Séamus Gallagher, A Slippery Place 4, 2019, Courtesy of the artist.
The 2021 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival kicked off May 1. Although in-person openings for indoor exhibitions have been postponed until later this year, there’s still a lot to check out virtually, including a powerful new group exhibition entitled We Buy Gold, put together by City of Toronto Photo Laureate Michèle Pearson Clarke – making her curatorial debut at the Festival.
Presented in partnership with the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies and Gallery TPW, We Buy Gold highlights the photographic work of 10 emerging LGBTQ+ artists living and working in Canada. The exhibition zeros in on the diverse perspectives of younger queer generations, attempting to move past the concept of representation into a more complex exploration of queer identities.
On May 25, Clarke will join Sophie Hackett, AGO Curator, Photography, artists Jess T. Dugan and Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and artist and curator Ka-Man Tse for a conversation via Zoom unpacking the themes in We Buy Gold and sharing further insights about queer photography at large.
We recently connected with Michèle Pearson Clarke to find out more.
AGOinsider: Can you explain the meaning and origin of the exhibition title, We Buy Gold?
Clarke: Titles are really important to me and I confess they’re very often more conceptual than literal when it comes to how they resonate for me. With this one, I had a very guttural response to this phrase when I saw it on a sign by the side of the road when I was stuck in traffic one day last summer. It fit for me because it speaks to questions of queer collectivity as well as the ways in which these photographic works are excavating value that is already present, despite what dismissive things mainstream narratives still have to say about queer and trans lives. And gold is coveted as a luxury item yes, but it can also be campy and tacky and excessive in its aesthetics. These tensions bring joy and conflict to queer culture in equal measure.