Archive for the ‘events’ Category

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

Monday, October 10th, 2011

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Sources:

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).

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

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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.

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Queerfestival Copenhagen 2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011

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The dates for the annual Queerfestival Copenhagen is ready: The festival will take place from July 25 - 31.  A venue is still to be announced, but I’m sure that it will be a great festival this year as well. Stay updated on the homepage.

See you in Copenhagen!

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Performing Ideas

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

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If you’re into performance art, London is the place to visit over the next years as the research project Performance Matters kicks off a range of events with artists, theorists, and others doing good stuff. Run by Gavin Butt (Goldsmiths), Adrian Heathfield (Rohampton) and Loius Keanan (Live Art Development Agency) together with Owen G. Parry and Augusto Corrieri, Performance Matters is a thing to follow.

While I’m particularly excited about next year’s queer extravaganza under the theme of Trashing Performance (of which I’m taking part as an associative researcher, so I’m involved - no detached commenting here), this year’s symposium on Performing Ideas looks to be great as well.

If you’re in London between 2-9 October, look into the preliminary program on Performance Matter’s homepage. The workshops, lectures, panels, discussions, and performances includes a wide range of amazing participants such as Janine Antoni, Anne Bean, Wafaa Bilal, Maaike Bleeker, Silvia Bottiroli, Jonathan Burrows, Rose English, Tim Etchells, Matthew Goulish, Hannah Hurtzig, Shannon Jackson, Janez Janša, Joe Kelleher, Ong Keng Sen, Bojana Kunst, Boyan Manchev, Fred Moten, Rabih Mroué, Giulia Palladini, Peggy Phelan, Heike Roms, Lara Shalson, Julie Tolentino and many others.

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Copenhagen Queer Festival 2009

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

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This summer between July 20-26 the 4th Copenhagen Queer Festival will take place at Gøglerskolen at Kigkurren. The organizers have just presented this years theme: “Fuck money: Commercialization – Mainstreaming – Anticapitalism”. This is what they write on the festival’s homepage about what to expect of this year’s festival:

“Copenhagen is this year hosting the World Outgames and the games are beginning the weekend that the Queerfestival is ending, on the 25th of July. The Outgames has gotten a lot of focus and media attention in Denmark, and Copenhagen has been busy labelling itself as “gay-friendly/pink-city”. We see this only as a capitalistic attempt to make money on the expected 5-10.000 participants, but at the same time the World Outgames is charging 2200 dkr (290 euros) just to participate in a conference. So we decided that its time for an anti-capitalistic queer perspective!

Copenhagen Queermanifestival

With the Copenhagen queer festival we wish to create a queer space. But what is queer? How do we define it, use it, make it part of our lives? How do you define “queer” in relation to “non-queer”? these are just some of the questions we want to work on understanding during the festival. We wish to create a forum where people from all over the world can exchange impressions, viewpoints and ideas. Where we can play, learn, teach, move our boundaries and go places we didn’t know existed.

The festival is strictly D.I.Y. meaning that YOU as a participant must take an active part in making the festival successful. A few things have been planned in advance by the organizing group, but otherwise it is up to the participants to decide in unity how they want the festival to proceed. It is expected that everyone help out as much as they can to ensure that the festival will be a fun and enlightening experience for all.

Non-profit is another keyword for the festival. We wish to create a space which is not based on money, as we find this is the case in society today. The festival is open to all, whether or not they have money.

To create a place that is free for all it is important that we all try radically confront some, if not all (?) of the structures exiting in society today. We need to help each other to break free from structures and norms imposed on us by the capitalist, heteronormative, racist society. At the festival we need to respect each other, listen and think before we act and keep in mind that calling the festival “free” and “queer” doesn’t automatically make it so. We expect everyone to analyze their own actions and what effect they have on other people.

And even though the list is long, we still won’t tolerate racism, sexism, heterosexism, homo/bi/queer/hetero/trans –phobia, in other words: No discrimination based on sexuality, age, gender, ethnicity, class and so on. There will be room for those who make room for others.

Despite our political agenda we must not forget that the festival is also about having fun and meeting new exiting people of all genders and sexualities

We hope to see you in late july for a great week of discussions, workshops, parties and politics!”

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Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

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On May 29 at 17.00 you are all invited to the opening of the exhibition Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive at Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, Denmark.

