AMSTERDAM – Photographer and (former) dancer Goran Turnšek exhibits his photographs. The exhibition is on view from 24 July to 8 August at the Queer current festival during Pride Amsterdam in the VondelCS, Amsterdam.
As if secret activities were taking place, at illegal parties or social gatherings: these are the snapshots that photographer Goran Turnsek took during the lockdown between March 2020 and June 2021. Because snapshots are what they are, impressions of a unfree, oppressive time. Illegal house parties have replaced the big parties, which was the influence of Covid-19. We have turned into a locked herd, Turnsek explains, where the government takes care of our health and we are at the mercy of pharmaceutical industries.
Recently, Turnsek has been reminiscent of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. While it was then mainly the gay community that lived under the spell of the fear of contamination, now it could happen to anyone. Fear of contact, Turnsek calls it, while everyone was looking for contact. The fear of being yourself, as if you ended up in the closet again, while you passionately longed for freedom. Partying, cuddling and sex: it seemed to be a taboo. The parallel with AIDS is unmistakable: if there is one thing that belongs to the identity of gays, it is dance and outing. The downside that manifested itself in the HIV era was the guilt that arose among gays and that sometimes became visible in Corona patients. As if they were to blame for spreading the disease.
Turnsek’s photos are sometimes deliberately abstract. Images of cozy dinners were suddenly out of the question on Instagram – instead, the selfie culture flourished. Being together was proof of irresponsible behavior. As a Slovenian, raised in an unfree society, Turnsek knows what it’s like to lead a hidden life as a gay man. And just when the first Gay Pride was celebrated in Maribor, everyone had to avoid each other again because this time the infection would mainly affect the elderly.
The photos tell a story, unadorned but honest and raw, of sneaky parties and picnics. Turnsek uses the snapshots as a form of resistance, identifying himself with the protesters in Hong Kong. Unable to approach professional dancers, he used his friends and family as “models”. Covid has destroyed our lives, all spontaneity has been destroyed.
In the Philippines where he was shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, the hotel pool closed abruptly so that sunbathing was not allowed anywhere but secretly on the roof. The party lights abstractly represent a longing for dancing and freedom, and for people who move through space almost like ghosts or devils, once again in the grip of fear. Suddenly we were behind the curtains again, says Turnsek, just like during the HIV epidemic, when gays could not move freely. Affection became a taboo. In that sense, Turnsek is a chronicler of a fraught episode in recent history by photographing friends and acquaintances who went wild for a moment. Until another measure would follow. Forbidden to touch, come on: man is a community animal.