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Why gay-friendly Taiwan is a creative haven for LGBTQ art – CNN



Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Around this time last year, Taiwan was gearing up to host Asia’s largest ever Pride parade having just become the first place on the continent to legalize same-sex marriage.

More than 4,000 gay couples have since taken advantage of the landmark legislation. But beyond being able to tie the knot, the island’s LGBTQ communities are feeling the positive effects of the law in various other ways.

For Taiwan’s LGBTQ visual artists, for instance, the past year has heralded new forms of creative expression, according to photographer Su Misu, whose explorations of gender identity, sexuality and bondage range from candid nudes to fantastical subversions of religious imagery.

“More and more people are exhibiting their own self-identity, using their creative voice to express individuality,” she said over email. “People are also beginning to construct the histories of the LGBTQI movement in Taiwan, calling for others to participate and study it. All this can help the gay community, which focuses on different issues, to thrive.”

“I am a fake but my heart is true,” a 2016 image by Taiwanese photographer Su Misu, whose work explores gender identity, sexuality and bondage. Credit: Su Misu/Chi-Wen Gallery

Even before the marriage legislation, LGBTQ artists in Taiwan enjoyed a level of creative freedom denied to their counterparts in many parts of Asia.

Beyond the legal rights of expression enshrined in its constitution, Taiwan ranked 34th in the world (and 2nd in Asia, after Thailand) in a gay happiness index based on the experiences of 115,000 men from around the world. A recent report on workplace equality by the island’s oldest registered LGBTQ organization, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, found that the territory’s art sector was among the industries in which respondents felt “most comfortable” about coming out to co-workers.
Coupled with the island’s generous public arts funding, this atmosphere has produced a welcoming environment for LGBTQ art. And in 2017, just months after Taiwan’s constitutional court paved the way for the marriage law by declaring same-sex marriage a legal right, the gay art scene was afforded rare mainstream attention with the exhibition “Spectrosynthesis — Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now.”
Ku Fu-Sheng's 1983 "The Room at the Top of the Stairs," on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, in 2017.

Ku Fu-Sheng’s 1983 “The Room at the Top of the Stairs,” on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, in 2017. Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei/Sunpride Foundation

Billed as Asia’s first major LGBTQ art show, the program featured over 50 works by 22 artists (from places including Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore, as well as the Asian diaspora) addressing a range of topics, from forbidden love to sexual violence. Staging the show at a large public institution, Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), meant that LGBTQ art had a rare opportunity to reach mainstream audiences, according to Patrick Sun, founder of the non-profit organization behind the show, Sunpride Foundation.

“If we do a show at a private gallery then I’m sure all my friends would come,” he said in a phone interview from Hong Kong, where he’s based. “But we want to talk to the general public.”

A ‘political victory’

For one of the show’s participants, 44-year-old avant-garde filmmaker Su Hui-Yu (no relation to Su Misu), the show represented a “political victory” that proved especially heartening for young artists.

“In Taiwan, it represented the changing of the wave (that) even a public museum would love to curate the show. It’s more symbolic in a political dimension than in (an) artistic one. But I think it encouraged art students a lot.”

A still from "Nue Quan" by Su Hui-Yu, an artist who explores LGBTQ issues and themes in his work.

A still from “Nue Quan” by Su Hui-Yu, an artist who explores LGBTQ issues and themes in his work. Credit: Su Hui-Yu / Double Square Gallery

For Su’s generation, however, the gay art scene has long been flourishing. Although straight, his work has often explored LGBTQ topics. One of his most recent projects saw Su film unrealized scenes from “The Glamorous Boys of Tang,” a homoerotic fantasy movie featuring orgies, killings and an exorcism, that was released without parts of the original screenplay, as Su believes they were deemed inappropriate in conservative 1980s Taiwan.

“There was already a strong tradition of queer study (and) queer art in Taiwan since the 1990s (and) since the lifting of martial law,” he said, over email, of the repressive military rule that formally ended in 1987.

A still from filmmaker Su Hui-Yu's project "The Glamorous Boys of Tang," which was based on unrealized scenes from the screenplay of a 1985 homoerotic fantasy movie of the same name.

A still from filmmaker Su Hui-Yu’s project “The Glamorous Boys of Tang,” which was based on unrealized scenes from the screenplay of a 1985 homoerotic fantasy movie of the same name. Credit: Su Hui-Yu

It was this decade that saw the opening of LGBTQ-friendly venues like IT Park and the Gin Gin Bookstore, which has housed a gallery space in Taipei for more than 20 years, alongside an explosion in gay literature, nightlife and academic discourse. But while gay artists were free to practice their art, conservative attitudes persisted.

