Dr. Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker is an artist, curator. He is 59 years old. A Romani Gypsy, born in Kent, he holds a PhD on the subject of Gypsy aesthetics from the Royal College of Art, London. Baker curated FUTUROMA at the 58th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2019. He also exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2007: Paradise Lost and 2011: Call the Witness. Baker’s art practise examines the role of art in the enactment of social agency via the reconfiguration of elements of the Gypsy aesthetic. His 2001 MA dissertation titled The Queer Gypsy reported findings from his primary research into the experience of LGBTQ+ members of GRT Communities in the UK. This was the first academic study of LGBTQ+ Roma to be carried out and has been published in a variety of international journals since. Publications include WE ROMA: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, Ex Libris, FUTUROMA and GRT LGBTQ+ Spoken History Archive Book. Baker‘s work is exhibited internationally and can be found in collections worldwide. He is currently based in London. 

During his early teen years, Daniel felt different from others and eventually realised that he was gay. He dealt with this by trying to come to terms with it and what it meant for him and how he could fit into the Roma and the non-Roma world. When Daniel left art school in his early twenties he started to meet other gay people and that helped him realise that he could find his place in the gay world. Exploring more of the gay world felt for him like he was leaving his Roma world behind.

During his late twenties, Daniel had a partner whose ex-partner was also gay and Roma. In the mid-1990s the three of them decided to do develop a performance project based on the subject of gay Roma. For this project, Daniel carried out a small research project which involved interviewing other gay Roma people. He placed an advertisement in the UK gay newspapers of the time stating that he was interested in meeting other gay Roma people and invited them to contact him by telephone. He received a number of phone calls from men and some women. Daniel also sent some of the questionnaires by post and used the information as a starting point for the performance project which was titled ‘Drom‘.
 
Photo by: Karl Grady
 
Eventually, Daniel began an MA in Gender and Ethnic Studies at Greenwich University in the Romani Studies department and picked up his earlier research to carry out a more intensive research project using the same tactics as before. For his MA research, he focused on the experience of four gay Romani men. After completing his MA he sent his work to the Roma Studies press in the UK to see if they would be interested in publication. After a number of suggestions for changing the text it became clear to Daniel that the subject was too controversial for them and that they were not ready to include work on the subject at the time.  

Daniel’s inspiration for his art practice is grounded in the rich visual culture of his Romani community. The ways in which Roma aesthetics employs both artistic and functional elements to convey the spiritual aspects of Romani life is a source of constant fascination for him. Being gay helped Daniel to think differently about himself and how he fits into the world. It also helped him to think about his art practice in different ways. These two aspects of his identity inform each other productively and have enabled him to explore ideas in terms of his life and art.