O: And then... there’s the time code. So you, um, and then this right here is for me. In case it’s not picking up all the audio I have a backup. So this is just an audio thing. Is that..?
U: Yeah, that’s fine.
O: Yeah? Okay. Because a lot, or, a huge thing about this is about consent. Like, I don’t want this to be something that’s not okay with, you know what I mean? With both of us.
U: Yeah, I think that there is very little involved on my end.
O: Right, and that’s, that’s… but the thing is like the conversation is a just as important part of it then, as well as… Is the light? Is it okay?
U: So… Yeah. So that’s what I was wondering about; there’s that really bright light on top of you. So, I don’t know.
O: You can either get closer, or… how ‘bout that?
U: Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll see how that work.
O: Okay, sounds good.
U: Yeah that’s much better.
O: Okay, good. Um, so… so let’s recap. So I found… well you found me, right?
O: Um -do, is that okay to talk about? And I put it out there now for since November.
O: And then we, we got, we corresponded- we corresponded for a while actually?
U: Yeah, we…
O: Our schedules are really bad, ahahahaha.
U: Yeah, we are mutually exclusive all of us.
O: Um, and how did you… how did you find, can I ask you… about? Is that?
U: It was on Craigslist. Yeah, and I was just very curious as to what’s going on, uh, in your head. Why did you want to hook up with people, haha… who were around your dad. And I actually don’t know how old your dad was, or like…
O: When he died?
U: Or like how old he would have been if he was still alive…
O: If he was still alive? He would be, um, in his sixties. He would be. Um, and he died in his early thirties. And I, a little older than I, uh, am. Um, but I watched the project on his birthday, and I’d been thinking a lot about, um, about him, and about loss. And I how I could…
U: And how old were you when he died?
O: I was, um, I was twelve… going on thirteen.
U: And you remember all of this from that time? …Or is this stuff that you put together afterwards…?
O: You mean in terms of, like, the whole culture? Or like…
U: And your memories of your dad and understanding what he’s dying of. And…
O: That’s, uh, that’s a big question. I don’t think anybody’s every asked me that. Like to be serious. I didn’t know what he was dying of. I didn’t get.
U: He probably didn’t know at that time what he was dying of, at that time.
O: It was ‘92…
O: Um it was… no, no I’m sorry it was ‘93. Um, I mean. He had been positive for a while he just hadn’t, he hadn’t told us.
O: And he also hasn’t commented because he was… gay, queer.
U: And you were still a family like…?
O: No, no. Um, he… came out around when I was like two or three. And then, then obviously they, they split. But, um, he… I mean in terms of the death... No, I don’t think he knew what he was dying of either. I, I mean. There was just so much, um, in this epidemic that was happening. I mean, in asking that question you can tell that you know, hahaha. You know? Um, not many people in his lifetime were in this kind of circle that he lived. Um, I don’t, I knew it was a gay disease. I mean, well that’s how it was described to me. But at the same time, um… th- that wasn’t necessarily true. It was affecting other people.
O: That answer your question?
U: Um, well yeah. It answers that question.
O: But there’s more, and that’s great. So why don’t we share? Hahaha.
U: Yeah, so. Yeah, so then. I think, I guess the other questions was though, so you probably put together a lot of this stuff together about your dad retrospectively, like after he died…Uh, as you grew older.
U: Now, I can just be asking the obvious, but, I’m presuming that you’re gay too.
O: I am too. Yes, yes, haha. I am. Um, and it is this kind of re-doing, and also like this, I am not necessarily a part of hook-up culture. Um, and I, uh, you know. You can attest to that, again I didn’t know, where to go, today. Hahaha. Um, I feel really bad about that today, I’m sorry. But, um, I think it’s a part of, or kind of want to be a part of that. In that, I kind of want to be, I kind of want to redo that aspect of his life he was a part of.
U: Huh, okay.
O: Is that?
U: Yeah, yeah.
O: ‘Cause it, it, it was a lot, I think it was a lot more… um, I mean. Another part of this project is me photographing a lot of um, a lot of older gay bars that used to exist in Chicago… or hook-up spots.
U: Like what?
O: Like Grant Park used to be a huge place to pick up folks. Um, there used to be The Box at Belmont, right, right off of the Belmont Harbor. And also, um, where the Waterfun Museum is now, they used to call it Navhill. And it’s just a lot of like, a lot of these places existed and, I mean I had access to them because like my mom was definitely also partying with my dad. In a weird way, after some time… went by. They, became very great at it. She would go out… to these places.
U: Partying, and then..?
O: Like out to bars… Dancing.
O: Yeah. Um, and a lot of these places…
U: Partying is a very loaded term the way it’s used in gay cultures, and...
