Queer Pics

Lots of queer content at this year’s Contact photography festival, though none of it is particularly exciting. Zanele Muholi’s South African lesbians stare out at the camera without managing to say much of anything except “we’re here.” Archiving Public Sex at the University of Toronto Art Centre is more archival exhibit than art show. There are some great pictures of Glad Day Bookstore in the 1970s and 1980s, and a case full of once prohibited books, but no sense of why this matters anywhere beyond the textbooks. There’s too much history and not enough art. Steven Beckly’s show at Toronto Image Works has the opposite problem. Beckly has taken historical photographs of two men or two women who for whatever reason were standing/sitting rather too close together and re-printed them in the company of other “same-sex couples” so that the viewer is bound to think, “Mm, maybe.” Should you be gifted with a narrative impulse I’m sure you could make up some fun stories about most of these “couples,” but that’s all you’re left with in the end – a thin and, in most cases, rather improbable fiction. Most of these couples probably weren’t anything of the kind, but clarity is lacking. Anything that might shed light on the cultural or historical context in which they expressed their affection is missing. Too bad because some of the people on the walls obviously had some good stories to tell.