amplify the visibility

Four trailblazing photographers participating in Detroit’s inaugural queer art biennale
By Barry Pierce | Art | 7 June 2024

Queer artists are taking over Detroit this Pride Month. For the first ever time, a biennale dedicated solely to queer art, I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflections of the Contemporary Queer, will showcase over 170 artists with over 800 works spread across 12 Detroit venues. The brainchild of Mighty Real/Queer Detroit (MR/QD), the biennale will feature artists from all over the world and will explore the mirrored relationship between art and self as well as art and community, highlighting the role of art in achieving personal visibility and social connection.

Clifford Prince King, Lyle Ashton Harris, Slava Mogutin, Benjamin Fredrickson are just some of the artists exhibiting at I’ll Be Your Mirror. We caught up with them to take us through their work featured at the biennale.


Clifford Prince King

M & Q was taken in the valley, an area north of Los Angeles in 2015 when I was visiting my hometown friend Malcolm.

It was my first time in LA really, and my first time meeting Malcolm’s lover. This photo would begin my life-long series of Black queer intimacy in interior spaces. I’ve never been to Detroit, but I’ve met people from there in LA and NY. I associate house music with Detroit, and I know there is a strong Black queer scene. I’m so honoured to be a part of the biennial. To share a piece of my story within the same spaces as some of my peers and people I look up to is beyond heartwarming.”

Clifford Prince King, Untitled, 2017

Lyle Ashton Harris

“The piece references the great art historian Robert Farris Thompson and his book Flash of the Spirit, first published in 1983. I was introduced to this book while at Wesleyan University taking a history of African American music course with the legendary musicologist Bill Lowe.

Thompson’s book talks about the relationship between African and American culture and the transmission via the transatlantic slave trade of knowledge and artistic notions of diasporic works. It was groundbreaking. I wanted the work to be grounded in the specificity of a transatlantic African culture that deals with the contemporary in terms of African America, but in relationship to Africa. The focus is specifically on ancient cultures going back to the seventeenth century and issues around divinity and aesthetics.

“The focus is specifically on ancient cultures going back to the seventeenth century and issues around divinity and aesthetics.”

I was triggered by the passing of my father, and it prompted me to relook at some of the funerary footage I had taken of my former partner Prince’s father. This led me to think about the deep ancestral modes of comportment as told to me through Prince and his experience as Ashanti. Often these ancient ways of being – how one presents one’s self in relationship to another – can be passed down through a long lineage. Prince taught me that in the Ashanti tradition it was common to communicate through parables. I wanted to invoke the brilliance of Thompson’s book and talk about the Afro-Atlantic through art and music, which has been highly influential to my practice and life.”

Lyle Ashton Harris ‘Zamble at Lands End’

Slava Mogutin

“The four works showcased here are part of my ongoing series and latest book, Analog Human Studies. This series spans two decades of my film portraiture, primarily captured in New York, Los Angeles, and Berlin, with glimpses from other places interwoven throughout. It’s an incredible honour to be featured in the Detroit Queer Biennial alongside so many talented and familiar artists.

“We ensure our voices are heard – loud and proud.””

In these times of escalating homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and censorship on both sides of the Atlantic, exhibitions like this are more crucial than ever. They celebrate the diversity and resilience of the queer community, reminding us of our strength and creativity. Thanks to passionate individuals like Patrick [Burton, curator], we can amplify the visibility and acceptance of LGBT art and culture. Through these efforts, we ensure our voices are heard – loud and proud.”

Slava Mogutin, ‘Ange and June Riis Beach’, 2019

“That’s what’s so amazing about this biennial, it’s bringing so many queer artists together, creating a grand connection of community”

Benjamin Fredrickson

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to share my work in a biennial that recognizes and shares the diversity of creative voices and experience within the queer community. I’m showing portrait work that reveals the range of my work over the years; most of which hasn’t been exhibited before. Minneapolis is my hometown, where I grew up; I’ll be
sharing Polaroids and portraits from that transformative period in my life. My midwestern roots run deep.

In addition, I will be showing work from my ongoing Folsom project and recent portraits taken at Pride Festivals in Bogota, Colombia and New York City. A commissioned portrait of the fashion designer Telfar Clemens will be on display alongside a group portrait made on the set of a gay adult video shoot. I’m elated to be showing my work alongside so many talented artists that I admire; that’s what’s so amazing about this biennial, it’s bringing so many queer artists together, creating a grand connection of community. It’s an incredible feeling.

Benjamin Fredrickson, ‘Telfar Clemens’, 2019


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