The Contiguity of Totalisation is a multimedia exhibition by three queer artists (Tarzan JungleQueen, Matthew van Roden and Koulla Roussos) that is currently showing in Ballarat as part of the 2018 Biennale of Australian Art (BOAA). Curator Koulla Roussos says that the title is a paradox: contiguity refers to the state of bordering, of being side by side, while totalisation requires unity.

On arriving in my hometown I send Roussos a message and she responds with characteristic aplomb. “I just have to buy and install a TV,” she says. “Be there in half an hour.” At the last minute, she explains later, she asked the proprietor of the Unicorn Hotel if they would show the film on a flat screen set up on their counter to maximise its exposure. While I wait, I show my 92-year-old grandmother the limited-edition catalogue, which describes “negotiating queer identity as a dynamic discourse and process.” She nods slowly and declares that she will go with an open mind. Then she laughs and says, “What’s Tarzan’s real name?” After an estrangement of 20 years, wrought by my troubled mother, we are reconnecting. She has my mother’s turn of phrase and an almost identical bookshelf.I am fascinated by this glimpse of a historical town reduced in my memory to annual school excursions to Sovereign Hill. Roussos leads me across the road to view the exhibition of still images displayed in light boxes in Unicorn Lane Gallery. The black and white portraits show the three artists in different configurations: JungleQueens’s head superimposed onto van Roden’s body, Roussos’ face smeared with clay, JungleQueen preparing to devour a tiny van Roden on a spoon. The images are taken from a seven minute long black-and-white film, made by the trio over a nine-month period, in which the artists explore their identities as queer subjects in a loose narrative which the three describe in fascinatingly divergent yet overlapping terms. Film is the ideal vehicle for an exploration of fluidity. The moving image shows the body transforming as it explores possibilities. The decision to exhibit a collection of still images from the film plays ironically with the idea of fixity.