Queer Lives and Its Politics

Week 2 –¬†

Interpretation.

The brief was to create a memory room or a series of spaces that reflect a sequence of significant events that present a form of interpretation or abstraction, giving it meaning and memory.

Through my recent experience of Gay Pride in London for the first time and visit to an exhibition called ‘Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty’, held at British Library, I was interested in exploring the ways in which Queer history can be represented in a series of rooms. I also wanted to discover if Queer history can give us insight on ‘inclusive’ human-centric spaces, designed to promote the acceptance of differences in intersecting identities and break down barriers of connection. Initially, I wanted to capture the external struggles (politics and social discrimination) as well as the internal struggles to self acceptance, in my memory rooms.

 

Reference.

Director Joe Stephenson captures Ian McKellen as he shares his experience of a time when established assumptions about gender and sexuality were being questioned and transformed.

Kareem Reid, founder of club night Body Party, contemplates navigating the world as a queer black body. Directed by Stephen Isaac-Wilson.

 

Response.

The model represents a sequence of four spaces that reflect the significant events that occur in Queer history. A reflective surface is placed on the ‘ceiling’ to allow the visitor to view oneself within a portion of the plan of the installation; It is a metaphor that enables the visitor to identify one’s own position in the struggle for acceptance.

 

The first part of the model was done with rigid timber ‘columns’ laid out like a military regime. It was to depict the situation before 1967 in England, where sexual relationships between two people of the same gender are illegal. Timber (or in this case, balsa wood) were used to reflect the zeitgeist of England in 1967, where the government and society still had rooted, conservative assumptions about gender and sexuality.

 

The second part of the model became a progression of the first part where the political rules in place were slowly being dismantled. There were more leniency and understanding among family members and society although a sense of shame and prejudice still exist in the open. After 1967, the Sexual Offences Act began to decriminalise sex between two parties of the same gender over 21 while the World Health Organisation had declassified same sex attraction as a mental illness. However, there were still resistance from the conservative government including Margaret Thatcher who introduced Section 28 where ”councils should not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” (Wills, 2017). This prompted Sir Ian McKellen to come out on BBC Radio and fought against Section 28.

 

The third part of the model depicts a dark time in society due to terrorism. In 1999, a former British National Party member, David Copeland bombed Admiral Duncan (one of Soho’s oldest LGBT bars), killing 2 people and wounded 30. This also continued on in the United States in 2016, where the Orlando queer nightclub shooting killed 49 people. The space was painted black while the ‘columns’ were intentionally made broken to reflect the aftermath of an act of terrorism.

 

The final part of the model represents an acceptance and celebration for each other’s differences. It also promotes an understanding that to love is a human right, regardless of one’s gender. Although the British Civil Partnership Act for queer individuals had passed in 2004, there are still much work to be done to curb with homophobia in England and other parts of the world.

 

Next.

From crit

  • To further explore the configuration of the memory rooms to reflect progress and regress (use of mirrors)
  • Attention to time, light and shadow
  • To explore the rooms as catalyst for other events or raising awareness
  • To include more photographs of spatial experience

From self

  • To explore interest in urban subculture, as a wider inclusion of society

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