The exhibition Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive is curated by Jane Rowley and Louise Wolthers, and “presents a series of spectacular, thought-provoking works that generate new narratives based on private memories and experiences beyond gender and sexuality norms. Using the potent and emotionally laden detritus of society, like found silent-movie footage, garments from the family past, and desecrated and fictionalised photo albums, the works in Lost and Found recreate, deconstruct and reconstruct the past as we allegedly know it, questioning the power structures that are created and preserved through the archives we’ve inherited.”

Participating artists in the exhibition are Elmgreen & Dragset (DK/NO), Mary Coble (US), Ingo Taubhorn (DE), Tejal Shah (IN), Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay (CA), Conny Karlsson (SE), Flemming Rolighed (DK), Aleesa Cohene (CA), Kimberly Austin (US), Cecilia Barriga (CL) og Heidi Lunabba (FI), Al Masson (FR/DK).

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At the opening there will also be a book launch of the publication Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive, published in conjunction with the exhibition. Edited by Mathias Danbolt, Jane Rowley and Louise Wolthers, this 160 page publication takes up questions of the archive, history writing, and memory from a queer perspective.

The book includes new articles by the influential cultural theorists Ann Cvetkovich and Heather Love, as well as articles by the editors, poems by Joe Brainard, and artistic contributions from the artists in the exhibition.

The book is avaliable for only 150 DKK. Order it by emailing Kunsthallen Nikolaj: sh@kunsthallennikolaj.dk or buy it online on Audiatur bookstore.

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Undoing the city in Copenhagen

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Undoing the city

From May 7-10, our friends from Openhagen.net organize the festival Undoing the City in Copenhagen. It will be three days with “workshops, debates, film-screenings, city walks, canal tours, parades, actions and alike will question our use of the city”. They invite all of us who “use the city space and who have a wish to make the city a common space to participate in Undoing the City”. It will be great!

Here is some more background:
“Cities today are scene for a long series of conflicts between different society groups. It’s a battle going on between those who are forced out into ghettolike districts, those who retreat to gated communities in the suburbs, the creative class in the redeveloped city centres, and the police who increasingly are forced to ensure these separations. The city and its space are more and more becoming battle zones – battle zones which call for a re-conquest of the city space against fences, profit and discrimination. It is a battle to be fought with theoretical inputs, political statements and with the entire spectrum of social, cultural and artistic forms of anti-power. We want to challenge both the capitals, the states, the city governments and the creative class’s ideas of the city. And we want to challenge our own idea of the city. Let’s undo the city.”

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Read more about the thoughts, discussions (and soon also the program) for Undoing the City on Openhagen.net or on Undoing the city’s Wikispace.

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Queer Futurities in Berlin

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

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On the 18th and 19th of May, The Society of Queer Studies in Finland hosts the conference “Queer Futurities, Today: Utopias and Beyond in Queer Theory” at ICI in Berlin.

The conference takes its outset in Lee Edelman’s critique of the “reproductive futurism” in his notorious 2005 book No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. The seminar interrogates the term “futurities,” questioning ideas of progressive time and homonormativity. (Read more about the background here).

At the conference, Lee Edelman will hold a keynote entitled “Against Survival: Queerness in a Time that’s Out of Joint”.

Other speakers are: Tomasz Jarymowicz, Volker Woltersdorff, Annamari Vänskä, Jan Wickman, Tuula Juvonen, Tatjana Greif, Katerina Kolarova, Kevin S. Amiddon, Antu Sorainen, Heike Bauer, Christien Garcia, Jin Haritaworn, Željko Blaće & Milo DePrieto, Thomas O. Haakonson, Katherine Wiedlack, Harri Kalha, Alexis Lothian, Tomasz Basiuk, Eveline Kilian, Philip Pass, Anu Koivunen.

See the program in detail here, and read the abstracts - they look great.

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Theory Now! Symposium at SKOK

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

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This year the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK) at the University of Bergen is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
On that occasion, they organize Theory Now! - “a symposium that gathers some of the most vocal scholars working on the cutting edge of gender theory.” On May 14th and 15th, they give an opportunity to meet with some really great scholars, and hear their lectures free of charge.

These are the invited speakers:

Professor Vikki Bell, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Professor Pheng Cheah, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Assistant Professor Ulrika Dahl, Södertörn University College, Sweden
Professor Elizabeth Grosz, Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, USA
Professor Judith Halberstam, University of Southern California, USA
Professor Marcia Inhorn, Yale University, USA
Postdoctoral fellow Kari Jegerstedt, SKOK, University of Bergen, Norway
Professor Ellen Mortensen, SKOK, University of Bergen, Norway
Professor Robyn Wiegman, Duke University, USA

See the preliminary program and register at SKOK’s website.

