A new exhibition from the Socially Engaged Arts Salon (SEAS) focuses on significant places and moments for the LGBTQ community.
Queering Spaces celebrates LGBTQ+ History Month and recognises the impact of lockdown on some of the community’s most vulnerable members.
On March 13 the exhibition will be celebrated with the launch an accompanying Tough Cookie zine.
While Government messaging has focused on ‘stay home, stay safe’ that is not always possible. For some LGBTQ people it is a contradiction.
The pandemic has also brought back the trauma of the AIDS crisis.
We spoke to SEAS founder Dr Gil Mualem-Doron about Queering Spaces and why these spaces matter.
What is a queer space?
Queering Spaces focuses on significant places and moments for the LGBTQ community in the UK and abroad.
It ranges from the first Pride in 1973 Los Angeles, captured by renowned photographer Cathy Cade, to the squatting and club scene in London and New York’s drag balls in the 80s.
The exhibition explores spaces giving support to people living with HIV, and the struggles of LGBT communities in the townships of South Africa and in other countries where homosexuality is still illegal.
It also looks at the spaces used for hook-ups between strangers, from a toilet in a small town in New Zealand to Brighton’s Duke Mound’s Beach.
The stories of these places and the people who make them are told through film, photography, installations and socially engaged practices that amplify the voices of those that are often unheard.
“Throwing a stone, holding a sign, marching in the streets, mis-using ‘public spaces’ for ‘unnatural’ acts, squatting, transgressing dress codes and heteronormative behaviour, these are all acts of queering spaces,” says Gil.
“The ones who have always led these transformations, historically and now, have been indeed the queers, the outcasts, the marginalised.
“This exhibition in many ways is a tribute to them.”
Separated from support
The exhibition comes at a time when many spaces where LGBTQ people would find support and friendship have been closed for almost a year.
As always, it is the most vulnerable likely to be most affected.
“There are a few main groups within the LGBTQ community that are really facing difficulties during lockdown,” says Gil.
“The first is young people whose families are not accepting them and they don’t have anywhere else to go.
“Maybe even more affected are young trans persons, again if they are not being accepted by their parents.
“The third group is elderly LGBTQ people in care homes. They are without any outlets. They are probably in quite a conservative setting.
“Usually for the LGBTQ community their family is much more than blood, family is support groups, friends etc. The spaces they will meet in will be public or semi-public.”
Facing another pandemic
COVID-19 has also drawn uncomfortable parallels with the AIDS pandemic.
“There is some anger that during this pandemic a vaccination has been produced within eight months and with AIDS there is still no vaccination,” says Gil.
“We are talking about millions of people who have died.
“We are all glad that we are getting the vaccination but think how many lives could have been saved if the reaction from government and the public had been the same at the start of the AIDS crisis.
“There are also echoes of isolation, not being able to meet friends and untimely death.
“For the generation who lived through the worst of the AIDS pandemic they are now in their 50s, 60s, 70s so they are at risk.”
SEAS is a BIPOC and LGBTQ led organisation which operates a space for exhibitions, events and workshops.
It was founded by Dr Gil Mualem-Doron in a small house in the heart of Brighton.
SEAS’ unique model of home-gallery fulfilled a need for a dedicated space for socially engaged art and provided a homely and less regimented setting that was welcoming for both artists and visitors.
“We needed a place to show socially and politically engaging art from artists that, unfortunately, are still marginalised,” says Gil.
Its success allowed it to move into a much bigger space at the BMECP – (Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership) Centre.
SEAS recently won the LGBTQ Safe Space International Award.
Queering Spaces is its first exhibition in the new Brighton LGBTQAI+ venue, The Ledward Centre (TLC).
The centre is named after the late editor of Gscene (now Scene), James Ledward.
As part of the exhibition SEAS invited Brighton’s Queer History Now collective to imagine what the space could become.
The exhibition is on display in the windows on TLC until March 19. Click here to find out more and view the artists’ work.
The online Tough Cookie launch on March 13 will include an introduction by zine founder Erin.
There will also be short talks by several of the featured artists, a Q&A, a spoken word performance and the opportunity to toast the exhibition.
The event is free. Click here to register.
Main image: Cape Town Ball, from Cape Town Is Burning © Gil Mualem-Doron.