Within the dimly lit walls of gay clubs, music pulses and throbs along to the heartbeats of sweating, swirling queers. These clubs have come to represent an escape and a sanctuary within our community. While we've gotten to know a new generation of nightlife queens who have grown into their wildly adorned outfits and makeup beat for the gods, sometimes it's best to go back to basics and learn from our elders.
One such legend is performance artist David Hoyle, who's decades long reign as a fixture in England's
scene is the focus of a new film for Tate Britain's exhibition
Queer British Art 1861-1967
. Masterfully directed by queer filmmaker Matt Lambert, the camera follows the 54-year-old artist on a twisted, diabolical journey into a club where notable faces like Sussi and Harry Charlesworth slink into dark corners to kiss while Hoyle provides a voiceover talking about his first time attending a gay club at the age of 17 in Blackpool.
"That evening I felt like I was going to cross a line and enter a forbidden world you weren't meant to go into," he says in the film. "It was like turning my back on responsibility, the excitement drove me on, I wanted to meet people like me and not feel so alone. I found a community of people and it felt like I'd been waiting all my life to meet them." As the crowd gathers around Hoyle, he leads them in a prayer, chanting that "god is watching you"--an echo of the fear he felt during his first gay club experience as a religious youth.
For Lambert, the film was a way to connect generations and shine a new light on Hoyle. "This is our history and it must be preserved and celebrated," he told
. "Our queer prophets were put here on earth to inspire, to educate, to mock and celebrate life in spite of the often dire state above ground. David Hoyle was there, and will continue to be here, to navigate us through dissent. In the words of his past alter ego, Divine David: 'The world is burning. Let's MASTURBATE!'"