“We Who Feel Differently” lecture: Artist Carlos Motta proposes a change in perspective

Carlos Motta came out to his family and friends as gay by the time he was 18, but he soon realized he didn’t know anything about the gay community or its history that would help further his understanding of his sexuality. He described that he wasn’t aware he could be gay “beyond the bedroom.”

Now, Motta has made it his goal to document LGBT history and modern issues, using artwork as a vehicle for meaning in exhibits in museums across the world, including New York City’s Guggenheim museum and the MoMA. Motta visited the 5Cs Monday night to hold a lecture titled “We Who Feel Differently” in the Smith Campus Center. Motta largely discussed his most recent three-part project, also titled “We Who Feel Differently,” as well as his project “Petit Moir: Recollections of a Queer Public.”

“I think a lot of the things I’ll talk about will be new to students,” Motta said before his presentation. “One of the things that’s going on with LGBT politics is that there’s an illusion that there’s only a few things that matter and are very widely reported,” he said, referring to issues such as marriage and military service for queer Americans. “Some of the things that I’ll talk about will make students think about LGBT issues in a different light,” Motta said.

The “We Who Feel Differently” project consists of an online database of interviews with 50 different experts on the LGBT community, a book that weaves the interviews together and explores central themes, and an online journal. The first edition of the online journal was entitled “Queerly Yours” and argued that marriage rights are not the ultimate step to equality for the LGBT community.

“The perspectives that the project is putting forth (in the interviews) are perspectives that are being consciously neglected by the mainstream media,” Motta said. “They question and challenge the mandate of the mainstream LGBT movement, and the things that it has taken as priorities.”

Referencing 1970s ideals of gay liberation, Motta introduced students to a form of the LGBT movement not based on assimilating to heterosexual culture. He encouraged them to see difference as an opportunity for learning, as “something positive, not something to be remedied.”

The book’s introduction explains, “‘We Who Feel Differently’ attempts to reclaim a queer ‘We’ that values difference over sameness, a ‘We’ that resists assimilation, and a ‘We’ that embraces difference as a critical opportunity to construct a socially just world.” In this way, Motta has worked to create the proud LGBT community he did not experience in his youth in Colombia.

Motta continued that work in “Petit Moir” (French for ‘orgasm’), a compilation of drawings by gay men of blue prints of public areas where they’ve had sex. Motta said, “sex needs to be taken out of the bedroom in the current conservative political atmosphere where people believe queers want to assimilate.” Motta hopes to use this work to remind people that sexuality is not limited to the bedroom.

While he spoke Monday, Motta played a slideshow consisting of photos from his exhibits, quotes from interviews, and screenshots of his project “We Who Feel Differently.” Full interviews are available on the website, as well as a PDF of the “We Who Feel Differently” book Motta edited with his sister Cristina.

Motta was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in 2008 and is currently part of the faculty of Parsons School of Design and several other colleges. For more information or to view the database of interviews or the book, visit wewhofeeldifferently.info.

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