ROMA CORPOREALITY AND THEIR NON-BINARY SPACES
Kosice, Vienna, Prague, Brno 2021
The work was commissioned by Jindrich Chalupecky Society
WE* ARE AN ERROR
WE ARE A GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM FORCED UPON YOU; WE ARE A MISTAKE TO YOU
OUR PHYSICALITY IS A CONCEPT THAT CONFRONTS AND DISMANTLES THE NORMATIVE ARCHITECTURE YOU HAVE BUILT UPON HATRED AND REPRESSION
OUR IDENTITY IS AN UNSETTLING GAP IN YOUR CONSCIENCE
THE ROMA BODY’S EXOTICISM IS A FETISH OF PAINFUL PLEASURE TO YOU
ROMA PHYSICALITY BECOMES A RADICAL TECHNOLOGY OF SELF-ARMORING
WE STRATEGICALLY USE OUR BODIES AS MATERIAL, THE MATERIAL AS AN INSTRUMENT, THE INSTRUMENT AS A WEAPON AGAINST YOUR HETERONORMATIVE LINEARITY.
WE HAVE STRATEGICALLY LEARNED TO USE OUR ERROR AS SELF-DEFENSE
UP UNTIL TODAY, YOU HAVE CREATED DECEPTIVE AND DIRTY OPINIONS OF US, THEREFORE YOU DON’T KNOW WHO WE ARE
TODAY, LOUDLY AND WITH SOVEREIGNTY, WE* ARE SPEAKING UP DEMONSTRATIVELY TO REFRAME THE IMAGE OF ROMA IDENTITY
Curatorial text for Jindrich Chalupecky Award 2021
“I’m ashamed of myself, and that’s your fault,” says the young non-binary Roma participant, one of 27 unique beings connected by the communal project ERROR initiated by the artist Robert Gabris. During his residency in Košice in the spring, Gabris used dating apps to meet representatives of the Roma queer and non-binary minority – a “multi-marginalized” community whose members are outsiders vis-a-vis both the majority society and the Roma ghetto environment from which this particular group hails. LGBTQIA+ dating apps, which could offer a safe space to connect people who might otherwise have difficulty finding each other, only present yet another platform that enables exploitation, racism and sexual violence against them.
At the meetings between Robert Gabris and the representatives of this heterogeneous group, they shared their experiences, dreamed of alternatives, and attempted to formulate collective demands. A series of interviews and intimate photographs arose, connecting the subjects’ bodies, reflecting individual and collective traumas and feelings of guilt and shame, yet also carrying an emancipatory potential, a longing to move in a new direction.
The photographs, printed on cloth, partially unstitched, form the core of Gabris’s installation at the Moravian Gallery, along with texts excerpts from their conversations together. Through the fabrics and networks of threads, the space becomes physically inaccessible, yet transparent. It is an exclusive place into which exhibition visitors can only view from the outside, because, from their usually privileged position, they are unable to fully understand it. This arrangement is also a demand on art institutions, which are attempting to become more inclusive places than they have been traditionally, to assume an even more radical position – to offer a space within their inclusivity for something quite exclusive; to provide a territorial space they themselves cannot enter, only assist from outside with humility. The physical installation in the gallery is just one element in the whole project.
In addition to the meetings with representatives of the aforementioned community, Gabris is also forging further alliances, with health centers, allied political representatives, non-governmental organizations and a number of further groups and individuals who could contribute to at least a partial shift in addressing the many burning themes surrounding the existence of this group – whether it be about lack of access to and awareness of health care options, the ubiquitous poverty and prostitution as one of few options for generating income, or issues of self-awareness and support systems, security, improving the status of queer, trans and non-binary Roma within their own families and communities, etc. The intention of the project is to establish a long-term platform for finding new ways and further uniting this community, which has been rather disparate until now. The temporary space at this year’s Jindřich Chalupecký Award exhibition is the testimony to the dream of creating a real, physical space that would be a safe environment for meeting, mutual care and development. During the exhibition, it will also become an arena for internal discussion that could give a more concrete shape to the existing vision.
„Take a step back so we can take a step forward“ is a precise decision of a collective that perceives the superficially inclusive concepts of many dominant insti- tutions as a barrier. This ribbon criticizes a fragmentary institutional discourse that advertises normality and self-understanding in the program, thus denying the need for permanent work on oneself and on society. Here We ask how we can forge meaningful alliances and make new structures in institutions more open and diverse. It is not enough to invite ourselves to prestigious exhibitions, because we often risk being silenced by doing so. We have our own demands: We appeal to society to build a caring institution that does not allow diversity to be exploited. Today the space remains closed also as a protection for the participants not to reveal their own identity until the white gaze of a repressive society turns. We are looking at many potentials of change, but unfortunately not many progres- sive movements in institutional structural work. We do not thank you for allowing us to be here, we are negotiating necessary changes in perspective of an open society that has misunderstood the concept of a recognition of radical diversity.
I didn‘t invite you!
Make a step back, so that We* can make a step forward.
We are an ERROR to you.
We are an ERROR in the system that is forced upon you.
I am ashamed of myself and it is your fault.
The exoticization of the Roma body is a fetish of painful pleasure for you.
White people suck our dicks to heal their own racism.
We are here as if for punishment! Laughter as resistance.
I will never give my body to a white man for free.
What is worse? To be a Roma or to be seen as Roma?
The best sex is with you, then at least I know how my own blood tastes.
We are the soldiers of our ghetto!
I have a light on my forehead that has been blinking all my life, that‘s why everyone on the street looks at me.
You can‘t share your feelings with the white people, they don‘t understand you.
A white man always hides his wallet first before he meets you.
When we stop dreaming, society has won over us.
We own nothing except what is inside us. We have agreed to build our own house.
Roma physicality has become a radical technology of self-defense.
We strategically use the body as a material, the material as a tool, the tool as a weapon against your heteronormative linearity.
We* have strategically learned to use ERROR for self-defense.