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Queer ‘guerrilla’ activism in China: Reflections on the tenth-anniversary Beijing Queer Film Festival 2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011


by Elisabeth L. Engebretsen

On June 19 this year, the fifth biennial Beijing Queer Film Festival (BJQFF) closed after five days of screening over thirty queer films from China and abroad, hosting talks and parties, and with people attending from all over China, as well as from overseas. Queer and straight volunteers ensured a smooth-running festival, and a funding initiative assisted youth from inland provinces to attend, watch queer films and socialize in a distinctively queer community, some for the first time in their lives. This is a considerable achievement when seen in context of the persistently difficult socio-political climate for minorities in the country. While it has often been assumed that queer life is invisible, silenced, and poorly organized in societies like the Chinese, where formal recognition and legal protection remain absent, a rather different and more nuanced perspective emerges when we look more carefully into specific events and their particular context, such as this film festival. In the BJQFF organizers’ press statement they suggest that it was perhaps despite and even because of, official bans and police surveillance that they succeeded in hosting the film festival and achieving their aims – celebrating the importance of showing queer films, and spreading knowledge of queer cultures in a society where non-mainstream voices are stifled all too often.

This upbeat and celebratory attitude alongside a flare for ad-hoc activist creativity – or guerrilla-style tactics – are key characteristics of queer social activism in mainland China. Guerrilla activism in general works to empower marginalized groups by creating a temporary platform for transmitting their voices and experiences, and works relatively independently of established channels and vehicles of communication and organization. These strategies are of particular relevance in China, where authorities regularly but quite unpredictably, censor and crack down on dissenting activities. Yang Yang, chairwoman of this year’s film festival, said:

While it is unfortunate that we had to be guerilla-warriors [sic] once again in order to hold this festival, we feel empowered and invigorated by the reactions of the audience and the filmmakers, and we’re ready to continue with our goal of spreading queer films and queer culture in Chinese society.

Of course, many would argue that these are fundamental ingredients of (queer) activism in many places in the world. In the following, therefore, I would like to reflect on certain qualities of queer social activism in mainland China, by discussing the Beijing Queer Film Festival event in some detail. This is not, I emphasize, an attempt to argue an absolute cultural or queer Chinese difference, and I recognize the conundrum of the universality/particularity bind involved. In short, this tense dynamic involves, on the one hand, that some might consider queer activism in China as part of a universal, and similar if not identical, process of rights activism towards equality for all; on the other hand, some emphasize the unique particularity of a given cultural location – such as ‘China’ – against the (implicitly western) global flows of rights, pride, and rainbow flags.

In a recent special issue of the journal Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique on transnationalism and queer Chinese politics, Petrus Liu discusses this dynamic vis-a-vis queer academic practices (Theory), and points out that Eurocentric queer theory typically sees China as a relevant concern “only as the producer of differences from Western queer theory” (Liu 2010: 297). The referent of Chinese specificity, he suggests, often works to establish China as existing in the past, lagging behind in queer developmental progress, or to place China as exceptional, and categorically outside of, and hence irrelevant to, queer theory. In other words, China is important only insofar as it is positioned as a categorical and negative opposite to a generic ‘west’ and to queer scholarly inquiry. In a globalizing world, it is clear that both positions are problematic, as Liu also argues; while queer life in China is undeniably shaped by local culture and history, there is no denial that foreign impulses inspire and help shape current formations of queer identity, politics, and community. The Beijing Queer Film Festival event, then, serves as a poignant example of this local-regional-global dynamic.

Ten years of queer “guerrilla” activism: A short history of the Beijing Queer Film Festival
During its ten-year-long existence, the Beijing Queer Film Festival has encountered its fair share of official trouble. Started in 2001 by a group of Beijing University students and tongzhi (‘queer’), the festival has been organized every other year or so by a changing group of volunteers. The first two festivals (in 2001 and 2005) were marked by official interruptions and bans, forcing the organizers to keep their festival underground and far away from official eyes. In 2005, for example, I was in Beijing conducting research on lala (‘lesbian’) communities there, and attended the festival with some of my local friends. The opening event was scheduled to take place in a central lecture hall at the prestigious Beijing University. Organizers had applied to authorities for permission to hold the event, but not citing the ‘homosexuality’ focus of it in order to increase the chances of getting permission. In the end, officials were tipped off, conducted a last-minute check-up, and upon finding festival material with direct references to LBGTQ, they promptly canceled the event. A mass of people were stranded outside the hall, not knowing what to do. An impressive informal community effort, facilitated by personal connections in the arts community, cell phone messaging and Internet use, enabled the festival to quickly transfer to the Dashanzi art district on the other side of town, where the inaugural welcome and screening event took place to a packed, cheering audience, the next evening.