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Queer i media

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Queer i media seminar

Den 17. april arrangerer Oslo Queer seminaret “Queer i Media” på Litteraturhuset i Oslo. Oslo Queer skriver følgende om seminaret:

“Med dette seminaret vil vi sette søkelys på queer som tema i media, og hvordan og i hvilken grad det blir presentert. Vi vil utforske spørsmål som, hvordan setter vi queer i fokus i mainstream media? Hvordan ville det sett ut? Hvordan lager/støtter vi queer og alternative mediaer? Seminaret er på Litteraturhuset 17. april kl 1900. Det blir paneldiskusjon, performance, og vegetarmat. Inngang, deltakelse, og maten er gratis!”

Panelet består av Dana Wanounou (redaksjonssjef, Radiorakel), Reidar Engesbak (journalist, Blikk), Anniken Vargel (journalist), Mathilda Piel (redaktør i Kom Ut). Performance med The Hungry Hearts.

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Dragkingkultur og dets undergravende potensiale

Friday, March 13th, 2009

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Fredag 20. mars kl. 19 kommer Anna Olovsdotter Lööv til København for å holde opplegg på Enhedslistens Queerudvalgs månedlige arrangement, Café Under Dekonstruksjon i Folkets Hus. Temaet er “Dragkingkultur og dets undergravende potensiale” og tar utgangspunkt i hennes PhD-prosjekt i genusvidenskab ved Lunds Universitet om dragkinging i Sverige.

For dem som ikke er i byen - eller som vil være godt forberedt - kan man lese Anna Olovsdotter Löövs artikkel i Trikster #1, “Dragkingkulturen - kvinnokulturens queera brorsa”.

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Det sjuka av Anna-Maria Sörberg

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

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Nylig utkom journalisten Anna-Maria Sörbergs bok Det sjuka, en reportasjebok om hiv/aids i Sverige. Dette er en av de viktigste bøkene jeg har lest på lenge, og kan anbefales på det sterkeste.

Sörberg tar utgangspunkt i de monstrøse fortellingene om “hivmenn” og “hivkvinner” som i de seneste årene har vært skrevet om i pressen, der de har blitt fremstilt som personer som intendert har smittet folk med hiv. Sörberg har gått bak mediepanikken, og intervjuet disse menneskene som har blitt omtalt som ondskapsfulle drapsmaskiner. Flere av intervjuobjektene sitter i fengsel, andre har blitt utvist av Sverige etter de har sonet fengselsstraffer. Dette er sterke og vonde historier om hvordan det er å leve med et virus som fortsatt er skambelagt og kriminalisert - selv 25 år etter viruset ble oppdaget. Boken kretser rundt det strenge svenske lovverket, og viser dettes bakside: dets medvirken i opprettholdelsen av den skambetonte diskursen om hiv/aids; de mange tilsynelatende rasistiske dommene i hiv-smitte saker, der ikke-svensker har fått lengre fengselsstraffer for samme forseelser, og har blitt sent ut av landet uten mulighet for riktig medisinering.

Gjennom en postkolonial optik på hiv/aids problemstillingen viser Det sjuka farene ved å se viruset som noe som kommer “utefra”, som noe “Annet” og “fremmed”. Den nasjonaliserte kampen mot hiv/aids i Sverige er feilslått, ettersom den ikke tar inn over seg hvordan sykdommen ikke har noen grenser: dette er en internasjonal krise, og krever større prespektiver enn fokus på å beskytte viruset innenfor nasjonens grenser. Sörberg argumenterer for en solidaritet som inkluderer det fremmede, og dette kunne jeg ikke være mer enig i.

Jeg skal skrive mer og bedre om Sörbergs bok enn dette, men nå er det viktigst å påpeke at hun i kveld presenterer boken sin på den fantastiske queerfeministiske bokhandleren Hallongrottan i Stockholm. For dem som er i byen, bør man dra dit kl. 19, for å høre Sörberg i samtale med Finn Hellman.

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(Illustrasjon fra Hallongrottan.com)

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Queer methodologies roundtable in Stockholm

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

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There seems to be a growing interest in queer methodology as of lately. For instance, at the international conference Feminist Research Methods in Stockholm February 4-6, a two-day workshop session is dedicated to methodological questions in queer studies.

