This article was originally submitted on the 27th March
Jamie Spillett (he/they) is a final year Intermedia BA student specialising in photography, sound and installations. His research is concerned with queer identity, masculinities and representation in media. @jamiespillett
Can you explain a bit about your intermedia art practice?
I started this year really interested in queer experiences, particularly after covid, so many people had come to a new understanding of themselves as queer, or differently existing in the queer community than what they are used to. The internet created a different social environment to what we had experienced beforehand, there was a lot of positive affirmation, I found after covid alto more people found themselves not gender-conforming, not quite cis het world.
Nowadays I’ve been interested in the juxtaposition between what it’s like to live in these scenes and in their depictions in the news, media
When you read of queer people in the news and media it’s often violent, or political tales. Or its dialogues about de-transitioning, or it’s medically focused. Viscous, harsh, a lot about kinky sex, cruising, or STI’s when you have a lived experience in the queer community that viceral harsh viewpoint sits so dissonantly with the tenderness of what the queer scene actually is.
So I’ve been interested in taking images, newspaper cuttings, like people saying: ‘I always felt like what’s wrong with me’ or a lot of agony articles, people being like ‘oh my boyfriend kissed another man is he gay?’ or ‘hey I’m having all of these gay thoughts’.
Presenting sexuality or queer identity as a sort of obstacle or issue. So I’ve been creating these installations which hold this media connection of these people as a social difference, obstacle. Or images were ive taken in queer spaces and clubs of really tender moments, of queer and gender euphoria. Things like images of two people hugging, drawing on faces, hands being held. Kind of images of where when there held into contrast with this more kind of emotionless media coverage feel quite tender, or rather honest, they paint a different picture of what existing in a queer space could be.
In installing your works, your photographs, what’s important to you in the exhibition space?
What’s most important for me is that I don’t give my work a sense of importance. Which sounds strange phrased like that, as in I think it’s too easy to buy big glossy prints that cost 100 pounds, hang it super neat and straight. I think that for one it’s quite institutional and I think queer experience is so unconstitutional. Two I think it matches the instantaneous nature of the images, there are very many snaps, not thought out, capturing moments suddenly, giving the images a materiality which is more true to what there doing.
I don’t want people to view each picture as an individual piece, I install them as large installations. I don’t want them to see each image as an individual artwork, rather see them as part of informing or speaking to a collective narrative, an image might be of two people holding hands, or eyeliner, or a drag queen on stage. When you have images together alongside magazine or newspaper cuttings of like these quite tricky narratives, you start to piece together a larger sense of a lived experience. The kind of photographs feel so different in energy from what magazines are saying. I try to build what it feels like to exist in these settings, where what you’re told you are, is what you know that you are, which is what I hope comes through in the work.
In terms of research, your desk and walls are covered, what have you been looking at?
I was looking at my dissertation and I had ¾ sections planned out but I was missing this big chunk. So my Dissertation is or was an investigation into how representation of gender representation in non-conforming and queer identities in western media can be used to change public understanding of masculinities. Essentially looking at how when you represent people who are trans, gay, queer, in media can you help people understand masculinity isn’t exclusive to cis het white male hypermasculine in suits and ties.
So for my fourth section, I had to include sexual and queer hypermasculinity as a form of camping of gender. And had no idea how to fit it in. I started putting the research on the wall, using quotes, (Butler, Bellett,) its become a format I guess and started carrying that forward. I had a lot of people ask me:
“Jamie is this an artwork?… maybe it should be! “
And I guess it is but I’ve started to run out of wall space.
What are you working on at the minute and what are you working on next?
Right now I’m working on some photography gigs, for money for printing. Once I have that, I’ve got an exhibition this Friday at the little white pig in Newtown at 9 pm, with four other photographers organized by Anna Hall. art surrounding nightlight, going out, youth culture, It’s in support of climate change. So that’s what I’m looking at in the short term.
In the long term I just kind of got to practice living, going out and photographing, installing in different ways. I am working more with sound collage, I’ve got recordings, from nights, out pubs with my friends recounting queer spaces. So I just ask hey can I record you, sometimes they say no so you don’t record, but most of the time they say yeah – using that as a way to speak to larger experience with sound recordings inside queer spaces and clubs. Collaboratively with people who have reached out over Instagram, kinda collaborating with them to make music (some of them are musicians) and videos or performances, looking at introducing sound and video to equate this collage installation practice into a sound or video formats whether it be sound recordings, environmental sounds, more written or composed work, or if its something completely different – I don’t know yet.
Images courtesy of Ash Tomkins