When same-sex marriage legislation was first proposed in Taiwan in the early 2000s, it faced vociferous opposition. So-called conversion therapy, a pseudoscience that attempts to “treat” homosexuality, remained prevalent (it was only formally banned in 2018). Organizers of a 2003 exhibition of works made by gay artists during consensual art therapy even felt it necessary to clarify in the show’s notes: “This exhibition is not to show LGBT people need to be cured.”
Participants at Taiwan's annual gay pride parade pictured outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei in October 2019.

Participants at Taiwan’s annual gay pride parade pictured outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei in October 2019. Credit: Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

In the euphoric aftermath of the passing of the same-sex marriage bill in 2019, it was easy to forget that 67% of voters had, in fact, rejected the idea in a referendum a year earlier. The Taiwanese government pressed ahead with the law, though some rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, such as cross-national marriage, are still prohibited.
A scene from digital artist Wang Jun-Jieh's "Passion," which was screened at the "Spectrosynthesis" show in Taipei in 2017.

A scene from digital artist Wang Jun-Jieh’s “Passion,” which was screened at the “Spectrosynthesis” show in Taipei in 2017. Credit: Wang Jun-Jieh

For 36-year-old photographer 526 (a pseudonym pronounced “five two six”) it was family pressures rather than societal ones that stopped him from openly practicing his art, which includes intimate portraits of trans and LGBTQ subjects taken in their own bedrooms (pictured top).

“Even today, my parents are still afraid to tell their friends what I am doing,” he said over email. “It’s frustrating that even your parents can’t see your value, or tell others that their son is gay. I hope they can be brave, because … we need stand out and let all the people know: We are here.”

Nonetheless, he said that visibility of LGBTQ art is getting “better and better,” and that Taiwan’s progressive environment “makes it a good place to make art.” He pinpoints the legalization of same-sex marriage as not only a landmark in his artistic identity, but in his life more generally.

“I couldn’t have imagined that (the law) would happen in my lifetime,” he said. “If I’d known this would happen, I would probably not have stayed in the closet for 31 years.”

A beacon for Asia

The relative freedoms of Taiwan’s LGBTQ artists come into sharp focus when compared to their Asian neighbors. In Japan and South Korea, there are no real legal restrictions, though conservative attitudes prevent their respective scenes from thriving in quite the same way. At the other end of the spectrum, homosexuality remains a punishable crime in parts of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Brunei and some areas of Indonesia.

In between, there are a number of places that ostensibly allow gay art to be displayed, but where censorship remains a significant barrier. In mainland China, for instance, authorities have been known to periodically close down LGBTQ exhibitions without explanation.
Meanwhile in Singapore, where artists are permitted to exhibit LGBTQ-themed work despite the fact that gay sex is illegal (a law that is rarely enforced), censorship is also common. In 2016, authorities removed a number of items, including sex toys, from artist Loo Zihan’s exhibition “Queer Objects,” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, due to obscenity laws. (A few years earlier, Loo responded to an age restriction placed on one of his shows by photocopying visitors’ ID cards and incorporating them into the displays.)
The idea that Taiwan can serve as a beacon for the rest of Asia was a key idea behind “Spectrosynthesis.” Speaking to CNN at the time, curator Sean Hu expressed his hope that the Taipei show would have “a ripple effect across Asian society.”
Installation view of Hou Chun-Ming's "Man Hole" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, for the show "Spectrosynthesis."

Installation view of Hou Chun-Ming’s “Man Hole” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, for the show “Spectrosynthesis.” Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei/Sunpride Foundation

Indeed, a second edition of the show has since been held in Thailand — again at a mainstream, publicly-funded venue, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre — featuring almost three times the number of artists. A third is planned for Hong Kong in 2022, with Sun expressing hopes for them becoming a “new normal” in other Asian cities.

With Taiwan attempting to establish itself as a commercial arts destination (the launch of the Taipei Dangdai art fair in 2019 signaled that the island may hope to challenge Hong Kong’s domination of the Asian market), the island’s gay artists could, in turn, benefit from the growing international profile.

One such artist, Tzeng Yi-Hsin said she experienced an uptick in international inquiries after two of her images were featured in “Spectrosynthesis.”

“I didn’t get a lot of response or feedback from inside Taiwan, but right after the show, I received more interest and approaches from people outside,” she said, citing interest from Japanese collectors and Western media.

Tzeng Yi-Hsin's "Olympia," based on a Édouard Manet painting of the same name, is one of a series of pictures that saw the artist and photographer reenact famous paintings from art history.

Tzeng Yi-Hsin’s “Olympia,” based on a Édouard Manet painting of the same name, is one of a series of pictures that saw the artist and photographer reenact famous paintings from art history. Credit: Tzeng Yi-Hsin

Another shot from Tzeng's series recreates Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe" (The Luncheon on the Grass).