The third and fourth festivals in 2007 and 2009 were held in Songzhuang village, an alternative arts community, some distance outside central Beijing. This was a conscious choice of location in order to evade official scrutiny and censorship. The 2009 festival also co-hosted China’s first queer arts festival, Difference-Gender, which attracted several hundred visitors to its opening event. However, the organizers met considerable problems as authorities visited the site the day before opening and ordered a cancellation of the exhibition, arguing that this public art show boasted the ‘improper subject of homosexuality’ and ‘pornographic’ exhibits (see, Liao 2009). Organizers negotiated with police until only hours before the scheduled opening, and were finally able to hold the event, albeit with some empty spaces on the wall; the title/artist tags remaining as visible proofs of censorship. In the words of Xu Bin, leader of the Beijing-based lala (‘lesbian’) group Tongyu (‘Common Language’):

It was the triumph of the younger generation of China’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. It was the triumph of their confidence to claim for proud exisitance [sic], triumph of their courage to insist on doing what they believe to be right! (Liao 2009)

The Songzhuang film festivals in 2007 and 2009 received little overt harassment from police and national security, despite the continued presence of official intimidation and innumerable requests for information and paperwork in the run-up to the events. This of course drained resources, challenged volunteers’ patience, and perhaps most importantly, necessitated that organizers remained on their toes, ready to deal with any possible intervention from authorities at any time. Comic relief works wonders in such testy environments; at the opening screening of the 2009 festival, where I was in the audience, one of the organizers humorously addressed the ‘hidden’ plainclothes police in the audience, saying he hoped they would also enjoy the films. All in all, the original programme remained pretty much intact, and this relative success encouraged the organizers to think bigger as they prepared for a large-scale tenth-anniversary festival in 2011.

Members of the 2011 BJQFF Organization Committee (from left to right): Yang Yang, Cui Zi’en, Stijn Deklerck, Wei Jiangang, Fan Popo. (Photo: BJQFF)

In April this year, however, organizers had to adjust their plans due to official pressure. The Chinese government has become more edgy in the recent couple of years compared with the early 2000s. This is due to both domestic and global events, reaching far beyond the ‘improper subject of homosexuality’ – such as international sports (2008 Beijing Olympics) and trade (2010 Shanghai Expo) events, environmental disasters, ethnic minority riots, and a string of popular uprisings due to increasing socio-economic inequalities. The official cancellation of DOChina, an independent documentary film festival scheduled to take place in May, signaled that Songzhuang village was no longer a safe haven for alternative art events. As it soon turned out, other art locations around Beijing were also experiencing a severe climate of government control and censorship, so it was becoming very difficult to find venues willing to host the queer film festival. As Stijn Deklerck, member of the 2011 BJQFF organization committee explains:

Apart from Songzhuang, we also made screening agreements with several other locations.  One by one they told us however that hosting the Beijing Queer Film Festival was too risky.  They were afraid of being shut down by the authorities, and they told us that they didn’t want to work with us anymore.

The organizers finally decided to hold their festival at the Dongjen Book Club, an activity center in Xicheng District in west Beijing. Worried by the overall climate of fear, they decided not to publicize the exact name and address of the new festival location. Only the times of the screenings were made public, and people could only obtain the screening address after booking a ticket.

On Sunday 12 June, it became evident that the safety measures adopted were far from enough to keep the authorities at bay. Representatives of the Beijing Xicheng District Public Security Bureau, Culture Bureau and Bureau of Industry and Trade turned up unannounced at the Dongjen Book Club and demanded a sit-down with the BJQFF organizers. After a short talk, in which they made references to a number of Chinese laws, they declared that the festival was illegal and that it had to be cancelled. They announced that they would post police officers at the Dongjen Book Club during the festival, and they expressed that there would be harsh consequences if the organizers disobeyed their orders.

In an emergency meeting, the BJQFF Organization Committee unanimously decided to still hold the festival but at a different location. It was paramount that the festival not be silenced and erased, as Cui Zi’en, noted film-maker and long-time queer activist, co-founder of the festival, and member of the 2011 organizing committee:

The BJQFF was started as a platform to question and challenge mainstream culture. Since mainstream in China is mainly constructed by the government, we all felt a duty to not let the BJQFF be silenced by government bureaus, but to challenge their decisions on which films are acceptable for screening.

With only three days left till the festival opening, scheduled to start on June 15, the organizers started to engage all kinds of bars and cafes in Beijing. Uncertain if the authorities would find out about the new locations, they decided to avoid a concentration of activities in one single place. The opening ceremony on the evening of June 15, which attracted over 100 participants, for example, took place at the Vinyl Cafe, a hip venue in downtown Gulou Dajie, a popular tourist and hipster area of old back alleys and modern bars and restaurants a stone’s throw away from Tiananmen Square. Fan Popo, director of the Beijing LGBT Center, and one of the BJQFF organizers, described the atmosphere preceding the opening thus:

We were alarmed by the fact that the officials found out about the Dongjen Book Club, because we never publicized that the festival would take place there. What was even scarier, was that the authorities also knew about the previous talks we had with other screening locations. So we decided we needed some new safety measures, and one of them was to keep switching locations during the 5 days of the festival.

Another strategy employed by the organizers was to give the outward impression that the festival was indeed cancelled, informing all the people who had already booked seats that the festival would not take place. Only invited guests, volunteers, personal friends and LGBT organizations were informed about the new schedule and locations. This strategy posed a significant dilemma, namely that the possibilities for participation were severely limited, making the festival into ‘just’ a community gathering for those already established in the queer activist circuit and their immediate circle of trusted allies. However, in the difficult political climate of today’s China, other strategies aiming at more openness and general inclusivity have proven time and time again to result in total clampdown and cancelled events – generating very difficult dynamics within queer networks.

Despite all these difficulties, the film festival did open on June 15, and went on to host five full days of screenings and talks. Though not all screenings originally scheduled could take place, more than 30 films were screened in four thematic clusters: Film-makers’ Profile, Overseas Nation, Queers from Diverse Cultures, and National Panorama. To mark the tenth anniversary volunteers put together a special Beijing Queer Film Festival Retrospective Program; it consisted of a documentary film with film clips from BJQFFs ten years, and a panel discussion focusing on the development and future of queer film festivals in Asia.


