Sassify Zine - August 2020
Illustration - Tales of Black Eyed Jack
TAKEOVER WITH BEN DRIVER AKA A BIT OF QUIRK
We invited Ben Driver aka A Bit of Quirk, founder of The Guy Cry Club to takeover the Sassify Zine Instagram account for the day. He shared some of his artwork and talked to us about his queer journey, creativity, learning and un-learning throughout Lockdown and his project Guy Cry Club.
Guy Cry Club is a space where creativity meets mental health. Creative practice of any form will always be acknowledged for its ability to speak, to express ideas others can’t/won’t, to uncover perspectives which may otherwise remain hidden…
We ALL have a mental health (good, bad, in flux). We ALL have experiences of masculinity. We ALL have a right to express ourselves and be part of a dialogue where we are acknowledged and respected.
Tell us about your Queer journey so far?
I grew up in a small, very white village. I went to high school in a small, very white town. Growing up the word ‘gay’ was an insult, not an identity. The kid in my year who to everyone else was obviously gay was repeatedly ridiculed. Something I didn’t really understand or interact with at all at the time, let alone relate with. I was the shy skinny geeky kid who stayed quiet and did his homework as soon as he got home. Fast forward to A-Levels (which I did at the same school) and any throwaway thoughts about my sexuality became cemented by falling for a friend. That classic and heavily romanticised situation. I foolishly told him both that I was gay and that I liked him in the middle of a coffee shop after skirting around the point by blubbering about other feelings. He was polite about it at the time but he quickly just disappeared from my life. So that sucked… and after telling another close friend and the wider social circle about me being gay it never really come up in conversation again.
University was a marginally freer experience. There was still a lot of unspoken homophobia, people who just wouldn’t interact with me because I was gay, and homosexuality as a culture was something I never found myself being a part of.
I’m 29 now and my sexuality is just part of my everyday life. I am fortunate for that to be the case. It is not everything I am, I am not defined by my sexuality. But it is an important part of who I am which I refuse to be ashamed of, regardless of the homophobia (in its broadest definition) which still exists today. A big part of that acceptance was adopting the word queer. I don’t think i was even aware that the word queer had been reclaimed until waaaay down the line. But I love it. I love referring to myself as queer (or massively homosexual), and more importantly queer feels like the base for buiding a genuine community, rather than having distant smaller groups of people who don’t feel like they belong anywhere. I think queer is the term that will in the future be defined by how it brings us all together.
What does queer art mean to you/who is your art for?
The fact that I am exposed to queer art on the daily means that people are feeling comfortable enough to share their perspectives and expressions regardless of prejudice. But it also serves to remind me that there’s a whole swathe of folks who have not reached that point. A domino effect of relatability is slowly smashing down the bedroom doors of queers who needed to see that illustration, photograph, film, dance, collage, sculpture etc etc… Queer art, it’s creation and having access to it is a personal act of protest just like our everyday is a fight to just be.
I also curate a project called Guy Cry Club which is all about exploring mental health, masculinity and sexuality through art. And the queer art that is lovingly submitted to the club is a great opportunity for me to learn more about our community and their intimate individual viewpoints, whilst also having a platform to share it with the world. I am so grateful for this.
Have you found yourself immersing in queer art culture in this time of crisis and isolation?
I’ve been pretty hooked to Instagram throughout this lockdown period. It’s probably borderline unhealthy… And I am grateful that I don’t have to scroll far to eye up a load of queer stuff that makes my jaw drop. So you could say it’s queer business as usual, but I do think i’ve been keen to stay exposed to that artistry and those expressions. I sometimes forget how good it feels on the inside to interact with other queer artists, even just those brief exchanges on Instagram. My personal isolation sees me in the middle of Suffolk’s countryside, living alone and in a village which doesn’t understand why an adult would wear dungarees unless they were a mechanic or other traditional tradesperson… I need my queer fix! And inappropriately suggestive memes…
Or have you found yourself being more relaxed instead?
I’m really not very good at relaxing haha! There’s always something to do, work to be done, too many thoughts to think about, more to express.
Sassiest anecdotes or stories?
So I’m a little shy... a quiet observer of the world who is becoming more and more sarcastic to peoples’ faces… I’ve been watching A LOT of UNHhhh with Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova and now I say “honnnnnnnnneeeeeeyyyyyyy” a lot and thworp fans at random intervals during the day… does that count…
Who inspires you?
Oh ma gee… There is so much detail which is shared in this world, and so much more which I am yet to experience. As a broader idea, those artists who are truthful to themselves through their artistry are immensely inspirational. You can really sense when someone is expressing their inner self and it is always beautiful.
To throw some names in there… Eivind Hansen, Boys in Polish, Adam Wilson Holmes, Panos Pictures, Arnful Rainer, Munroe Bergdorf, Andres Hernandez, Matt Martin, Ego Rodriguez, Dysturb, Mario Elias Jaroud, Egon Schiele, Travis Alabanza, Dan Eldon, Mr Frivolous, Queer Art Brunch Club, Matt Bernstein, Ben Bauchau… I could honestly just go on for days… I’ll stop…