New queer art exhibition ‘I Am What I Am’ opens in Mayo

The exhibition aims to celebrate sexuality, identity and gender and will run in the Ballina Arts Centre until July 31st.

A man in drag, one of the projects from the new queer art exhibition ‘I Am What I Am’

‘I Am What I Am’ is a queer art exhibition that is a nuanced celebration of queer artists who work with gender, sexuality, identity and queer politics. It opened on Saturday at the Ballina Arts Centre and runs until the 31st of July.

The exhibition is curated by Sinéad Keogh. “The curatorial process was to engage, understand and listen to the vast array of cultural practitioners and members of the community involved in the programme,” she says. “We stand at a curious intersection in Irish society where a lack of queer-inclusive education within our school and institutional systems, means that engagements and discourse around sexuality, identity and gender happen through different means and what encounter can be more visceral in understanding these topics then art?”

One of the works on show is a song by Cami, a Nigerian Irish lesbian rapper. In an innovative twist, a sound installation has been designed for this work, with CHI printed on vinyl. “This song explores being inside out or ‘coming out’,” Cami explains. “This bright yellow feeling burning a hole into me so many feelings to spend. If I ignore it I will lose my mind. If I don’t ignore it I’ll lose my roots not just the people, the ceremonial rites, the land, my Nigerianess? Still *Chi ya ekwe (“If a person agrees to a thing, his spirit agrees also”) I agree.”

Sean Walsh, Director of Ballina Arts Centre, told the Western People: “We are delighted to be opening up again after so long. We all hope that this is the beginning of the return to normal. It has been a long period of closure and has affected the entire arts sector quite devastatingly. Artists have been among the hardest hit by this pandemic and I hope that they now have a chance to resume their working lives.

“We are delighted to be opening with such a strong exhibition. Sinead Keogh has done a fantastic job on curating an excellent exhibition and programme of events. It gives us a welcome opportunity to pick up where left off.”

There will be a number of events alongside the exhibition including an online talk with Sara R Phillips about the Irish Trans Archive – The History of the Trans Community in Ireland 2016 to today.

The queer art exhibition ‘I Am What I Am’ runs until the 31st July and more info can be found here.

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