Lethal Amounts is a large gallery in Los Angeles, focusing on art which is often banned from social media because of its themes. Need I say more? No, I’ll let Danny Fuentes, who runs the gallery, and curator Parma Ham tell their side of things.
Community Guidelines is a show about freedom of expression in a world that often bans such freedoms, especially on social media, and especially “Queer Art.” Why has Lethal Amounts gallery taken up the fight to help artists express themselves and ultimately find more freedom?
DANNY FUENTES: I think every gallery in the world should be taking up that fight. Art and the right to express ourselves freely is the last true sacred thing our society has. I think there’s incredible results in provoking someone to feel uncomfortable and question why that is. Art should strike a conversation and abolish tired traditions that set standards that hold us all back from evolving. Every art movement has broken down the previous generations limitations on what is acceptable or considered legitimate, and with modern technology, we see new avenues for expression and people exploring those as mediums. Social media has taken on a completely different approach to reaching people and as a creative outlet.
Every movement whether it be social, political, or artistic, that has made a true change and created progress has fought to open up a dialogue about the unpopular opinion. I feel proud to be able to create a platform for the unpopular opinion and give acknowledgment to topics that feel controversial to some.
You will be displaying art that has been banned from social media, so how did you discover all of these artists and their work?
PARMA HAM: These artists are active users of social media, but frequently have their work removed, and accounts deleted. It’s sad that they often have to consider the censorship when it comes to creating and putting out work, and that’s damaging to an artists trajectory.
What is an “Outisder Artist,” as you see one?
DF: Anybody that feels the need to create for the simple reason of expression without the need for approval.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of the gallery and how it came to be?
DF: Initially it was going to be my workspace and showroom only. I decided to show the non-traditional art of some of my favorite creatives to give some context to what the brand represented. The art shows became more and more successful, and I soon realized I was doing something a bit more important than I thought originally. From the beginning, I’ve gravitated toward artists that inspire me; sometimes it’s highlighting someone or something from a totally different perspective.
I oftentimes focus on musicians and their work. A lot of bands subsequently create subcultures and music movements of their own, and thus shift the course of underground culture and, ultimately, mainstream culture. To me, that is incredibly fascinating, and I continue to explore those types of artists that won’t necessarily be found in art history books.
You’ve showcased the work from a lot of musicians and bands over the years. Great music has always been on the fringe of society before it becomes mainstream. Do you feel that your space is helping to take that fringe element and make it more acceptable?
DF: Not really. I don’t think it’s my job to change anyone’s opinion if they don’t genuinely enjoy what I’m doing. I’m not trying to convert anyone, I don’t run a church, I just like finding like-minded people. If someone feels enlightened by what I’m showcasing, then I certainly feel like what I’m doing is effective and powerful, but I don’t try to sterilize anything and make it more acceptable. I let the work speak for itself and expect people to generate their own opinion. Sometimes they wanna join our mailing list, sometimes they want to fight me.
Is there room for a social media site that supports more freedom of expression? Is there already such a site?
PH: Twitter is the most liberal of social media channels. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly geared towards sharing image and video in comparison to Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. There are smaller websites that can host art, but part of the magic with artists using mainstream channels is you can be scrolling through images of beaches and food, to be surprised by beautiful or transgressive artwork. It’s important art is not reserved for galleries or museums, and that art and design is immersed in our everyday life. I think social media really enables that.
In addition to this show, there are also regular nightlife events around Los Angeles. Can you tell me about some of those and how long they have been happening? Who is involved and so on?
DF: I’ve been involved in music and nightlife scenes in some way or another since I was a young teenager. It became a natural progression to do events with Lethal Amounts as the promoting vehicle, since we had built so many relationships with musicians. Our nights became more and more popular and blended the old with the new, attracting everyone from metalheads to drag queens. It really became an incredible environment very quickly with lines around the block.
I decided to do a party that further encouraged that attitude of mixing worlds together. Sex Cells, is a place where you can live out your inner fantasy and be as creative and out-there as you can be. Its become a beautiful mix of all walks of life enjoy the feeling of absolute freedom from negative judgments and gawking eyes. The crowd is like no other and the musical lineups we put together are treated just like an art show. We want to curate an experience and a feeling of community. We all want a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. To me, nightlife events are small revolutions, the simple act of being brave and stepping out of the house looking like something out of a Roger Corman movie is an act of revolution.
Is this bullshit? “Our community is global and diverse. Our policies may seem broad, but that is because we apply them consistently and fairly to a community that transcends regions, cultures, and languages. As a result, our Community Standards can sometimes appear less nuanced than we would like, leading to an outcome that is at odds with their underlying purpose. For that reason, in some cases, and when we are provided with additional context, we make a decision based on the spirit, rather than the letter, of the policy.” – Facebook Community Standards
PH: Without really meaning to be, the show has evolved to be entirely LGTBQ, with half the participants identifying as trans or gender non conforming. Typically, their artworks include subjects such as sexuality, the trans-body, body modification, violence, fetish, and self-harm; all topics which need to be discussed, and all topics that are heavily censored. Trans and gender non-conformers are currently facing a huge backlash in politics and the media right now, and with social media increasing its draconian rules, we aren’t able to fully hear the narratives of these artists, which is crucial at such a turning point in history. It’s, for this reason, I think social media is pandering to the rest of society by muting these artists to avoid upset when really we should be doing the opposite, and listen to them.
DF: I think that’s intended to be confusing to create room for a double standard. Like most things in a consumer society, everything is for sale, even standards. If you got enough followers or pay enough in advertisements, a nip slip is totally acceptable and overlooked.