The second annual Gathering of Queer Nations festival on April 28-29 at Corpus Arts in Albuquerque was such a raging success that organizer Brad Charles of Bands in Action (BIA), a music collective in Shiprock, NM, is already on the hunt for next year’s GOQN3.
“We plan to do the event at Corpus Arts again,” Charles said, “but maybe to also include an extra evening and location that can accommodate the crowd we got.”
Though the suggestion has been made, Charles says he is not intending to create a Queer pow wow to compete with the Gathering of Nations. Rather, he’ll continue to grow the Gathering of Queer Nations as a supplemental satellite festival showcasing art, poetry and pop music, often with Indie punk influences.
“I organized the festival because I wanted the Queer Indigenous kids to have some fun and interesting things to do,” Charles said. “Hell, I wanted some fun and interesting things to do too. It was important to me that there be a physical space where we could come together and celebrate our Queer Indigenous selves.”
And celebrate they did, with an array of events that covered the gamut of alternative arts. Interspersed throughout many fine performances were soulful talks filled with intimate sharing about life as Queer Indigenous humans exploring issues of survival, identity and artmaking.
Then the lights were turned low for raucous doom bands like Lilith and sunny sweet-rocking Indigenous chick bands like The Nizhoni Girls. There was also a fashion show featuring the youthful, contemporary designs of Gallup, New Mexico’s Jamal Tom.
At the first evening’s opening artist reception, photographers Rapheal Begay and Ryan Young and collagist and photographer Sam Atakra Haozous (who was showing cyanotypes) participated in an open discussion about coming out and living out. Charles asked them if they were proud to be Queer Indigenous artists and got three distinctly different responses.
“I don’t know if my work needs to rely on that identity,” said Begay, whose work explores the theme of home and memory. “It’s a part of me, it’s not who I am.”
“We’re artists, we’re queer, we’re alive,” added Haozous, matter of factly.
“I’m super proud about it!” Young said, whose work focuses on reclaiming femininity. “I used to think you had to choose to be Queer or Indigenous. But that was stupid, an effect of colonization. Through my work, which is loudly about sexuality, I’m trying to help decolonize the community.”
Kevin Nelson, 23, came to show support for Corpus Arts for hosting GOQN2.
“If the world wants to talk about equality, then this would be a good start, to expose the fact that artists are all kinds of people,” Nelson said. “It’s chill here, I feel calm, I feel welcomed.”
On the next day, hundreds of people streamed in and out as poets spiritedly declaimed, noise artists screeched and intoned, and bands rocked the intimate venue hard and loud. Hansen Ashley (performing as Giant Killer) donned a multi-colored mosquito net in a hypnotic noise performance piece which he says is about hiding.
“This piece was about not wanting to live in your own skin,” Ashley said, “about living outside yourself. We’re always hiding from ourselves.”
Charles says that GOQN is about ending that impulse to hide.
“Ultimately the Gathering of Queer Nations is the act of acknowledging Queer Indigenous space and taking it,” Charles said. “It’s hard, but these two days offer a vision to build upon.”