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Sublime Paranoia
Institute of Contemporary Arts
A side shot of Rainer Werner Fassbender looking into a camera, cigarette hanging from his mouth
Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Image: Peter Gauhe / DFF

Drawing on Wielebinski’s interest in the boundaries of private and public spaces with references spanning sci-fi, Cold War legacies, espionage and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Huw Lemmey, Ian Penman and Asa Seresin will join in conversation to frame some of these forgotten histories, illicit spaces, deviant images and often unspoken languages.

Weaving together these threads, Huw Lemmey will speak on how the fear of communism and espionage shaped public perceptions of homosexuality before and during the Cold War. He will be discussing the intimate and strange – some might say queer – relationship between homosexuality and espionage, both in the minds of the British public, and in the ideology of the security services themselves. While homosexual men found for themselves a natural home as spies and double agents, with the coming of the Cold War they also found themselves under increased scrutiny by a suspicious public and a paranoid establishment. The legacy of that suspicion lingers to this day.

Ian Penman will draw from the icon of Rainer Werner Fassbinder based on his book Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors.

Asa Seresin will frame the talk in terms of Wielebinski’s exhibition which correlates Samuel Delany’s ‘red sun’ with oversize stills of half-suns taken from Fassbinder’s cult film Querelle. Seresin reflects on this shared sun motif in a specially commissioned text to accompany the exhibition. He states, ‘The Red Sun unfurls Wielebinski’s longstanding investigation into the way social life is bifurcated by the poles of public and private,’ going on to describe one aspect of the exhibition as a ‘reanimation of cold war paranoia and atomic preparedness.’

Huw Lemmey will also introduce his film Ungentle the day before on Tue 14 November.
Huw Lemmey (b. 1986) is a novelist, artist and critic living in Barcelona. He is the author of four books, including Bad Gays: A Homosexual History and Unknown Language. He writes on sex, culture, history and cities for numerous magazines and journals including Frieze and Architectural Review. As an artist and filmmaker, his work has appeared at numerous international institutions.

Ian Penman is the author of It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track (2019) and Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors (2023), both published by Fitzcarraldo. A freelance writer and critic, his work has appeared in The London Review of Books, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Sight & Sound and The Wire. He contributed essays to Robert Frank: Storylines (2004), The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson (2009), and Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (2020).

Asa Seresin is a writer and researcher based in London. He writes about sexuality, genre, art, comedy and psychoanalysis, and is completing a PhD in English at the University of Pennsylvania.

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