Jez Dolan: Exhibition Review

Jez Dolan: ‘Anders Als Die Andern’ at Home MCR.

I’m always one for saying, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Well, Jez Dolan asked Home MCR if he could exhibit his work, and that’s exactly what he got. We met up with Jez at the gallery to chat about his exhibition, his working processes and the meaning behind his work.
‘Anders Als Die Andern’ (also named Different from the Others) is a film which was released almost a century ago, but still carries strong themes that resonates with our society today. Released in 1919 and written by sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, the silent movie is about two male musicians that fall in love. They have to keep their affections secret, but a blackmailer finds out about their friendship and extorts them. It all becomes too much for the main character and the film ends with a tragic suicide.
‘Anders Als Die Andern’ is the catalyst to Jez’s work which hangs proudly in the Granada Foundation Gallery 1 in HOME MCR. The piece is made up of five individual flags. Flags carry so many meanings, from protest to celebration, from nationality to team spirit, and they carry this message throughout Jez’s work too. On two of the flags you will find stills from the film. They show the two main characters, handsome, strong and confident men. Dapper too, as they were back in 1919.

One flag shows an image of a male chest, wearing a leather harness. Jez points out the juxtaposition between the overly sexualised harness and the tattoo that you see underneath it, which says ‘love’.

An olympic looking man, a joyous image of celebration is displayed on one of the flags. Yet this image hides a darker meaning as that young, joyous man committed suicide.

The fourth flag also has a hidden story. At first you see a handsome young man, the type you’d expect to see audition on X factor. His name is Zelimkhan Bakaev, a Russian singer who disappeared in Chechnya in 2017. During this time, there was a ‘purge’ of gay men happening across the region. Printed in The Guardian, April last year;

‘Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have launched an anti-gay campaign that has led to authorities rounding up dozens of men suspected of being homosexual, according to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and human rights activists.’

One of the men that escaped was interviewed:

‘At least once a day, Adam’s captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.’

Jez’s work uses stories like this to remind us of the disturbing crimes against humanity that are still happening to this day. He uses art to explore ‘queerness ad identity’ and he focuses on the ‘things we don’t say / things that remain unsaid / secrecy and hiddenness.’

These flags, inspired by ‘Anders Als Die Andern’, carry so many connotations and representations, which Jez has displayed perfectly and yet so simply. They hang strong and proud in the gallery space, yet within each image there is emotion, sadness and secrets.

In the Granada Foundation Gallery 2, Jez’s work continues with a series of drawings. Using graphite on paper, these contour drawings are created with a repetitive pattern under a series of rules that Jez restricts himself to. He told me what these rules were, but that is going be kept a secret from you guys! The reason why, and I’ve said this before, is that if I tell you what the drawings are of, it may take away from your personal interpretation of them. This is something Jez and I agreed on, that art is whatever you want it to be, and whatever you see it to be.

These drawings could be a city map, the lines reflecting on the population or the density of the city, and how people move. Or, they may represent an artist trying to solve a problem. I once read a Sigmund Freud theory about how ‘remembering, repeating and working-through’ is used as a way of dealing with trauma. Perhaps the receptive lines on these works are a way of working-through. Or, it could just be a skilled artist using a particular drawing technique to create something nice to look at.

It was fascinating to see these five drawings together, using the same technique, the same rules, the same graphite and size of paper, but each drawing is different to the other. You can see different things in each individual work. This links back to the work downstairs. The flags are all the same size, same shape, but each show a different image of a man, representing a different persona of the gay male.

So what is next for Jez? At the end of March he, alongside two other artists, will have their work on display at Manchester’s Portico Library. Jez tells us that the Thesaurus was created here in the library, by Peter Mark Roget, and this is the theme of the exhibition. Jez will be displaying some of his text-based works. Keep an eye out on our What’s On pages for dates on that one.
Jez Dolan: Anders Also Die Anders is on display at Home MCR till 4th March.

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