The writing is on the wall when it comes to homophobia, and Andrew Gayed wants to shine a light on it.
As part of a two-pronged final thesis project, the bachelor of fine arts student has created an installation about bullying and youth suicide that can be seen only under the right light. It’s called The Invisible.
Using white paint on white walls, Gayed graffitied the name, age and home city of more than 50 North American youth who committed suicide in the past two years because of homophobic bullying.
Upon entering the exhibit, the wall on the right side of the space at first appears blank. Then the black lights mounted at the top of each wall flash on. Programmed with a timer, the lights stay on for 10 seconds, illuminating all the names, then flip off again.
The text is positively crammed into the available space.
“I want it to be a bit of an overwhelming experience,” Gayed says. “You should be immersed; we’re immersed in homophobia every day.”
The second part of the exhibit is a series of four self-portraits of Gayed in which he depicts incidents that have been perpetrated against gay men in Iraq. It’s entitled The Third Sex. The disturbing and warped images are overlaid with bold red text detailing harassment, kidnapping, torture and execution.
While Gayed is Egyptian-Canadian, not Iraqi, there are many similarities between the anti-gay tactics used in both countries.
“In the photos I’m wearing a white head covering, which has become a symbol for the oppression of gays in Egypt,” Gayed says. “Through that, I wanted to talk about the intersectionality of the two cultures and how torture is used . . . as a tool to strengthen their political and religious ideologies. They are monstrous images, but they reflect well on the subject matter.”
Tying the two projects together is a song, reminiscent of Gregorian chant, that plays throughout the exhibition. Its homophobic lyrics were cobbled together from political campaigns, religious speeches, news reports and suicide notes.
The parents of several youth who have taken their lives will attend the opening. Gayed invites people to contact him if they would like to add a loved one’s name to the piece.
Praxis: a graduation exhibit by Andrew Gayed
Tues, April 24 – Sun, April 29
Opening Party on Fri, April 27 at 7pm
100 Laurier Ave E, Room 320