The second person I have interviewed for the “Questioning Queerness” blog post series is Dani Lamorte, a talented local artist, performer, and theorist. Dani is featured in Caldwell Linker’s All Through the Night photography exhibition, and he will be performing in the Trans-Q Live! event at the Warhol Museum on September 7th. Dani and I recently discussed Caldwell’s exhibition, Trans-Q, and queer theory for nearly 2.5 hours, and I hope you will enjoy these selected excerpts from our thoughtful conversation!
What were your impressions of Caldwell’s exhibition, and how do you think it reflects the queer community in Pittsburgh?
This was the first time I had been to an exhibit where the photos had particular affective memories that were connective to me. It’s unusual to see these images of pain and joy and day-to-day moments displayed as a snapshot of a community. I thought it was good that there were photos that showed both private and public spaces and moments, which maybe allowed for people to have a better understanding of the middle ground. Maybe the photos allowed people to catch a glimpse of the fact that we are simultaneously a good and bad subject for art in a lot of ways. We are incredibly boring and incredibly interesting!
What is the story behind the photograph of you in Caldwell’s exhibition?
I really like that photo, and I’m glad Caldwell used it, but it wasn’t really an exciting day! It was Veruca la’Piranha’s birthday party at the Blue Moon, and a new Scissor Sisters song had come out, and I just really wanted to lip-sync to it. I think the photo always reminds me of “Pickle Surprise,” a 1980s video with RuPaul and Lady Bunny. They all have crazy tinsel eyelashes and brightly-colored face paint on them!
What does “trans” mean to you?
I used to think of trans in the very traditional sense as someone who intended to have or desired to have a sex change. But now I have a more postmodern and less functional understanding of the term, where I think of trans more as people who feel that the gender identity that they were socialized into as children or as young adults is no longer sufficient, and so they’re kind of exceeding that early gender identity. Unlike my original understanding of trans, I no longer see it as having an endpoint. You can always be trans – there is no end goal or end gender.
What inspired you to contribute to Trans-Q?
I was interested because I knew about Suzie Silver’s work and had heard great stories about what a vivid person she is. She really believes in people learning theory in a way that relates to the real world. So, she doesn’t just want you to sit down and read Judith Butler and write a paper about it; she wants you to see how these ideas relate to your body, your classmates, and the artists you interact with. This Trans-Q show she proposed was so open about queer thoughts, ideas, body, and art, but it wasn’t overly political or curated. I couldn’t find anything online that was similar to what she was describing; we don’t see TV shows that relate to us in this kind of way. I really wanted this show in Pittsburgh. The potential of meeting others with those goals was exciting for me.
What can we expect from Trans-Q TV this season?
There will be a lot of special appearances and interviews. Jack Halberstam, the prominent gender theory writer and scholar, will visit Carnegie Mellon in the fall also do an interview with Trans-Q. Shana Moulton, who did a performance at the Warhol Museum, will be appearing in upcoming episodes. With a new group of students coming in for the Trans-Q class, there will be more room for video interstitials in each episode.
What can the “Trans-Q Live!” audience look forward to, and why did you select the Warhol Museum as your performance venue?
We are hoping the show will allow people to get a sense of what Trans-Q does. It will be a live presentation of the show, rather than a program to watch onscreen. I think it will give you a warmer sense of what’s happening and make it a human product. The Warhol Museum is a great venue for this, because it includes a lot of exhibitions and performances that wouldn’t make it into places like the Met or the MoMA. It goes beyond the normal art world realm, as it tries to reach out into the real world – the day-to-day universe outside of art galleries. That’s more of the atmosphere we need for Trans-Q. We want to perform in a really fun, contemporary space!
To view Dani’s artwork and blog, please visit his website, www.danilamorte.net.
You can purchase tickets for the Trans-Q Live! event at the Warhol Museum here.