Global connections and regional outreach
Although the film festival is located in Beijing city, and many of the organizers are based there, it is important to emphasize that the BJQFF has national and even international importance and reach. The program has increasingly included work by directors and activists based elsewhere in China, for example, and a growing trend in the film program is a focus on documenting personal experiences and histories. This contributes to diversifying ‘the Chinese queer experience’ and ‘identity’ quite significantly. At this year’s festival, more than 15 Chinese queer film-makers presented and discussed their work, with many of their films premiering at the festival. A focus on personal oral histories and narratives was running like a red thread through many films. Take for example “The next generation” (Xia yi dai, 下一代), a 90-minute documentary film that presents accounts by ten LGBTQ and straight university students from various parts of China (watch original episodes with English subtitles here). Directed by Queer Comrades-webcast host, Jiangang Wei, the film presents honest, personal accounts of love, family, education, sex, and the future. Similarly, the fifteen-minute “My journey of self discovery” (Faxian ziwo zhi lü, 发现自我之旅; directors: Ana Huang et al.) is a collage of selected shorts from a long-term lala (‘lesbian’) community workshop of digital storytelling, many with autobiographical contents (watch shorts from the Lala Digital Storytelling Project here. For updates on English translation/subtitles, more here). Then there was the tenth-anniversary collage film, “Our story – Beijing Queer Film Festival Ten Years” (women de gushi: Beijing ku’er yingchan shinianji, 我们的故事 – 北京酷儿影展十年纪), a documentary based on material recorded by the different BJQFF organizing committees over the years, telling their own stories about their participation and organizing.


BJQFF opening screening. (Photo: BJQFF)

Eight film-makers attended from outside of mainland China to share their films and personally talk about their experiences. They included queer cinema pioneer Barbara Hammer, Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival organizer Sridhar Rangayan, Taiwanese queer documentary film maker Mickey Chen, and Chinese-Canadian video artist Wayne Yung.


Barbara Hammer. (Photo: BJQFF)

I asked Barbara Hammer about her thoughts on the BJQFF this year; her response:

The fortitude and strength of the LGBTQI organizers at the 10th Beijing International Film Festival was truly amazing.  Regardless of police shut-down, the show always went on. Humor, consistency, and darn good programming was enhanced by bringing together international guests.  One night we all gathered, friends of the festival, and brain stormed how it could continue and in what guise or form. Many ideas came out that night. I look forward to continuing to support Beijing queers in any way I can!

In this way, the festival’s importance extends far beyond the actual event itself, and beyond Beijing city and its local queer activists there. The BJQFF is an explicitly inclusive and proactively engaging in outreach beyond the limits of identity, and beyond the limits of one particular city. This includes the positive welcoming and active recruiting of non-queer volunteers and participants as queer allies, building a funding programme that encourages attendees from regional China, and inviting overseas queer film makers not only from the generic ‘west’ but from Asian countries, such as India and Taiwan this year.

In addition to film-makers, volunteers, and regular participants, the 2011 BJQFF sponsored 25 individuals from China’s “remote areas” (pianyuan diqu, 偏远地区) to attend the festival. ‘Remote’ in this context refers to regions beyond the hyper-modernized coastal region and economically developed areas such as Chongching and Guangzhou. Such ‘remote’ areas are generally considered to offer less opportunities for queer community building and networking. BJQFF operated an online-based ‘viewer registration’ program where interested people from all over China could sign up, and in the end 25 lucky people were selected to attend the ten-year anniversary festival. In this way, the festival event and rationale provide a social and educational agenda beyond an already formed community based in the metropolis. This outreach focus strengthens the intimate links between the practice of alternative art, culture, and politics throughout China. As aptly expressed by one of the lucky funded participants, Songzi, a young man from Nanning, in the southern Guangxi province, when asked by Queer Comrades about his impressions: “I thought it was very interesting; I saw a lot of films that I really liked … I hope that more people can accept our community …”

These conscious strategies toward expanding inclusion, diversity, and participation, then, contribute to expanding a queer academic, and activist, focus on ‘Beijing’ to one that is simultaneously trans-regional and trans-national without resorting immediately to a one-to-one comparison with ‘the west’; it expands the definition of “China” as well, showing on-site audience and distant observers alike that “China” indeed is no homogeneous culture or location; within China there are marked regional differences in terms on queer activism, culture, and related practices. Additionally, the continued emphasis on showing films from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong – locations that share history, culture, and language in fundamental ways, but which also differ significantly – help foster cross-regional conversations and reflections on queer life and activism in Chinese societies. Thus, the BJQFF provides an important occasion for coming together and engage in conversations, education, and, let’s not forget: to have fun, despite the continued climate of censorship.

