Have a sneak peak of the latest commission I am working on with Senate House Library, University of London.
This weekend’s Ouseburn Open Studios at 36 Lime Street, Saturday & Sunday 10-5 is a great opportunity to have a look at some of the ‘mock-ups’ I have been making for a fantastic commission with Senate House Library.
Queer between the covers: literature as a frame and filter of gay identities is Senate House Library’s 2018 exhibition exploring the diverse ways in which literature “has been central to the culture’s handling and understand of what queerness might mean, used equally to educate and celebrate and to mock and denounce”.
The exhibition is made up of books, printed matter and ephemera from the library’s collection and archive. The work ranges from pre-Wilde, to the age of Wilde, twentieth century and contemporary exhibits.
I have been asked by Senate House to create an artist’s book/object that responds to the exhibition to be on show January – June 2018. The work is still in its planning stage, so a great opportunity to see some work in progress ideas!
I am interested in capturing the spirit and journey gay literature has taken since the Wilde trials of 1895 when his writing was used as an accusation against him. I want to tease out individual narratives from key pieces of work. I want to expose the tension in the work that battles with acceptance and reflect the context the work was made and the persecution experienced by the LGBTQ+ community of the time. Understanding the context writers and artists lived in is important in understanding where we are today. The public and private were two very separate spheres, homosexuality for men was only outlawed 40 years ago. Over 140 years ago The Times newspaper editorial was advocating “death – put these animals out their misery”. The Daily Mail or Sun today could read very similar, (without the threat of violence) in terms of demeaning transgender rights, gender stereo types and refusing to tackle bullying in schools against young LGBTQ+ people.
The literature at Senate House Library is rich and varied and mostly new to my reading list.
Reading Djuna Barnes for the first time is bewildering and amusing. The Ladies Almanack by Djuna Barnes is one of the pieces I have chosen to explore. The design of my artists’ book is informed by the way Barnes sold copies of the almanack on the inside of her cape in the streets of Paris, flinging her cape back to expose an array of beautifully printed ‘Chap Books’. More of this story to come…
Maud Allen however, was persecuted and vilified by the right wing during the First World War in heightened xenophobia. The false news perpetuated in the media makes Trumps tweets look almost innocent and harmless.
Gays The Word bookshop, close the the library itself is a haven of research. The shop has a rich history in struggle connected to the community it supported. Known more recently in the film Pride, the shop has been riding the waves of prejudice, bigotry and on-line book sales. It is still an active community space, with one of the best collections of books I have seen in England.