On the occasion of the latest instalment of DEEP TRASH ITALIA – DEEP TRASH: Greek Trash – which took place on the 23rd of April 2016 in London, Alejandro Ball took the opportunity to ask founders and producers Giulia Casalini and Diana Georgiou about the legacy of DEEP TRASH and the progress it has been making since its beginnings in 2014.
To begin could you please tell us about the inception of Deep Trash, and its purpose and mission in your perspective, as well as its connections to CUNTemporary?
The co-director of CUNTemporary, Giulia Casalini, undertook a bold initiative in 2014 to create the first performance art festival to address gender and sexual discrimination in Italy. As we needed to fund the 3-day festival called Teoremi, we approached Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club to support a fundraiser night which we then called ‘Deep Trash Italia’. The night was a huge success, while the festival dug deeper into our pockets than we expected. A few months later we hosted a sequel to the first Deep Trash Italia, but with a different theme. One of its purposes was to fundraise, but most importantly, to do it in a way that brings a community of people together that get to know each other, have fun and simultaneously support the work of other artists, and the work of our team. Since the event was becoming larger in terms of audience and content, we dropped the “Italia” and retained “Deep Trash” as the title with the aim of moving into new directions. To date, we have created seven unique club nights with really varied themes and artworks for each event, and we do not intend to stop just yet.
Deep Trash: Greek Trash (23 April 2016). Video by Kassandra Powell.
Deep Trash helps CUNTemporary raise funds. Can you tell me more about what the proceeds help enable you to do and what type of things you fund?
The proceeds mainly cover the costs of pulling the night together. We ensure that everyone in our team gets paid even if it’s a nominal fee. It is really important for us to make our events financially sustainable in order to counteract all the abusive work conditions in the cultural industries. Artists are expected to work for free and students are on long internships in some of the most established and secure institutions, or art galleries. We don’t want to be part of a cycle that legitimises a culture of endless unpaid production by artists for the benefit of institutions, especially when the public is expected to pay for these events. For this reason, we cover at least the basic expenses or fees for all the performers, production or printing costs for the artworks, as well as the expenses for press and documentation.
Apart from Deep Trash and a range of events that we have created both in London and abroad, we also need to cover the basic costs of running the organization. It is vital that we retain our autonomy both on a financial, artistic and political level so as not to become coopted into institutional, political or corporate agendas. This does not mean that we do not work with institutions or with funding bodies. On the contrary, because of our independent status, we are in a better position to create healthy dialogues between artists and institutions and to fearlessly voice institutional critique. We are very fortunate because our independence is mainly the result of having a community that supports what we do and that shares both the joys and frustrations of working in the arts, especially through the intersections of feminism and queer.
Talk me through the Deep Trash manifesto, about its importance, and the tone you feel it sends in your perspective – because while it is quite straightforward for a manifesto – it is interesting that there is one attached to a curatorial platform.
We have so far referred to Deep Trash as ‘the only regular exhibition-cum-performance-club-night’ in London. The manifesto offers an insight about what we expect curatorially from this event. Writing the manifesto was a very important exercise for us because we had to match in words the uniqueness of what we do, together with our vision for Deep Trash. Here is a selection from the manifesto with some commentary:
“Deep Trash launches a specific open call before each event for a fairer artistic participation and selection. The works and artists accepted will be consistent with the intersections of feminist-queer practice… Deep Trash adopts an inclusive political stance, with zero tolerance for discrimination of any sort. Deep Trash aims at showcasing the work of both emerging and established practitioners in order to create an intersectional, intergenerational and transcultural dialogue.
Deep Trash is especially committed to promoting performance art in order to encourage and strengthen research within current artistic discourses. Deep Trash provides a safe space where works of a difficult and challenging nature can be presented, documented, discussed, enjoyed and reviewed.”
Institutions and galleries work with their own specific agendas. And while there is nothing wrong with this on the surface, the bottom line is that certain practices are intentionally or inadvertently excluded from the core programming. For instance, while there is an increasing interest in live art, this is usually an afterthought or a way to ‘spice up’ an otherwise static programme. Deep Trash wants to offer artists on-going commitment and support by creating an ever-expanding network and artistic community of like-minded processes of working. We do not consider Deep Trash a one-off event, but an opportunity to establish long-lasting relations with artists. On more than one occasion we have invited some of the artists that presented their work during these nights to other projects. Deep Trash offers us, the artists and the audience a testing ground for collaboration.
