Robyn McQuaid-O’Dwyer and others in the Trans Live Art Salon want Dubliners to imagine a space where queerness is celebrated and everyone lives in luxury.
For this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, they plan to create just such a place, with inflatable furniture and a programme of workshops, games, art and talks – accessible, free, open to all.
The idea, which they have titled “The Fully Automated Luxury Gender Oasis”, is inspired in part by a group of deaf artists, says McQuaid-O’Dwyer.
They set up a similar area in Project Arts Centre at an earlier fringe festival, and some in the Trans Live Art Salon, which is a collective of trans and gender non-conforming artists in Dublin, wanted to do the same.
All the books, games, and artwork will be by trans artists, said McQuaid-O’Dwyer. “We are going to make radical space and it’s not even just for trans people, it’s for everyone.”
The collective settled on calling the space “The Fully Automated Luxury Gender Oasis” as a nod to an imaginary future in which robots will do all the work and humans will live in luxury as a result.
“Once all work is automated there are two potential options for the future,” says McQuaid-O’Dwyer.
“Either ten people own all the robots and everyone else is starving, or fully automated luxury communism, where the robots do all the work and we all reap the rewards,” they said.
This idea originated in sci-fi and has resonated with those within the LGBT community who also envision an ideal society where gender norms have been abolished to such an extent that being queer is no longer an issue.
“It becomes fully automated luxury gay space communism,” says McQuaid-O’Dwyer. “Where all the gays and all the queers can go into space and set up their own luxury communist state.”
An oasis from society’s judgments around gender, the collective’s project at Dublin Fringe will also provide a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the busy festival.
The Trans Live Art Salon is a relatively new group.
It grew out of a residency programme for trans artists at the Live Collision International Festival, run by McQuaid-O’Dwyer and artist Robbie Blake.
“The collective is carving a space to bring trans-narrated trans narratives to the fore,” says Tilly Taylor, the producer.
That means elevating work by trans artists, and opening a dialogue around how trans people are represented in the media and in art, said Taylor.
McQuaid-O’Dwyer says they noticed a couple of years back how the arts and media were starting to explore trans issues more widely.
But there was something missing: the authentic voices of trans and gender non-conforming artists themselves.
There were several well-researched plays that year, but “the two biggest ones and the ones that were most successful, were written, directed and performed by cis-gender people”, says McQuaid-O’Dwyer.
It was positive to see trans narratives being discussed and explored in art. But “I didn’t see myself represented in that,” they said.
McQuaid-O’Dwyer also identified that there was a lack of space for trans artists within mainstream art venues. “I thought I could come up with structures where trans people would get more opportunities to represent themselves in theatre and arts.”
At “The Fully Automated Luxury Gender Oasis”, there will be workshops for queer skill sharing, and performances, and a space to discuss gender and engage with gender issues.
“I think by doing things like this we create the acceptance” says McQuaid-O’Dwyer. “We further the conversation by representing ourselves and using our cultural capital to access more things.”
It is still very hard to be trans today in the city, says McQuaid-O’Dwyer. Trans people are still beaten up, and many struggle more than cis-gendered people to get housing and jobs.
While the 2015 Gender Recognition Act means that people have the right to self-determination of gender, many can’t afford the healthcare costs to make the physical transition.
“There is no HSE-sponsored pathway, you have to pay for your own drugs, your own surgery. You have to see a psychologist and you have to pay for all that too,” says McQuaid-O’Dwyer.
Trans people are welcome in some queer spaces, but are often not as welcome in mainstream gay clubs, says McQuaid O’Dwyer. “It’s difficult to be trans anywhere.”
“There are really rigid codes that you have to adhere to. But we are going to have a fully automated luxury gender oasis, where none of that will matter,” they say, with a laugh.
“The Fully Automated Luxury Gender Oasis” will run from 19 to 23 September at the Temple Bar Gallery and Studios.