Nicolas Jenkins

2023, 19:57 minutes, colour, English


Change is the only constant in life.

INVERSE/THE FUTURE IS OFTEN A STEP BEHIND is a multi-part experimental documentary project that weaves together the lives of a diverse group of people who celebrate difference through gender nonconformity, non-traditional relationships, radical sex practices, activism, politics, and subversive art Challenging the mainstream assimilation of LGBTQIA+ identity, INVERSE maps a cross-generational queer community by engaging in the daily lives of its participants.Experimental in approach, the project takes form as a three-part immersive video installation that vividly combines these stories interviews, and portraits. Made over the course of six years, INVERSE foregrounds fluidity and change; both of gender and sexuality and our understandings around them.

The first part, A
Day in the Life, is the centerpiece of the project. This 20-minute four-channel video projection follows five people side-by-side as they perform their ordinary lives against the backdrop of New York City. Resembling a filmstrip, these parallel narratives unfold on each screen and visually play off of one another. Illustrating a sense of daily reality, the installation is infused with the sense of six degrees of separation, as the characters become interconnected through their movements. A Day in the Life features Alok Vaid-Menon, a gender non-conforming performer and writer; Raiden, a transgender man and kindergarten teacher with a wife and children; Chealsea, a transgender woman from the House of Xtravaganza; Alex, a bisexual cisgender woman and journalist married to another woman; and Shaktii, a gender-fluid teenager and activist.

The second part,
Voices, is a collage of conversations with 40 people –
ranging in age from 12 to 77 years old – who live their lives beyond the
normative bounds of mainstream gay culture. Including the participants from A
Day in the Life, each interview gives context to the larger project by spotlighting the particular issues of socioeconomic barriers, bigotry, misogyny, racism, transphobia, toxic masculinity, HIV stigma, and other forms of violence confronted on a daily basis. Voices is intended to be watched across seven video monitors, each displaying 20-minute looped segments. Audio comes from directional speakers so as not to interfere with sounds coming from other parts of the installation. These directional speakers will make this a truly immersive experience.

The third and final part,
Faces, is a single 20-minute video projection that is the child of Jenkins’ most recent project, WALK! For 30 years Jenkins has been documenting New York’s Queer Black and Latino Ballroom scene. WALK!, is a testament to Jenkins’ passion for this singularly inclusive and diverse community. Celebrating difference over similarity, house ballroom culture has much to teach mainstream, heteronormative society about gender, sexuality, and community. Faces portrays the fierce joy, defiance, and pride of voguing ball attendees. Uncomplicated in their set-up, these subjects move and pose, alone and together, for the camera against a simple backdrop.

Echoing the nature of this community, the distinct parts to
INVERSE form a complementary whole. Brought together, the project’s diverse elements offer a physical and symbolic reflection of the diverse community that the piece altogether portrays. Although each part stands strongly on their own and can be exhibited separately, these interweaving storylines are intended to be experienced together through an immersive video installation. Combined together they create the message Jenkins is ultimately aiming to convey.

An atmospheric soundtrack by New Yorker Tim Cramer (Maelstrom Media) and Berlin-based DJ Daniel Wang combines ambient music with sounds taken from Night & Day storylines, a passing subway, elevator doors closing, or footsteps. While previous projects have taken on a more straightforwardly linear documentary form,
INVERSE pushes the viewer’s engagement with its dynamic subjects and questions by experimenting with multi-channel video presentation and sound installation.

INVERSE features Aaron Eliz Madison, Alex Berg, Alok Vaid Menon, Bobby Quidone, Carlos Aguilar, Chealsea Xtravaganza Crystal Rosete, Danni HuYang, Devyn Emory, Gisele Xtravaganza Gray Faro, Henny Garfunkel, Jack Waters, Kia LaBeija, Kim Watson Kipp Slinger, Lee Soulja-Simmons, Liz Collins, Lola Flash, Michael Wakefield, Michele Hill, No Bra Oscar Nunez, Noah Michelson, Peter Cramer, Philip Magnuson, Raiden Liam Red, Red Robinson, Riley Hooker, Shaktii Mann, Stanley Love Sur Rodney (Sur), Susanne Oberbeck, Taphari, Ted Kerr, Viva Ruiz, Winter Collins, Xeno, Yan Ze Li, and members of the Ballroom community. Soundtrack by Tim Cramer and Daniel Wang. Sound mix by Tim Cramer.

Although each part stands strongly on their own and can be exhibited separately, these interweaving storylines are intended to be experienced together through an immersive video installation Combined together they create the message Jenkins is ultimately aiming to convey.

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