Soft Boys at FACT in Liverpool explores what it means to be a man today, highlighting how conservative perceptions of masculinity still remain, even within the Trans community. The solo-exhibition features the work of Liverpool-based Somali, queer, trans multidisciplinary artist, Kiara Mohamed, and is shaped by his attempt to extrapolate himself from toxic masculinity, whilst also focusing on the radical potential of softness, tenderness and joy as transformational forces in overcoming trauma. The show is curated by Fauziya Johnson, founder and editor of ROOT-ed Zine (listen to a special podcast discussion between Mohammed and Johnson, soon to be released by FACT), and has been developed in collaboration with Somali, Trans and Queer artists and writers.
Mohamed describes his lyrical style of writing and filmmaking as influenced by the storytelling culture of his Somali roots – a heritage which he has previously been made to feel excluded from, but seeks to reconnect with in Soft Boys by engaging with Somalian traditional dances, cooking practices and garments. The experimental documentary film positions emotion, empathy and joy as central aspects of manhood, and continues the artist’s emphasis on mental health, care, and mindfulness. Mohamed has experienced multiple forms of personal and intergenerational trauma as a result of his identity and his work harnesses art as a means of adaptation and healing.
The exhibition forms part of FACT’s The Living Planet season and also carries a parallel message around the political power of joy as a lens through which to ‘re-learn’ the world around us and return meaning, beauty and value to places that have been damaged by human or natural acts. Mohamed’s film is presented alongside a new series of works by Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S) and Hong Kong based artist Zheng Bo, which form part of this year’s Liverpool Biennial and address a related set of themes around queerness, marginalisation, collective joy and pleasure.