Altars

2022

"Using images taken from short films exploring the Radical Faerie movement that became popular in the United States, and then globally, from the 1970s onward, Ernesto looks to rectify what he understands as the “bad” representation of the intrusive, compulsorily heterosexual gaze, while applying his mode of working to an explicitly utopian source material.

The Radical Faerie movement, founded in 1979 by Gay Rights activists Harry Hay and Don Kilhefner in Los Angeles, is intended to combine elements of secular spiritualism with a radical rejection of hetero- and homonormative lifestyles through the establishment of intentional living communities. As expressed by members in a series of interviews, Radical Faeries, and their designated communities, “hold the space to be free,” encouraging a refusal of socialized systems and taxonomies, including gender binaries, while engaging in neo-paganistic rituals that induce a heightened perception of nature. With that said, such freedoms allow for a spectrum of adherence: among other traits, members describe their peers simply as “gay men with long hair, who wore Birkenstocks, and liked gardening.”5

Within this context, Ernesto is particularly interested in the “altars” made by Faeries, used as the focal point of a complex of spiritual practices, harboring a kind of personal votive power. In many cases, the altars are used as celebrations of personal and sexual freedom, employing sentimental totems along with an assemblage of spiritual iconography to create a divinity around not only sexual practices, but identity as it is vectored through sexual identity or orientation. As Oskrr, a Faerie featured in Philippe Roques’ 1992 documentary Faerie Tales, comments, “I had been taught for so long that sex was filth…[but now] I’m going the other way around. Sex is sacred; sex is divine.”6 These altars, of course, are made by hand, and as such, bear the imperfections of imprecise manual labor. However, regardless of their spiritual significance, filmic materials about the Faeries literally and figuratively cast a harsh light on these shrines, using the camera to dismiss their value. In the final cut, they appear disheveled and child-like, totems of the ill and sycophantic, while their utopian potential remains accessible to the viewer."

Read the entire essay by Jacob Barnes:

https://grovecollective.co/Ernesto-Renda-Selections-from-the-Altar-Series