Another shot from Tzeng’s series recreates Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” (The Luncheon on the Grass). Credit: Tzeng Yi-Hsin

However, Tzeng also expressed reservations about the exhibition’s heavy focus on male artists. Only three of the 22 participating artists were female, with just one identifying as transgender. (Sun welcomed the critique, saying he “took it to heart” and is ensuring that his foundation makes “a conscious effort to include female and transgender artists.”)

For the 41-year-old artist and photographer, this curatorial decision represents a wider problem facing the arts in Taiwan: That gay male artists continue to take a disproportionate chunk of the limelight.

“The majority of curators and collectors are male, and, from my perspective, they are more interested in gay male art,” she said, adding: “We all notice that there are a lot of gay artists (in Taiwan), but if a curator asks, ‘Who’s a lesbian artist?’ No one knows.”

Eschewing labels

According to Su Misu, an oversimplification of LGBTQ issues is another obstacle facing Taiwan’s gay artists. She identified a variety of difficult or challenging topics that remain hard to address in mainstream forums.

“Issues deemed ‘taboo’ need more visibility, including drug abuse, AIDS, sex workers, transgender people, disabled people and BDSM practitioners,” she said, adding that exploring these topics could help challenge “inaccurate stereotypes about sex and gender.”

Art that conforms with the public’s existing ideas about LGBTQ communities will, she said “only reinforce labeling minority groups.”

Pride 2020: A history of the rainbow flag

Even the concept of LGBTQ art itself may be a generalization said Tzeng, who doesn’t recognize the existence of a gay art “scene,” per se, in Taipei. While some of her work directly addresses LGBTQ themes, much of it is unrelated to her sexuality, such as her iconoclastic images defacing classic paintings or photographs of pop cultural and political figures like former Taiwanese leader Chiang Kai-shek.

“I never identified myself as a gay artist. I know my identity, but I’m just doing my own work.”

Tzeng's "My Dear Lovers" series saw her "defacing" various images and photographs.

Tzeng’s “My Dear Lovers” series saw her “defacing” various images and photographs. Credit: Tzeng Yi-Hsin

It’s a point also raised by Sun who, despite organizing LGBTQ-themed exhibitions, said that artists’ primary concern is “not to be labeled in expressing what they want to say.” But whether that means organizations like his might, in an ideal future, no longer need to exist, is a moot point given the widespread challenges facing Asia’s gay artists, he said.

“In the next 10 or 15 years we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “So we can worry about that when the world has changed!”

Top image: An intimate portrait by Taipei-based photographer 526.

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Barrie bylaw demands 10-year-old's Canadian flag art be removed from city property – CTV News



Erin van Kessel said she was sitting outside her north-end Barrie home Thursday morning when a bylaw officer handed her a warning.

The Barrie resident was told she would have to remove chalk art of a Canadian flag drawn by her 10-year-old daughter to celebrate Canada Day.

“2004-142-2,” recited van Kessel, while looking over the document citing her infraction. The city’s bylaw for that particular code refers to the use of public property.

“No person shall throw, drop, place, or otherwise deposit garbage, paper, paper or plastic products, cans, rubbish, or other debris on any city property unless authorized by the city,” she read.

Van Kessel said large green plastic objects, which may have been children’s items left at the curb near the end of her driveway, did not belong to her.

The issue with the chalk art, however, has left her disappointed.

Van Kessel was told by the bylaw officer someone had complained about the chalk art spray painted on the lawn at the end of her driveway.

The chunk of grass, painted red and white, is city property.

“They couldn’t really say why. I mean, mostly because it is on city property, but really?” said van Kessel in response to the bylaw violation.

Van Kessel was told she had 24 hours to remove her daughter’s chalk painting from the lawn or face a potential fine.

Van Kessel said her daughter is distraught and doesn’t understand why it needs to be removed.

“Not too happy,” said van Kessel. “Because she did put a lot of work into it, and now we have to remove it. It’s a child doing something exciting when she’s been stuck in the house for four months, and no school, no friends, so what more is there to do?”

The City of Barrie confirmed a complaint was made, and a bylaw officer visited the home, providing the following statement to CTV News:

“The city’s enforcement services received and responded to a complaint about individuals painting on city property.

Bylaw officers are obligated to investigate and respond to all complaints received. While the homeowner advised that the paint was washable, the officer was unable to confirm if it was or not, which was why the property owner was warned that they had 24 hours to remove it from the city’s boulevard.

A warning was issued to the property owner, not the child.”

Van Kessel said she does intend to remove the artwork.