“Deep Trash understands sex as an inextricable part of what we do, who we are and where we come from. We support art and politics which are organized around sex. That is, the deprivatization of sex, the decriminalization of sex work, visible non-normative sexualities and non-binary gender identities, the end of sexual violence and the promotion of consensual sexual practices… Deep Trash insists that as artists and audiences, we need more safe and inclusive spaces where people can come together to create, share, experience, discuss, be affected, be flirted, stimulated, challenged and most importantly, EMPOWERED.”
The text was intentionally made to sound like a manifesto: political, urgent, affirmative, creative, optimistic, erotic and revolutionary. It came out of a mutual frustration and anger with the number of LGBTQ venues that were shutting down and the lack of opportunities for artists, of any gender or sexual (dis)orientation, to showcase work that might be a little too challenging for the average public. So we fused these aspects together as a way to offer support, creativity and sexual politics within a very diverse environment.
You have touched upon a lot of sensitive subjects that society still finds difficult to accept and even address at times. Let’s discuss a bit on the agency of the Deep Trash platform and the subjectivities it touches upon?
Deep Trash is about sexual politics with a queer and/or feminist resonance. We expect that the majority of our audience will have at least a basic understanding of how ideological apparatuses, namely, patriarchy, heteronormativity and whiteness, govern society across the spectrums of education, legislation, labour and morality. We don’t think these are ‘sensitive’ subjects, rather, they are facts that concern and oppress all of us. Each event we create has a specific theme with broad perspectives and sub-categories that aim to bring to light these concerns. For example, the Greek Trash open call sought to find artists that were able to respond, produce works and performances that explored aspects such as the following:
“Greek philosophy and its relation to homosexuality; Critiques of gender stereotyping, sexism, religious fundamentalism and patriarchy in Greek and Cypriot society and culture; Tackling austerity through economies of affect and counterculture; ‘Selling Greece’: sexual readings of exploitative European economies; Re-appropriating Greek myths, taboos and superstitions; Post-colonial and feminist responses to human trafficking, etc.”
Politics, aesthetics and a serious sense of humour might be a way to broadly define our events. Also, bringing together over 400 people from different backgrounds, countries and interests, celebrating, dancing, being critical of and re-appropriating specific aspects of culture or society (e.g. religion(s) and traditions, animal politics and ethics, the sex industry, Carnival and masquerades, capitalism). However, it is not easy to define Deep Trash’s public as it changes in relation to the theme and the music selected for the evening.
It would be very nice to hear about how the arts community have reacted to the platform’s content…
We often feel that private views in galleries can be extremely boring, and performances in institutional contexts sometimes don’t convey the energy that a certain work might require. We have received feedback that Deep Trash offers a great alternative to the gallery context, for both making and experiencing art, and having a good night out in a safe, experimental, friendly and all-inclusive environment.
Could you explain the last event: Greek Trash – its overall structure, its framework and how the artists fit into this context?
The night featured club music by Panos Z and A Man to Pet, and a variety of live artistic practices, mainly from Greece and Cyprus – but not only. We have also included the Greek diaspora and other pertinent interpretations of Greek-related content made by non-Greek artists.
The performance line-up started with Cypriot artist, Antonis Sideras, who performed a contemporary butch-camp version of Constantine Kavafy’s poems that he translated into English; then Zoe Czavda Redo, American-Greek artist, gave a ‘lecture’ about Greek summer romance, which ended with her public ‘coming out’ as an octopus; in the meantime, for 3 hours, Fenia Kotsopoulou presented a unique ‘cunt cinema’ experience for one or two visitors at a time; Catherine Elsen, a French artist, focused on the contemporary tensions between Greece and Germany through the use of metaphors and body politics; the Queens of the Underworld, an artistic duo from Scotland, rendered the Myth of Persephone into a queer musical; Stephen Eyre, a British artist of Asian origin, performed an extravagant transformation starting from Medusa, to the Birth of Venus with a finale as a mermaid; towards the end of the night, the ‘post-punk, post-internet, post-avant-garde’ queer collective from Athens 34es (Tritotetartes), blew our minds on all Greek stereotypes and pop culture; Cypriot-Greek drag artiste A Man to Pet performed ‘Zorba’ with a French attitude; we ended with the premiere of Anna Goula’s ‘Greatest Tour’, including her greatest hits, fused with mythological references and rituals, especially created for the GREEK TRASH context.
