Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an identity that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’ domain.
Used as a piece of source material when making the work Unveiling: Gay Sex For End Times, Director Joe Lui came back to the book Cruising Utopia: The Then And There Of Queer Futurity by Jose Estaban Munoz and realized that he and his co-conspirators (Andrew Sutherland, Michelle Aitken, and Jacinta Larcombe) had managed to make a piece about that very concept. He goes on to say that “queerness can be described as a search for tomorrow, always out of grasp – but that is a wonderful thing because we can always work to do better.”
The performance of Unveiling itself is bizarre, intricate and surreal; from the moment you step into the Blue Room theatre you are confronted by an ethereal looking Michelle Aitken wearing nothing but a locust head, along with a content warning of nudity, fake blood and semen, and real eggs. It just gets weirder from there as you fall down the rabbit hole. In Joe’s own words “The world is full of systems of oppression. Fuck it, we’ll have a party.” Split up into three acts, the work touches on a number of themes – from the tropes of American cinema and depiction of queerness in the cinema, to the Whore of Babylon, to BDSM, to HIV; all tied in together with the destruction of self as a means of reaching utopia.
The timing couldn’t be more appropriate with the current political climate and SSM referendum, although this was apparently purely coincidental. Joe mentions that he directed I Am My Own Wife which was a piece about a trans woman surviving Nazi Germany and communist Russia about a month before Unveiling, both being programmed long before. “I am glad it’s out now” Joe says, “it’s a celebration”.
With the heavy use of symbolism, religious imagery and abstract technique, it may seem that Unveiling toes the line of being contemporary art-wank. However, the sincerity of the performance and the self-aware writing is heartbreaking and incredibly engaging. Everything is deliberate and carefully constructed to shock you, tear you down and then rebuild you. A good example of this is the use of the aforementioned eggs – a symbol of the arguments about children that the queer community face on a daily basis, the idea that Joe describes “humans create families as an idealized version of life… a totem of what gay men especially spend a lot of time being told that they lack…and using this failure as the weaponry against oppression in the play’s final moments.”
Within this part poetry, part post-dramatic theatre mess of an hour there is so much to unpack that you will leave at the end and wonder what the hell you had just witnessed (in a good way), and will leave its imprint in your mind long after the raw eggs and fake semen wash off. “I hope audiences take away a miasma of feelings, reflections and senses… Ideas that ends and transformations and alternative futures are worth working for and dreaming about.”