Queer Trapeze Terrorist

Picture of Jean Paul Zaccarini as Queer Trapeze Terrorists
everything talks to Jean Paul Zaccarini

Image 1:

JPZ: Queer Trapeze Terrorist is a character who likes to trash mainstream gay culture and the appropriation of the worthy concept of Queer. The idea of Queer was originally all about difference and the acceptance of things beyond gay culture. That concept has now become a fashion statement. Queer has been reappropriated, it's become a buzz word which represents little more than 'a gay person who's quite hip'. The show is trying to reintroduce a critical perspective into the gay scene. Although there has been a debate around the issues raised in the book Anti Gay [edited by Mark Simpson] I have a problem with some of it. It lacks a little bit of compassion and understanding as to why gay people are such victims of consumerism and life-styles, so I wanted to delve a little bit deeper and explore those issues. I've been that person and I know what it's like to be enthralled by the drugs and the bodies. The show is using gay culture as an example of the excesses of commodities and consumption.

e:So you see gay culture as something that has become institutionalised ?

JPZ: The gay culture, as represented in the gay press, and on the odd occasions it manages to get into the mainstream press, leaves so much out -you don't see fat people, ugly or old people- you just see these skinny, perfectly shaved, beautiful boys.

e: And you think the gay community is complicit in this one dimensional representation ?

JPZ:Well, it's very hard when people are having such a good time - and getting a rush of endomorphines from going to the gym four times a week, to say to themselves: 'look, stop and think about the repercussions of what you're doing. Think how shallow this is'. We're very far away from getting the degree of emancipation and acceptance we're looking for and I believe the wrong way to go about it is to assimilate into straight society (not heterosexual, but straight society.) It's the homogenising of the gay scene that I'm against. We're no better or worse but we certainly are different and we should be exploring that rather than trying to get married or get into the forces. That's a farcical example of the way gay liberation is heading.

e: It reminds me of that liberal notion of 'integration', which fails to celebrate or recognise difference. There's a 70s pop song that goes:
'What we need is a great big melting pot
big enough to take the world and all it's got
keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
turn out coffee coloured people by the score...'
So, the implication is, It'll be OK when we're all the same.

JPZ: I used to call myself Queer in the early 90s, when Hommocult were producing Situationist stuff on a Queer angle, being Queer was definitely different to being Gay back then. Now that there isn't that distinction I'm not in the mood to create a new word to describe what I am, or the people I know who are dissatisfied with the whole thing, I'm not into creating a new 'ism'. Things move so fast now, there's always the next big thing and I just think: 'why bother entering into that rat race ?'

e: You use work in a satirical manner to parody these extremes.

JPZ:I use a lot of popular media - I was trained as a dancer and a mime - and there's obviously the circus bit. There are a lot of aesthetically beautiful images in my work which are a sugar coating for uncomfortable messages. The parody happens from being an on the street artist, from seeing how people behave and what people say in bars and clubs. I'm quite interested in producing images that people see and say : 'Oh, that's really beautiful and glamorous' and then having an undercurrent of sarcasm which says 'I'm being ironic here'. There's a very big irony in my life because I can see how seductive all that is. Getting attention is such a powerful drug. I can see the need to be beautiful, have a good body and have the right clothes but I want to give it an ironic angle.

e:But there are two types of irony. There's the irony that masks a void -which is just a reflection of itself - so that when you take all the wrapping off there's nothing there, and another irony which has a critical axis point, so that when you take the wrapping off there's a bomb inside.

JPZ: Ok, I'll give you an example of how I use it. I do Big Spender on a pole - all very glam drag, sung properly, and then it goes very drum and bass. I'm trying to be like some black, sinuous dyke with braids. Over the top we'll have a performance poetess, ranting. I'll be giving a product that's gorgeous to look at, selling myself to them, bogelling in their faces, while over the top of it is this really clear diatribe about the images we sell, how if we want to get involved in that sort of scene, we're all whores at base. So there isn't a lot of room for the audience to try and figure it out. I do appreciate the rant, used cautiously, as an art form, just getting up and saying 'This is where it's fucking at.' There are other parts of the show that present grey areas, where the audience can say 'I'm not sure where I stand with this' I think that's the balance of the show. The way we dress is so full of references to who we want to be seen as, who we want to attract. The Gay scene can be listed through the commodities people buy, the places they are seen at, and I want to just strip that away throughout the show. If some one is terribly avant-garde in the way they dress and they visually convey a certain statement I'm not going to assume anything. They could be as thick as pig shit and have absolutely no taste but have a particular image off pat.This is what I want to deconstruct.

e:But anybody would feel threatened by this . Somebody who buys their cloths from Millets and dresses in camouflage wear, they have a constructed identity too.

JPZ: But beyond the wrapping I'm not sure there's anything there. What is behind those army pants or the Comme des Garcons or Dolce & Gabbana ? It's really initial, really peacock like, and I'm not sure there's an awful lot beyond it. They don't have time, poor things, they've got so much gym to do, so much shopping, so many mags to read and they have to go out quite a lot otherwise they would start to lose their grip. There isn't enough time in the day to develop a personality.

e:So, where did you get yours from ?

JPZ: I didn't do the gay scene for very long - maybe about six months. This is the story: I was a vegetarian and very skinny but then I slipped and started eating meat. Suddenly I had a pair of tits on me, muscles and a nice wardrobe. I spent six months just loving all the attention I was getting. I was suddenly the guy who would have been my ideal boyfriend six months previously. I found it was very easy to shag very beautiful men if you kept your mouth shut. There's a romantic illusion that they want to get to know you, but the more personality you have, and the more complicated you are, the more of a hindrance it is. So why complicate the issue? Why start thinking about things when it could ruin your night? You just want to go out and have a good time. We've been oppressed for so long it's about time we came out and really lived and enjoyed ourselves, we have a really affluent life-style so why complicate things ?

e: Someone was once asked what their greatest wish in life would be and they replied: 'To be incredibly beautiful and incredibly stupid.'

JPZ: What more could you ask for ?

e: How do the exhibition and the performance relate ?

JPZ: I chose the artists because they understand the issues and I trust that their work will bring out the ideas. It isn't gay specific, hopefully straight people will understand that I'm only using gay culture as an example. Whore is about how you sell and what you allow to be brought. I would like it to be provocative and confrontational, it might be nasty sometimes but its point is always humanitarian: we have to be this nasty to make you understand that we can be this good.

© Interview Steve Rushton 1997

© Photo: Ruth Fownes Walpole elogo