In closing:
Chinese queer festivals and events such as the BJQFF constitute crucial interventions into dominant cultural and political representation of sex and sexual difference in Chinese society. Perhaps the most fundamental importance is that self-identified queers and their straight allies directly and unfiltered present their lived experiences and personal desires to the audience; they are not mediated, explained or objectified by medical or academic ‘experts,’ as has long been a requirement for public discourse on homosexuality in post-Mao China (see, Cui 2002). Therefore, on a local level, these events help push queer voices up from the underground, generate self-respect and pride, and present knowledge of non-normative sexuality to the general population. On a global and theoretical level, the socio-political communication of queerness, self-respect and pride in these contexts, trouble the globalizing ‘brand’ of “pride” that celebrates public visibility, unmediated displays of queerness such as Pride Parades, and which in turn relegates ‘Other’ strategies to the closet of shame, silence, and arrested development. A specific focus on Chinese queer activism, then, such as film-making and -screening, contributes to expand our definitions of queer politics beyond the dominant ‘queer theory’ lexicon. Perhaps, then, a detailed examination of the event of the BJQFF, such as the one attempted here, could help challenge us to re-configure entrenched ways of thinking sexual meanings and pride globally, in ways that position different practices in proximity, dialogue, and coevalesence; and furthermore, in ways that show “China” as central, not peripheral or even irrelevant, to thinking Queer Theory and non normative sexual politics in our transnational times.

Finally, I end with the intriguing analysis offered in BJQFF chairwoman Yang Yang’s opening speech:

In my opinion, a queer film festival is not an event only open to “marginal people” who come to escape the darkness of mainstream society. A queer film festival is a platform void of prejudice, a place where people can freely express, show, explore themselves and where they can enter in meaningful exchanges. Every film, every director, every audience has their own viewpoint and so does every one of the organizers. The only one thing that the festival stands for is that everybody who participates can freely voice their own opinion. The festival has a large significance not only for the queer community but also for the whole of society, because sometimes we all can’t see ourselves clearly, sometimes we all need to explore the influence we have on others to understand ourselves, sometimes we’re all living oppressed lives and we hardly realize that we can free ourselves through freeing others.

Our biggest enemy consists of a small number of authoritarian organizations that are using the powerful national propaganda machine to subtly construct mainstream ideology. And our biggest worth, our ultimate goal as a queer film festival is to challenge and oppose this mainstream ideology … The revolution hasn’t succeeded yet. Queers, keep up the good work!



Beijing Queer Film Festival Organization Committee. 2011. 5th Beijing Queer Film Festival Press Release. June 19. (Email received June 20, 2011)

Cui, Zi’en. 2002. “Filtered voices: Representing gay people in today’s China,” in the IIAS (International Institute of Asian Studies) Newsletter no. 29, p. 13 (translated by Chi Ta-wei).

Liao, Karen. 2009. “Difference-gender: China’s first queer arts exhibition” (publication date June 15, 2009).

Liu, Petrus. 2010. “Why does queer theory need China?” in Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, special issue on ‘Beyond the Strai(gh)ts: Transnationalism and Queer Chinese Politics,’ Liu, Petrus and Lisa Rofel (eds.), 18(2): 291-320.

Yang, Yang. 2011. “致辞” (zhici, “Speech”) (uploaded June 13, 2011).


Elisabeth L. Engebretsen is research fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland. Email:


Note on upcoming event:
On October 28, 2011, the Nordic Institute for Asian Studies in Copenhagen, Denmark, will host a one-day workshop on Queer theory and activism in China, which will feature talks by 2011 BJQFF chairwoman Yang Yang, Hongwei Bao (Goldsmiths College, London), Benny Lu (Goldsmiths), Elisabeth Engebretsen, as well as talks and screenings of recent films by Cui Zi’en, Wei Jiangang, and Fan Popo. Register and get more information here.

Trikster #4: Towards a Queer Horizon

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

[Norsk version]

The fourth issue of Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal focuses on queer political struggles in the present. Despite the critics who describe feminist and queer critique as a thing of the past, the problems in the here and now are just too many to put radical politics to an end.

Trikster zooms in on the medical pathologizing of trans people. With the important Danish documentary Nobody Passes Perfectly (2009) as a starting point, the media and gender researcher Tobias Raun debunks the widespread notion of Denmark as a transgender “paradise”. Through an incisive critique of the state regulation of transsexuality, he sheds light on a political battleground that for long has gone unrecognized by the media and human rights organizations.

While critics tend to present queer politics as a market run lifestyle diversification, Mika Nielsen argues for the importance of anticapitalist queer critique. Discussing the intertwinement of economy and heteronormativity, she introduces a branch of research that has seldom been discussed in the Nordic countries: Queer Economics. If Raun and Nielsen’s articles inspire to action, Jan Wickman discusses the grounds of queer activism in the Nordic countries more broadly in the article “Queer Activism: What Might That Be?”.

The ongoing queer activist conversations stand in stark opposition to the mainstream LGBT organizations’ discussions of what to do in the so-called “twilight of equality”. With the new legislations on marriage and adoption in some of the Scandinavian countries, some tend to think that the fight is over. But for this story of progress to be told, other stories and problems must be forgotten. It is a similar simplified narrative of progress Mathias Danbolt locates in his analysis of the ambitious history exhibition As I Am: LGBT in CPH at Copenhagen City Museum in 2009. In his critique of the show’s portrayal of LGBT activism as a thing of the past, he argues that interventions into queer history should rub against the grain, and take part in the fight for a better future.

But no activist fights without joy, laughter, and dancing! The importance of humor in queer and feminist critique is at center stage in Rikke Platz Cortsen’s introduction to current Swedish cartoonists. And a laugh is not far away when reading the author Kristina Nya Glaffey’s text revolving around the so-called lesbian baby boom. Viktor Johansson deals with a related area in his suite of poems, where he meditates on becoming in a broad sense – of bodies, babies, and identities.

