Part of Winter 2007
JT Leroy became a cult figure through his “autobiographical” writings such as Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. He charmed everybody partly because he was victimized in a dozen different ways: trannie child prostitute and queer street kid, abuse survivor, drug addict, HIV+. We loved this diminutive boy-genius because he was so fucked up yet he spun his shitty, sublimely melodramatic life into literary gold for our consumption. When it was revealed that JT was actually a straight middle-aged woman, we were confronted with her and our fetishizing of marginality – and questions about the artistic value of these now infamous books.
The hoax illuminated many fascinating issues, most notably surrounding our intense desire for and indulgence of boys who behave badly: how privately lived trauma mutates into desperate, theatrical playing-out to get attention; how deep and queer the connections are between celebrity and suffering, publicity and delinquency; and how JT’s transgressions are part of a long tradition of adoring the diamond in the rough or the mad creative genius – his perma-sunglasses, blonde wig and claims of genital self-mutilation merely a finesse of Van Gogh’s severed ear.
These videos all consider the appeal of the fucked up boy, from real serial killers to fictional martyrs to everything abject and unruly in between: Steve Reinke’s perverse Box and The End of My Death deconstruct the Oprahfication of famed gay monster Jeffrey Dahmer; Joshua Thorson’s wonderful Rock and a Hard Place is an uncanny re-enactment of another great hoax, the eponymous 1993 memoir by a severely abused HIV+ boy named Anthony Godby Johnson; David Shrigley and Chris Shepherd’s obscenely funny, crudely animated Who I Am and What I Want is an exhausting autobiographical tirade by a brute who is pure id; Finally, rising star Ryan Trecartin’s apocalyptic queer underground epic A Family Finds Entertainment charts the tasteless travails of a faggot named Skippy and his cracked out friends and family. Discovered by the art world on Friendster, AFFE will make your head explode with its blindingly bright colours and shrill over-overacting galore.