Wonderland.

LESBIENNALE

Club pioneers Nadine Ahmad (Pxssy Palace) and Naeem Davis (BBZ) brought their new queer art and music festival, Lesbiennale, to East London earlier this month.

Nadine Ahmad, Naeem Davis and Amar Ediriwira by BERNICE MULENGA

Nadine Ahmad, Naeem Davis and Amar Ediriwira by BERNICE MULENGA

Forget all about Venice and Miami, London’s Lesbiennale is exactly where you should have been this art season.

The brainchild of queer club pioneers Nadine Ahmad (Pxssy Palace), Naeem Davis (BBZ), and Boiler Room’s 4:3 video platform, the three day festival took place earlier this month, celebrating the wonders of lesbianism in all of its colours and creeds. Unlike the longstanding Venice Biennale, the festival will not take place every two years on the Italian coast (or indeed all over East London) but at irregular dates across the globe in clubs, discotheques, cinemas and maybe even bowling alleys – who knows!

Lesbiennale began on the 8th of October at the ICA, starting off with a night of erotic readings and poetry from the likes of Ama Josephine Budge and drag artist Victoria Sin. The next event was a screening of Shakedown, a Y2K-nostalgia riddled documentary about a strip club in early aughties LA ran by and for black lesbian woman. The feature was shot by the club’s 15 year resident videographer (and former Hood By Air CEO) Leilah Weinraub, and provided an excellent precursor to the last night of the series.

The queer extravaganza finally met its climax with a free party at Shoreditch’s Village Underground, rounding off the celebrations with a night of pussy popping club edits and all-round musical genius. Lesbiennale partnered with Absolut on the event, who brought over Amber Akilla, creative director of Shanghai’s LGBTQI+ inclusive DJ collective NVSHU, to revel in the femme festivities. Amber and Nadine had previously united at The Gardenarium this summer, a new festival co-created by Absolut and elrow which focused on bringing a borderless and united utopia to Ibiza.

Launching the final phase of the project, the festivals’ contributors will see their work exhibited on Boiler Room’s 4:3 video platform in a six-week long online project, with each short film only available for seven days. This week’s offering is by Kearra Amaya Gopee titled ‘How to break a horizon: a memory as retold by the sum of its residue’ (2019). The four minute piece adds forms part of an installation considering “queer Caribbean futurity for its diaspora in the face of impending ecological and social collapse.”

We got to chat with Nadine below about the importance of providing inclusive spaces and the future of Lesbiennale…

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Peace

Wesley Dykes by BERNICE MULENGA

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Peace
Wesley Dykes by BERNICE MULENGA

What made LESBIENNALE different to Pxssy Palace or any other night you’ve thrown before?
NA: It was multifaceted event as opposed to just a music event, and it was about reclaiming an identity that was very personal to us.

Why was it important for you and Naeem to carve out this space for queer women and POC, and where did the idea stem from?
NA: Carving out space for queer women, trans and non binary POC is important to us as its who we are and its our community. All of our work involves centering these groups as they are some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Is this a one-off or the start of something totally new?
NA: It’s a series and it’s only the beginning.

Which was your favourite moment of the three days and why?
NA: So many, the readings were so emotional as well as sensual, being in a full cinema full of gays and being in an environment with no camera phones during the party.

(Left) Sakeema, (right) Gin & Black Venus in Furs, both by ENANTIOS DROMOS

(Left) Sakeema, (right) Gin & Black Venus in Furs, both by ENANTIOS DROMOS

How did you go about choosing the artists, writers and DJ’s you featured on their respective nights?
NA: We wanted to work with artists we loved, who shared the same views as us around lesbianism not being a monolith identity. Once we started talking it was easy as so many felt similar to us. Almost everything I create is a collaboration, I work best this way. I love bouncing ideas with people until you land on the best one and sharing the journey with people or a person you love and respect. That’s what was so great about the Absolut project in Ibiza, it was all about how important collaboration is, and having their support on a project so personal to me means a lot.

Talk to us about your partnering up with Boiler Room’s 4:3 service, what was the reason behind this?
NA: Amar Ediriwira, the creative director for 4:3 came up with the name and approached us to be involved, we love their work and what they have produced under 4:3 so it made sense to us to collaborate.

What was the thought behind the 6 week online exhibition?
NA: We wanted each artist to have their moment, with this format the artists can be focused on.

Any chance of you and Naeem taking over the entirety of the Venice Biennale?
NA: Watch this space.

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Village Underground Bills

Sakeema by BERNICE MULENGA

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Village Underground Bills
Sakeema by BERNICE MULENGA
Lesbiennale 2019 East London Village Underground Stud

Black Venus in Furs & Gin by BERNICE MULENGA

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Village Underground Stud
Black Venus in Furs & Gin by BERNICE MULENGA
Lesbiennale 2019 East London Whine Village Underground

Shot by BERNICE MULENGA

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Whine Village Underground
Shot by BERNICE MULENGA
Lesbiennale 2019 East London Tshirt

Nadine Ahmad by BERNICE MULENGA

Lesbiennale 2019 East London Tshirt
Nadine Ahmad by BERNICE MULENGA
Words
Bailey Slater
LESBIENNALE

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