For a visual arts exhibition mounted at the American Centre in New Delhi, queer art is about challenging the status quo and breaking free from dominant ideas. The ME WE exhibition, put together by cultural curator Myna Mukherjee, celebrates 25 artist voices, self-identified as queer.
The diverse works span paintings, photographs, sculptures, videos, sci-fi fantasia, comic-book graphic art and digital media appropriations.
"Whatever is different from status quo is what queer is. Queer art is really a wide rainbow-like umbrella of different kinds of thoughts. It is arts that change art practice and status quo of that point in time," Mukherjee said.
The exhibition is a "joint effort of 34 Delhi-based embassies" towards universalising human rights and supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during International Pride month, a statement said.
The artists featured in the exhibition work at the intersections of identity and life experience.
The list of artists includes iconic photographers like Ram Rahman and Sonia Khurana, as well as established artists like Balbir Krishan, Valay Gada, Inder Salim and Satadru Sovan.
Emerging art feminists like Gopa Trivedi, Manmeet Devgun and Gargi Chandola and radical youth voices like Indira Lakshmi Prasad and Aditya Raj and Mohan Jangid also find space in the exhibition.
Works of new artists working at the intersection of religion and sexuality like Aaamir Rabbani & Adil Kalim, and young women artists from the northeast like Jenny TS and Baishali Chetia, are also exhibited at ME WE, among others.
There was also a launch of a community library for LGBTQ+ young adults named 'Resonance through Reading' at ME WE.
It has fiction and non-fiction books, reports, academic journals, periodicals and brochures in which "they can see representations of themselves, as well as read about issues specific to growing up or being bi, gay, lesbian, trans or otherwise gender non-conforming or queer".
The mini library of 80 books, brought together by the Bi Collective of Delhi will also be housed at the American Centre for the entire duration of the exhibition.
Artist Sumiran Kabir Sharma, whose installation is inspired by Mahabharata character Shikhandi, has placed it in a passage where ways part for men's and women's restrooms, signifying the worldwide struggle of transgender people to find bathrooms.
Explaining his work, he said, "We're all queer in our own little ways, and we find that once we cross a veil of denial—the restrictions in society and our own selves—that holds us back. There is a magnifying mirror placed here because we are always finding ourselves". He added that when we find the queer in ourselves, we relate to whatever characters we call queer.
"In India, any alternative gender or sexuality, or just sexuality in general, is so invisibilised, that anything to do with body, desire or women's desire automatically falls under queer art. Queer identity has also moved away from just sexuality-based identity to a more intersectional identity, incorporating class, gender, caste," Mukherjee explained.
Mukherjee is the director of Engendered, a transnational arts and human rights organisation, and believes that we're living in "times of shrinking spaces and rising invisibilities, so this exhibition was really important."
The exhibition, put together in 10 days, illuminates the "complex landscape of gender, pleasure, fantasy and desire here, today, now".
The curator expressed concern over artists self-censoring themselves and visual culture becoming hegemonic. To counter this, she said: "The time is to be explicit and the time is now."
The exhibition is open for public display till July 8.