A personal statement about the development of Bareback Museum from Miles Coote, the founder

My Aim within this project is to educate and develop knowledge with LGBTQ+ communities about the phenomenology of queer identities in relation to bareback sex, through the democracy and participation of individuals in open, intimate discussions and life drawing ; formed as part of the Bareback Museum art project.

121Lifedrawing. Chelsea. Miles Coote

The project developed out of my intimate experiences with sex and institutions, as an artist. In 2014, PEP and PrEP changed. The medication was no longer a cocktail of drugs which had bad side effects but became a practical treatment to overcome the desires for unprotected sex. I used PEP three times within 2014-15 and started to have conversations with health institutions. There are many narratives which follow on from front facing perspectives, as medical staff distributing treatment and also the view from the users and non users of the drugs. After the third course of PEP I began to realise that I was starting to become depressed by the reality of a bio political event, taking place between institutions, my body and my identity. It also effected the personal and interpersonal sexual scripts around condom use. Bareback was now institutional and not simply a taboo.

As a means to open up the dialogues of conversation about Bareback sex, I began seeking the research of queer. How can queer methodologies disrupt the organised mechanisms of institutions? One of the artists creating action research in this area was Owen G Parry. Owen disrupted the expectancy of an art organisation by subverting his and its’ practice. In 2015 I performed in Owen’s work at Latitude festival, where we created a mock/fictional band interview and gave turns for the audience to switch places. In 2014, we also performed ‘how to faint’ at a festival in Yorkshire, specifically teaching an audience to faint through a series of steps. This was a specific subversion going against the grain of event planning and institutional values.

In a workshop lead by Oreet Ashery in 2011, I performed naked and explored the narratives of nudity and geographies, developing my perception of nudity for film and 121 performance. I experimented in a 121 performance with Erini Kartsaki, naked in a bath tub. Erini both drowned and kissed me with intimacy.

The establishment of theoretical love, discussed in philosophy as the State and family through psychoanalytical and enlightenment/colonial thinkers, is presented in my work as an institutional pedagogy. In 2010 I performed naked in my Bachelor’s Degree to present my queer auto-ethnography about a ‘Non-Western’ group of “Assylummers” exploring their sexuality and subjectivity within a Art Biennial. The writing formed a discussion about encountering ‘Touched’, the public art biennial in Liverpool in 2010, as a marginalised group. The structure of the text was used to illustrate complexity, with the title ‘Let’s abstract the Thought’, which I later understood the semi fictional text as a foundation for the idea of Queer Fractals. “Let’s abstract the thought” was rejected for my dissertation and I was scorned for presenting my work naked by the University. I was sent to see an educational psychologist to diagnose if I was dyslexic; my psychologist diagnosed me as neither, but despite this I was given dyslexia support and made to rewrite my dissertation.

I’m bringing this to attention because I do not believe that knowledge of Queer theory and the open systems of queer pedagogies existed within the faculty at Camberwell at this time and rather than my dissertation be allowed to contribute to knowledge from the position of a queer and marginalised subject writer, I was attacked for the different approach I made to developing knowledge. It was as though I did not fit in the institution and therefore it must be me who had something wrong. From this experience I began to learn how nudity and intimacy could work.

I began to develop Queer Methodologies of Performance, including Nudity in Queer festivals, Visual art films and social spaces. One amazing space for my development was performing at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s club in an event curated by Lara and Lisa called HASHTAG.

For my MA interview, I may be the fist student ever to do it naked. I performed with a Painting ‘The Line of Linearity”, depicting an explosion of smiley face emojis and tadpoles in a 2D game matrix. I spoke about nudity, subjectivity and art ( receiving the Vice Chancellor’s Award ). At the University I formed the project ‘Bareback the Precariat Museum’; finally abbreviating to the ‘Bareback Museum’.

Image of Bareback the Precariat Painting by Miles Coote and Peter Hollamby and live art performance setup 2015

I also developed methods within the University for nudity and exhibitionism, which was realised in the subversion of a life drawing class. The ‘Bareback the Precariat Museum’ was a live art, painting and life drawing performance with collaborators including Peter Hollamby (artist and retired head of printmaking), WERK (run by Alun Davies Fashion) and House O’Dwyer (The director of the Dalston Ballet Company of which I was a member). This performance was a queer and temporal experience creating conversations about the public space, collectivity, participation and mobilisation of an audience. The Bareback Museum had begun. 

The Bareback Museum has since performed at academic events, the association of medical humanities and art institutions including Tate Britain and the Barbican Centre (with Owen G Parry). The work that has developed out of the life drawing into a life drawing performance workshop, which subverts the activity of life drawing and performance and presents the audience with considerations about intimacy, sexual health and exhibitionism.

My motivation for creating live art life drawing performance workshops is also part of an exacerbated process of displaying Queer Art. As a live artist and painter I struggle with accessibility to art and fear that paintings may not meet the spectatorship of their community. Subverting the life drawing workshops or any other kind of performance, be it cabaret or theatre, to show public art in the form of a collectible asset to a collective audience is important. It questions whether art should be sold to the communities. It is a contract of engagement between audiences, collectors and artists.