Unicorns And Monster Trucks
Queer City Cinema wants you to get your “thing” on, whatever that may be
by Carle Steel
Outside my window, middle-aged men in leather chaps roar up and down Albert Street on their Harleys. From seven in the morning until midnight most days, Albert is a dull throb of trucks, muscle cars, foreign sports cars and those high pitched girl-repelling Suzuki racers (their riders in equally silly outfits). A few blocks away are two 20-storey boners to Rider Pride in the form of massive banners on the twin towers. You’d think, from this very public display of affection, the whole the town is fantasizing about watching big, muscular men dressed in tight satin pants pummel each other before an orgy of screaming devotees dressed in body paint and watermelons.
Let’s face it: Regina’s a pretty flamboyant place.
That’s the thing about modern culture: to some, even in this football-crazed, truck-lovin’ Mecca for all things straight, green is just another colour in that gay old rainbow.
With this year’s Extramendous theme, Queer City Cinema is queering up ideas about art, sexuality and identity by blending hetero images with the not-so-hetero. Monster trucks and body builders, unicorns and rainbows all playing together. (Dare we say frolicking?)
The visuals are representative of the discordant elements of this year’s QCC programming, which the organizers promise will be “colourful, demanding, playful, unforgettable, unsettling, thoughtful, whimsical, non-narrative, experimental, smart, unyielding, inventive, sweet, sorrowful, joyful, kind, rude, raw, dissonant, happy, sour, sassy, personal, tremendous, extreme and, of course, queer.”
Gary Varro, curator and creator of the festival, says the seed for this year’s theme was planted by a short video by former Saskatoon artist Clark Nikolai, whose Galactic Docking Company intercuts found NASA footage of men in an aeronautics control room clapping and smoking, with an image of two space penises docking on screen. The found footage presents images of presumably straight men in a male-only environment (this was the still-repressive sixties; if there were women working at NASA, it’s not in this footage) and turns it on its head. (Or in this case, heads.) In this day and age, the smoking alone is subversive enough.
Varro says the film expressed a way of negotiating queerness, capturing a playful, subversive quality with an extra layer of irony and wit. “But there was also a remnant of underground filmmaking, which was about irreverent play, skewing things in a way that was experimental, subversive, that to me spoke about being queer. It’s [like] taking something like the monster truck and reworking it so that it’s within a queer context,” he says. “It’s uncompromising work, which has a very specific point of view — which in this case is silliness.”
Whatever the point of view in the works presented — from the hardcore twisting of the hetero-male sports arena in “No Safe Words” to the gender-obfuscation of some of the performance work — Extramendous adds a little sparkle to the easier, narrative-based gay work shown in other festivals.
Varro says the works are more about a queer sensibility than identifiably queer content. “I always argue that there’s a sensibility there, and sensibilities are not always things you can describe. Not everyone will necessarily share that perspective,” he says.
And while the programming ranges from fun and campy to touching and gentle, Varro warns some of the performances could be difficult to approach. The sound art component, in particular, will be challenging for most people. “Is there such a thing as queer sound? It’s not an extreme idea, it’s just taking thought to an extreme place beyond where most people would know what it means.”
Extramendous, with its mash-up aesthetic of rainbows and monster trucks, raises questions around mainstream hetero and gay culture that it has no intention of answering.