SWITCH is an exhibition concerning gender identity and sexual identity across two diverse cultures, Australia and Iran. Papalexandris’ work focuses on the LGBTI community in Australia and Damon Ambs’ work investigates the life of the LGBTI community in Iran, as told in a sequence of metaphoric images. The ‘electrical switches’ from Ambs’ work lends the name to the exhibition, SWITCH. This term has also been used in the history of LGBTI peoples.
Switch is a project concerning the manifold sexualities in Iran. People from the LGBTI community are not free to express their true identities as Iran is under Shari‘a Law and any expression of diverse sexualities is heavily punished under the current repressive regime of Iran. I have chosen to symbolically represent these ‘identities’ as electrical switches, representing both male and female in all their diverse (sexual) combinations. The switches depict both gay and lesbian and bisexual interaction. The images also show us their different histories to do with age, class and social advantage and disadvantage. Some are modern and new, while others are worn and weathered by time.
As a photographer I am not able to represent images from this community without severe censorship and personal peril. In Iran any non-heterosexual contact between individuals, even if it is consensual is punishable by imprisonment, even death. Like many other aspects of society in Iran, many factors are hidden and repressed. LGBTI people exist in my country as anywhere else, but for me, this is one of the ways I can express the psychological pressures the community faces on a daily basis.
This project is about the Queer Community, my community. I do not seek to tell one story, but a multi faceted visual narrative . My aim is to offer a series of vignettes, small narratives of lives lived from a spectrum of the community. They act as symbols to tell that story.
People I know intimately and others who I have engaged recently for this project. I offer a view inside the personal and psychological landscape of how it feels to be queer as opposed to how it looks to be queer. My work is an attempt to normalise the experience of the LGBTI person.
The queer community is engaged in the same quest for belonging, happiness, intimacy, fulfilment and sorrows. Within this frame the struggle for full acceptance and equality is presented in images of isolation and deep contemplation as well as celebration.
This project is part of my book named “Five Bells_ Being LGBT in Australia, which will be launched in New York City in March 2016, Art Direction and Design by EWS Design, funded by the Arcus Foundation and published by The New Press.
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