Leigh Bowery the Australian performance artist, club promoter and fashionista would have been 50 this year had he not died at 33 from Aids. Ironically the I.C.A. in London is celebrating his life this month with a series of lectures and screenings. I mean ‘ironically’ as Bowery was famously banned from the same venue during his career due to his deliberately provocative behaviour.
Although I was tentatively coming out during the eighties, I was desperately uncool to hang around clubs like Taboo where Bowery did his thing. But I was definitely aware of him and his outrageous ‘fashion’ which even then I understood to be neither gay nor straight but somewhere inbetween and played with notions of the body, something that now can be arguably called ‘queer’.
Wikipedia defines ‘queer’ as the following –
The range of what “queer” includes varies. In addition to referring to LGBT-identifying people, it can also encompass: pansexual, pomosexual, intersexual, genderqueer, asexual and autosexual people, and even gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream, e.g., BDSM practitioners, or polyamorous persons.
For some queer-identified people, part of the point of the term “queer” is that it simultaneously builds up and tears down boundaries of identity. For instance, among genderqueer people, who do not solidly identify with one particular gender, once solid gender roles have been torn down, it becomes difficult to situate sexual identity. For some people, the non-specificity of the term is liberating. Queerness becomes a way to simultaneously make a political move against heteronormativity while simultaneously refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics.
Through the scene he circuitously met the artist Lucien Freud, I am sure Leigh loved the warts-an-all portraits. The portraits would have shown him being completely ‘him’, unlike his performance!
Posing in Lucian’s studio
and finally a short performance piece – do you think Lady Gaga might have seen this??