Homoculture’s latest contributor Bj McNeill attends Soirée Buffet X The Glory, for Onessi, the second and third segment of a three-part collaboration between some of the emerging queer artists and essential East London favourites.

Image above: ‘148 min into blood’ by Jaime Welsh

I headed down to Canalside studios in east London to check out the Soirée. The setting for the first half of the evening is a studio on Regents canal. It quickly becomes clear that the title of the evening is synonymous with the exhibitions outcome. The buffet component? – The art, beer and cigarettes the crowd willingly feasts on. 

Artists, strangers & queer community supporters mingle and spill out onto the canal front. Inside the studio is the intimate, multifaceted and personal exhibit of Joshua Collings, Jaime Welsh and Kevin Brennan’s work. 

The simple converted space with kitchenette, mezzanine and white walls works well as a studio. Whilst rubbing shoulders & chatting to familiar faces from the east London queer scene, what strikes me is that although a functioning art space, it is clear that this was once a home – and lived in until quite recently. Ingeniously and thematically the studio itself becomes a piece in the show.  

The studio happens to also be the home of artist Jaime. The room has now not only seen the gazing eyes of exhibition strangers but also those of friends, family & queer comrades at dinners, parties & after parties once held there.  This generates a sense of cyclicality from home to creation to art to audience. There are parallel worlds at play.

Although the three artists don’t specifically make work together the pieces feel harmonious in there existence. The collective thread focuses on identity, space, time and structure. Each artist also uses a digital medium. An intimate and multidisciplinary showing, it is queer yet understated and effortless but powerful in it’s presentation. 

Welsh’s photography incorporates elements of 20th century cinema, soft beauty and feminine masculine counterparts. They feel like pictures taken from the sets of European films in the 70s. 

Collings is more avant-guard in his expose. His most captivating piece; the film Magpie. Projected onto a concaved board Magpie combines past and present. It nods to the passing of time and has elements of a postmodern Lewis Carol world.  Movement, song and drag are layered throughout the film, it is urgent and captivating. 

A still from ‘Magpie’ by Joshua Collings 

A still from ‘Magpie’ by Joshua Collings

Brennan nods to video game avatars and plays specifically with time. His video Hey Stranger is an image on infinite loop. The trance like soundscape is suitably present and ominous as much as the figure is exemplary of life’s dangerous path and endless cycle.  

The multiple mediums fix us in the contemporary world and not for a moment do the pieces feel disjointed. The works create a dialogue and journey fostered from the artists spending time with each other and the community that surrounds them. 

Before the soirée ends we are offered a seemingly casual but well placed performance by Adam Christensen on accordion. Their vocals bleed and belt with emotion that has surely seen battle. 

We progresses to infamous queer club The Glory for the later part of the evening where Jeffery Hinton screens a short film. The untitled piece depicts the crowd the canal side studio hints at having hosted in past times and acts as the response to the call of Soirée Buffet. It is forever suited. The films montage is drag, debauchery, nightlife and politics and is the quintessential icing to evenings cake. It screams: this is queer east London and is an important trademark for the LGBTQ+ community.  

‘Hey Stranger’ by Kevin Brennan

‘Hey Stranger’ by Kevin Brennan

Ms Kevin Le Grand performs upstairs belting numbers in all her passion. She is wrapped in an elegant but effortless black Onessi dress designed by Josh Cryne. Josh Quinton DJs the night into the late hours. 

The evenings curation as a whole was thoughtful, fun and progressive. The night conjured a sense of work meets play and highlighted queer community celebration whilst showcasing the queer art coming out of East London in its best light. Keep an eye on all of these artists. 

Onessi, a shop and exhibition featuring works from Josh Cryne, Benaissa Majeri, Waj Hussain and east London essential Princess Julia was the first instalment of the collection which took place on the 28th July. 

I sat down with three of the artists Josh, Kevin and Jaime to discuss their work and the event.  

Bj: Can tell me about Soiree Buffet and what it means to you gals? 

Kevin: For me its basically a show that I’ve been part of with two really close friends, its in a space that we have spent a lot of time together in. 

Bj: Lovely, what were you aiming for in the execution of the show? 

Kevin: The show itself is quite intimate. We wanted to make it quite personal and not to formal and kind of have people come and go as they please. 

Jaime: Yeah, we thought about keeping the exhibition quite casual and honest and a night thing as opposed to a formal exhibition. 

Kevin: It’s about the format of the space, and the relationship that we all have seemed suited to that. 

Jaime: Yeah, we are all friends, me, Josh, Kevin, Adam. 

Kevin: We are all showing work that we have made this year. It’s quite interesting to have the pieces in the space as they all talk to each other in quite an interesting way. They work together in a formal way as well as a conceptual way. 

Bj: Why did you decide to curate the event here? 

Josh: So, it’s also an opportunistic moment that came from a vacant residential space. 

Jaime: I also live here.  

Josh: And basically we decided to use it, considering that spaces are really hard to come by and wack up works between friends. It was kind of loosely curated around that. 

Kevin: Also another thing – I mean this is kind of a side thing – but we have all spent so much time here and had parties and dinners here and Jaime is leaving the flat tomorrow, and I think I was saying this to you earlier, it’s kind of a bitter-sweet, nice way to end this journey. 

Bj: And the name of the evening? 

Jaime: The name came because we had a lot of afters and parties in the house. We used to call them soirée buffet. Buffet because we used to have a buffet of drugs and soirée because it was well, a soirée.  

Bj: Cute! So you’ve not made the pieces together but you’ve made the work around each other? 