The workshop “Queer Methodologies, or How Do Queer Researchers Do Research?” (pdf.) is organized by The Queer Seminar at Stockholm University (Ingeborg Svensson, Fanny Ambjörnsson, Pia Laskar, Patrik Steorn). During the conference, approximately 20 presenters will discuss their different queer research methods.

For those who are not participating in the conference, there is an open roundtable discussion on Thursday February 5th at 09.00-10.30 at Stockholm University, entitled: “Queer Methodologies: Problems and possibilities”, including Kath Brown (moderator), Anu Koivunen, Mark Graham, Sara Edenheim, and Martin Berg. If you are in Stockholm during this time, remember to check out the social events program, “Queer Spaces”, that is open for everybody. See you there!

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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:

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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”.

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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…

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Og når jeg først er inne på julekalendre, er “homo-julekalender-soap-føljetonen” Toyfriend.dk - 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…

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Birger Angvik: Høyr meg! Sjå meg!

Monday, September 29th, 2008

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Birger Angvik, professor i latinamerikastudier ved Universitetet i Bergen, har nylig utgitt boken Høyr meg! Sjå meg! Forteljekunst frå Cuba og Mexico 1950-2000.

Boken skriver frem en alternativ latinamerikansk litteraturhistorie, og fokuserer på stemmer som kom i skyggen av de kjente “Boom”-forfatterne på 1960- og 1970-tallet som Julio Cortázar i Argentina, Carlos Fuentes i Mexico, Mario Vargas Llosa i Peru, og Gabriel García Márquez i Colombia. I Høyr meg! Sjå meg! skriver Angvik om forfatterene som falt utenfor denne kanoniserte heteroseksuelle historien, og han konsenterer seg derfor om kubanske homoseksuelle forfattere (Reinaldo Arenas, Calvert Casey, José Lezama Lima, Virgilio Piñera, Severo Sarduy) og kvinnelige forfattere fra Mexico (heriblant Rosario Castellanos, Elena Garro, Elena Poniatowska).

Birger Angvik er kanskje mest kjent i Norge for sin biografi om Oscar Wilde, men gjennom årene har et stort publikum kunnet få innblikk i hans viten om latinamerikansk litteratur og forholdet mellom litteratur, kjønn og seksualitet i hans mange artikler og bokutgivelser på norsk, engelsk og ikke minst spansk.

En av forfatterne som Angvik diskuterer i Høyr meg! Sjå meg! er den kontroversielle kubanske forfatteren Reinaldo Arenas. En forfatter han tidligere har skrevet om i den interessante og meget gode artikkelen om aids og litteratur, ”Form, which is the birth of passion, is also the death of pain” i antologien Kjærlighetssymposiet, (1997). Det skal bli en glede å lese mer om Arenas fra Angviks hånd, og Høyr meg! Sjå meg! synes å være en glimrende mulighet til å få større innblikk i latinamerikansk litteratur fra et kjønn- og seksualitetspolitisk perspektiv. I et intervju i På Høyden forteller Angvik følgende om prosjektet:

“Me påstår ofte i reine stereotypiar at dei underutvikla landa i Latin Amerika er diktatoriske. Me finn patriarkalske strukturar og hard machisme, sexisme, rasisme og homofobi der også. Men her i superdemokratiet Noreg vert alt som bryt med tradisjonelle normer brutalt har undertrykt, fortidd, fortrengt og ekskludert. Dei litterære arkiva i Noreg er svært fattige samanlikna med dei me finn i Latin-Amerika.”

Den 8. oktober er det boklansering for Høyr meg! Sjå meg!Senter for Kvinne- og Kjønnsforskning ved Universitetet i Bergen kl. 14, der Angvik vil være til stede.

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The Nights and Days of Tribades

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

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Monday September 8th is the first day of the annual Nights and Days of Tribades week in Helsinki. This is the 9th time they arrange this “Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Culture Festival”, with films, performances, discussions, concerts and parties.

The program for the festival is now online, and they promise that it will be a week of cultural events “ranging from extravagant occasions to more prosaic discussions, presented critically, experimentally, monumentally, digitally or manually – and always passionately.”

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This includes events such as the Tram-O-Rama! party on a tram, a comics seminar, a meeting for ILGCN - The International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network, a screening of a documentary on the Swedish journalist Barbro ”Bang” Alving, a book swapping arranged by The Invisible Library, and a closing party with performances at the L-Word Club.