The artist Heidi Lunabba plays with the established gender norms in her temporary beard salon Studio Vilgefortis, where she makes beards and mustaches on passers-by on the street – woman as well as men. While taking its outset in an understanding of gender as a performative act, Lunabba’s beard salon also reminds us that we are never fully able to choose our own gender identity in the present, as we cannot control which gender we pass as in the eyes of others. The fight for destabilizing the meanings assigned to gender attributes are therefore far from over.

While critics seem to line up with obituaries for queer theory and activism, it seems pertinent to remember that a queer world is still in the horizon. It is perhaps here we can locate one of the most important tasks for queer activism at the dawn of a new decade: Not to give in to the pragmatic demand for quick and easy solutions, but to keep imagining new social orders in the future.

Trikster is a multilingual web magazine edited by Mathias Danbolt. Trikster is supported by The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo, Nordic Culture Fund, and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Bergen. For more information visit, or contact Mathias Danbolt at or +45 41 15 16 13 / +44 78 31 96 55 85.

Trikster #4: Mot en queer horisont

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

[see English version]

Det fjerde nummeret av Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal stiller skarpt på aktuelle queerpolitiske kampsaker. Til tross for at kritikere har hevdet at feminisme og queerkritikk hører fortiden til er det dessverre for mange problemer her og nå som tilsier det motsatte.

Trikster setter fokus på kampen mot det medisinske herredømmet over transkjønn. Med utgangspunkt i den danske dokumentarfilmen Nobody Passes Perfectly (2009) demonterer media- og kjønnsforskeren Tobias Raun den utbredte forestillingen om Danmark som et “paradis” for transkjønnede. Gjennom en skarp kritikk av den statlige reguleringen av transseksualitet belyser han et kjønnspolitisk felt som lenge har blitt forbigått av mediene så vel som av menneskerettighetsorganisasjoner.

Mens folk ynder å fremstille queerpolitikk som en markedsdrevet livsstilskamp, peker Mika Nielsen på behovet for en queer antikapitalistisk kritikk. I artikkelen “Ett kapitalt misstag” diskuterer hun hvordan økonomi og heteronormer henger sammen, og introduserer en forskningsgren som sjeldent har blitt lest i Norden: Queer economics. Der Raun og Nielsens artikler oppfordrer til aktivistiske intervensjoner, legger Jan Wickman opp til en mer grunnleggende diskusjon av hvordan queeraktivisme har blitt forstått i Norden med sin artikkel “Queer Activism: What Might That Be?”.

I de seneste år har selv homoorganisasjoner feiret at kampen for likestilling nærmer seg slutten. Men for at forestillingen om fremskritt skal fungere må man lukke øynene for andre historier og problemfelt. Det er en slik forenklet framskrittsfortelling Mathias Danbolt lokaliserer i den ambisiøse historieutstillingen As I Am: LGBT in CPH på Københavns Bymuseum i 2009. Mens As I Am fremstiller homo/bi/trans aktivismen som en avrundet epoke, argumenteres det for en aktiv historiefortellinger som ser forbindelseslinjene mellom nåtidens og fortidens kamper.

Men ingen kamp uten dans, latter og glede! Humorens rolle i queer og feministisk kritikk står sentralt i Rikke Platz Cortsens introduksjon til nye svenske tegneserier. Og gapskrattet er heller ikke langt unna i lesningen av forfatteren Kristina Nya Glaffeys skjønnlitterære tekst “Padder og krybdyr”, som tar for seg den såkalte lesbiske babyboomen. Viktor Johansson beveger seg innenfor en beslektet tematikk i diktsuiten “Önskepapporna”, men fokuset her er snarere på tilblivelse i bred forstand – av kropper, barn, identitet.

Heidi Lunabba leker med de etablerte kjønnsrollene i sin mobile skjegg-salong Studio Vilgefortis. Her kan forbipasserende kvinner – og menn – få anlagt en bart eller et skjegg etter eget ønske, og resultatet setter vante avlesningsmekanismer av kjønn på prøve. Lunabbas prosjekt tar utgangspunkt i at kjønn er noe vi gjør snarere enn noe vi er, men peker samtidig på hvordan vi nettopp ikke selv uten videre kan “velge” hvilket kjønn vi vil gjenkjennes som. Vi har aldri kontroll over hvordan vi passerer, og kampen for å endre betydningene som tillegges kjønnsattributter er derfor langt fra over.

Mens kritikere synes å stå i kø med gravskrifter over queerteori og aktivisme, synes det viktig å fastslå at en queer verden fortsatt ligger ute i horisonten. Det er kanskje her queeraktivismens viktigste oppgave står på veien inn i et nytt årti: å ikke gi etter for dagens pragmatiske jakt på hurtige resultater, men å fortsette troen på at andre løsninger er mulig.

Trikster er et flerspråklig, gratis webmagasin, redigert av Mathias Danbolt. Trikster er støttet av Fritt Ord, Nordisk Kulturfond og Senter for Kvinne- og Kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen. For ytterligere informasjon, besøk eller kontakt Mathias Danbolt på eller +45 41 15 16 13 / +44 78 31 96 55 85.

Lost and Found’s homepage

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Lost and Found homepage

The exhibition and publication Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive has gotten its own homepage. Visit it on and read more about the exhibition, see images of the publication, and read the co-curator of the show Jane Rowley’s interview with the artist Aleesa Cohene.

Trikster #3: Queer litteratur

Friday, April 17th, 2009



[English below]

Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal lanserer i dag sitt tredje og største nummer hittil, fylt av queer litteratur i tekst, lyd og bilder.

