Exhibition of LGBT Media in Detroit
Gay Tape: Butch and Femme (1985) screened recently at the Valade Family Gallery in Detroit. Many thanks to curators Scott Northrup and Jonathan Rajewsky!
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay
Desire as Politics presents a selection of LGBTQ perspectives in contemporary film and video from 1985 to 2017. The exhibition is not meant to summarize this arbitrary span of time, but rather to look at works exploring a range of identities, social constraints and prejudices unique to LGBTQ positions, including representation, fantasy, fear, love and the blurring of binaries, positions that we feel are vital in our current climate.
Scott Northrup & Jonathan Rajewski
From the exhibition catalogue:
Dougherty’s first video, made while she was studying at Berkely:
“I made it just around the time when the term ‘gay’ was for everyone and then ‘lesbian and gay’ become the new term, until we progressed to ‘LGBTQ’.
“Gay Tape is a documentary about some of the regulars at Ollie’s Bar, a lesbian dive on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. The 1970s sartorial statement of flannel shirts, 501s, and Frye boots was passé and at odds with the new eighties aesthetic—tons of makeup, big hair, and complicated lingerie. Along with the new aesthetic came the reemergence of good old fashioned butch-femme role-playing. While the femmes pranced around like Stevie Nicks, their butch girlfriends reverted to an earlier role model, acting out fifties and sixties-style tough girl with brilliant aplomb. I asked some of the women from Ollie’s to talk on camera about role-playing.
“The camera instantly gave me too much control over content, so I tried to balance it by providing a platform for the women to speak on the butch-femme issue without overtly directing them. I relinquished authorship in favor of revelation and avoided coming to conclusions; the speakers were experts as well as subjects and could say whatever occurred to them. They spoke extemporaneously about their lovers, the details of their sexual identities, and their fantasies. My girlfriend at the time was one of the subjects. As her story unfolded I realized from my privileged position behind the lens that the lover she was describing in detail was not me. So much for the power of the gaze!
At a recent screening, the audience was interested in the difference between butch and transgendered, maybe not understanding that there were trans people in the community in 1985. I think there’s a distinction and as always, the people making the distinction are self-identified.”