Whit Forrester, a native of Louisville, KY, recently shared with us his photography series, “The Rainbow in the Dark,” in which a group of queer and trans performers “came together to take a painted school bus. . . cross country to explore collaborative, collective queer performance as a site of community building and experiential space creation.” The 2014 series was previously shared in Memphis. Forrester (AKA A6/2GENERATOR) performed and filmed the performances, using color film in the day and a black-and-white plastic camera for the nighttime performances.
We spoke with Whit about his series, and have the pleasure of showing you some of his work.
Hailing from Knott County, Whit grew up in Louisville. His life was transformed by Alien in the first grade and a shop named Nature’s Magic in fifth grade, teaching him about “internalized capitalist oppression and drawing down the moon, respectively and collectively.”
“Clouds start off as little pieces of dust. . . [which] wetness forms around. Millions together, they make clouds.” This imagery is not simply esoteric and symbolic. “#RITD2014 was kind of like a loose collective of Queer/Trans folks that wanted to essentially model a kind of ‘Queering’ of tours that used our show as a dust particle and every show then had this little future-fractal of a cloud that hopefully opened up avenues for anyone who wanted to perform to feel like they could.” Whit’s series and tour emphasized that the “stage had power,” empowering anyone in attendance to take up the queering of experience for themselves.
When asked what prompted the name “The Rainbow in the Dark,” Whit responded that it was a bit of chance, with meaning emerging through interaction. “I think the name kind of showed up on [friends Mona (AKA Gay Orphan) and Lark (AKA Slimequeen)]’s doorstep, and we just went with it. But one day while I was printing the images in the darkroom, the enlarger was fucked and this crescent rainbow was projected onto the paper and I started to figure out how we'd really been the actual Rainbow in the Dark, and what it was for me.”
We asked Whit what the scene in Lousville was like, and what sets the queer scenes of the South apart from elsewhere in the US. “I think Queer scenes in the south are more relaxed. When you live in the town you grew up in. . . you are somebody's something everywhere you go. So the queer scene at the shows was like a bunch of the children, Julia's mom, Frannie's sis, somebody's cousin, somebody's coworker—everyone wanted to kind of take a risk and just be friendly and I miss that.” Comparing the Queer South to the more “fashion show–style Queerness,” he said it feels “more Queer. . . though I'm totally into it.” That scene feels “like you aren't sure if you can talk to people because their bangs are so severe, and everyone's nervously drinking and smoking.”
Whit’s definition of Queerness rates as one with a strong theoretical grounding, yet it doesn’t overlook the experiential or community-driven aspects. “I think that Queer is a secret verb hiding as a noun. Like it doesn't really define a whole lot, but requires conversation to unpack.” (Pose it this way to any Queer studies graduate, and they’ll nod glumly.) “When someone's like ‘I'm queer’, I don't know who you sleep with, how you sleep with them, what you think about it, none of that. All I know is that you probably do think about all of it, and I wanna know what you're thinking about and how you're being in the world because I have a vested interest” in it.
We’ll wrap with a quote from Whit on some of the difficulties they encountered on tour: “I was walking down the street in Seattle, barefoot, with all my shit in a plastic bag and a wet cardboard box, covered in Permethrin with scabies, in a zebra snuggie—that was a difficult moment of retro whatever.”
Whit is currently raising money for a new photography project via Kickstarter, which explores "the specific ways in which the Queer and Trans community intersects with Cannabis growing culture - both its current practices and its rich history". Check it out here.