Conversation piece - Dani Marti interview
Visual artist Dani Marti explores gay men’s health and sexuality in his work. But it’s his experience of finding a home for his most recent exhibition that has made him a political artist he tells Allan Radcliffe
Dani Marti’s new exhibition, Insideout, has been safely installed in the sh[OUT] Space at Parnie Street as part of Glasgay! Yet the convoluted tale of how one of the show’s installations ended up in this space still sticks in the craw of the Barcelona-born artist.
Insideout was developed out of Marti’s residency commissioned by the Gallery of Modern Art and Gay Men’s Health, exploring issues around gay men’s sexuality, intimacy and disclosure. Among the exhibits are sculptural works made from red PVC pot scourers, hand-sewn by volunteers from Mozambique whose lives have been affected by HIV. The works are suggestive of red blood cells, internal organs and orifices.
Also on display is a video and sound installation addressing the reality of living with the AIDS virus. Working with Gay Men’s Health, the artist, who is HIV positive, invited men of all ages to reflect on their experiences of intimacy and coming to terms with their sexuality. His research exposed certain recurring cultural attitudes.
‘I began to realise that there’s still a lot of stigma about HIV in Scotland, and also around coming out,’ he says. ‘For many of these men this was the first time they had been given permission to talk about their sexuality. Glasgow in particular, is very Calvinistic – you know, let’s not talk about emotions, let’s not talk about sexuality.’
The installation, ‘Disclosure’, was intended to feature as part of sh[OUT]: Contemporary Art and Human Rights, the social justice programme commissioned by the Gallery of Modern Art, which also included the controversial ‘Made in God’s Image’ installation, an open Bible with instructions to write in it, which offended certain religious organisations.
Marti’s own installation features seven people talking about their HIV status, including a video entitled ‘Time is the Fire’, which features a former male prostitute and porn actor discussing taking crystal meth and taking part in intense sexual acts, and another video, ‘Ausmusdad’, which features full frontal male nudity.
Email correspondence between the artist and representatives of Culture and Sport Glasgow, which runs GoMA, suggests Marti had been led to believe that his work would be shown in a Balcony Gallery at GoMA from 11 September. However, in July this year, following the controversy surrounding ‘Made in God’s Image’ CS Glasgow asked Marti to remove the most controversial videos in his installation in order ‘to reframe the debate’.
In response Culture and Sport Glasgow have denied that the films ever comprised part of the original commission. They claim that the process that led to the decision not to screen the films at GoMA was merely one of 'review' and not censorship. A spokesman states: ‘On review, CSG decided that the films should not be added to the commission. However, we did offer to facilitate the films being viewed at an alternative venue. Dani Marti agreed to this but later chose to remove his commission, claiming that the pieces would only work together.’
These claims have not diminished Marti's belief that this was censorship on the part of a nervous council hierarchy. ‘The sh[OUT] programme was a platform commissioned by GoMA to overcome the stigma about sexuality,’ says Marti. ‘[Pornography] is not the point of my work: I’m interested in intimacy, emotions, relationships. It happens that the men featured in my work are HIV positive.
‘It was important that this work was shown at GoMA. It’s a great platform and we need to keep pushing dialogue. Now it’s going to be shown in a basement.’
Despite these recent experiences, Marti maintains that Glasgow is a great, active city in which to live and work, and that he is more determined that ever to get his message across.
‘I won’t compromise in my work at all … As an artist I have to take a stand.’
Dani Marti: Insideout, sh[OUT] Space, 14 Parnie Street, until Sat 10 Oct.
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