Drag artists #takeover museum seeking everyone's story - not one HIStory.

My recent ‘spotlight’ #twinterviews are with the “brilliant” #untitled10 currently exhibiting at The Bowes Museum. Lady Kitt is an award winning Drag King and maker described as an "International superstar of feminism" and as "Outstanding." 

I hope you can enjoy my recent ‘spotlight’ #twinterviews with the “brilliant” #untitled10 artists currently exhibiting at The Bowes Museum until Feb 28th. Each artist has responded to the museum and collection in a unique way with an emphasis on craft and making. Lady Kitt is an award winning Drag King and maker. Kitt has been described as an "International superstar of feminism," by Creative Debuts, London and "Outstanding," by Time Out. In addition to making a giant, interactive, paper shrine to the 5th BC century Greek poet Sappho, Kitt also ran a series of performative responses to gender ambiguity and LGBTQ+ history in the Bowes Museum collection.

Lady Kitt #twinterview transcript

Thank you for joining us today Kitt @lady_kitt for your lunchtime #twinterview with @talkinculture Q1 Lady Kitt, Drag King, Gentleman Josephine, Mr Sappho… How is your #untitled10 work raising multiple questions around identity and how it is controlled? @thebowesmuseum #lgbtq

Kitt @lady_kitt A1 Identity is a word I find dead problematic. I feel it's use is often clinical & cynical. It strips humanity out of us-like here’s some bullet point, paint-by-numbers characteristics. “BOOM, got that accessibility/diversity problem sorted right out”. I'm glad you mention control, for me the two are linked, for sure. Ideas of identity can be used to exert control. People with "othered" identities can have those used against them, but also use them to dominate certain situations. In this dominance/ control dynamic, nuance is lost. In my work I like to rummage around in that less clear-cut stuff. I try & offer opportunities for people to ask their own questions, which I reckon will be way more powerful, subtle & interesting than anything I might ask. #untitled10

Kitt @lady_kitt Q2 What interventions would you welcome in traditional museums like @thebowesmuseum to ‘change the stage’ and see the national footprint change from predominantly white, middle class visitors? #twinterview #untitled10 @talkinculture

Kitt @lady_kitt A2 To quote Phil Douglas @CuriousArts "people aren't "hard to reach", they're easy to ignore". For me it's not just about changing the stage, it's probably about leaving it for a bit. Take activity, objects & ideas out of institutions. Take them to community centres, nurseries, nail bars, allotments, on buses. Share them. Find out what lots of different people think about this stuff. Let those new ideas, feelings, that knowledge inform what happens next, and where it happens. The burden of action shouldn’t be on visitors (or 'potential' visitors), but on people inside institutions. And not just the engagement team. Everyone. EVERYONE!

@talkinculture Yes, great examples of this in the US – breaking the barriers – why assume new audiences will come to you first?

Kitt @lady_kitt Absolutely, it’s not a one way relationship. Institutions which are interested in people will have people interested in them!

@talkinculture Well said and time for diverse trustee boards to be conditional and not a recommendation.

Kitt @lady_kitt This is so important!!

@talkinculture It seems Equality Act application is too often superficial across the creative arts / cultural sector (and beyond no doubt). Response and responsibility is slow to what should be urgent. #untitled10

Kitt @lady_kitt Q3 You often visited @thebowesmuseum in your childhood; as a parent what experience would you like your and all children to have there today that would be different in comparison? #twinterview #untitled10 @talkinculture         

Kitt @lady_kitt A3 I love for my children to feel part of a conversation in a museum, as opposed to the passive observer I often felt I was as a kid. For a lot of children museums = history. But History, what even is it? What’s the point? Why bother? For me, it’s about dialogue, connection, autonomy. History is a big mush of things - complex, useful, horrific, hilarious, creative, ordinary and bloody weird. Museums can provide channels for supporting people to feel connected to (and through) this beautiful mess of human-ness. Those are the museums I would like children (and everyone!) to be experiencing. #untitled10

Kitt @lady_kitt Q4 You’ve raised queer stories, breeches roles and the first drag takeover @thebowesmuseum How do you ensure your work has a socially conscious impact? @talkinculture #untitled10 #twinterview

Kitt @lady_kitt A4 I can’t really.  Sometimes a project will do what I expect it to, sometimes it won't. Sometimes it'll do something else unexpected and great, or, other times, it'll fall spectacularly on it's a***. At the start of every project I have to prepare myself (& other people involved) for the possibility that it might not "work". The tools I've found most useful / likely to support 'success' in socially engaged  projects are: listening (to as many different people as possible), communicating in as unfussy way as possible, being playful, being honest and not starting out with a set idea about what a "good" outcome looks (sounds, smells, feels, tastes) like.

Kitt @lady_kitt Q5 What would be your happiest marker of success for your #untitled10 2019 work @thebowesmuseum ? #twinterview @talkinculture

Kitt @lady_kitt A5 The happiest moment so far was watching a 4 year old child dancing with some of the drag artists on the drag takeover day. People and ideas that wouldn’t usually collide, interacting - For me that's success.  It's pretty much always the incidental interactions which give me the most joy - that feels like real, tangible change. Museums can invite people in to create these interventions and that’s ace, but I think long term success is linked to cultivating an environment where that gorgeous, unplanned stuff can happen naturally and often. It’s really hard to sustain. It’s brilliant that Bowes is committed to trying out new ways of working and dead exciting to be a part of it.

Thank you very much Kitt @lady_kitt for your #twinterview with @talkinculture today, feel free to add in any final thoughts. Followers you can see more of Kitt’s work here: https://www.lladykitt.com/ The #untitled10 2019 are in exhibition until Feb 28th.

Kitt @lady_kitt Thank YOU!! It's been lush

Paula Moore, Director of Talkin’ Culture is interested in how access to arts and museum spaces can be widened to far wider audiences through different entry points and with alternative visitor experience routes. I believe traditional museum experiences are often too static, austere and often rigidly academic failing to respond as a public service. I hope you enjoy my #twinterviews and artist insights to explore this further.

Header Image Credit: Sophia Barton

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