Mathias Danbolt

Querying Space

Space is the ongoing possibility of a different inhabitation.
– Elizabeth Grosz [1]
 

When we talk about sexuality we usually tend towards spatial metaphors: We talk about “sexual orientation”, we hide our sexuality in “closets”, we “sit on the fence”, and some of us don’t “inhabit” our bodies properly. There are numerous minefields in the topography of sexuality. Being sexually disoriented is usually out of the question. The spatial-temporal structure that dominates the way we understand sexuality and gender predicts that we eventually will orient ourselves towards a stable object of affection, that the closet doors will be opened, that we will “choose side” and jump down from the fence. When – or if – we grow up, it is said, we will “find the right path”. But perhaps it isn’t our bodies and sexualities that are out of track. Perhaps it is the maps and figures that are ill conceived, full of omissions and loopholes.

In this issue of Trikster we present several contributions that discuss how sexuality and gender is understood, enacted, and constructed through space. We don’t claim to conquer new territories with these discussions, rather we are building on the important work done by feminist, queer, and postcolonial critics that (among others) have outlined the ways in which the distribution and use of space is affected by issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class. Under these and other terms that index the present – such as neoliberalism, advanced capitalism, and globalization – lies the spatial politics of everyday life: the possibilities for walking or kissing safely in public, for finding a place to live, for traveling across borders.

In 1997 the editors of the groundbreaking anthology Queers in Space demonstrated the importance of querying space as an arena of power, pointing out that space “can be described through words but also by way of maps, sketches, photographs, and plans; it can be considered on physical, metaphorical, and theoretical levels”.[2] This is also the outset for the contributions in this issue of Trikster, calling attention to the importance of spatial politics through drawings, texts, images, and conversations.

In the drawing by chris campe on the cover of this issue, we see the outlines of two bodies. The double set of contours make the bodies vibrate – are they moving towards each other, or further apart? The white paper/screen functions as a space where not only words meet figurations, and where the line meets the ground, but where an encounter of two bodies is presented in all its unknown potentiality. It is in the in-betweens campe finds a queer space – a space full of force and vulnerability.

In campe’s drawings from the Copenhagen Queer Festival 2007 social relations are inscribed into the architectural structures. Katarina Bonnevier takes the interactions between people and buildings further in her text “Dresscode: Herrgård”. She reads the famous Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf’s rebuilding of her manor Mårbacka as an example of drag-king architecture, pointing out not only the ways in which buildings are understood in gendered terms, but also that sexuality can be enacted through architecture. Taking Lagerlöf’s library as an example, Bonnevier shows how the sexual drama between the author and her two lovers is imprinted in the structure of the rooms.

If Bonnevier focuses on buildings and interiors, Mathias Kryger Hansen goes outside in Ørstedsparken in Copenhagen – a popular cruising ground for men who have sex with men. Through a discussion of the Danish artist Lasse Lau’s projects on the queer geography of gay male cruising, Hansen outlines the political strategy of having privacy in public. The queer space of cruising is ephemeral and precarious – not without risks. While we have been editing this issue of Trikster, several violent attacks have taken place in Ørstedsparken aimed at persons cruising in the park. In end of July a 38-year-old man was brutally assaulted by three young men who shouted homophonic slurs and threatened to kill him while beating him severely. These recent attacks are only some examples of the vast amount of heterosexist violence taking place around us.

In response to the rising numbers of hate crimes in Copenhagen, the activist group Bash Back! was formed in August this year. This ad hoc initiative has started patrolling Ørstedsparken at night, as well as giving courses in self-defense. This is a recent example of the long tradition of feminist, lesbian, gay, transgender and queer activist groups in Copenhagen, fighting against oppression and working to create safe spaces for people outside of the norms. Mette Buchardt’s article “Separatisme, ikke-separatisme, anti-separatisme” discusses different understandings and practices of gender and sexual separatism on the activist scene on the left wing in Denmark. While functioning as an archive of radical activist groups over the last twenty years in Copenhagen, Buchardt’s text sheds light on the ways in which different forms of separatism have been used as a strategy for creating effective forums and platforms for political action.

It is a different location and time span we are introduced to by the art historian and AIDS-activist Douglas Crimp in the interview “Front Room – Back Room”. Crimp gives us a glimpse of the cultural geography of New York City in the 1960s and 1970s, when he talks about his new project Before Pictures. Focusing on the conflicted relation between the art world and the emerging gay world in the post-Stonewall years in New York, Crimp reflects on why these two worlds are not discussed together in cultural history. He finds a telling metaphor for this discursive separation in the architecture of the popular hang-out Max’s Kansas City in New York, where it was a strict division between the “queer” crowd in the back room, and the “straight” art world people occupying the front room.

In “Leaving a Glorious Future Behind?” Tuula Juvonen and Pia Livia Hekanaho address the present difficulties of working with queer studies in the Finnish academia. Through a mapping of the development of early lesbian and gay studies and later queer studies in Finland, they focus on exclusionary mechanisms facing especially Finnish male scholars working with queer politics. While different Centers for Women’s Studies have functioned as an open space for in particular female academics, male scholars working with queer issues have been victim to the current homophobic atmosphere, and many of them have left the Finnish universities.

The fight for a queerer space – however provisional and ephemeral – is important. This goes for the academy, as well as for the streets, our surrounding buildings, and the political sphere. We hope that this issue of Trikster may engender the discussions on spatial politics, and, through the Internet's expanding space, help to create new relations among strangers.

[1] Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from

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