Artworks, videos and installations were also been part of the night, including: Christina Koutsolioutsou, FYTA, Georges Jacotey, Ilias Klis, Kassiani Kappelos, Myrto Makridou, Studio Prokopiou, Tal Navon, Thalia Galanopoulou and THAVMA. Plus, a screening programme of videos by: Acropolis Bye Bye & Miracle, Anna Maria Pinaka, Baxx Vladimir, Danai Avgeri + Marilena Gatsiou + Maria Mitsopoulou + Laura Eftychia Papachristo, Ernesto Sarezale, Evangelos Papadakis, HeArt Attack Films, Mary Zygouri, Olympia Polymeni and Olga Guse.
It is not possible to adequately convey the feeling and the experience of that night in simple words – this is why the live element is so important. But you can check out the short teaser of the night on YouTube or more images on our Facebook page.
Within the last couple of years Greece has really hit the spot light, not only politically, but also artistically – from the Whitechapel Gallery’s Neon curatorial exchange, to the further coming Documenta. What are the important issues and points in your perspective that must be adherent to Greek Trash, as well as other events presenting a lesser known artistic scene to a London audience?
We have been planning Greek Trash for approximately two years, when the discussions on the economic crisis in Greece and Cyprus were already very intense. Meeting Chara Kolaiti aka Anna Goula was the strongest inspiration. As soon as her first video ‘Ta Pino Ola’ (‘I Drink it All’) was released on the internet it became a viral phenomenon for Greek speaking communities. People were intrigued by her empowered and hyper-feminised bouzouki persona. But most of the viewers (millions of views within a matter of days) did not understand that the pop-video was an artistic expression with critical commentary on sexuality and femininity within patriarchal Greece. We wanted to headline Greek Trash with Anna Goula performing to a London public. We were also interested in discovering Greek artists who did not have the opportunity to show their work in their own country or that were not known in London. Cultural contaminations and the crossing of borders is perhaps what most strongly defines the artistic and political context of London, so we did not want to limit the open call to people that are from Greece or Cyprus. As a result, we opened it to anyone inspired by Hellenic cultural aspects or politics. This move was extremely prolific as we discovered that the UK has a large Greek and Cypriot artistic and queer community, which also represented the majority of the artists and the public present at the event (about 60% attending and 85% of artists were of Greek or Cypriot background).
And is there a concern of this notion of the exotic encapsulating Greek Trash?
Of course during an event that celebrates Greek culture and traditions, the ‘exotic’ takes on ‘Greekness’ are inevitable. But the performances critically engaged with the idea of the ‘exotic’, such as the 34es [Tritotetartes] post-punk deconstruction of Greek symbols and traditions, or Zoe Czavda Redo’s performative lecture on summer flirts on Greek islands and her immense love for octopus. Exoticism can be empowering if it is performed with a self-conscious and subversive strategy. The act of re-appropriating and re-formulating stigmatized labels has always been part of a queer and feminist politics. So negative terms that can be the locus of prejudices and exclusions can slowly be eradicated. In the same vein, exoticised ideas of nations and their cultures can be dispelled.
This discussion and research about the Greek context spanned over two years, and slowly revealed that a series of crises eclipsed artistic and activist works that tackle sexism, homophobia and racism. For these reasons it was important to address these issues by organising the conference Sexuality and Gender in Times of Crisis (20 April 2016) to coincide with the Greek Trash event. Invited artists Mary Zygouri, Fenia Kotsopoulou, Chara Kolaiti and 34es presented their practice to the public, to end with anthropologist Diana Manesi, who presented her field work on Athens’ queer communities through an auto-biographical cross-genre narrative.
Where do you see the future of Deep Trash going?
Deep Trash is definitely growing in terms of audience attendance and artist applications. For the time being we have fixed two future events, the next one on 22 October 2016 with the theme ‘Deep Trash from Outer Space’. We think that it will take quite a few more events to discover where this journey is taking us and our public.
Giulia Casalini & Diana Georgiou / Deep Trash producers
Featured image: Anna Goula, The Greatest Tour, 2016. At Deep Trash: Greek Trash. Photo by Thomas Hensher.