Triksters tema-del “Queerlitt” inneholder bidrag fra nordiske og internasjonale forfattere som stiller skarpt på begjæret og kroppens betydning i litteraturen. Felles for bidragene i “Queerlitt” er at man ikke alltid vet hvor man har dem – de forstyrrer både seksuelle, språklige, og sjangermessige grenser.

Trikster er stolt av å kunne presentere den New York-baserte spoken word-poeten Staceyann Chin, som i sin performance setter fokus på kroppsliggjorte erfaringer av rasisme og sexisme. Men humor er aldri langt unna, som i diktet hvor Chin instruerer lesbiske i hvordan man forfører streite kvinner. I “Manlighet” undersøker og utfordrer de svenske poetene Hanna Hallgren og Johan Jönson maskulinitet og kjønnstilhørighet, mens Dennis Cooper og Eli Levén flørter med det pornografiske i deres tekster om flyktige erotiske møter i “Switch”. Andre bidragsytere til “Queerlitt” er Christian Yde Frostholm, Kajsa Sundin, Tova Gerge, Jonas Brun, Kristofer Folkhammar, Ulrika Dahl, Britta Tegby Frisk og Carlos Díaz. Flere av bidragene tar utgangspunkt i Queerlitteraturdagen i Gøteborg i 2008, organisert av Linn Hansén og Athena Farrokhzad, som sammen med Mathias Danbolt har redigert Trikster #3.

Trikster #3 byr også på et intervju med den britiske kunsthistorikeren Gavin Butt, som forteller om hans nye prosjekt om seriøsitet, og hans ønske om å gjøre queer teori morsommere. I nummerets kritikkdel utfordrer Sara Edenheim norske queer-forskere i sin anmeldelse av Når heteroseksualiteten skal forklare seg, Jon Helt Haarder leser med og mot Stephen J. Walton, Peter Edelberg jubler over boken Criminally Queer, Susanne Christensen svarer på Wenche Mühleisens kritikk av feministisk litteraturkritikk, og Tommy Olsson ønsker han var homo, etter å ha sett Slava Mogutins fotografier.

Trikster er et flerspråklig, gratis webmagasin som utkommer to ganger i året.Trikster #3 er redigert av Mathias Danbolt (ansvarlig redaktør), Linn Hansén og Athena Farrokhzad, og er Støttet av Fritt Ord, Nordisk Kulturfond og Senter for Kvinne- og Kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen. For ytterligere informasjon, besøk eller kontakt Mathias Danbolt på / +45 41 15 16 13.


Trikster #3: Queer literature

The third issue of the web magazine Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal is now online on

Trikster #3 is entitled “Queerlitt”, presenting queer literature with contributions from several Nordic and international writers and artists. Through video, images, and texts this issue of Trikster focuses on the body and desire in literature – giving attention to the sound of the voice, as well as bodily and textual gestures.

Trikster is proud to present the spoken word poet Staceyann Chin through video performances, and a conversation with the Swedish activist-theorist Ulrika Dahl. In her energetic performance, Chin touches upon the bodily effects of racism and sexism. But humor is never far away, as in the poem where she instructs lesbians how to seduce straight girls. Seduction is also central to Dennis Cooper and Eli Levén’s contribution “Switch”, where they read each other’s texts about the erotics of sexual encounters.

Trikster #3 also includes an interview with the British art historian Gavin Butt. In “Dismantling the Serious Machine” Butt talks about his new project on cultural seriousness, where he reflects upon the amusing but difficult task of making theorizing more fun.

The texts in “Queerlitt” take their outset in the Queer Literature Day in Gothenburg in 2008, arranged by Athena Farrokhzad and Linn Hansén, who have co-edited Trikster #3 with Mathias Danbolt. The issue also includes contributions from Athena Farrokhzad, Linn Hansén, Christian Yde Frostholm, Kajsa Sundin, Tova Gerge, Jonas Brun, Kristofer Folkhammar, Hanna Hallgren, Johan Jönson, Britta Tegby Frisk, Carlos Díaz, Jon Helt Haarder, Peter Edelberg, Susanne Christensen, and Tommy Olsson.

Trikster is a multilingual web magazine, releasing two issues a year. Trikster #3 is edited by Mathias Danbolt (executive editor), Athena Farrokhzad, and Linn Hansén. Trikster is supported by The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo, Nordic Culture Fund, and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Bergen. For more information visit, or contact Mathias Danbolt at / +45 41 15 16 13.

Queere pepperkaker og annet julesnacks

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Nå har også Trikster begynt å merke at julen nærmer seg. Her er noen tips til deg som allerede er sliten av julebord, stresset av gavepress, og som rett og slett ikke orker stappe i deg kjærnefamiliært bakverk en gang til:


Hvis du oppholder deg i Oslo-området kan du fortsatt rekke kakebakearrangement “Queer pepperkaker – er pepperkakeformen din for trang?” på Blitz kl. 14 i dag. Mens deigen eltes og kakene stekes kan man kanskje få svar på spørsmål som, “hvorfor har ikke pepperkakekonen hatt? Og hvorfor har ikke pepperkakemannen kjole?” Det er bare å ta kjevlen under armen å komme seg ned til Blitzhuset i Pilestredet 30c. Arrangementet er for “alle som liker pepperkaker, forming og dekorering og som godt kan være med på en diskusjon om pepperkakeformene våre er for trange”.


