Credit: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Art Is Not Enough [Seize Power through Direct Action]"  The New York Public Library Digital Collections . 

Credit: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Art Is Not Enough [Seize Power through Direct Action]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections

When art is not enough: Activism for the transgender Community

Art in the public sphere denotes discussion and openness, a need to be active, a need to command a space; not just to exist but to live. But when is art not enough? When do we need more?

The symposium, When Art is Not Enough: Activism for the Transgender Community, accompanied Dylan Fox's solo exhibition A Manipulation of Terms at NN Contemporary Art in April 2018. The symposium focused in on the aims of Dylan Fox’s artistic practice by bringing together practitioners from the transgender and queer community to contemplate their individual experiences. Dylan Fox was joined by London based experimental choreographer Malik Nashad Sharpe, Montreal based Youtube activist Chase Ross, and Northampton based independent curator Billy Hawes. The day investigated: what it means to be actively queer today, what needs to be communicated to activate a change in how society views gender, and what kind of change that activism strives to achieve. Naturally, this discussion also questioned how this activation could be communicated to a wider public, and how techniques of communication could be employed in the public sphere, online, and through the mode of open form. The plenary panel discussion resulted in producing an action plan based on the days events, to be used to activate the changes needed moving forward.


About the Speakers:

Chase Ross // Instagram // YouTube // Twitter

Chase Ross is a trans activist, speaker, educator, academic, and YouTuber, from Montreal, Canada. He makes videos about: transitioning, safe sex, mental health (how he overcame depression and anxiety by running), videos reviewing prosthetics and other items geared towards transmasculine people. He is currently studying an MA in Sociology at Concordia University. Chase has presented talks in the Utah, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York, Montreal, and Toronto.


Dylan Fox // Instagram // Twitter

Through a practice that is largely dialogical and participatory, Fox explores the physical, medical, emotional, and social aspects of gender transition; specifically, the frustration felt with inefficient transgender healthcare pathways. His work is hinged on how social constructs effect people, aiming to question and shift these constructs, generating work through social interaction, working with other artists and the public. His participatory pieces are designed to replicate feelings of frustration and lack of control felt through the transition, with a focus on waiting, developing projects where participants endure a similar experience of ambivalence. These works are comprised of, but not limited to, printed matter, found objects, moving image & sound.

Since graduating in 2016 he has been featured in Aesthetica magazine online and holds an award for Best In Show at Free Range in The Old Truman Brewery, London. For the past year he has spent time as an associate artist working with Freee Art Collective on Citizen ShipCity Club, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes. He has also partaken in group and solo exhibitions across the UK.


Malik Nashad Sharpe // Instagram // Vimeo

Malik Nashad Sharpe is a London-based choreographer and dancer making performances under their alias Marikiscrycrycry. Operating with an expansive and emotional choreographic proposition, their work is about the socially radical practice of imagining new worlds; dances that motorise the conditions necessary for possibility and futurity; performances that double as survival rituals; performances that drip with meaning, texturising all the affective and infective material left behind.  Their work integrates pessimism and optimism, minimalism and maximalism, soft and sweet, hyperreal and absurdist ontological propositions with various dance and choreographic practices. Their identity is often central to their work as the site and receptacle of maintained racial and gender based violence, frequently recalling, reneging, and reifying their experiences being Black, Vincentian/Caribbean-American, gender non-conforming, femme, Queer, immigrant with a felt transgenerational history of displacement, alienation, and allostatic load, in order to humanise another possibility, worlds of ulteriorly. 

They have performed their work in various venues across the UK, USA, and Canada, and have been supported by Arts Council England, Canadian Council for the Arts, a-n, Fierce Festival, Hackney Showroom, Chisenhale Dance Space, Live Art Development Agency, and Marlborough Theatre and Pub, and have performed with various artists like Last Yearz Interesting Negro, Rachael Young, Project O, SPIT!, Randy Reyes, Dalston Ballet, amongst many others.  They’ve also taught workshops and courses around their dance practice at University of Illinois (USA), Glasgow School of Art (UK), Otion Front Studio (USA), The Workroom (UK), Gibney Dance (USA), Goldsmiths University (UK), CLOUD at Danslab (NL), Leeds Beckett University (UK), Tate Modern (UK), and School of New Dance Development (NL). Their newest work (in collaboration with Ellen Furey) "SOFTLAMP.autonomies" premieres at Theatre La Chapelle (CA) in April 2018. 


Billy Hawes // Instagram // Twitter

Billy Hawes is an independent curator living and working in Northamptonshire, UK.

Through independent projects, temporary exhibitions and events, Hawes aims to provide space for emerging artists, with a particular interest in durational, dialogical, participatory and performative practices. His practice considers the fact that every space that we encounter has its own set of rules for how we must behave within it; what we should and shouldn’t do and an unwritten script for what is expected of us. He is interested in how these rules can be subverted to change the visitor’s experience, questioning how we interact and engage with artwork depending on such conditions. His curatorial approach explores these questions through conversation and collaboration with other artists and curators. By considering conversation as a legitimate form of practice, Hawes focuses on these core questions to develop a dialogue that can lead to both written and exhibition-based outcomes.


This project was kindly supported by Arts Council England and NN Contemporary Art.

NN Contemporary Art is support by Arts Council England, Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Northamptonshire Community Foundation, The Compton Fund, First for Wellbeing Fund and The University of Northampton

Credit: Chase Ross

Credit: Chase Ross

Credit: Dylan Fox

Credit: Dylan Fox

Credit: Malik Nashad Sharpe

Credit: Malik Nashad Sharpe