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En KLAM Pride i København

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

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På lørdag er det tid for den årlige paraden i forbindelse med Copenhagen Pride, og som vanlig er dette en anledning der queere grupperinger på venstrefløyen kommer med gode og viktige alternativer til Pridens ellers så mainstream’e profil.

På fredag arrangerer for eksempel Enhedslistens Queerudvalg sin tredje queercafé på Cafe under Konstruktion i Folkets Hus kl. 19.00. Denne gangen vil cafeen fungere som et planleggingsmøte og kreativ verksted for en adbusting/politisk intervensjon i årets Pride-parade. Som svar på paradens ellers så depolitiserte profil, ønsker ØQ velkommen til en kveld der man diskuterer politikk og hygger seg mens dem som ønsker kan lage bannere og annet materiale som kan intervenere i paraden og endre den til å bli den politiske demonstrasjonen den burde være. I disse tider der Københavns kommune så vel som bedrifter som Tivoli med “pink dollars” i øynene arbeider for å brande byen som “homovennlig”, er det viktig at noen tegner et mer reelt bilde av den virkeligheten mange møter i dette neoliberale samfunnet, med problemer som statsinstitusjonalisert rasisme, og en dramatisk økning av heterosexistisk vold.

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På lørdag holder sammenrendet KLAM/TAM/SKAM nok en gang sitt antikapitalistiske alternativ til den offisielle Pride-festen. Lokalisert i Ørstedsparnen fra kl 14.00 under overskriften “Mod besættelsen av Palestina”, er dette stedet å oppholde seg hvis man er interessert i politiske diskusjoner, fest, sex og morro.

KLAM har nylig kommet med følgende pressemelding om arrangementet:

KLAM opfordrer til Pride-boykot og uddeler egne homopriser!

KLAM opfordrer til boykot af Copenhagen Pride-paraden, der løber af stablen på lørdag. KLAM, der består af sure bøsser, lesbiske, biseksuelle og transpersoner, tager afstand fra Pridens kommercielle ensretning.

“Priden er latterligt tandløs, hvilket sloganet “Vi fejrer, fordi vi kan” illustrerer alt for godt. Priden er intet andet end det kommercielle homomiljø, der fejrer sig selv og sin indtjening,” udtaler Selma Schmidt fra KLAM.

Selma Schmidt fortsætter:
“De politiske homo-organisationer uddeler lalleglade, og i bedste fald ligegyldige, homopriser, mens politiske partier som Venstre, de Konservative og Socialdemokraterne soler sig i showet. Partier, der ryddede Ungdomshuset, hetzer mod kvinder med tørklæde, og støtter en racistisk udlændingepolitik, der gør det næsten umuligt for personer på flugt at få asyl - herunder homoseksuelle, biseksuelle og transpersoner.”

“Det er masser af lort at tage fat på, og vi synes ikke, der er noget at fejre. Derfor tager vi traditionen op, og uddeler vores egne homo-priser i Ørstedsparken,” slutter Selma Schmidt.

KLAM uddeler følgende priser:

Årets Hate Crime-Pris: Lene Espersen
- Lene Espersen er nomineret af LBL til årets politiker. KLAM giver hende hate crime-prisen, for hendes egne hadforbrydelser: hendes aktive støtte til rydningen af Ungdomshuset, og for hendes racistiske terrorlove, der kriminaliserer opposition. Og for hendes ubrugelige forsøg med registrering af hate crimes på domstolsniveau - en gang sminke, der kun skjuler problemet frem for at løse det.

Årets Imperialistsvin: Søren Espersen
- Søren Espersen får prisen for hans nedladende og imperialistiske udtalelser om Grønland og grønlændere, for hans modstand mod Grønlands selvstyre og hans ønsker om at profitere på Grønlands undergrund. Samtidig er han den mest forbenede støtte til Israels imperialistiske og ødelæggende besættelse af Palæstinensiske områder.

Årets Heteronakke: Astrid Krag
- SF’s Astrid Krag får prisen for hendes jublende omfavnelse af Villy Søvndals højreskred og hendes inddragelse af homoseksualitet som argument i hendes konstante tale om “integrationsproblemer” i forhold til såvel “østarbejdere” (fordi de er katolikker) som muslimer. Vi vil sgu ikke integreres i hendes nationalistiske heterodanmark.

Noget er der dog at fejre - Årets Lækkerbukser: Basim og Laura
- Basim og Laura får prisen, fordi de er for lækre.

