2 Hot 2 Handle
Paul Wong, 2009
2 channel video installation, configuration variable
single channel version, 8 min., colour, stereo

What happens when you take a queer artist from the big city and land him in southern Alberta during the gay stampede?  The answer is 2 Hot 2 Handle. Wong captures this powerful contrast by fusing images of the 2009 Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Canada’s only gay rodeo, held each year outside of Calgary with photographs of western bronze sculptures.  The sculptures depicting cowboys in action were created by artists between the 1880s & mid-1980s.

Wong was invited by curator Quyen Hoang to respond to the Glenbow Museum’s permanent exhibition MAVERICKS: An Incorrigible History of Alberta. Wong was given ‘free range’ to the museum’s vast and eclectic holdings: archives, artifacts, antiquities to contemporary art works. After a series of short visits to the Glenbow and a spontaneous trip to Calgary’s gay rodeo, the connection between Alberta’s rugged history and the Rodeo — was inevitable.  “I responded, in the end, to something that was in my face,” says the Vancouver-based artist.  Knowing very little about cowboy culture, Wong spent a weekend recording his first rodeo.  He saw everything from “flaming drag Queens to macho cowboys to serious bull dykes — so to speak,” says Wong.

On the right stills and video of the 2009 Canadian Rockies International Rodeo in Strathmore, Alberta.  On the left stills and titles/text of rodeo bronzes from the Glenbow’s collection. Wong’s work is an impressionistic portrait, which explores this alternative part of Alberta’s history. It is not meant to be a documentary/literal portrayal of the gay rodeo but rather it situates it in the context of the story of the west and the construction of identities. Wong’s work uses these frozen gestures to explore the complexities of gender and sexuality. In-relation-to the bronzes, the videos introduce movement to their very static image and highlighting our constantly evolving and shifting society.

Behind the photographs of the bronzes are vertical stripes mimicking television colour bars and the rainbow flag and galloping horses at sunset. The soundtrack is a compilation of clips from the American and Canadian national anthems and the Calgary Stampede song, This Old Hat, performed by Alberta country music singer Gord Bamford. Floating across the images of the gay rodeo is text: Let ‘er Buck, Thirsty Beaver, A Hooker and so on. These words and phrases are directly lifted from the titles of the bronzes and from a page of slang in the program of the gay rodeo.  The title 2Hot2Handle is taken from one of the bronze sculptures Too Hot To Handle by E. Hazak.

2 Hot 2 Handle was exhibited at the Glenbow Museum Oct. 25, 2009 – Feb. 28, 2010.

2 Hot 2 Handle was presented as part of Wong’s ‘Led Down The Garden Path’ site specific event as part of his www.5.paulwongprojects.com commissioned by the City Of Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympics Public Art Program.

2 Hot 2 Handle was featured at the 2012 Queer Arts Festival, “Random Acts of Queerness” exhibition in Vancouver BC

Distributed by Paul Wong Projects, Vtape