U: My understanding that it inherently involves drugs.
O: I think for her it didn’t. It might of for him, it might of for him. Yeah, I mean. I wouldn’t say all the time but, definitely drinking or smoking. But, you’re right. I-I-I do mean speak about that. Um, for her no, she had been married. She has, she was still pretty wild, but it was mostly like the “have a friend” aspect because, you know.
U: And she wasn’t infected, right?
O: No she was not, no she was not. And she was very lucky, I think, because he was definitely, um, going to things with men… dating to when it started. Possibly before that.
U: Okay, so em. You said you want to be a part of hook-up culture.
O: I do.
U: There are so many ways to do it.
U: Why hook up with people your dad hooked up with?
U: And also…
O: That’s a good question.
U: You’re aware that some of them might actually be…
O: Yes, I am.
O: Um. Well, well, I do want a generation of men that he would have been with. So I’m interested in heading toward that direction.
U: But the way you’re approaching this is they wouldn’t be on camera, you would. So how would you… convey that generational thing?
O: What do you mean? Like, how, how could, how could people watch and tell that?
U: Yeah, yeah.
O: Well, I mean. I’m very specific in like describing this project. And, I mean, folks can read about the specific issues I’m walking in. Or read about, um, who, what demographic I’m looking at or men, um, that I’m interested in pursuing and that, their connection to, um, probably my father for the stated example.
U: Huh, hahaha.
O: And also, I mean, certain things will be visible. I mean in terms of if they are holding the camera. I mean, yes it is going to be on me, but there are also going to be parts of their body I believe.
O: Um, that can lead towards, you know.
O: But also, I mean. Thinking about it yeah literally, like did they really have sex with him or, you know, are they this age or this age. Like it, it’s going to be a range… of ages. Um, and also, in terms of response it’s going to be a range of people that are like “Yeah um, you know, I’m thirty” or “in my twenties” or something, and I’m like, yeah right. Well let’s meet and talk about it. You know what I mean? So, it’s like, I understand that people may not be telling the truth or they may be like, “ I think it was him”, or “Is his name Tom?” or you know what I’ve heard, you know. And, and that’s fine. I’m, I, I, I’m totally like, “well let’s talk about it. Let’s meet up and let’s do it”.
U: Actually, like. I would be very, very interested in knowing if you actually run into a single person who you really think that…
O: That’s… Yeah. I-I’m meeting someone Tuesday that I actually do think, um, I really do ‘cause he was like well, did he used to, um, Vistro too on Taylor street or did he used to... and he started naming places that he had been, which doesn’t make it, doesn’t make it absolutely true, but I’m just I’m, and then he’d be like well did he used to do this or did he wear this or, you know what I mean? Just little, like, clues.
U: And what is this project for?
O: What’s it for? It’s a, it’s, it’s my performance video project I’m doing.
U: Mm, say that again?
O: It’s a, it’s like a, it’s a video performance I’m doing along with a photography component. I-I teach in, in um, at, at the University of Illinois and I continue to make art projects.
U: And this is something you show your students?
U: You having sex with older men?
U: Okay, haha.
O: Yes, I mean. I don’t necessarily teach my work. I teach other things.
O: Um, if they did see it would probably be in the context of my website or a gallery opening. Um, but, I also anticipate that um, it won’t just be sex. Like, I’m really looking forward to, like, this kind of conversation. You know what I mean?
U: Yeah but, there, I-I will, yeah. I don’t know what it will be like. So, hahaha.
O: Right, but do you know what I mean?
O: Like, i-it won’t all be explicit.
U: That I understood, but there will be parts of it which will probably end up being explicit.
O: Yes. Probably. Yes. And, I mean, I’m okay with… some art, you know, being pornographic or involving sex.
U: Yeah, um, I mean, to be honest, if you do really line to people who were around at that time I have a feeling it will be…. I hate to say it, very, very depressing more than anything else if they talk about what was going on at that time.
U: I have a feeling most of them are just kind of obsessed with you, hahaha.
O: Yes, yes. It is… likely. Yes, um. You know, but it’s also the idea: they’re responding to this ad. Do you know what I mean? Like, they could have respon- it could be easily, like, I could easily put a craigslist post out and I’m like, “here’s my stats, let’s do it”. You know what I mean? It-I think it takes a certain individual to actually, like, read it, think about it, and respond to it. Where it’s not just a random hook-up. You know?
O: ‘Cause you could, I mean. Anyone could respond to, like, that kind of ad. It’s all over craigslist. It-it-it’s what, you know, it’s used for a lot of the time. I mean, not just sex, but… it is used forit. And, I mean, they could easily pick someone who doesn’t have this whole, like, paragraph.
O: You know, with a picture of, you know. And asking for some photo, pictures in return. And also, I will say that I cross-list it. So it’s not just in the sexual it… so, it pops up in, like, the artist space. But, I have to say it’s mostly flagged and removed in all of them.
O: Yeah. I think it violates something… or people just don’t, don’t, well don’t want it out there.
U: Um, yeah… huh. I-I don’t know. I mean I think there people that are just systematically flagging things and… that’s their only reason to flag stuff.
O: Yeah, right. hahahahaha.
U: But, okay. That’s fine too. And it’s flagged in the art section as well?
O: Yeah. ‘Cause I am, I mean I don’t. I used to write out, like, sexual acts and they took that out. And then I was like I’m open for a drink, for dinner, you know. I’m open after to, like, or any ideas, or something like that. It doesn’t mean anything, um, sexual at all. So, but…
U: Maybe that’s why it’s getting flagged…
O: But, it does say no reciprocation needed. Because a lot of this is about me giving. And that’s what interested them.
O: I mean, when you read it, what did you think?
U: I… to be honest, um, well. I don’t know what I thought. It’s- I don’t know what my initial reaction was. Uh, it was mostly wondering, is this someone who actually… This will sound very weird, but, it’s like, is this someone who actually wanted to sleep with his dad. And…
U: Trying to do that by proxy him out.
U: Uh, that was the- the first thought. I mean it was just curiosity more than anything else, haha.
O: Well I’m glad that, you know, we’re here. I’m glad we’re having this dialect. And I mean, I can respond definitely to… that. Um, I do make a lot of dark work. Okay.
U: Yeah, uh, that, that was very- that darkness was very obvious. But if there was darkness, then there was darkness.
U: Yeah, Oh yeah, this is definitely not a happy project.
U: By any stretch of the imagination. So, yeah, yeah. There’s- it’s not just dark. There’s a… perverseness to it. and… you know.
O: There is, there is.
U: So… And that’s okay.
O: Yeah, and, I mean, I get that. And I also get the idea, um, of a lot of folks not necessarily liking it and possibly flagging it. And I’m also interested in people that are like, “what the hell are you doing?” You know, or “tell me know about it”. And I’m not necessarily interested in having sex with him, but I am interested in people who did have a bodily connection with him, I am.
U: I mean, so you have to go back a step and say, “why?”.
O: Right. Well, I mean, it is about loss.
(Enter house cat)
(House cat obstructs scene)
O: You want me to…?
U: I don’t care.
O: (Moves house cat) Let’s stay away from… Fisher! It is a lot about loss and I think it’s a lot about me doing a reenactment. And… them, I think, helping with closure.
U: Them? …Or you?
O:Them. Them helping me.
U: You with closure.
O: Right. Because I don’t think I necessarily had a language or words or understanding of what was happening at that time.
U: You were twelve.
U: Did you have any interaction with your dad?
O: Um, echoing to me growing up?
O: Yes, um. I met him when I was five.
O:After they… because they had parental wars. And, um, I- I was interested in him though, just as, well as my dad. I had just met him. I was like, okay I’m excited. I’m going to see him regularly, like once a week. And it was very friendly, it was very, like, party atmosphere. You know, or we’d go ride bikes, um, and there was a lot of men. And so, essentially, it wasn’t just him, kind of, being just like, this parent . It was most of these men as well. And as I got older, more like e-eight I think I remember was when each one kind of started dying. So the partners he would get with would soon be gone. And, then I remember, I remember the sores and I remember seeing what was happening. And, um, someone was like, “well, you know that your dad’s gay”. And I was like, “Um, I don’t know what that means”.
O: Um, you know. Um, so I asked, I asked a woman next door who was gay as well, um, and I asked her what that meant. And then she kind of avoided the question, but she had me draw, um you know, like one of my favorite… films or something and I drew like Freddy Krueger and then, then I went back to the party and I remember one of his friends came up and was like, “your dad likes men”.
O: And I was like, “okay”. And I then asked my mom I it was true and I mean I was eight, and she was like, “yeah”. So after that it was just kind of like (shrugs) “okay”.
O: And it wasn’t something that was made… it wasn’t something that was wrong. You know? And I really appreciate that it wasn’t approached that way. That it was just, that’s how it was straight away. It was- it was just another way. So yes, we did have a lot together, um, but not… I wouldn’t say it was, um, very focused on father-son.
U: Yeah, I think. I mean, yeah. It’s, uh, yeah. Haha.
O: And I mean, I’m just… you know.
U: Yeah, I mean. I was, I was trying to respond to that in some way but I don’t think I have anything meaningful to say, haha.
O: No it’s fine. And, and if, and if this is like, please by any means- if this gets a little, like, too personal we can move on. If, this, this isn’t- this is about you just as much as it is about me.
