ABOUT BEAUTIFUL FREAKS:
By James Anderson, Art Critic at i-D
The body of work that makes up BEAUTIFUL FREAKS finds its origins in London - specifically back in 2005-2008, at the time when East London's Electro scene started to gain real momentum.
German born photographer Ralf Obergfell became a regular attendee of the much-loved Trailer Trash nights, capturing the magic of the club's
own after-dark legends and befriending many of them.
As a resident of Dalston until 2010, when he moved to Berlin, Obergfell had been a passionate participant in and chronicler of the areas's burgeoning nightlife scenes from their earliest days. Armed with his camera, he has documented the polysexual denizens frequenting gritty-yet-ground breaking East London watering holes such as teh George & Dragon, the Joiners Arms and the notorious gay parties at 333 in Shoreditch.
Continuing to photograph the more extreme enclaves of club kids, disco freaks and transsexuals, Obergfell has consistently zoomed in on the most exotic creatures at a new wave of nightlife events, including GutterSlut (the club night he co-founded with the Dalaston Gay Mafia in 2007),
NYC Downlow and other knees-ups of note such as Jonny Woo's Gay Bingo and Tony Hornecker's Pale Blue Door pop-up installation restaurant.
Obergfell's photographic interpretations of the remarkable characters he has discovered on his nocturnal travels avoid the distant stance of the voyeur. The pictures he presents make for a celebratory and highly-involved testament to those whose lives - reinvented, transformed; made better, brighter, louder, wilder and lived-out to the max - are a fantastic confusion of reality and performance, with the disco and art gallery as a stage.
BEAUTIFUL FREAKS at Dalston Superstore Gallery and the Royal College of Art:
Ralf Obergfell's Beautiful Freaks debuted in London in 2009, at the Dalston Superstore Gallery, in the heart of the East End's genderfuck explosion of art, fashion, partying and perversion.
A carefully edited selection of Obergfell's images was accompanied by a labyrinth of ramshackle wood-and-stell constructions made by artist Tony Hornecker, each one a hutch, lair or cage for one of the iconic performers featured in Obergfell's images, including Jonny Woo, A Man To Pet, Ryan Styles, John Sizzle, Jeanette, Scottee, Pia Arber, Miss Transforma, Alex Collins, Kevin Howbrook and Cristobal Muir, with a live techno soundtrack by Dj/Producer Per QX.
Like an Amsterdam alley with an avant-garde twist, it was a whirlwind of wigs, balloons and power tools, peep-holes, two-way-mirrors and silver-thin-cracks. pissing, wanking and suicide - plus London's first ever tranny toilet. With performers only partially visible, sometimes from uncomfortable angles, and clearly in command of their environments, it wasn't clear who was on top, freaks or gawkers...
In 2010, the prestigious Royal College of Art invited Obergfell and Hornecker to restage Beautiful Freaks as part of a season about gender and performance, also featuring Franko B, Oreet Ashery and Anna Lopez de la Torre. This time they took things up a notch, with additional performers, more elaborate packing-crate-style constructions and extra- freaky goings on. Just as people were trying to work out if that was real f*cking they'd just been spying on, the fire alarm went off - evacuate!
Suddenly a gaggle of tranny superstars and freaky fantasists were disgorged half-naked onto the rainy pavements outside the RCA. Nothing for it but to pose for pictures by the bike racks before going back to pick up where they let off...
Now Obergfell brings Beautiful Freaks to Berlin, importing a taste of London genderfuck culture while drawing on the unique underground flavour of his new home for this one-night-only event. Tony Hornecker - who has recently worked with the Royal Opera House and Glastonbury festival - is busy exploring new adventures in South America, so Obergfell is joined by super-avant garde, London-based performance artist A Man To Pet - one of the subjects of Beautiful Freaks - who will be hosting the night and holding forth on the six selected images on show in her guise as Obergfell's expert gallerist. Meanwhile, Berliner DJ Tim Knopf will provide House and Techno to keep things moving.
The show also marks the opening of Obergfell's own studio space, a new venture with deliberately fuzzy edges. As well as shooting studio for use by himself and various artists, the space will be an atelier showcasing photography, painting, installations, graffiti and video art by emerging and established artists with a distinctly different flavour.
The following night, Saturday 24th November, at Voegelchen in Kreuzberg, A Man To Pet and Tim Knopf will be performing and Djing for GutterSlut, the club night Obergfell co-founded in London in 2007. This marks the first birthday of GutterSlut's Berlin edition.
Friday 23rd November 2012
7pm - 11pm
Heidelberger Str. 31