“That’s one of the things that “queer” can refer to: the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning…“
– Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
I’ve always been inspired by that Eve Sedgwick quote. One of the things that the word queer has meant to me, beyond sexual and gender non-conformity, is the wider possibility of otherness: other ways of thinking, being and allowing yourself to partake in the world. British LGBTQI history has much in common with other forms of current global political struggle, from Black Lives Matter to the radical feminism movements in Russia, where radical thought and action has gone hand in hand with an ongoing resistance to violence and oppression.
Sadly, we often fall victim to the weakening effects of in-fighting over words and politics. Anti-gentrification activist Sarah Schulman also warns against the apathy among white gay men, who are afforded a level of privilege over non-binary and PoC queers, pointing out their “particular brand of cowardice” in joining in with the style of activism that first granted their privileges. It is forgotten that our legality as individuals and what saved us from the gallows was not won over a polite cup of tea with the powers that be.
They were won by a shared, collective resistance: communities coming together, helping each other, raising each other up and fighting for the greater good and benefit of society. The first brick at Stonewall was thrown by a black trans activist, Marsha P Johnson, a part of our history that seems far from the corporatisation and frenzied-flag waving of Gay Pride we see today.
One day a couple of months ago, a friend called me up and asked if I would like to assist him in curating an exhibition on contemporary queer art. We called it Queer Art(ists) Now and it’s coming to London on 12 October. The show offers a contemporary view, an unofficial counterpart if you will, to the Tate Britain’s Queer British Art: a supposedly bold move from Britain’s biggest public arts institution that left many feeling cold, restless and hungry for something that felt more real and representative of the history of queer struggle and the lives that have and continue to be lived.
The exhibition, put together by Andrew Ellerby of And What? Queer Arts Festival and myself (under my queer publishing imprint Pilot Press) will take place at Archive Gallery in the light and spacious vaults of the former Hackney archives, near Haggerston Overground. It will feature over 50 artists, performers, writers and makers in an eclectic salon-style exhibition, providing a snapshot of queer art practice and the issues occupying artist’s minds today. We hope you’ll come along.
The show will feature major names from the contemporary queer cultural scene, including Linder, Prem Sahib, Rottingdean Bazaar, Keith Vaughan and Princess Julia, as well as recent graduates of the innovative Goldsmiths MFA course and over 40 individuals selected via a free and open call-out, selected with panelists Olivia Laing (The Lonely City) and Evan Ifekoya (House of Voltaire).
For more info please visit queerartistsnow.com, and look us up on Facebook and Instagram. We hope to see you there.
Queer Art(ists) Now takes place at Archive Gallery, part of the Mill Co. Project space on De Beauvoir Road, Islington, London between Friday 13 – Sunday 15 October 2017. There will be a private view on 12 October from 6PM. All welcome to attend.
Words by Richard Dodwell