The Gay Agenda
So what exactly is this ‘gay agenda’ we keep hearing about? It’s a question that has intrigued, offended and amused photographer Kris Darmody and commentator Brenton Geyer so much that they’ve put together an exhibition for Midsumma exploring it – and more importantly, exposing it for what it is. Tim Hunter talks to Darmody and Geyer about their new work.
“It’s a right wing or conservative construction involving politics, religion and social extremists, and its origins have drifted across from the United States and now are very present here in Australia through public statements that believe there is a ‘gay agenda’, whatever it might be, whether it’s to take over the world, or recruit,” says Darmody. “Most people would recognise that it doesn’t exist as a reality.”
“We found the only way to react to this is to make fun of it, and have a lot of fun with it, poke fun at it and highlight its absurdities and its very shaky or invisible foundations,” adds Geyer.
“It’s humiliating and demeaning to try and construct an intelligent response,” continues Darmody, “so how we do that is to construct a response visually...”
“And with tongue planted in check,” interrupts Geyer. “Because there is no reasonable, serious response that exists.”
It’s clear that Darmody and Geyer are both passionate and excited by their project, but it’s also clear that they share the same sensibility, and there’s good reason for that. They’ve known each other for the best part of ten years and have a long history with Midsumma: Darmody is a former board member and president, and Geyer has been involved with the festival in many different roles, including festival manager, since its early days.
Darmody has been studying photography and thought it was time she practised what she’s learnt. Midsumma was the perfect occasion. “I love Midsumma and I find being involved in the festival enhances the experience, and for me it’s a comfortable space, and it’s a good project for me to have.”
Meanwhile, Geyer had been inspired by an exhibition he saw at MOMA in New York by Cindy Sherman that parodied the notion of New York matrons in an intelligent and playful way, and he thought a similar approach to the gay agenda would be fun. He chatted about it with Darmody and soon the concept of the exhibition began to take shape.
Darmody says she recalls “being astounded by a number of the public statements revolving around the amendment of the Marriage Act and them being so insanely ridiculous”.
“There were some key statements that have been represented in the exhibition, such as same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy or bestiality, and I thought that this was something I wanted to explore,” says Darmody.
“Once that seed was planted, the rest just followed, because there was such incredibly ludicrous and unsubstantiated statements made around that time sitting under the banner of the ‘gay agenda’. There was plenty of material.”
The exhibition itself won’t just be a series of photographs, but a collage of images and imagery attached to commentary. “We’re taking those statements that we find offensive and worthy of attack, and we’ve represented them literally,” they say in a tag-team way. “Each depiction will be matched with the statement so it can be viewed and put into context.”
For Geyer and Darmody, both Life Members of Midsumma because of their past contribution, it was important for them to remain involved in the festival.
“It’s important for me to keep giving to the festival and getting cultural benefit, personally and professionally, back from it, but in a different way,” says Geyer. “It’s an opportunity that if you have a voice that is relevant to a cultural event such as Midsumma, to be able to express that.”
“As Life Members, it’s incumbent that we continue to play a role in the development of the festival, because that title is not bestowed on people lightly, and for me, it comes with an expectation that I am present in the festival on some level. Some people might consider they’ve been given the title, so they can retire. I see it the opposite way. You are given a sense of responsibility to feed the festival in some way. I owe it to the festival to contribute.”
“We have both stepped away for the last few years, and I want to be involved again,” adds Darmody. “Some of the best years of my life were being part of Midsumma, and I’ve missed it. Having a project makes you an active participant.”
“The fact that this is the 25th festival is even more reason to celebrate inclusions from past participants and recognising what has gone before,” says Geyer.
“And a part of that is also recognising that Midsumma is still a very relevant and important festival,” finishes Darmody.
The Gay Agenda runs from January 25 – February 3 at OnStone, 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne. Entry is free. midsumma.org.au
(Image title – ‘Date Night’ by Kris Darmody and Brenton Geyer )
“There are even some creepy people out there – and I say ‘creepy’ deliberately – who are unfortunately afforded a great deal more respect than I believe they deserve. These creepy people say it is okay to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step? In the future will we say, ‘These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be joined in a union.’” Senator Cory Bernardi. Senate debates Tuesday, 18 September 2012. Marriage Amendment Bill (No.2) 2012.