“I guess other people don’t appreciate it or look at it the same way we do,” she said.

“What can you do? I guess it’s the way of the world these days.”

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MSS adds three to permanent art collection – Merritt Herald – Merritt Herald



Janelle Gage.

Three Merritt Secondary students have had their pieces inducted into the MSS permanent art collection.

Kaleb Hall Moses, Janelle Gage, and Sedona Reed all had their art entered into the hallowed hall, a yearly tradition for the MSS art department.

Kaleb Hall Moses.

The collection goes by the name ‘the Margaret Reynoldson Collection.’ The submitted pieces are judged by a jury of art lovers, while the chosen pieces are purchased from the students.

Representatives from the high school said that the current pandemic did not discourage students from submitting their pieces this year, which they originally did digitally.

Each chosen piece is to be professionally framed and given a plaque providing the artist’s name and year of creation.

Sedona Reed.

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Backyard BBQ: How Art of BBQ chef and owner Trevor David makes his Big Bang Brisket – Toronto Life



Backyard BBQ: How Art of BBQ chef and owner Trevor David makes his Big Bang Brisket

Now that it’s officially barbecue season, we’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what summer dishes they’re grilling in their own backyards, on their balconies or in their kitchens

Like many of us, Art of BBQ chef and owner Trevor David is at home more than usual these days. We asked the social-distancing chef what summer dishes he’s grilling. His recipe: super-tender smoked brisket

Low and slow is the way to go for pitmaster Trevor David’s tender brisket, a fan favourite at his new Scarborough restaurant Art of BBQ. “I came up with my Big Bang Brisket after experimenting in my kitchen. I love combining different herbs and sauces to see what I come up with,” says David. “Exploring through flavours is integral to the process of pushing the boundaries of our taste buds.”

For this particular recipe, inspiration struck when David came across a bottle of oyster sauce in his pantry. “I just had fun with it—added a dash of this and a bit of that—and the brisket came together wonderfully after spending some time in the smoker.” Although David says this was a culinary experiment and there were all kinds of things that could go wrong, it worked. The result was an explosion of flavour. “Kind of like the Big Bang that created our universe,” he says.

David loves the umami hit the oyster sauce imparts to the brisket. “It’s overlaid with the mustardy tang and warmth from the aromatic spices, and then of course you have the crowning glory: the fatty char from the barbecue.”

Good brisket needs equally good sides. David recommends cornbread, rice and peas, coleslaw and a fresh garden salad. “And to wash it all down, I love fresh mango juice or a nice cold beer from Left Field Brewery.”

No smoker? No problem. Skip to the end of this post for instructions on how to make David’s Big Bang Brisket in your oven.

Here’s what you’ll need

1 five-pound brisket
½ cup oyster sauce
½ cup mustard
½ cup puréed herb paste (equal parts fresh ginger, garlic and cilantro)
½ cup cracked black pepper
¼ cup sea salt
5 tbsp allspice
5 tbsp of cinnamon

Plastic spray bottle (for spritzing the brisket) filled with one to two cups with your choice of water, apple juice or apple cider vinegar.

The recipe

Using your hands, rub the sea salt all over the brisket.

Mix the oyster sauce, mustard and herb paste together in a bowl. Then rub it all over the brisket.

Mix the allspice, cinnamon and pepper in a bowl and then—you guessed it—rub it all over that brisket. It’s messy work, but it’s worth it.

Now cover the brisket in plastic wrap and let it marinate in the fridge for 48 to 72 hours. Not patient enough? It’s totally fine to start smoking it now.

Preheat your smoker to about 300°F and place the brisket in. Lower the temperature to 200°F and smoke for about 7½ to 8 hours (this works out to about 1½ hours per pound).

Where there’s smoke, there’s barbecue

Meanwhile, fill a heatproof bowl with water and place it in the smoker. This will help generate moisture. Replenish as necessary.

Let the brisket smoke for two to three hours. Then, spritz it with water (or whatever you filled up your spray bottle with) every 30 minutes. This—along with that bowl of water in the smoker—helps ensure that the brisket stays nice and moist.

After smoking, remove the brisket and wrap in tin foil or plastic wrap. Let it rest for 2 hours.

Slice your brisket against the grain and serve.

David demonstrates how to slice against the grain

Enjoy! (And don’t forget those sides.)

David’s finished brisket, with all the fixin’s
Oven method

Preheat the oven to 350°F. When it comes to temperature, lower the heat to 300°F.

Pour three cups of water or beef stock into a roasting pan.

Place your brisket in the roasting pan, then cover with tin foil.

Slow-cook for about 6 to 7 hours.

Keep an eye on the water level: if it starts to drop, add another cup of water to the roasting pan. Repeat if necessary.

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