Thursday, May 24, 2012

A few questions with MondoHomo festival organizer Jesse Morgan

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2012 at 2:00 PM

GlitterLust plays Friday
The sixth annual "queerlicious" festival MondoHomo gets going tonight at the Arts Exchange and runs through the Memorial Day weekend. MondoHomo features a ton of musical acts including Double Duchess, GlitterLust, the Back Pockets, DJs Speakerfoxxx and Ree de la Vega, as well as a zine project with the Quuer Zine Archive, a live Grindr app and the premier of Transdroids, Britt Dunn's film about gender non-specific androids. Lead festival organizer Jesse Morgan breaks it down for CL.

How many people does the event draw each year and how has it grown in the last six years?
We draw in the range of 1,200 people. I've been involved since 2008, and definitely from the first year we've seen growth. But part of our mission and the idea around Mondohomo is not to make it like some big palooza music show. We like the smallness of it. We're not trying to reach out to 20,000 people.

The fest is always Memorial Day Weekend. Any reason for that besides the three-day weekend?
The reason that happened is because Kiki [festival founder Kiki Mercury] wanted to go to a queer fest in California called Homo A Go Go and could never go so she just said, "Well, I'll create one here." It happened during the U.S. Social Forum, which was on Memorial Day weekend, and then we just kept it there.

You've been the lead festival organizer for two years. Have you tried to do anything different or new in the position?
Our performance night has always been dedicated to burlesque and drag because it's such an integral part of gay/queer culture and burlesque is performance art that definitely deserves a spotlight. But this year we've actually oopeend up our performance night to a gigantic array of different performance art ranging from voguing, which is a huge scene here in Atlanta and we're glad to support that, a theater piece, a gay haunted house... so we've opened up the performance night and that is something that I'm glad we're doing this year.

What does it mean to be a gay haunted house?
Do you know Fred Phelps? Like, "God hates fags."

Yeah.
It's gonna be that kind of theme, making fun of Fred Phelps and his church.

Tell me about the live Grindr app y'all are implementing during the festival.
Grindr is an app for smartphone it basically a mostly gay male social app that's directed toward hooking up, having sex, that kind of thing, which is really awesome. So this year at MondoHomo we wanted to have a live Grindr app and open it up to all genders and all nongender conformists. So you go into a photobooth, take a picture, print out your picture and you tape your picture to a wall and there's a place where people can write notes and people can connect that way. Grindr has really been popular in gay culture and so we wanted to represent that and kind of put a queer twerk on it.

San Francisco electro hop group Double Duchess headlines the festival on Friday night
  • Courtesy MondoHomo
  • San Francisco electro hop group Double Duchess headlines the festival on Friday night

What's the Queer Zine Archive Project and how is it participating in the fest?
As part of the show Queers on the New Frontier, the Queer Zine Archive and the Southern Queer Zine Archive, are showing queer zines and they're also opening it up so people can make their own pages for a zine that we'll actually be making throughout the whole weekend.

You'll also be screening the film Transdroids, a Georgia State master's thesis project about gender non-specific androids. Have you seen the film? Can you explain?
I have not seen the film, but we just found out that the film is making its way around really large-scale gay film festivals in the United States so we're actually gonna be the first festival to show it and we're excited about that. The creator of the film is Britt Dunn and Britt has been involved with MondoHomo since its second year. He did this film and it was really awesome so we thought MondoHomo would be a great place to allow him to show it and show the public.

Since MondoHomo's an overtly political event, would you offer some perspective on the seemingly dramatic shift in public opinion about gay rights since MondoHomo began six years ago?
MondoHomo's framework is political, its base is very political and I think that what MondoHomo does is it engages in a way that isn't gay-rights specific; it engages in a way that is radical social justice specific. What I mean by that is we don't just focus on something like gay marriage; we focus on a more inclusive type of social justice. When we organize a festival we don't really think like, "Oh, gay marriage is illegal here." That's not something that we organize around. We recognize that that's a social issue that should be corrected, but our framework in MondoHomo is more about stuff like we recognize that queer art or queer music isn't really celebrated or recognized, so whenever we create a space for queer art or queer music we know that is inherently political.

In terms of the mainstream and the gay lifestyle being more readily accepted, while that may be true, we know of stories that gay kids are getting kicked out of their house; gay kids are committing suicide; our transcommunity is getting murdered. We recognize those things so when we create MondoHomo we know that in a lot of different places, gays, queers, transfolk sometimes don't have a place where they fit in. So whenever you talk about gay rights that makes everything seem to be OK now, we want it to be even more OK, so that those who don't feel comfortable in the gay community can come to MondoHomo and feel comfortable.

MondoHomo takes place all weekend at the Arts Exchange (750 Kalb Street) and other venues around town. Camping is available at the Arts Exchange and all events are pay what you can. Full details and schedule at www.mondohomo.com.

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