For dem som sliter med økonomien i disse finanskrisedager har nettgalleriet Afsnit P laget en “pengeløs gavekalender”, som hver dag i desember har bydd på overraskende gleder fra nettet. Bak den første luken skjulte det seg en gratis nedlastbar kunstbok av David Bellingham, og deretter har vi blitt presentert for alt fra Christine Wilks interaktive poetisk systue, til en godt gjemte kunstutstillinger. Det forløpige høydepunktet i Trikster-sammenheng er nok luke 8 som inneholdt de fantastiske “grønne pornofilmene” av og med Isabella Rossellini! Har du ikke hørt om Green Porn allerede, så er det på høy tid…


Og når jeg først er inne på julekalendre, er “homo-julekalender-soap-føljetonen” – jul på det gamle datingsite også et lite daglig lyspunkt i disse mørke stunder. Hvis du ikke har fulgt med fra første luke – der Niels kaster ut sin utroe kjæreste Anders, og går en singel juletid i møte – så kan man se alle episodene så langt her. Det er STOP AIDS i Danmark som står bak hjemmesiden, som foruten kalendersåpeoperaen også inneholder et stor ordbok over homolingo, og informasjon om hvordan man kan ha sikker og god sex i høytiden…

Trikster #2 is released

Monday, September 22nd, 2008


The second issue of the web magazine Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal is now online on

Trikster #2
is entitled “Querying Space” and focuses on the ways in which sexuality and gender is understood, enacted, and constructed through space. Through drawings, texts, images, and conversations Trikster focuses on 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. The contributions show the importance of fighting for a queerer space – on the streets, in the buildings that surround us, in the academy, as well as the political sphere.

In the issue art historian and AIDS-activist Douglas Crimp talks about the sexual geography of New York in the 1960s and 1970s; chris campe finds queer spaces in the in-betweens in her series of drawings from queer activist spaces; Katarina Bonnevier takes us into the famous author Selma Lagerlöf’s manor Mårbacka and shows how sexuality is inscribed into the architectural structures, while Tuula Juvonen and Pia Livia Hekanaho discuss the homophobic atmosphere in Finnish academia.

The issue also presents contributions from Mette Buchardt, Mathias Kryger Hansen, Suzanne van Rossenberg, Elin Emil Sandström Lundh and Christoph Emmanuelle Fielder, Tatjana Laursen and Sissela Segergren, and Dorthe Staunæs.

Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal is a multilingual web magazine, edited by Mathias Danbolt. Trikster releases three issues a year, and is supported by The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo, Nordic Culture Fund, and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Bergen. For more information, visit or contact Mathias Danbolt at / +45 41 15 16 13.


Trikster #2 er lansert

Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal lanserer i dag sitt andre nummer på

Trikster #2 har tittelen “Querying Space” og stiller spørsmål til hvordan kjønn og seksualitet forståes, konstrueres og utfolder seg i og gjennom rom. Med tekster, tegninger, bilder og samtaler ønsker Trikster å rette oppmerksomheten mot hverdagslivets romlige politikk: mulighetene vi har for å bevege oss fritt i offentligheten, for å finne et sted å bo, for å reise på tvers av grenser. Bidragene i nummeret viser betydningen av å kjempe for et mer queert rom – på gaten, i bygningene rundt oss, innenfor akademia og i den politiske sfæren.

I nummeret forteller blant annet den amerikanske kunsthistorikeren og aids-aktivisten Douglas Crimp om den seksuelle geografien i New York på 1960-70-tallet i miljøet rundt Andy Warhol. Katarina Bonnevier fører oss inn i Selma Lagerlöfs herregård Mårbacka, og viser hvordan det seksuelle dramaet som utspilte seg mellom forfatteren og hennes to elskerinner er innskrevet i bygningens arkitektur. Mathias Kryger Hansen tar oss med på cruising i Ørstedsparken i København gjennom en diskusjon av kunstneren Lasse Laus prosjekter om å skape private erotiske rom i offentligheten.

Utover dette inneholder nummeret bidrag fra Mette Buchardt, chris campe, Tuula Juvonen og Pia Livia Hekanaho, Suzanne van Rossenberg, Elin Emil Sandström Lundh og Christoph Emmanuelle Fielder, Tatjana Laursen og Sissela Segergren, og Dorthe Staunæs.

Trikster er et flerspråklig, gratis webmagasin som utkommer tre ganger i året. Trikster redigeres av Mathias Danbolt, og er Støttet av Fritt Ord, Nordisk Kulturfond og Senter for Kvinne- og Kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen. For ytterligere informasjon, besøk oss på eller kontakt Mathias Danbolt på / +45 41 15 16 13.

Preview on Trikster #2 at Copenhagen Queer Festival

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008


We are happy to invite everyone to a pre-release preview party for Trikster #2 on Saturday July 26 at 19.00 at Copenhagen Queer Festival.

The second issue of Trikster will be online in the middle of August, but this Saturday, I will give a short “guided tour” of Trikster #2, presenting and discussing different texts and art projects from the upcoming issue.

Trikster #2 circles arounds the theme Querying Space, with contributions that investigates sexual, architectural, artistic, separatist and academic space(s). The issue also includes reviews, cartoons and other pieces.

Come and have a drink with Trikster at Copenhagen Queer Festival, and get a glimps of our new issue. We are looking forward to see you!

