Byron Bay artist Scott Harrower latest work addresses the history of homophobia in Australia in powerful new exhibition. The photographic and sound installation Fighting Not Dancing addresses homophobia and violence toward men who love men.
Scott Harrower’s research-led practice investigates both personal and historical stories that have been denied and forgotten. The characters in Harrower’s photographs peel away the silence of Australia’s past to reveal persecuted convict relationships, post WWII police brutality and multiple unsolved murders fuelled by AIDS hysteria of the mid 1980-90s.
Through the prism of a violent attack at The Fairground, the exhibition’s narrative relates to the artist’s life experiences; it has no ending; rather it poses further questions around current debates of religious fervour and the right to discriminate against ‘others’.
Harrower founded his studio in 1994, believing aesthetics is key to quality of life, after segueing from the fashion industry. He cultivated a love of Roman mosaics, stonework and gardens. Since then he’s forged a career in designing public art and residential interiors, teaching community education programs, set design, writing and staging socio-politically charged exhibitions.
‘The Marriage Equality debate reminded me of coming out at 16 years old, into a homophobic and fearful society; one gripped by the AIDS epidemic. I fell for a man who was manipulative and very violent; he often threatened to kill me.
‘There was so much judgement around. It was my own living horror film, hence the cinematic aesthetic in the work,’ says Scott Harrower ‘Research shows that power based or situational homosexuality was common in colonial Australia, so too were loving bonds between homosexual men. However, because of religiosity, this denied history was unconsciously absorbed into the national psyche as fear and shame.
‘I hope audiences will grasp the long-term impact this can have on a community, especially in today’s political debates around equality.’
The sound element of the work is an original, project-specific score by New York Composer, Ron Nahass. It was recorded in New York by members of the New York Queer Urban Orchestra.
In Conversation with Benjamin Law
Harrower and acclaimed author, journalist and broadcaster Benjamin Law will discuss, provoke and entertain the topic of Gay Australia’s history and its 21st century sentiment. The free event will take place at 6pm, Wednesday 5 June at Lismore Regional Galley. Limited capacity so bookings are essential for this free event via Trybooking.
‘Benjamin and I are Australian gay men with divergent cultural and intergenerational conditioning,’ says Scott Harrower ‘I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences while raking through the coals of Australia’s gay history.
Exhibition to be opened by Dr Pól Miles-McCann
Scott Harrower’s exhibition Fighting Not Dancing will be opened by Dr Pól Miles-McCannwho, a psychotherapist and sociologist who has published on the roles of sport, violence and humour in Australian masculinity. His doctoral thesis examined the social and emotional impact that homophobia has on heterosexual men by policing their behaviour and emotional lives. He is a Senior Lecturer in culture and research methodologies at The Australian College of Applied Psychology.
Fighting Not Dancing premieres at Lismore Regional Gallery 18 May – 16 June, 2019 before showing in Sydney’s M2 Gallery as part of the Sydney Gay & Mardi Gras Festival in 2020.
Lismore Regional Gallery: 18 May – 30 June 2019
Official opening by Dr Pól Miles-McCann: 6pm Fri 17 May 2019.
Benjamin Law in Conversation with Scott Harrower: 6pm Wed 5 June 2019