the awakening departs from Hervàs’ initiative to come to Los Angeles in Spring 2022 to research the beginnings of what is called “leather culture.” Interested in the murky origins of these aesthetics and performative codes of queer/gay life, Hervàs wanted to look into the origins of this community in Southern California. Especially how the drawings and life of Tom of Finland intersected in the dissemination of this aesthetic worldwide. Hervàs looked into the places where Finland found his earliest inspiration and how, through Finland’s fantasy, this nowadays widely expanded gender identity and set of practices came to be. Hervàs is particularly curious about how the specific forms of this subculture emerged, becoming recognizable codes for those who knew how to see them, while hiding in plain sight by taking from widely spread popular culture tropes––the cowboy, the motorcycle gang, the various men in uniform––and utilizing an exalted form of high masculinity as drag and cover.
In addition Hervàs also dove into Los Angeles’s contemporary underground queer culture, interested in putting together the less recorded inspirational wells of this history: the laidback working class clandestine gay clubs were men of all social and racialized backgrounds meet to find each other on the dancefloor and forget the rigid social strictures that demand heteronormative performances of them––at their jobs, in the street, with their families. These spaces represent for Hervàs the heterogenous fertile grounds that inspired artists like Tom of Finland, who then crystalized in their drawings a more whitewashed vision of these opaque origins. For Hervàs, this whitewashing obscures how in the club lines get blurred and difference dances in joy instead of splitting apart.
The club is a fundamental space for gay life and culture, one that is currently endangered by real estate speculation and the changes in habits catalyzed by the use of cruising apps. The show’s work is therefore partially a celebration of gay clubs and bars as a needed refuge and crucial space for queer becomings.