Live Art on Oxford Street|
by Rich Cline • page 2 of 3
Gay themes have featured heavily in Joshua’s work over the years. Born in Cambridge and raised in Edinburgh, he describes his childhood as rather miserable. “I was brought up by my father, which was fine, but it was a big strain on my dad with one adolescent girl, one 5-year-old girl and one latent homosexual son!” He went on to study drama and English at Bristol, but soon realised that he hated the theatre, so did further degrees in film, video and fine art before taking the decision to stop working for free and make a living as an artist (he also works two days a week promoting literature events).
BEAUTY AND POWER. Early art projects involved a much more overt examination of sexuality and gay culture. “I did this series over at Duckie called More Effective Less Painful, which looked at five male health and beauty products. Right on the stage, I had a deep-tissue massage, a full facial and a physical workout. I had my colours done, you know Colour Me Beautiful. And I had my butt waxed; I had my crack done on stage!”
He took the physical theme much further when he worked with a trainer to become a world-class power lifter, went to the Gay Games in Amsterdam and won the gold medal in his weight class. “It was really weird doing all the training,” he says. “I was ill a lot, because I was really pushing my body. And I was so nervous! I went to be weighed in and I had taken this stuff that keeps the muscles and makes you able to train harder. And the diet, all this revolting food. So I was in Amsterdam and I was wearing my best possible briefs, because you get weighed in just in your pants, and I shat myself on the way to the thing. And in the middle of the day I just had to take all my clothes off in the street and throw the pants into the canal! I mean it was ridiculous! I was very nervous. But it was great fun to do and there was a piece that accompanied that in a gallery.”
His most notorious project was called Cockeyed. “This was basically a sexual encounter between two men from the point of view of the penis of one of them. I used an endoscopic camera and basically it follows a pornographic text and everything was kind of blurred. But it does end up fucking, going up your arse!” The piece combined performance with underground gay culture, with Joshua and his then-partner performing in the film, talking about how they were filming it while the text of a porn film runs across the screen in subtitles. The main idea was to examine the gap between what you see and how it’s created.
But turned out to be Joshua’s most difficult project when a Times reporter picked up on the event and misreported it. And since the article mentioned Joshua’s workplace, he started getting death threats in the post. “It was an awful experience. The whole thing was just ridiculous.”
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