The Artist & The Actress
A conversation with Richard Dodwell.
The Demented Goddess (DG): We love the humour and vulnerability of this ‘post-rave’ image. Is nakedness, for you, an emotional or sexual experience?
Richard Dodwell: Post-rave? I’ve never been to a rave in my life. Well, I have. I hid under the DJ booth. Oh, nakedness is for me very much both. How are the two separable?
DG: Does clubbing make you more aware of using your body in a seductive way?
Richard Dodwell: I don’t go clubbing. Is this question for someone else?
DG: You don’t? Not even to Charlie Porter’s Chapter 10 “till morning” parties, featuring interesting DJs like – apart from Charlie himself – Honey Dijon?
Richard Dodwell: Ah – the one I mentioned was a Chapter 10 party! I mean they’re major but I’m delirious and in search of a warm alcove by 1am so clubbing has never been a pastime of mine.
Richard Dodwell: “Hopefully we can do away with language…”
DG: It might just be the clubs the DG team frequent – underground techno, space-disco and acid-house – but some of our queer male friends have no qualms going up to men, gay or otherwise and tweaking their nipples. As women, this feels invasive. How does the sexualisation of the male body in gay culture affect you, as a man and artist?
Richard Dodwell: I would never do that! But I wouldn’t pass judgement on those who did. Unless it was very unwarranted. Best to ask. I think the sexualisation of the male body in gay culture, at least in my lifetime, has gone from something subversive and radical to something bland and hopelessly neoliberal. The abs, the pecs, that forced sexy frown – the whole gym selfie culture on Instagram has turned gay men’s bodies into these awful vacant husks to wank over as well as giving an entire generation of gay men masculinity issues.
That said, I don’t have a problem with sex work.
DG: We hate the super-tight-clothed, waxed-eyebrow look; men looking like walking dildos. But how can one express queerness intelligently? Do you care about being seen as a queer artist? Is that a useful category?
Richard Dodwell: Yes, I think it is. And yes, I do. I mean, have you seen my Instagram? For me queer is the most exciting word to be associated with right now with all that’s happening in the world. What DOES it mean? Does anyone know? Is it just the most beautiful, liminal and boundary-defying word in the English language right now? Who knows. I know I love it. And will never stop using it. Unless another word comes along. Hopefully we can do away with language altogether.
DG: The shower-room shot (where is it?) brings together conventions of gay casual sex with a sense of purpose. These particular benches seem to suggest commodification, disposability, maybe a touch of S&M. To what extent is gay casual sex a myth that needs challenging or celebrating in art?
Richard Dodwell: That is at my uni. I’m at Goldsmiths. It’s an art school in South London. The whole history of gay casual sex is fascinating and complex and I think as a queer artist I have to acknowledge that only recently was it acceptable the idea of two men or two women having sex at all, let alone fun sex, (the latter perhaps more appealing to straight men). Casual sex in many ways subverts the norm of heterosexual nuclear family life. I mean, it’s all a bit of a nightmare isn’t it? So what’s a bit of harmless fucking between strangers? Except when everyone started dropping like flies from AIDS. Those ghosts haunt and inform everything that I do. It doesn’t take a lot of reading up on our history to realise that. I’m personally not into cruising but, if I was, I would think it an excellent celebration of freedom and the body in a time of mass armaments trading and hate speech. And god-awful fashion.
DG: The Actress seems like a frisky little flirt. Who is she? What are her feelings about facial hair, make-up and clothing? What happens to your sense of sexual and gender self when you are being her?
Richard Dodwell: Oh she is. She likes to show off. She REALLY wants that Oscar. . . But who will give it to her, with her outspoken left-wing views? Her name is Kate Bargain-Sale and she has many guises, past lives and genders. She is here to fuck your man and win Best Actress. . . But she’s no fool. She will happily pick up a flaming torch when the time comes and burn it all down with her gender-fluid sisters: capitalism, patriarchy and all.
I’m not really aware of a gender or sexual self when I’m her, just that I feel free and innocent and anything is possible. Like a child, I suppose, that beautiful time when nothing was defined, until you were humiliated after emerging from the dressing up box in a ball gown. I think that’s a reason she doesn’t wear make-up or take the guise of a conventional drag persona … she’s this strange, half-formed thing … never quite one or the other.