On Friday, June 1, an interactive digital performance called Untitled Intimacy will unfold as part of the third Queer Biennial in Los Angeles. The biennial, which encompasses a wide range of receptions, performances, parties and pop-ups throughout the month of June is an international survey of queer art offering a platform to some of the country’s most talented.
But while Queer Biennial III (the opening reception of which is hosted by John Waters) is surely a not-to-be-missed event, one need not attend — or even be present in Los Angeles — to witness Untitled Intimacy, an interactive performance and digital film that will take place from 7 p.m.–2 a.m. (PST) and will be streamed online for all to see.
But what exactly is Untitled Intimacy?
It’s an unscripted performance that invites people anywhere in the world to participate in the making of a documentary-style film, and it’s an exploration of the technological mediation of intimacy and consent. Here’s how the piece of performance art describes itself:
The audience of Untitled Intimacy has an immediate role in not only observing the film but shaping its outcomes, all while remaining anonymous. That raises questions of “how community surveillance and self-policing in queer spaces challenges categories of representation or ‘tribes,’ consent and discretion.”
Audience funds raised during the performance will go towards creating a feature-length film.
HORNET: What inspired Untitled Intimacy, and how is it related to performance projects you’ve done in the past?
JOHN MOLETRESS: Untitled Intimacy was conceived as a continuation of my work around queer physical and digital spaces. It’s a companion work to Untitled Cruising, a live-streamed tour of former and active cottaging sites in rapidly gentrifying Birmingham, England, that I was commissioned to do this past fall.
What do you consider the role of gay social apps — or digital queer spaces in general — now, where do you think that’s going and how do you feel about that?
They’re important, potent and, as in physical spaces, can be unpredictable. You have a young person living in a rural area with limited access to queer culture, for whom these apps are respite. On some apps, like Hornet, you have control over what location you’d like to play around in.
As an addictive culture, they can also be challenging to disconnect from, as are mobile devices in general.
And there’s the whole “wild west” nature behind social apps. You can self-represent, communicate and interact however you’d like. This can have both positive and negative repercussions. How we self-present and how we are perceived, policed and surveilled by the digital community in these spaces is what I’m exploring in this project.
Tell me a bit about what you consider the underlying themes of Untitled Intimacy.
Technological mediation of intimacy and sex. Constant self-negotiation through flexible self-representation, or how we rewrite ourselves by changing our photos, profile text, et cetera, so that we might have a chance at getting what we desire.
Also, how contracts are made by two people entering into an intimate relationship, and how these contracts suddenly change when two people connect in physical space.
Is the unscripted nature of Untitled Intimacy anxiety-inducing?
No, memorizing a script is anxiety-inducing. This project is documentary and, outside of a basic structure of space, relies on the dynamic between performers, creatives and audience to steer it in real time.
What do you hope people take away from Untitled Intimacy — the live participants, the pay-for-play participants and even the non-participating audience?
I think the audience will be challenged to reflect upon their preconceived notions of who uses gay apps, sexuality and queerness, and constantly evolving contracts we make with partners.