Kraig Wilson: Utopia
In the centenary of World War One, Kraig Wilson presents ‘Utopia’, an exhibition of photographic portraits of serving gay army personnel. Vane is proud to have ‘Utopia’ included in the official events programme of this year’s Newcastle Pride.
Created in collaboration with the British army, the exhibition is part of Wilson’s ongoing research into representation of the male and ideas of masculinity, questioning the binary nature of gender and sexual identity prevalent in society.
Utopia represents an impossible ideal: our society’s attitudes and identities cannot even allow an approximation of this perfect state of existence. Why do we even imagine such a place let alone aspire toward it? We demand personal freedom and democracy like water from a tap without contemplating the myriad complicated systems put in place that allow their existence. We sometimes forget that our ‘freedom’ is not so common in other parts of the world.
Who then has the right to fight for democracy as themselves? And who dictates those who are willing and able yet undesirable? There are still taboos within society as to who has the right and or is capable of joining the military, most notably the homosexual community and those with mental health problems; ironically, in England up until the 1960s the two were considered inseparable. Gender, sexuality and masculinity are not so linear and easily pinned down as suggested by medical, social media portrayals or cultural stereotypes.
Within his lens-based work (photographic and video) Wilson has continually explored gender and its duality with sexuality. Because these complicated relationships are the foundations of our being, our right to self-expression and exploration are bound by our freedom as unique people. What makes a man a man or a woman a woman, Wilson would argue, stretches far beyond our genetic make-up and bodies.
In his portraits Wilson overturns simplistic two-dimensional representations of masculinity associated with the military – Hollywood images of tough, Rambo-esque action men: Alpha Males. Wilson presents us with images of real people who are dealing with the complexities of the varying roles being ‘male’ really entails: whether it’s being a father, a son, a brother, a partner, or being gay and a soldier.
Programmed as part of Newcastle Pride. For more information go to www.northern-pride.com
Kraig Wilson was born in 1984 and lives and works between Teesside and London. He graduated from the Royal Academy Schools, London in 2010. Recent group shows include ‘Rock Paper Scissors’, Uno + Uno gallery, Milan, ‘Drawing Breath’ (with Lys Hansen), Cooper Gallery, Dundee, ‘The English Way’, Aubin Gallery, London (2012), ‘Fuze’, Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough, ‘Friendship of the Peoples’, Simon Oldfield Gallery, London (2011). ‘Utopia’ is his first solo exhibition.
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