KLAM opfordrer lesbiske, biseksuelle, transpersoner og bøsser til at komme og hænge ud, drikke eller kneppe til den Palæstina-solidaritetsfestival, der afholdes i Ørstedparken samtidig med pride-paraden.

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Oslo Queer Festival

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

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Oslo Queer Festival starts tomorrow, and keep going until Sunday. The festival recently released their program, including workshops, concerts, performances, and art shows, with guests from Europe and the US.

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The festival opens tomorrow at 19.00 with the performance New Fashion Rock! by Anne Synnøve Skogstad and Guro Trøseid Gjerstadberget. This also functions as the opening of the festival’s art exhibition, including works by Asta Salvine Gulliksen, Ane Marte Dyvi, Birger Åseson Storås, Rima Qvale, Marit Grøntveit and Robert Robberstad. Later on in the evening tomorrow, the Italian zine Clit Rocket will launch their new issue with a party including among others a concert by The Vibrarians (US).

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The is situated at Indigo, Brenneriveien 9, though the parties in the evenings will be held at The Villa. Tickets for the festival can be bought online or at Tiger record store, as well as at Indigo. See you there!

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Preview on Trikster #2 at Copenhagen Queer Festival

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

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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!

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Copenhagen Queer Festival

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

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Tomorrow, Monday July 21, is the first day of this year’s Copenhagen Queer Festival at Kigkurren 1-3 on Islands Brygge. It will be a week full of workshops, discussions, parties, concerts and performances in the cozy and intimate Gøglerskolen, where the festival takes place. The festival is stricktly a DIT (Do-It-Together) event, so come and join in on creating a great festival!

During the week there will possibilities to attend workshops on non-heterosexuality and racism, on feminist drag, on creative writing, on making-your-own-dildo, on “antilookism”, on drugs on the left wing autunomous scene, on DJ- and VJ’ing, on queer pornography, and several other topics. On Saturday July 26 there will also be a unique chance to see a preview on Trikster #2, due to release in mid August (more on that later)! See the preliminary program for the festival here.

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On Tuesday there will be a big Welcome Party starting at 22.00 with concerts by the electro hip hop punk rock feminity glam zap SCREAM CLUB (US) and the queer performance singer NICKY CLICK (US)! (CC: 20 kr.) Later in the week, there will be concerts and performances by Nuclear Family (DK), PUMP! Body Politics Licked Out My Dancing Shoes (DE), Noah Grain (DE), Stella Sounds, Howdie Ho, LAGO, and others…

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Queer på Nationalmuseet i Stockholm

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

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Den 24. juni åpnet utstillingen Queer: begär, makt och identitetNationalmuseet i Stockholm.

Utstillingen belyser hvordan kjønnsnormene har endret seg gjennom tidene i billedkunsten. Som det står på museets hjemmeside diskuterer utstillingen “hur konst och bilder använts för att undergräva en heterosexuell norm och ger oss nycklarna till varför vissa motiv blivit gayikoner. Har äldre bilder av kvinnlig homoerotik varit avsedda för en manlig voyeuristisk (”fluktar”-) publik och hur är det idag? Frågan om vem betraktaren är diskuteras liksom vem och vad som inkluderats och exkluderats i konsthistorien.”

Dette er med andre ord et ambisiøst og viktig prosjekt, og det er sjelden en utstilling med tittelen “queer” setter fokus på nettopp den eldre kunsthistorien. Det er derfor spennende å se hvorvidt utstillingen klarer å vise “hur äldre bildkonst kan användas för att spegla samtida perspektiv och lyfta dagsaktuella frågor”.

Det er den svenske kunsthistorikeren Patrik Steorn som har kuratert utstillingen. Steorn er ansatt ved Centrum för modevetenskap Stockholms universitet, og utgav i 2006 den interessante og kritikeroste boken Nakna Män - Maskulinitet och kreativitet i svensk bildkultur 1900-1915, som tok utgangspunkt i hans PhD-avhandling i kunsthistorie.

Den 29. juli skal Steorn holde en forelesning med tittelen Könsöverskridandets konst – androgynitet och skapande genom historien på Nationalmuseet. Her vil man få en god mulighet til å høre Steorn i aksjon mens han queerer kunsthistorien og forteller om utstillingen.

Hvis noen har fått muligheten til å se utstillingen, må man gjerne gi en rapport her på Triksters blogg. For dem som ikke har mulighet til å se Queer i Stockholm før den lukker 10. august, får man nøye seg med denne smakebiten av utstillingen i museets reklamevideo:

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