By Kristi Alexandra @kristialexandra | Looselips Magazine | June 23, 2020

Feature photo by Noam Gagnon

“Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others,” Oscar Wilde famously said.

It points to a quandary of human judgement–who is wicked, and who gets to say so? Is it a given label, or does one get to righteously claim it?

It’s on this premise that the 2020 Vancouver Queer Arts Festival is built, and artistic director SD Holman has curated a lineup of transdisciplinary art and artists that embody the meaning of the word.

Starting off on July 16, the 10-day festival will include drag and burlesque performances, literary readings, speculative theatre and more–all in celebration of queer identity. 

“I think it’s so apropos that wicked came up right now at this moment,” Holman tells Loose Lips Mag. “I think artists are outlaws, and queers are the ones that I’m interested in.”

Holman draws a parallel between the theme of the 12th annual Queer Arts Festival and the current state of the world.

“There’s many layers to it, right now, especially, with the pandemic and with the killings and the police brutality. [What’s] coming to my mind is inclusion. Inclusion at what cost? Inclusion for who? Our inclusion is contingent on a set of rules,” they speculate.

“Years ago, they wanted to get rid of the drag queens and leather dykes at the pride parade. Inclusion depends on us being palatable. I want to see good art that can fall outside of that palatability.”

And this year’s lineup of performers does just that.

Indigenous burlesque group Virago Nation

Take for example, all-Indigenous burlesque group Virago Nation, who will perform Too Spirited on July 17. The group bucks colonial interpretations of beauty in what they call sexual rematriation.

Also on the docket is The Darlings, a non-binary drag collective whose performances have been repeatedly censored by Facebook. As a nod, their July 24 performance is aptly called The Darlings, Uncensored. 

Other acts include contemporary dance legend Noam Gagnon and queer writers Hiromi Goto and Erica Isomura.

“I like to highlight local, but I also love to bring in folks from away, so people can talk to each other across the disciplines and across time and across space,” says Holman. “I wanted to bring art into the world and into Vancouver that I wasn’t seeing.” 

Photo from The Darlings

As with every year, Queer Arts Festival has made a big effort to be accessible, both with ASL interpretations and with by-donation events.

 “Accessibility is really high up on our list and mandate,” Holman affirms, noting that ASL interpretations have always been part of the festival.

What’s entirely different this year, however, is 2020’s QAF is “going remote.” For the festival’s team, it came with its own unique challenges, but also with wins and determination.

“We were able to partner with The Cultch and do filming there, and we’re managing how to do that in a safe way. We have a safety plan, they have their safety plan,” Holman reveals. “It was our opportunity to say ‘Let’s re-envision this as something completely different.’” 

And different is exactly what Queer Arts Festival is all about. One might dare say, it’s about to get “wicked.”

Queer Arts Festival runs online from July 16 – 26. Check out the schedule, lineup and get tickets here.

Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep