Kieran Gowan Clarke discussing loneliness and gay dating apps in his project Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles.

Exhibition 4

Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles. Courtesy of Kieran Gowan Clark.

Kieran Gowan Clarke presented his project Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles at the Graduate Fashion Week, hosted by The Old Truman Brewery on the first week of June (3-6 June).

Kieran graduated in International Fashion Promotion from Manchester Fashion Institute, part of Manchester Metropolitan University.  His project resonates with me on a deep level as it investigates how dating apps contribute to promoting unhealthy representation for gay and queer people.

The feeling of being different, an outcast led Kieran to explore masculinities and how in our postmodern society toxic masculinity not only affect straight men but also filters into the Lgbtq+ community.

Outsiders are just people who want to embrace their authentic self, not conforming to what society tries to impose on them.

The implementation of gay tribes, promoted by apps such as Grindr, Scruff and Chappy contribute to increasing mental health issues, leading to anxiety and low self-esteem.

To support this idea, recent studies have demonstrated that these apps could generate in the users feelings of loneliness and social isolation with rejection being the result of this digital mechanism.

As Kieran stated, ‘One reason behind this exhibition is to ensure that people are made aware that it is actually okay to not conform to societal roles or expectations’.

Through an exploration of alternative styles, Kieran spotlights stories of some his friends by deploying a domestic approach to his shoots: in order to achieve this goal, Kieran decided to take the photographs within their models homes to allow them to feel safe and comfortable.

Showcasing individuals with different style perfectly encapsulates the diversity within Lgbtq+ community.

Reading the texts on the portraits, words such as box, category and norms are recurrent and make the audience interrogate their views on ‘normalcy’ and gender roles.

However, tribes can create a sense of community if they do not attempt to create further discrimination within the community (the brutal no fat, no fem, no asian , which confounds the idea of homophobia and transphobia with that of sexual preference).

Exhibition 1

Markus, aka @arksteriff for Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles. Courtesy of Kieran Gowan Clarke.

Exhibition 2

Martin, aka @martinfoy for Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles. Courtesy of Kieran Gowan Clarke.

Exhibition 3

Nathan , aka @nathhj for Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles. Courtesy of Kieran Gowan Clarke.

Exhibition 5

Jacob, aka @jacobhayward for Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles. Courtesy of Kieran Gowan Clarke.

To conclude,  Alienation: Alternative Gay Styles served the purpose of creating a welcoming, safe space for people who are often disregarded and silenced by society.

Furthermore, I invite my readers to address this question, ignited by Kieran’s project:

‘Is categorising people within an already alienated community doing any good for the people within it? Or creating more of a divide?’

In other words: Are categories and labels fundamental?  How can we move beyond gender stereotypes?

For more info check Kieran’s website, Instagram and Pinterest or drop him an email for collaborations at kierangowan@gmail.com .

 

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