This year we are speaking to a whole range of artists taking their work to Queer Contact in Manchester, this February. First up we have Jamal Gerald whose show FADoubleGOT will be performing there for three nights.
Hi Jamal, to start with, perhaps you could tell us a little about your journey in to becoming a performance artist…
Well, I started off as a poet with Leeds Young Authors, a creative writing and performance group based in Chapeltown, Leeds. That’s where I really started to find my voice. I was always performing throughout high school and sixth form and I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue. But, I wasn’t too sure as to what I wanted to be. At first, I wanted to be an actor. I auditioned for some acting/drama degree, but that didn’t work out. But, I believe it was for the best. I then did my degree in Performance at Leeds Beckett University. My degree was more focused on live art and contemporary performance practice. Therefore, I ended combining what I learnt whilst being with Leeds Young Authors and during my degree to eventually become a Performance Artist.
You talk about ‘wearing labels without shame’. We we seem to be developing more and more labels than ever before – whoever you are, whatever your sexuality, romanticity or gender – it is likely that a label now exists where it hasn’t perviously. Could you outline your own thoughts around ‘wearing labels without shame’?
One can do whatever they want with a label. Some labels I prefer to wear, some labels I don’t. But, I would also say that the people who don’t want to be labelled, will most likely end up being labelled as the ones that don’t want to be labelled. They’ll still be put into a box, no matter what. I don’t think there really is any way out of being labelled. However, it’s up to the individual and what they want to do with those labels. They can either try to ignore them or they can embrace them.
On your tumblr you voice your concerns about your work being confined to Black History Month or LGBT history month. Which can certainly be a problem. Do you think these month-long windows of specificity hinder the flow of this work in to more mainstream festivals?
I just think that venues need to learn how to embrace other works, especially from more artists of colour. And of course, there are ‘some’ venues that do that. But, I don’t think it’s fair to only programme artists during a history month. I don’t think it is fair to only programme an artist just so you can tick a box either. If you can programme them during Black History Month or LGBT History Month, you can programme them throughout the rest of the year. But, that’s just me. Other artists may think differently, may think we should take up these opportunities. Which of course we should. However, these history month events and festivals should not be the only place where our work should be programmed. My work and other works by artist like myself are just as vital as any other work that is coming from a white, cisgender, straight, middle class man.
Your show FADoubleGOT is on at QC2016 this February, what was your impetus to make this piece?
Well, I was called the ‘f word’ back in 2013. That’s the reason the title of my piece is the spelling of that word. But, it takes some people some time to notice that, before I tell them how to pronounce it. I was called the ‘f word’ around a time that I was convinced that I was over a lot of the things that I have been through. However, that one word just brought it all back and I was a mess. I never cried so much before, it was ridiculous. I then wrote a poem about it, to make myself feel better. But then, I eventually used that poem as a stimulus to make my show.
Who is the work for?
Anyone who is interested in hearing a story that is different from their own or possibly similar to their own. I personally don’t think there is work that is getting enough recognition that focuses on themes that is coming from a perspective like my own. I would like to see more stories being told by people who have experienced things that they speak about within their work, and have not only done research. I think it is important for people of colour to tell their own stories. Because if we don’t, someone else will. The work is also for anyone that enjoys hearing autobiographical stories, some spoken word and seeing some live art.
What kind of evening should we prepare for if we come to watch?
You should prepare for an evening that will be emotionally jumpy. I’ll say that.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My tumblr. I have been keeping track of my research and development process of FADoubleGOT, since my final year of my degree. I will also be updating it with other ideas that I am currently developing at the moment.
Book tickets to see Jamal on 9th / 10th / 11th Feb at Queer Contact 2016 here
Interview © Amie Taylor and Jamal Gerald 2016