Tiona Nekkia McClodden | video stills from: The Labyrinth 1.0, 2017 | © Tiona Nekkia McClodden, courtesy of the artist and Company, New York
The scandal-raising book What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin was published in 2006. In it, with the ethnologist’s gaze, the Lebanese author Rashid Al-Daif portrays his encounter with his gay German colleague Joachim Helfer, who responds to him in essays. Its original German title Die Verschwulung der Welt (“the gayification of the world”) comes from Hubert Fichte’s work. Just like Fichte’s writings, this literary dialogue deals with views of the Other – in particular with dealings with non-heteronormative sexuality. Set at the borders of the genres between narrative, reportage and essay, the joint work triggered a debate and fierce rejection by some. Can someone write so naïvely about personal perceptions of others? This is precisely the question raised among today’s readers, well versed as they are in terms of identity and positioning, when they encounter Hubert Fichte’s ethnologically interested – or inspired? – novels and essays. His easy-going – or callous? – approaches to the foreign spark disconcertment. The exhibition Love and Ethnology gathers reactions by artists from the places Fichte visited and described. What exactly is Fichte’s utopia of the “gayification” of the world? Is it the softening and blurring of all boundaries between identities and positions? What strategies does it offer in a present-day that for sheer sensitivity runs the risk of allowing us to speak only of our own? Joachim Helfer explores these questions on his tour.