Ian MacKinnon by Don Tinling Photography
“Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy” is a brilliant, side splitting and wonderfully sexy piece of storytelling and performance. Ian has meticulously researched our queer world history, mythology, and folklore and spun into a vibrant homo tapestry that is both titillating and inspiring. While I often found myself saddened and angered by the erasure of our homo history Ian’s hilarious performance reminded me how grateful I am to be a grownup queer with access to art that celebrates and investigates our queerly complex stories.
Ian was kind enough to spend some time talking with me about his newest work “Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy.”
Ofelia: You were exploring the erasure of homo-history back in 2008 when you did the “Gay Bodies! Gay Souls!” piece. Did “Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy” evolve from that earlier work?
Ian: It’s so cool that you remember that. That was a really fun show! Yes, The Gay Hist-Orgy has been evolving for a long time. My father was a historian and archaeologist so I have always been interested in history. But I got the idea for the show when I read the work of Karl Ulrichs. Someone told me he was the Grandfather of Gay Rights so I had to know about him. I found his words really powerful and still relevant and I realized while reading him I had developed a crush, fantasizing him to be my boyfriend. So, I wrote a short piece where we made love and his quotations were presented in the sex. It worked out really well so I decided I could cruise and fuck all the gay greats from history and make a whole show out of it.
Ofelia: It seems you’ve become quite the queer cultural historian! What was your research process and plan for the performance?
Ian: It was like college all over again but totally gay! I had a real passion for it. I carried a ton of books everywhere I went and was up late writing, reading, and hunting obsessively for period gay music. It was really inspiring. I amassed a ton of research and then the process was really one of cutting away and boiling down until I had a script that was doable. Then I went into video making/editing madness, filming with my pal’s Eric Yu and Danny Hill who play the sexy genie and the leather daddy professor. Then I rehearsed the fuck out of it to get the timing down and make sure it was fun and that I got all the dates and names right and stuff.
“Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy”
Ofelia: How does your performance art fit into the study of queer history?
Ian: I think it provides a necessary angle on it all by bringing the passion and sex and fun back into it. Studying can be a chore and history can be so neutered and boring and homophobia is always rampant. My show puts the cock and balls, and juicy gay spirit back into place. These men were hot and passionate and so gay! They had sexy lovers who inspired them to greatness. My show celebrates that.
Ofelia: I have a fantasy where you’re the homo leatherman professor of my dreams and my gay genie tells me he see’s your pockets lined with liberal arts college speaking fees… Do you have plans to go on tour? If so I am totally psychic.
Ian: Awesome! I love your vision! Yes, I will be taking the show up to SF June 22nd to perform at Faetopia (www.faetopia.com) and then I will run again in LA Friday nights in July. (www.gayhistorgy.com) I do college shows which is always so much fun! The piece works really well in an academic setting.
Ofelia: Why do you think it’s important that we (homos) are aware of our history? Do you think it is also important for straight people to be aware of the tales and traditions of queers of the past?
Ian: Knowing our history is important to me because it is empowering and it puts the present into focus. It’s good to know how homosexuals have been treated throughout history. It sheds light on our current situation. And I feel that learning about how the ancient Chinese emperors were gay, and the Sufi mystic poets found god through gay love, and many who shaped our modern world like Plato and da Vinci and Abe Lincoln were gay, gives me a kind of strength and a deeper understanding of gay purpose. And yes it’s totally important for srt8s to know homo history. It is hidden from them too and there is so much unconscious homophobia that goes on, I think it can be eye opening. I think straights who come to the show usually dig it.
Ofelia: Did you work with anyone else to develop “Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy?”
Ian: I have a writing partner Wendell Jones. He co-wrote “AIDS: The Musical” and did a lot of performance art in the 80’s and 90’s in LA. He is a history buff and introduced me to a number of men I did not know. He suggested the incredible Herman Melville “Sprm of Kindness” section from Moby Dick. He also made sure my writing was clear and helped to bring out a gay centered focus even more. He has been an invaluable support. We have a really great collaboration going on.
Ofelia: Were you ever worried that people might not be interested enough in history to make creating the show worth the effort?
Ian: Oh yeah totally. Before I did the first Karl piece I wondered if anyone would give a fuck about some old queen from the 1860’s. But Karl is brilliant and it got a really strong reaction and each section that I created after that also went well so I just trusted that people would care. Plus I care a lot and I think that helps others to see why they should care.
Ofelia: I was surprised by how deeply moved I was by this piece-it satisfied a need for historical validation that I didn’t know that I had. Have other people had similarly emotional responses to the show?
Ian: Yes I often have people tell me they cried or were moved. I love that. Usually people have a nice mixture of feelings to report after a show, they will say they laughed so hard but that it was smart too and touching or that they felt inspired. Often they will share their fave gay history tid-bits which is cool. It gets people excited I think, the piece has a lot of energy, it’s is a real ride.
Ofelia: You’re the un-curator of “Queer Mondays” at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. Why is it important for queers to have a safe space to develop their work? Has having access to this space helped you to develop your own work?
Ian: Oh yeah Highways has been a great supporter of my work. I spent years developing pieces there. It’s such a great space and so open and nurturing of queer artists. I began Queer Mondays there three years ago because I think it is so important for LGBT artists to have safe and consistent place to create work. The world is so full to the brim with heteronormativity, it’s overwhelming and it influences us. We need our own place to understand what it means to be gay or queer and feel safe and strong in that. Gay liberation is far from over.
“Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy” Saves Queer History
Sometimes I wake up at night to worry about things that would be useless to scrawl on the pad of paper I keep on the nightstand for the purpose of storing racing thoughts. In these frantic moments I begin to worry about archiving. I worry that our letters, diaries, and hand drawn protest flyers will end up in moldy dumpsters at estate sales and that these beautiful snapshots of our queer histories will be forever lost. I worry about the little gaybies in Iowa who are praying for God to take their gay away. I worry that they won’t get to see Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy and I worry that Ian’s manuscript will end up in a mildewy pile and that the performance and those stories will die when the art fags of my generation take our last breaths and so I ask Ian very casually if he’s been recording the performances. What will become of “Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy” when the party’s over? Ian doesn’t know he’s enabling my obsessive thinking but I’m so relieved when he tells me he’s filming the performances and that they will later be edited into a DVD. So I take a deep breath and smile and for a moment I can stop worrying because my favorite fey leatherman professor, Ian MacKinnon, will make sure the gaybies have something to be proud of for a very long time.
San Francisco Dates:
Friday, June 22nd 9 PM @ Faetopia
In the vacant Tower Records (nxt to Cafe Flore)
at Market St & Noe St
2286 Market Street
Los Angeles Dates: