Compiled by Eric Plamondon
We always wonder if life is better elsewhere, or how Winnipeg compares to other cities. In this recurring column, we will compare and contrast what life is like for three 25 to 35-year-old gay men in different cities around the world. This month, we travel from London to Guadalajara, by way of Winnipeg, only to be reminded that every city has its gays, trying to live a socially active and interesting life. So live here, live anywhere, the moments we seek are out there.
London’s Frieze Art Fair
By Ian Robertson
LONDON – The contemporary art world is typically quite a comfortable place for gay men. I’d like to think that it’s the sense of experimentation – or maybe it’s that we’re just more comfortable outside of conservative corporate environments. In any case, there may not be science behind it, but it’s true.
Imagine London’s Frieze Art Fair, one of the biggest and most important in the world. The industry descends on Regent’s Park, where gallerists, collectors, artists and journalists collide in a series of huge, interconnected white tents. Booths practically sit perched atop one another, populated by steely art-world acolytes mingling, sipping drinks, kind-of-looking at what is on the walls but mostly looking at each other. Being in Britain, it nearly always rains during the fair, but that never prevents a healthy dose of couture on opening night (or couturiers; Valentino Garavani, in all of his orangey splendour, attended this year).
And this year’s edition of Frieze had no shortage of gay art and artists: a glittery rainbow flag? Turn to Jonathan Horowitz at the Sadie Coles gallery. Or just head around the corner and glimpse the oversized nude male flank, care of Wolfgang Tillmans. But this is London; gay content is hardly elusive.
Frankly, Frieze is probably not even the best way to explore new artists or galleries (the crowds!). For me, it’s a playground for people-watching: you’re just as likely to spot a young man in lederhosen as you are an 80-year-old woman in crayon-coloured felt.
Las Fiestas de Octubre
By Patrick Courcelles
JALISCO, Mexico – Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco. The home of tequila, mariachi and charreada, the heart of all that is quintessentially Mexican. And every October since 1965, the host of Las Fiestas de Octubre.
It’s an attraction for all walks of life, filled with rides, carnival games, junk food and concerts – but with a truly Mexican twist. Don’t expect hot dogs and beer; instead, indulge in tacos and tequila. Kids aren’t walking around with cotton candy; rather, they can be spotted eating chili-covered sweets.
Like festivals around the world, Las Fiestas de Octubre makes room for music with the Palenque – a small, circular stadium where they hold concerts ranging from pop to ranchero (a Mexican version of country). The concerts begin around midnight, after they clean up the stage from the nightly cockfights. Yes, you read that correctly, this centuries-old Asian tradition, illegal in many countries, was brought to Mexico from the Philippines by the Spanish and is still practiced throughout the country, especially during festivals such as this one.
The Fiestas can be experienced in your own way, which is why this year I attended the fair in style, surrounding myself with a group of 30 of my closest friends and my boyfriend, Inãki. We rented a party bus with our own personal DJ to tour the city and drop us off at the fairgrounds. The brave ones took in a few rides before arriving at the Palenque just before the concert started (purposefully missing the cockfight. Don’t let the word cock cloud your judgment into witnessing this). Hundreds of gay men (and many non-gays as well) came out to see Gloria Trevi, a 45-year-old Mexican pop diva whose life story is more unbelievable than most telenovelas. Fiestas de Octubre has old roots, but makes room for all those looking to celebrate publicly.
First Fridays in the Exchange District
By Eric Plamondon
WINNIPEG – On the first Friday of every month, I plan on being in the Exchange District; an easy task, as I often find myself in this historic neighbourhood. First Fridays is an established invitation from the art galleries of the Exchange to the rest of Winnipeg to come and experience all they have to offer. With many galleries, you can literally indulge in art.
On a particular Friday I grabbed some shawarma from former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and local celebrity Obby Khan at Shawarma Khan. Sitting by the window, I gazed across the street into an art gallery where a young artist painted. I then walked to the Exchange’s Frame Arts Warehouse for the Winnipeg Makers Market. Instantly, the space claims all those who find the reputed framed door. Crossing the doorway means you are welcomed by a beautiful man who also asks for a small donation, and giving a toonie earns you a flirtatious smile. An inspiring woman played the harp, putting your shopping nerves at ease. You are then free to wander amongst the handmade soaps, crafted jewels, suitcases-turned-speakers, moccasins and the requisite candles. For some reason, it seemed natural to sit down and have your fortune read and sample some jalapeno-coconut jam. This was all contained in a warehouse that has architectural beauty which found its value in its abandonment.
Culture, food and inspiring people doing creative things in Winnipeg still motivate us to discover and re-discover our neighbourhoods. And jalapeno-coconut jam and shawarmas might not be our parents’ traditional warm-your-boots comfort foods, but on any brisk day, I’m happy it can be ours.
Every other issue, Eric Plamondon will be gathering stories from two new people outside of Winnipeg. Did you enjoy these pieces? Let us know!