Militant Desire is a programme of film forums and consciousness-raising sessions around the experimental films of French gay liberation pioneer Lionel Soukaz. Rather than merely situating his early filmmaking in historical context, against the backdrop of sexual liberation movements in 1970s France, this programme aims to test their current relevance for intersectional and anti-capitalist queer debates in the present.
An early member of the Front for Homosexual Revolutionary Action (FHAR), filmmaker Lionel Soukaz worked together with writers, activists and public intellectuals including Guy Hocquenghem, Michel Foucault, Hervé Guibert and other pioneering figures in the early discourse of queer theory. His films from the 1970s and 1980s constitute a radical critique of assimilationist politics and anticipate contemporary concerns including the co-optation of queer culture; race and gay rights as a colonial project; the invisibility of working class people within the queer community; and the class and gender divide within revolutionary politics.
Militant Desire attempts to test if these films and activist strategies from our immediate past have undetonated potential in the present. To this end, the programme revives the 1970s activist model of the consciousness-raising session or film forum. Each screening will be followed by the group sharing and discussing their experience of the issues raised and how we might effect change in the present. Through these sessions, the institution learns from its audience and the form of the retrospective is rethought as future facing, dynamic and vital to grassroots politics.
This is the first retrospective of Soukaz’s work in the UK for two decades. Following three screenings at Gasworks, a programme at LUX will be the first to situate Soukaz’s output in the context of his British contemporaries. The printed guide to his work – with new and collected texts – will be the first published in the UK, and several of the films have never before been shown in this country.
Film Forums at Gasworks
Consciousness-raising sessions are designed to focus energy on particular issues and the real ways in which they affect daily life for political minorities. The film forms the springboard for the participants to discuss the effects of oppression on their own lives and to collectively devise solutions to tackle them.
Wednesday 29 May, 7pm
Assimilation and Commercialism:
Lionel Soukaz, Race D’Ep: The Homosexual Century, 1979 (95 minutes, 16mm on DV)
Race d’Ep, made in collaboration with the ‘father of queer theory’, Guy Hocquenghem, examines the oppression and empowerment of homosexuals through their relationship to representation and images. Soukaz critiques both the trivialisation of identity politics and the assimilation of gay culture to existing social norms.
Wednesday 5 June, 7pm
Race and Colonialism:
Lionel Soukaz, Tino, 1985 (27 minutes)
Tino examines the ways in which gay rights can be an imperialist project, ignoring differences of race and class. A contemporary scenario, in which American journalist Doug Ireland visits Europe and meets an oppressed young Arab man, is played against the celebrated story of Emperor Hadrian’s relationship with his favourite Antinous.
Wednesday 12 June, 7pm
Working Class Queer Culture:
Lionel Soukaz, Maman que Man, 1982. (42 minutes); Gay March, 1980 (13 minutes)
A fiction film about the estrangement that comes between a young gay artist and his working class family.
Thursday 27 June, 7pm
Off-site event at LUX
Ambivalent Militant: A screening from the LUX collection
Paul Clinton selects films from the LUX holdings which reflect the same ambivalence Soukaz felt about sexual liberation struggles and their internal hierarchies, while examining how they were differently articulated in a British and American context.
Lionel Soukaz (b. 1953) is one of the pioneers of French queer cinema. His work, especially in the first part of his career, reflects a synthesis of the various avant-garde movements he was drawn to in the 1970s and 80s. Affiliated with the activists and intellectuals of FHAR (the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action) and the magazine Gai Pied, such as Guy Hocquenghem and Copi, he was also active within the experimental film scene, working to promote Super-8mm filmmaking at the Festival des Cinémas Différents (Hyères) or Cinémarge (La Rochelle), and ultimately organising his own event in 1978: the first Gay and Lesbian film festival in Paris, Écrans roses et nuits bleues. His work was the subject of a major retrospective in New York at Anthology Film Archives in 2016, included in curated screenings by Dirty Looks Los Angeles and a solo exhibition at University of Paris VIII in 2013.
In 2018 his work was included in Paul Clinton’s exhibition Forbidden to Forbid at Galerie Balice Herlting in Paris; his film collaboration with Guy Hocquenghem Race D’Ep was reissued in French language book form by Éditions la Tempête; and his late AIDS films were the subject of a radio programme on France Culture hosted by Elisabeth Lebovici.
Paul Clinton is a writer based in London, UK. For four years he was senior editor at the art magazines frieze and Frieze Masters before taking up a position as lecturer in curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing regularly appears in frieze, MOUSSE, Art Review, Art Monthly, London Review of Books and many other publications. Catalogue essays have been published by Hayward Gallery, London; Secession, Vienna; BNP Parabis Art Prize, Paris/Geneva. Previous curated projects include: duh? Art & Stupidity, Focal Point Gallery, Southend; Forbidden to Forbid, Galerie Balice Hertling & Goswell Road, Paris; Art Cinema, Kunsthalle Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Strange Perfume and Stupidious, South London Gallery. His book Other Hunting is forthcoming in 2019 from Ma Bibliotheque.
The screenings at Gasworks are free to attend with no booking required. Seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.