Writer Megan Wallace interviews artist Rich Porter about Pilot Press, exploring a spectrum of emotions through a queer lens, Pilot Press is back — and up in arms — with its latest offering.
Anger has long been cast as a destructive force, an emotion which razes, rather than builds, bridges. However, true beauty can be born from anger, as whilst it’s burning bright-hot there’s no galvanising force quite like it.
Living in a fraught political climate where power and intolerance go hand-in-hand, anger is a near-inevitable emotion in many. Understandably, the queer community, in particular, is seething — particularly as the basic rights of trans, non-binary and intersex individuals are attacked in the US and beyond. Historically, as is the case for other groups marginalised in society, vital queer activism has been motivated by a sense of righteous anger in the face of injustice and discrimination. In 2018, queer networks are once more mobilising to resist and reject systemic oppression.
The rebellious spirit infusing the air is what makes Queer Anthology of Rage, from DIY publishing house Pilot Press, such a timely read. Bringing together work by AA Bronson, Chris Kraus, Olivia Laing and many more, the collection serves as an homage to the potency of queer rage. The third and final installment in a trilogy exploring the contemporary queer experience through a spectrum of emotions, it strikes an explosive final note.
Megan Wallace: First thing’s first, what’s the story behind Pilot Press?
Rich Porter: I liked the tradition of artists forming their own imprints and supporting other artists by showing their work. I was pretty lonely at the time and had been to this David Wojnarowicz reading event where I was inspired to start something communal. It was quite selfish really.
MW: As an LGBTQIA+ person heading up a press examining the queer experience, do you believe queer issues can only be accurately portrayed/by queer people? Or can cis-het people also convey this experience?
RP: No. I believe cis-het people can be accomplices if they so wish. But they cannot claim to represent us.
MW: Apart from the queer anthologies, what sort of content does Pilot Press publish?
RP: I’ve just started making small artist publications. The most recent one is by Dylan Meade, a guy who just graduated from Glasgow School of Art and whose sexy, erotic work and writings I was really attracted by. I’m currently working on a zine with this great photographer. I’m also hoping to get some artist fundraising editions sorted so I can keep the press alive.
MW: The trilogy of queer anthologies center around the emotions of loneliness, joy, and anger. Why these three emotions?
RP: They were what I was feeling at the time. What I found was that all three were pretty close to one another, in the end. Although the loneliness one is still my favorite.
MW: How do you gather the writers featured in the issues?
RP: I did open call outs on social media. I also asked a few of the more well known artists and writers (Chris Kraus, Eileen Myles, etc) to contribute and was lucky that most said yes.
MW: What’s the biggest challenge in putting the anthologies together?
RP: Taking care of people’s work. Wanting it to look perfect. The raw emotion of it all.
MW: The method of working in the creation of the anthologies seems quite DIY from what I’ve read about the press. Are you inspired by DIY culture?
RP: Yes 100%. I see so many people, particularly at art school where I’m at now, moaning about lack of money to buy the right materials for their work or putting on these fancy exhibitions and I kind of think; “just fucking do it and make it work, however you can.” Just be honest about the situation. We seem to be obsessed with everything being clean and professionalised these days. I like the rough around the edges look. It’s real. Some probably think it’s a mess. I don’t care.
MW: Do you see the anthologies as politicised projects? Why/ why not?
RP: I think any artistic act is political. We can’t avoid it. When we go to the shop to buy milk its political. Emotions are so deeply intertwined with politics. The dulling down of everything. Our numbness. It all connects with what’s happening in the world – bombing, war, massacres, greed. We’ve been bred to do and feel nothing. These anthologies were about feeling and so yeah in a small way are acts of political resistance.
MW: Historically, why would you say that anger is an emotion associated with the queer experience?
RP: Because historically queers have been murdered and treated like garbage. It’s only been a couple of decades since we were decriminalised, much less since we were given equal rights. Anger is at the core of any form of resistance. Queers / PoC / other minorities have always had their anger used against them. “You’re too militant” etc. Funny that being angry and expressing it is seen as militant but selling bombs to a country that executes homosexuals is perfectly normal. Ah well.
MW: Why would you say anger is such a pertinent issue for the queer community right now?
RP: Queers are beginning to remember why they were angry in the first place, which connected a lot with wider political issues such as war, conservatism, nationalism, etc. All things which are on the rise today. We were sold the picket fence and mortgage thing. They attempted to silence us with it. But we’re beginning to wake up again.
MW: Could queer rage be a tool for change? How so?
RP: By getting angry. By feeling with full force and expressing it we put something out into the world that has the capacity to effect change. Rage, if channeled correctly, can and has done a lot for the progression of mankind. I have hope.
MW: The Queer Anthology of Rage originally launched in the US — was this a conscious gesture towards the political situation there?
RP: Not really – though I have found the best response to the anthologies in the States. There’s a hunger for it whereas in the UK it’s a little bit harder to get people onboard. I’m not sure if it’s an emotions thing – a fear of being found out or feeling too much? Whatever it is I can definitely see the links with what’s happening in the UK right now in terms of, despite everything, a very weak leftist movement.
MW: How does it feel to have an international audience (UK/US) for Pilot Press?
RP: Amazing. Humbling. Surprising.
MW: The UK launch for A Queer Anthology of Rage takes place at ICA on November 16. Would you care to talk more about the event?
RP: It’s the second in a series of literary events involving queer authors that the writer Isabel Waidner and I set up earlier this year, and which we hope to continue into the future. It’s a fun evening of readings and music and lovely red wine from the Rochelle Canteen bar. Dodie Bellamy is reading, plus Verity Spott (who Pilot Press has just published a book with) and Natasha Lall. The last one was major!
MW: What’s next for Pilot Press?
RP: Who knows. Survival? I’ve got a couple of book fairs coming up and I’m taking things a bit slower. Money is very very tight at the moment. I’ve recently added a puppy to the fold. Living more, perhaps recklessly, for joy.