Fleur Pierets and Julian P. Boom, making up the artistic duo JF. Pierets, are about to embark on an incredible journey.
They are traveling the globe to get married in all 24 countries that allow same-sex marriage, as Gay Star News first reported last week. The project, 22, which will last more than a year, is a performance piece to shed light on equality and human rights. 22 refers to the number of countries that allowed equal marriage at the time the project was first being developed.
GSN spoke with the duo about their project, their first wedding in 2012, and inspiring people outside the community to seek knowledge.
GSN: Can you explain to our readers a little more about 22? On the website you say it ‘captures the zeitgeist of a world in the midst of change’.
All our work is trying to capture current times and how the world functions on the level of gay and gender equality. How it is changing, evolving, and trying to find a way to communicate this. It’s all about documenting. Observing what is happening around us, and collecting our ideas along the way. It’s noticing patterns, and mirroring them. In our work people can confront themselves with ideologies and beliefs. It’s enriching and necessary to share these perspectives in a positive and beautiful manner because we believe this is the only way by which you can make change.
Both in our work and in our ongoing research platform Et Alors? Magazine, we are trying to work towards cultural awareness when it comes to equality and gay imagery in the world and in mainstream art history. For us 22 is just a continuation of this philosophy and it builds on all our previous work.
The project name indicates the 22 countries that allowed same-sex marriage at the time this came about. You’re now going to 24 countries, as Germany and Malta legalized it. Will you change the name of the project? If more countries legalize it (like Australia), will you add them to the itinerary?
Definitely! At the beginning of this year, when we started preparing for this project, only 22 countries had legalised same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Germany and Malta joined the troops. Naming our project 22 and keeping it that way, is a very conscious decision. It shows that the world is in constant movement. In that way we’re building a time capsule that instantly refers to the possibility of change. We’re therefore looking very much forward to all the shifts that will – hopefully – happen while on the road. During the 18 month course of this project, every country that comes to their senses and legalises gay marriage will be added to our itinerary.
What is the art installation going to include at the end of the project?
We will film and photograph all 24 performances and we’ll share the pictures on our website and through social media, right after every wedding. The moment we’ve completed the whole performance we’d love to assemble an exhibition that travels back to all the countries we visited. For now, this will consist of showing 24 wedding photos and the videos of all 24 ceremonies. But we are looking forward to seeing how this evolves over time.
You two originally married in 2012. What was that day like? Are you looking forward to doing it 24 more times?
We got married in 2012. We rented a secluded house just north of Cannes and spend a week there, with close friends and relatives. And performed a wonderful ceremony in the garden at the end of the week, it was wonderful, romantic and so special to share with just a few people. So we already married but since we are both still very much in love with each other, we could easily marry 50 times more!
Unfortunately the project is too challenging financially, so that we cannot arrange a full on wedding party in every country. However, if someone feels motivated to organise a wedding feast, be my guest. We’ll be there!
Why do you think most people are unaware of how much progress needs to be made with marriage equality?
Everybody captures what’s in their comfort zone. And that’s understandable. However, like everything else it starts with knowledge. People need to know that something is not the same for everyone, that there are differences that exist, but really shouldn’t. This goes for racial equality, gender equality, just any kind of inequality really.
People need to know that in most countries around the world you can’t get married as a gay person. Most countries are even quite hostile towards our lifestyle and you have to think twice before even traveling there. These are very normal things to think about in the life of an average gay person, but do other know people that? Turns out most people don’t, because they are never exposed to it. So this project is about sharing with people what you feel and experience, but always in style & in a positive way. In our opinion, that’s the first step towards lasting change.
Equal marriage is not the only issue facing the LGBT community. What does getting married around the world represent to you?
Drenching our work in love is the only way we think that a message can be passed on. Our work is all about finding out how much you can stretch the limits of what’s possible and what’s not. It’s about asking the right questions and to match them against ‘reality’. You can either complain about a problem or try to be part of the solution. The latter brings much more joy into our own lives than the former. Ultimately it’s all about having fun, staying curious and not taking life too seriously. So yes, there are many issues but there are just as many positive ways to look at them and try to improve the situation.
Queer women across the world face their own specific set of struggles. What does it mean as a female duo to be making a stand like this?
First and foremost we make art because we have too. We have a voice and we think the topics we work around need exposure so they will be able to make a difference out in the world. We’re always trying to visualise the questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis. Which results in a project like 22, but could well be focused on any other subject that relates back to inequality in different ways. We are aware of the many struggles different groups in our society have to go through and work through, which differs widely from person to person. We focus on our own questions and how we relate to the world and what we are confronted with. It’s not so much about making a stand, it’s just questioning different issues from a positive angle.
Do you hope to inspire or send a message to young queer girls and women across the world with your art?
It’s not our only aim, but of course that would be great. On a weekly basis we get emails regarding our free, online Et Alors? Magazine. Mostly from young people expressing their thanks for featuring queer artists with a positive message about their work and how they handle themselves in the world. We love to think we do something that stretches people’s notion of what’s possible. So they gain a bit more confidence to be who they are.
You’re spending two weeks in every country you visit. What are you going to be doing in each location beyond the marriage?
We plan 2 weeks per country in order to prepare everything official, to talk to partnering galleries, press, etc. Some local organisations have already reached out and requested a talk about our performance and work, which we are happy to give. Meanwhile we will be writing a book about all our adventures and creating a ‘making-of’ documentary.
We’ll also be talking to potential partners because as you can imagine “22” is financially very challenging when it comes to transport and lodging. Because we really need to make this project, we’re investing all our savings at this moment. However, this will only get us to wedding number 4 in France, so currently we’re trying our hardest to find partners/sponsors who want to work with us and believe in the project. It’s a lot of work, but we are looking very much forward to the journey and have the utmost faith that everything will work out
Is there any country you’re particularly excited to visit?
We’re equally excited to visit every country really. Each one counts and each one has its own LGBTQ heritage and stories about how marriage equality came about. And we’ll be happy to know all of these stories first hand at the end of this project and hopefully meet a lot of new & interesting people along the way. Who knows maybe we’ll even collaborate with some local artists. That would be nice.
What do you ultimately hope this project impacts and changes within the LGBT community and the world at large?
I think we can only hope that people take what they need out of this project. This can be strength, hope, courage or the necessary knowledge. Art is a perfect forum to do so since it opens people’s minds. We are focusing on the world at large, because there’s no need to preach to the choir on this topic within the community. Our work is focused on informing people in the broadest sense of the word, in a beautiful, interesting and positive manner. It’s about promoting love and inspiring people. And when that works, it is the best feeling there is.