U: I’m… not sure.
O: Which is great, we can just talk. Ahah.
O: And also and be conscious of time. And any time that you wanna’, like…
O: Need or want to go or need a refill, like really let me know.
U: So, um… So, like, your… I mean, I, uh, obviously people know you’re doing this. Your friends and….
O: Yeah, I mean.
U: Or not…?
O: Well most of my friends are artists as well. And so, like…
U: Well, so, how have they reacted to it was going to be my question.
O: Um, most of them are very positive about it… yeah. But, uh, also, again they work... not along similar lines but I think they definitely have had a lot more exposure to things in art school that are pretty racy. Yeah. Do you know what I mean?
O: Some. I’ve…definitely seen things… a lot… “worse”. Hahaha. But not, I mean, I don’t think of it as worse, but uh, I think like a general public would definitely respond to that and have a lot more reactions than… going to art school and being a part of that for so many years or being a part of an institution where you see performances with like, flu- bodily fluids and, and blood you know, but you know… or explicit sex or someone showing their, uh, cervix or, you know what I mean, like? These things are kind of… not normal but definitely an exper- an experience.
U: Yeah. And then, your, your roommate… he knows that this is the project you’re working on and that you’ll have these people… over and into the house, and?
O: Well… yes, he does. Um, I mean we definitely talk about it and it’s something that like I’m like, “okay well I’m going somewhere and I’ll text you where I’m going and if you don’t answer me within an hour…”. So we have like a safety kind of thing. Um, I haven’t necessarily brought someone home. Someone’s coming Tuesday, I mentioned. Um, he’s okay with it. I’m also looking to do this in the gallery. Like, not, not. The gallery’s not open to see. Like, using extra room or whatnot and then having an opening there… So I have a space that’s not, like, my personal space, you know? Because I think, um, I think I need to separate my, uh “home” from the project. And the act from like my old…you know, room, hahaha. I kind of want it separate.
O: Yeah… Um, but, I mean in terms of, like, people knowing or people aware…
O: I mean it’s on my web site, it’s definitely a part of…
U: Mm. And what do you teach at UIC?
O: I teach, uh, at the School of Art, too. I teach in the photography building.
U: Oh, okay.
O: Mhmm, I’ve been an adjunct there for a few years.
U: And what about your own personal life? Are you single… or, partnered?
O: I- I’m partnered.
O: We-we’re open.
U: You, you have to be!
O: Um, I mean, he’s well aware of… I mean we talk about everything., uh, in terms of like, sexual or non, but, um, I was very clear about the project with him and, um, he… I mean he’s been very supportive. I mean, he’s also an artist… which, um, doesn’t make it okay, but, um, it’s good to have someone… but, um, I… I think it… I think there’s an element of danger that, um, I think he worries about. That I worry about too. Like, I’ve not really done this before... like, consensually. You know what I mean? Like, this sort of contact with someone for an actual sexual way of getting off. So I feel like, um, it- it’s kind of way of exploring craigslist and hook-up culture, um, which differed from my dad… and how he did it… then.
U: Oh yeah.
O: So, um, I am… pretty much using the Internet like hook-up places or bars or clubs used to be like…
U: Like… the rest of the world.
O: Right, and um, right, right. And ‘cause these don’t, you know, really exist any longer. Like, these back rooms, or… I mean I’m sure they…
U: They do.
O: They do.
U: But for the explicit purpose.
O:Mm-hmm, yeah. Yeah, and…
U: Oh, they definitely do exist.
O: Yeah… Just, I think it’s a lot fewer.
U: Because there’s no need…
U: …To have that anymore.
O: Right, right.
U: Have you…? Well, I guess if you’re trying to meet people who connected with your dad and your dad lived in Chicago, there’s no reason to explore anything outside of Chicago, but I have a, a feeling there, uh, a lot more men from that era sort of left behind San Francisco and anywhere else…
U: And they still have their…
U: ...Those tashes.
U: So it’s just…
O: Well it’s interesting that you said that because, I have, I am working on, ‘cause he did go to other places prior to, um, coming… here. And New York was one of them. San Fran was one of them.
U: Yeah, I think everybody lived in New York.
O: Right, yeah. And so I’m working on a grant right now to go to New York. I’m going to try to live there for like a month.
U: Who would fund that?
O: Well, there’s, uh, specifically, uh… It’s, um, called something “Furnace” and they are specifically an archive of… They basically fund performances that revolve around New York City, and they also exist as an archival place where older performances, books, catalogues, prints, pretty much any art medium.
(Microphone Battery Beeps)
O: Um… My battery’s low… Pretty much any art medium that…
U: Do you want me to stop this while you change the battery?