Lionel Soukaz and Sexual Liberation Today
– curated by Paul Clinton at Gasworks and LUX, London
'As a non-hierarchical, alcohol-free forum, it promoted deeper relationships with artworks, where people could discuss how to move forward in solidarity.'
– review by Sean Burns, frieze
Militant Desire is a programme of film forums and consciousness-raising sessions around the experimental films of French gay liberation pioneer Lionel Soukaz. Rather than merely situating his films in historical context, against the backdrop of sexual liberation movements in 1970s France, this programme aims to test their current relevance for intersectional and anti-capitalist queer debates in the present.
An early member of the Front for Homosexual Revolutionary Action (FHAR), filmmaker Lionel Soukaz worked together with writers, activists and public intellectuals including Guy Hocquenghem, Michel Foucault, Hervé Guibert and other pioneering figures in the early discourse of queer theory. His films from the 1970s and 1980s constitute a radical critique of assimilationist politics and anticipate contemporary concerns including the co-optation of queer culture; race and gay rights as a colonial project; the invisibility of working class people within the queer community; and the class and gender divide within revolutionary politics.
Militant Desire attempts to test if these films and activist strategies from our immediate past have undetonated potential in the present. To this end, the programme revives the 1970s activist model of the consciousness-raising session or film forum. Each screening will be followed by the group sharing and discussing their experience of the issues raised and how we might effect change in the present. Through these sessions, the institution learns from its audience and the form of the retrospective is rethought as future facing, dynamic and vital to grassroots politics.
This is the first retrospective of Soukaz’s work in the UK for two decades. Following three screenings at Gasworks, a programme at LUX will be the first to situate Soukaz’s output in the context of his British contemporaries. The printed guide to his work – with new and collected texts – will be the first published in the UK, and several of the films have never before been shown in this country.
Militant Desire is a programme curated by Paul Clinton. The programme is jointly presented by Gasworks and LUX thanks to the generous support of Fluxus Art Projects.
Film Forums at Gasworks
Consciousness-raising sessions are designed to focus energy on particular issues and the real ways in which they affect daily life for political minorities. The film forms the springboard for the participants to discuss the effects of oppression on their own lives and to collectively devise solutions to tackle them.
Wednesday 29 May, 7pm
Assimilation and Commercialism:
Lionel Soukaz, Race D’Ep: The Homosexual Century, 1979 (95 minutes, 16mm on DV)
Race d’Ep, made in collaboration with the ‘father of queer theory’, Guy Hocquenghem, examines the oppression and empowerment of homosexuals through their relationship to representation and images. Soukaz critiques both the trivialisation of identity politics and the assimilation of gay culture to existing social norms.
Wednesday 5 June
Race and Colonialism:
Lionel Soukaz, Tino, 1985 (27 minutes)
Tino examines the ways in which gay rights can be an imperialist project, ignoring differences of race and class. A contemporary scenario, in which American journalist Doug Ireland visits Europe and meets an oppressed young Arab man, is played against the celebrated story of Emperor Hadrian’s relationship with his favourite Antinous.
Wednesday 12 June
Working Class Queer Culture:
Lionel Soukaz, Maman que Man, 1982. (42 minutes); Gay March, 1980 (13 minutes)
A fiction film about the estrangement that comes between a young gay artist and his working class family.
Thursday 27th June
Soukaz's most unrelenting film IXE, 1980, a reaction both to the censorship of Race d'Ep, the rise of the New Right with its heteronormative family values and the homonormativity of supposedly liberated gay life – an expression of his ambivalence towards what passed for mainstream LGBT politics. If IXE predicts a shift toward right wing powers in the 1980s the film chosen to accomapny it charted this conservative turn in real time, often mirroring techniques used by Soukaz such as irony in music and montage, editing with the rhythms of the body, fictionalising use of found footage and the inclusion of the filmmaker himself in his satire. The other works were: Tom Chomont's Razorhead, Vera Frenkel's Cenored: The Buisness of Frightened Desires, Teri Yarbrow's Popular Thought, Michael Wallin Decodings.
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