Mid way through his queer tour of the Tate Modern, David Hoyle finds out someone in the audience is attending the Civil Partnerships? queer and feminist curating conference the following day. He compliments them and then asks, in a deadpan and dead serious voice, how this will change the world and the issue at hand?
That pretty much sums up the tour – it doesn’t really attempt to show off the art, or the artists, or the host, or his impeccable knowledge of the arts, nor does he try to find the queer in random Picasso paintings. Instead Hoyle occupies the legitimacy that comes from being asked to show people around one of London’s biggest and most cherished sites, and uses it to storm out his political views and judgements. He rhetorically wonders if the non-vegans amongst us only eat the animals we kill ourselves, and goes on to describe in graphic details the tortures a cow might be subjected to so the cheddar production line doesn’t suffer. He makes a point of regularly mentioning the homophobia he grew up with. Most radically perhaps he pleads everyone to take proper action should they ever bump into a member of the political elite and ‘kill the bastards’, for our own sakes. He takes this notion so seriously, and comes back to it in such regular intervals, that it very quickly becomes obvious he might actually mean it. Hoyle is not being an agent provocateur for the theatrical sake of it – he is genuinely frustrated to the point of advocating utilitarian violence.
The catch is of course that he is infinitely empathic and the mood shifts when it transpires someone in the audience has just been made redundant after working for the NHS for 22 years. It fits all of the previously blasted politics to such an extent someone more cynical might suspect it to be fake; either that or this story is just so typical of the moment that its appearance was inevitable. Hoyle proceeds to finish the tour off by painting an impromptu, basic but heartfelt portrait of the victim of austerity. Many thoughts could be devised and stretched about his decision to do this – including but not limited to those about creating modern art in the museum of modern art and how this temporal conundrum might undermine the whole collection. In the light of the subject’s predicament however, Hoyle seems to have found the perfect way to use the grand stage he’s been given by making its centre, for 15 minutes at least, an event that these days would mostly serve as a sad statistic.
Hoyle’s queer tour starts by being a bit of a let down when it turns out to be 90 minutes of rambling that has little or nothing to do with queer aspects of Tate’s exhibits. It’s not long before it becomes apparent that while Hoyle is in all likelihood perfectly capable of delivering such a lecture he is not interested in doing so – or indeed convincing himself that the fact a drag queen has been invited to commentate famous paintings is any way revolutionary. His social agony is such that he might no longer think there’s any real hope, but he will still take any opportunity to shout out loud into the crowd under whatever pretext – believing that this (rather than delivering on what was originally promised) stands at least a miniscule chance of interrupting the status quo.