Queer Contemporary

NAS Queer Contemporary – SKIN DEEP

SKIN DEEP is an interactive exhibition that presents intimate and personal stories of LGBTQI+ people through their tattooed bodies and stories, celebrating diversity, defiance and body art.

The Exhibition is made up of several unique components – presented as one integrated audience experience or as separate experiences. LGBTQI+ community participation is central to all components of SKIN DEEP – as narrators, models, story tellers and performers.

For those who have been marked as ‘other’ for their gender and/or sexuality, the claiming of identity through tattoos is a powerful and cathartic ritual.

The LGBTQI+ community has a long and varied history with tattoos. In a time when it was illegal to be out and proud, many LGBTQI+ people tattooed their body to convey secret messages or as an act of defiance to authority.


SKIN DEEP Exhibition


LOCATION: Cell Block Theatre
EXHIBITION DATES: 19 February – 7 March 2021
OPENING HOURS: Monday – Sunday, 10am–5pm

Curator: Terese Casu
Photographer: WADED
Stylist: Kelvin Harries
Hair Stylist: Gavin Anesbury
Makeup Artist: Annette McKenzie
Assistant: Heather Fletcher
Creative Producer: Dino Dimitriadis

Celebrated Sydney fashion photographer, Waded, brings her skills of cutting edge fashion portraiture, to capture authentic but highly styled portraits of diverse tattooed bodies that tell unique stories through their body art.

The LGBTQI+ community are invited to contribute to the Exhibition through an interactive story wall of images and stories about their first tattoo.

SKIN DEEP Performance


LOCATION: Cell Block Theatre
DATES: 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 February
TIMES: 7pm and 8pm Fridays and Saturdays; 5pm and 6pm Sundays
TICKETS: $30 General admission, $15 Concession

Choreographer: Meryl Tankard
Assistant Choreographer: Cloe Fournier
Live Music: The Song Company
Electronic Music: Bob Scott
Creative Producer: Dino Dimitriadis

Powerhouse Director and Choreographer, Meryl Tankard, will work with community members and aerialist, The Amazing Ari, to present a beautiful performance of movement and dance that will slowly reveal the performer’s body tattoos, unveiling secrets and hidden stories. The Performance will be accompanied by arias of unrequited love by The Song Company.


Please note body nudity will be included as part of the exhibition and performances


Basjia Almaan is a proud black queer woman. She is a model, creative director, stylist, and performance artist, who also has an interest in health and fitness, and is passionate about body appreciation. She is also part of the Ballroom community, belonging to the Kiki House of Silky, and has competed in the Face, Body and Sex Siren categories. She honours her divine feminine energy by celebrating her curvier body through images and movement.

Blake Lawrence is an interdisciplinary artist working across photography, drag, video, performance and ceremony. Lawrence works in bodily entanglement with crude and camera-less photographic processes, exploring queer lineage, speculative world-building, and marginal mourning practices, at the edge. Born from Yaegl land and waters in Northern NSW, Lawrence lives and works on Gadigal land. They have exhibited locally and interstate, at Firstdraft, Seventh Gallery, C3 Contemporary, The Walls and Verge, and have presented live work at Brisbane’s Spring Hill Reservoirs, the Art Gallery of NSW and Newcastle’s This Is Not Art.

Growing up in a modern matriarchal Indian family in Singapore, Shahmen processes his sense of displacement from home as Radha, the Diva from India. Being in Australia has given Shahmen multiple perspectives on migration, culture, race and gender, which he discusses openly through his alter ego, Radha, sharing stories the way he learnt them from his mother’s kitchen. Radha’s multifaceted practice has also seen them perform/host numerous music festivals and events, workshops for kids and as a chef for the ABC TV show The Set.

Diana Popovska studied at the Atlantic Theatre School in NYC. Onstage, Diana is best known for her portrayal of Kendra in the Australian Premiere of The Gulf, which she produced through her theatre company, LUME Productions in 2017, and she has been confirmed as a Griffin Theatre Company Studio Artist for 2021. Diana’s on-screen credits include Bump (STAN), Rake (ABC), feature film Skinford and The Pilgrim Report.  Diana has written and directed several short films and the award-winning short documentary, What Are We If Different?, as well as creating PLANS, a web series she wrote, directed, produced and starred in.

Tommy Misa is a Samoan Australian Fa’afafine person who lives on Gadigal country. Tommy has trained with NIDA, The Hub, The Atlantic Acting School and ATYP. Tommy’s screen credits include Ding Dong I’m Gay (2020), Liberty St (2020) and The Unusual Suspects for SBS (2021). Tommy created A viral series, a web series shot during isolation in 2020 on iPhone. On stage Tommy has performed in their own works and has collaborated on performative works for the Cuban Biennale (2019), NIRIN, Biennale of Sydney (2020) and The Art Gallery of NSW (2020). Tommy has performed extensively at Secret Garden festival, Sydney Oprah house, Sydney Mardi Gras, First Draft Gallery and at Queer club nights and parties around Sydney.  

The Amazing Ari has wowed audiences the world over, employing physical skill, costume, sound and light in astounding aerial routines everywhere from clubs in London, Berlin, Paris, Milan and NYC to corporate functions in the Middle East. Arian found acclaim performing the innovative human mirror ball in 2001 and a breathtaking aerial silk routine, blindfolded, at the Erotica Showcase in London in 2008, and appeared at the Sydney Opera House in the Late Night Lounge Cabaret, and with the internationally toured hit West End show, The Hurly Burly Show. A regular aerialist on the London cabaret circuit, Arian is also a regular with the Australian arts scene, including the Sydney Festival and Sydney Mardi Gras.

Between Good and Evil Exhibition


EXHIBITION DATES: 19 February – 7 March 2021
PERFORMANCE DATES: 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 February
TIMES: 7pm and 8pm Fridays and Saturdays; 5pm and 6pm Sundays
TICKETS: Access included with Skin-Deep tickets
Curator: Stefania Riccardi

While researching the tattoos that decorated the bodies of the female inmates of the Darlinghurst Gaol, fascinating tales of private sentiments emerged. Unlike those of their male counterparts the overwhelming majority of tattoos found on the female bodies expressed in textual form the love and yearning they had towards other human beings. Sometimes the tattoos represented anonymous romantic relationships identified only by the lover’s initials; other times the tattoos were explicit declarations of love or longing for family members.

The performance of collecting the tattoos and embroidering them on muslin cloth gives the chance for those words to be spoken and shared once again within the walls of the gaol.

The long hours spent embroidering the 10m cloth also allowed consideration of how these women would have experienced identity, worth, class, and aspirations. The digital collages, inspired by the craft so popular in Victorian times, free these women from the reductive and oppressive categorisation as criminals and set them free to a world of fantasy that they themselves might have dreamt about once in a while.



SKIN DEEP will build an online global community of LGBTQI+ tattooed bodies, photographs and stories of their first tattoo. This will be self-published by community members through a controlled registration site and then curated and designed into a dedicated SKIN DEEP website.

More details to follow.

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