Trikster i pressen II

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Susanne Christensen anmelder Trikster #1 i norske Klassekampen 1. mars og skriver blant annet følgende fine ord:

“En av Triksters intensjoner er å forstyrre den heteronormative orden. Ved første blikk på nettsida blir det tydelig at det i hvert fall ikke har lyktes dem å forstyrre leseakten – for Trikster har en så behagelig fremtoning at det går an å lese rub og stubb direkte på skjermen.

Begynnelsen lover godt. Her bygges det fabelaktige, snodige broer mellom teori og praksis, mellom akademia, populærkultur og politisk aktivisme, og ikke minst mellom flere språk: norsk, svensk, dansk, engelsk.”

Trikster i pressen

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Jenny Högström anmelder Trikster #1 i Helsingborgs Dagblad, og skriver blant annet følgende:

” … det blir omedelbart klart att Trikster fyller ett tomrum, såväl språkligt (här finns texter på svenska, danska, norska och engelska), stilistiskt, teoretiskt som rent teknologiskt … för den som vill läsa välskrivna och intressanta – och problematiserande – texter i ämnet och som kanske fått dåligt samvete av olästa papperstidskrifter, finns här inte längre några svepskäl för att låta bli.”

Ellers kan man lese intervjuer med Triksters redaktører i På Høyden, Blikk, Gaysir og Studvest.

Release party at Landmark February 14

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Lanseringsfest Trikster

Lanseringsfest for Trikster på Landmark

Fredrik & Mathias presenting Trikster #1


Presentasjon av Trikster

Kristin Sampson fra SKOK overrekker blomster til Mathias og Fredrik

Flowers to Mathias and Fredrik from Kristin Sampson & SKOK

Steinskog on queer voicings

Erik Steinskog

Erik Steinskog on queer voices in pop music

Trikster er lansert

Thursday, February 14th, 2008


[English below]

Nå er det første nummeret av Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal ute på – det første nordiske tidsskriftet med et queert perspektiv på kultur og politikk.

Trikster er et nytt kjønn- og seksualitetspolitisk tidsskrift som arbeider på tvers av akademiske, aktivistiske, politiske og kunstneriske grenser. Trikster skal fungere som en plattform der den akademiske og aktivistiske queerkulturen kan utveksle erfaringer, diskutere politikk og utvikle strategier og målsetninger. Derfor er Trikster et gratis flerspråklig nettidsskrift som kan nå forskjellige publikum på ulike steder. Trikster lanserer fire numre i året, men oppdaterer jevnlig bloggen sin med informasjon om hendelser og nyheter på Nordens queer scene. Trikster #1 er redigert av Mathias Danbolt og Fredrik Langeland.

Allerede i første nummer er vi stolte av å presentere bidrag fra både nye og mer etablerte stemmer. Her innledes temaserien Queer Norden? hvor akademikere, aktivister og kunstnere diskuterer hva queer har gjort, gjør og kan gjøre i de nordiske landene. Første del av serien inkluderer bidrag fra Tiina Rosenberg, Agnes Bolsø, Mette Moestrup, Andy Candy og Mattias Pettersson, som på forskjellige måter reiser viktige kjønn- og seksualitetspolitiske spørsmål. Tiina Rosenberg viser for eksempel hvorfor og hvordan queer-teoretiske perspektiver bør stå sentralt i venstrefløyens politikk, mens Agnes Bolsø retter skarp kritikk mot måten sentrale aktører i den norske homobevegelsen har omfavnet offerrollen.

Trikster har også møtt den amerikanske queer-teoretikeren Judith Halberstam, og diskutert forholdet mellom queer-teori, politikk og populærkultur. Videre bidrar Erik Steinskog, Anna Olovsdotter Lööv, Hanna Hallgren og Jenny Tunedal med tekster som arbeider på tvers av miljøer og sjangere, og som markerer at Trikster ikke er redd for å være verken aktivistiske, akademiske eller politiske – eller alt dette på en gang.

På engelsk er en trickster en lurendreier, sjarlatan eller bedrager. Nettidsskriftet Trikster har ingen intensjon om å svindle eller lure noen, men det vil gjerne forstyrre, pirre og provosere dere lesere med nye tanker, stemmer og uttrykksformer. God leselyst!

Trikster er støttet av Fritt Ord, Nordisk Kulturfond og Senter for kvinne- og kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen.


Trikster is released

Trikster – Nordic Queer Journal is online: the first Nordic magazine with a queer perspective on culture and politics.

Trikster is new forum for discussing gender and sexual politics across academic, activist, political, and artistic borders. To be able to reach different audiences at different places, Trikster is a multilingual web-magazine free of charge. Trikster releases four issues a year, but the blog will frequently be updated with news and information concerning the Nordic queer scene. Trikster #1 is edited by Mathias Danbolt and Fredrik Langeland.

In the first issue of Trikster we proudly present contributions from both new and more establishes voices: Tiina Rosenberg, Agnes Bolsø, Judith Halberstam, Mette Moestrup, Andy Candy, Mattias Pettersson, Erik Steinskog, Anna Olovsdotter Lööv, Hanna Hallgren, and Jenny Tunedal.

In English a trickster signifies a fraud, a charlatan, or a cheat. This Nordic Trikster has certainly no intentions to defraud or deceive anyone, but it would like to interrupt, provoke and excite you readers with new thoughts, voices, and modes of expressions. Welcome!

Trikster is supported by Nordic Culture Fund, The Freedom of Expression Foundation, Oslo & Center for Women and Gender Studies, University of Bergen.