Yes, I wear ‘Umbro’ shorts. But I wear them quite ironically. Which is how all sportswear should be worn, I believe.
Well, Ladies und Gentlemen, spring it seems has sprung. I am, like many of you I know, a somewhat sensitive soul and during the winter months, well, I can get a bit down. But now that the trees are in bloom I’m feeling replenished, reborn and even, I might say, a little frisky – just the sort of mood, in fact, where I should like to deliver an essay. And my essay for today is, loosely, about the obligation of the artist to tell the truth. But in such a way that it is user-friendly.
In this I address you all as fellow artistes whom I encourage to tell your own truth about your own lives. Sometimes, as we know, the truth can be painful and that pain must be converted not so much into pleasure as to humour. Life in a capitalist system is upsetting enough: it’s difficult to live in a society where one can be arrested for assaulting someone but not for making weapons of mass destruction and a lot of you are probably living with clinical depression. But laughter can be very healing. So I would suggest that when you take, say, the memory of a painful experience that rather than merely recount it you accessorise it, camp it up a bit and defiantly represent it as a joke. In the words of Quentin Crisp you must ‘get the joke on our own terms’. Quentin, we know, honed years of misunderstanding, rejection and pain into a unique and brilliant ‘being’ and it is my personal ambition that – if there is a distinction between myself as an artist and myself as a human being – to tear that wall down, brick by brick if necessary, until I am, like Quentin, living in a permanent state of authenticity.
Nowadays, it’s all too easy to take an off-the-peg identity. And, indeed, an off-the-peg physique. But musculature can be a form of armour and those of you who haven’t been to the gymnasium have bodies which are more idiosyncratically your own. Why spend all your time trying to fit in with the so-called ‘consensus’? You have your own truth. Be brave. Don’t just mirror those around you. And do not try to be the ‘boy next door’. You ARE a fabulous queer creature. If you wish to wear a plant pot on your head and a hanging basket suspended from each lobe you must. It’s simply not enough to troll off to Topman or Primark or wherever it is for the latest ‘kit’. Yes, I wear ‘Umbro’ shorts. But I wear them quite ironically. Which is how all sportswear should be worn, I believe.
I don’t, however, believe that clothing has a gender: when people say ‘he’s wearing women’s clothes’ I cannot accept that statement. I think it’s ridiculous that a piece of fabric cut and stitched together in a certain fashion has a gender of its own or represents either the male or the female. Some of us don’t believe in the hetero-orthodoxy of stringently maintained gender roles. We like to think we’ve transcended them. Sometimes I feel that the ‘trans’ community are left out of the gay scene and viewed almost as if they were an embarrassment. But I think the freedom that they have in terms of self-interpretation and self-identification is something we can all learn from. We can all create our own truth and our own way of being.
And we must stop drawing comparisons between our own lives and those of others. In ‘The Apprentice’ we see life presented as a gladiatorial system. We hear of emails from one political party besmirching another. Dog eat dog. Bitch eat bitch. It’s no wonder that children and young people feel so hugely competitive. And can become envious and treacherous, yes, and even murderous. Because there’s a lot of pressure on them to have this and to have that and to establish their status through the ownership of material possessions. But we are human beings and our capacity to love and be loved is far more important than whether one has a shiny new iPod.
We must acknowledge that the societal structures in which we currently live are wholly inadequate. Within our own community there are vast differences: we may live as impoverished artists in search of the truth but we also know there are multi-millionaire gay people whose lives are all about showing how sophisticated they are in terms of their art collections. Art is not artifice; it is a shared experience. Many people believe that lesbian and gay people can lead lives of absolutely no responsibility. But I encourage you to accept responsibility for yourselves and for each other.
I have recently been involved in an arts project with the LGBT homeless in Manchesterford, the town of my abode. Which has been a most rewarding and cathartic experience. I encourage you all to go out into the streets and seek similar experiences. When you share something with the group, whether that be through the medium of painting, drama, or macramé, it does diffuse it. Because your pain is my pain and my pain is yours. Your pleasure is my pleasure and my pleasure is yours. We ARE all one. And I love you ALL. Mind, body, soul und arsehole.
The truth, Ladies and Gentlemen, is I’m never happier than when I’ve got someone sat on my face.
Over and out,
Dave’s Drop-In Centre is at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern every Thursday from April 30th to 4th June.