA after the bible (Curtis, 2000) in terms of its influence over libertarianism and value in the self.

4 Larry Ellison.jpg

Larry Ellison including many other important figures involved in the construction of the silicon valley saw themselves as ‘Randian Heroes’ allowing her book which foresaw the creation of a place where the artists, creatives and intellectual individuals would create the model for a new society based on their own self interest, rather than the collective or community interest (Bauman, 2000; Curtis, 2000).

Alongside the recent formation of online subcultures that have a tendency to form their own communal cultures, The Fall of Public Man, Sennett discusses the action of wearing a mask as a ‘civil’ therefore, ‘public’ behaviour (1978). The use of the ‘avatars’ [images as an identifying mechanism] could apply as a sort of virtual mask, something which allows us to communicate beyond the borders of what our IRL physicality allows. In V for Vendetta, the guy fawkes mask is used as a unifying symbol, to unite the people in their revolution against their totalitarian overlords, and the appropriation of this symbol by the online group, Anonymous, associated with freedom of information and wikileaks, media and speech, seen by Bauman as ‘private issues turned public’ (2000).

Another ephemeral online entity, seeing their collective power as proof of man’s ability to unite and overcome the ‘big brother’ figure of shady government deals, perhaps did not recognise the influence of Rand’s selfish philosophy on the very technologies we are using, and the consequences of allowing privatisation and individual bias in the economy. Anonymous and Wikileaks using technology borne of Rand’s philosophies, to release information about the TPPA to the public, public land and resources being sold for individual gain. Sacrificing using an image of yourself, your body or your interest, you adopt the communal image. This works as a small-scale model of the model which is precisely the exact opposite of Rand’s envisioned utopia. It is merely a point of interest that what the silicon valley gave to us despite being so clearly propelled by Rand’s vision of the self-serving society, could also become so radically communal and focused on an interpretation of the ‘public good’.


Cited Works:

Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity, 2000
Dr. Stephen Berger, GIDEON Informatics, Typhoid and Enteric Fever: Global Status: 2017 edition, 2017
Adam Curtis, All Watched Over By Machines in Loving Grace, 2000
The Wonderful Company, Fiji Water (Marketing Information), 2017
Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus, 2016
Nick Land, Circuitries, 1994
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957
Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man; On the Social Psychology of Capitalism, 1978

Images:

Jennifer Katherine Shields, Vaporware, reassembled found text, 2017
Nick Land, Meltdown (Still, accessed 27 July, 2017), 1994, Uploaded to YouTube, Jan 4, 2016
Azealia Banks, Produced By Owwwls, Directed By FAFI, ‘ATLANTIS – AZEALIA BANKS (**OFFICIAL VIDEO**)’ (Still, accessed 27 July, 2017) Uploaded to YouTube Nov 11, 2012
FIJI Water TV Commercial: Nature’s Gift (Still, accessed 27 July, 2017), Uploaded to YouTube Feb 10, 2015
Louis Fabian Bachrach, ‘Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO’, Date Unknown

Vapourware

In collaboration with First Thursdays Christchurch Where? presents Vapourware, a one night exhibition on the 3rd of August at 383 Colombo Street.

Featuring work from Charlotte Filipov, Karen Greenslade, Hannah Phillips, Brie Sherow, Joy Spence, and Clara Wells.

DJ set on the night from Instant Fantasy.

Exhibition publication designed by Jennifer Katherine Shields including an essay from Charlotte Filipov.

ASSENT // ASCENT

17th March 2017, XCHC

seeking equilibrium but also impossibility of equilibrium // opposing freedoms // different forms of tension and release and not adding a value to that // autobiographical? // finding healthy ways of healing // personal release presented as a physical release by presenting your release // even though we’re physically restrained we’re being released // euphoric freedom and physical liberation // the closer i get to freeing myself the more painful // the more bound i am the more free // i rely on the ropes // the less bound to physicality i am // for all the science and shit it’s quite simple // political // alternative modes of release // inflicting pain on ourselves to become free // confronting // vulnerable // descriptive of society // labour // emotional labour to get by // queer spectrum // displaying bodies as defiance and vulnerability // power in vulnerability

//

photos by Lison Colin and Janneth Gil

//

Patricia Parkin is an emerging Christchurch based artist working predominantly in performance and digital media, including photography, design, and text. They recently graduated Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design with a BFA, and previously completed an Advanced Diploma in Fine Art at Design and Arts College of New Zealand. Their practice is influenced by their fascination of self-archive normalized by social media and the contradictions of connections within social media.

Audrey Baldwin’s practice is predominantly performance based and centres around the body as a fraught space of constant contention. She investigates themes of identity, power and control through binaries such as gender, public/private and abject/erotic. Everyday actions are key fodder for reframing in an absurd or ritualistic manner that aims to destabilise entrenched ideologies.

Assent // Ascent Exhibition Text

seeking equilibrium but also impossibility of equilibrium // opposing freedoms // different forms of tension and release and not adding a value to that // autobiographical? // finding healthy ways of healing // personal release presented as a physical release by presenting your release // even though we’re physically restrained we’re being released // euphoric freedom and physical liberation // the closer i get to freeing myself the more painful // the more bound i am the more free // i rely on the ropes // the less bound to physicality i am // for all the science and shit it’s quite simple // political // alternative modes of release // inflicting pain on ourselves to become free // confronting // vulnerable // descriptive of society // labour // emotional labour to get by // queer spectrum // displaying bodies as defiance and vulnerability // power in vulnerability