Kevin: Yeah I guess it’s interesting because we’ve all been kind of making the work at the same time and so it kind of comes from a similar place. I see it as a time capsule of this relationship. We all become friends very quickly. We all feel very close to each other and I think this show is a nice representation of that. 

Bj: Kevin, can you tell me a bit about your piece hey stranger?

Kevin: The piece is of a character from a previous film of mine. A lot of my work takes from video game culture and meditates on repetitive animations within video games. I’m interested in prolonged animations of avatars. In Hey Stranger it’s shown through the motif of repetition and the character; what he’s wearing, the item he has, they are imbued with certain meanings throughout my larger scale films and isolated and magnified here. I wanted a scenario with this character looking at you in a kind of creepy quasi-innocent way. There is this young boy with a knife but there is also a sinister undertone to it.

Bj: Space seems to be a big factor in this showing. How important is space when curating an event or creating your work? 

Josh: I think space is important but I think… my relationship with space is you’ve just kind of got to take what you can get your hands on and the same with materials and ideas. I think it’s interesting when they all kind of clash and then they end up working. It’s not about how much space you have but about making something work if it’s an opportunity that arises. Be flexible and mould your practice away from what you want it to be and into the reality.

Bj: So you like the challenge of what things could be?  
 
Josh: Exactly. For me that was the main instigator for this. Cause I never would have thought that this was a gallery or exhibition space. But then you have that moment where you’re like, hang on it could be – so lets infiltrate that and use it. 
 
Jaime: I was reading Josh’s dissertation in which he was looking at some quite interesting texts about black queer communities living in Brixton in the 80’s. They didn’t have any spaces to hang out so they would all meet in each other’s houses. We thought about that in relation to the domestic setting and context of our show. All of my work is also shot inside my flat or in my room. The idea is that whoever is acting for me can feel comfortable and safe, to allow for a more intimate environment, particularly when as queer people we don’t always have that many spaces to freely exist in.
BJ: Absolutely! Jaime, can you tell me a little but about your piece 148mins into blood?
Jaime: So that’s a part of a series that I did with our friend Matthew where his image is reflected and doubled through mirrors and screens. For that work I was looking at the language of mirror’s in Jean Cocteau’s film Orpheus and asking Matthew to kind of re-enact specific scenes from it. But it was more about rearranging things, the lighting and the moments rather than trying to create accurate re-enactments. The works are also extremely heavily edited and so that each image is like 5 different images blended into the same one.
Bj: You mention Jean Cocteau. How much does the influence of other artists impact your work?
 
Jaime: I have an obsession with 1950s to 70s European film, I guess because it was a time just before I was born. I’m fascinated by this past time that I can kind of only experience through film and architecture. Most films that I am investigating are films in which the narrative is evolved around interior spaces. Within that subject I am looking at different models of mirroring in cinema such as how the interior spaces of these films operate as a refection of the characters psyche. 
 
For example, I looked at Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Martha. It is like a horror film about power and control, but it is also about interior spaces. It starts off in Rome, in these beautiful baroque interiors that work as a visual feast. The protagonist marries a control freak misogynist that lives in a northern part of Germany in a wooden protestant type of house. She is trapped in that terribly austere interior space, which has no sensuality, no life, no love…and it is a reflection of the psychic space in which she is imprisoned. With my work I’m trying to break these hierarchies of power and heteronormatives that I  see and work them into a queer narrative.

Bj: Josh, Can you tell me a bit about your piece magpie? 

Josh: Ok, I approached both natural and classical spaces through architecture, spaces that have their own weight or historical value or expectation maybe. Then I tried to counter or rupture the boundaries between that space and the people that I was inviting into it, performers that I’m friends with etcetera. I wrote a really loose script that explored the more nuanced side of people that I find interesting and amazing. 

Bj: How was filming? 

Josh: It was a journey, because it wasn’t so much a strict narrative but I knew that there would be a potential of rupturing the structured with the unstructured and how play could be introduced in the those spaces and how that subverts a narrative that may be attached to sights and history. I knew there would be something quite interesting introducing those people into classical structures.  

Bj: Why did you decide to use people from the LGBTQ+ community for Magpie? 

Josh: I invite these people to work with me because I’m interested in them, I love them. I think they are really talented people and I wanted to explore another way where they could explore their own things I within film and I dunno, I wanted it to be very relaxed and tease out something quite natural. 

Bj: How do you think being a queer artist or working with queer artists impacts your work? 

Kevin: I think it definitely does but I think it impacts my work in quite a natural and fluid way. I don’t think I’m trying to put forward an agenda.  Or put forward anything about queerness specifically, but I think my work is very inherently queer. 

Josh: There’s an idea of play and spectatorship that I think is obviously discussed within queer spaces the – how and who and what – is observed and how all of that is enjoyed. I think its nice to create with interesting people who are teasing out these things and creating these links and disrupting things and then hopefully throwing it into an audience that is behind that. 

Kevin: You probably relate to this as well but we’re all doing these crazy things, running around naked or whatever and it kind of just seems quite normal to me. But when people see work like that they might go ‘oh wow that’s very gay or queer or out-here’ but for me these moments with friends that are quite natural and not that strange. I like that it has that impact on other people but for me it’s not so divisive. I would definitely say my work comes from a queer place or whatever but its not specifically focused on trying to be but it is definitely an indelible part of it. 

 

Bj McNeill is a London based queer performer, writer and model originally from Sydney, Australia. Bj wrote, directed and produced the 5 star theatre productions, Torn Apart (dissolution) (2015) & LGBTQ+ political piece Flawed____like a b_y (2018). They also co-created and directed 5 star feminist piece Things That Do Not C(O)UNT (2018). BJ frequently works on queer & LGBTQ+ projects and also writes about and reviews theatre and the arts.