Queer History Now is an LGBTQ+ youth group dedicated to responding to queer histories through heritage and creative skills. The collective has brought together young people with different interests and backgrounds who have developed a shared ethos for encountering, producing and challenging queer history.
The group built a visual language using a broad range of creative processes including collage, mixed media, digital tools and needlework, expressing creatively how queer histories resonate with a present queer experience.
Given the current guidelines, this programme was delivered digitally and fostered rich discussions as we managed to harness a safe space, energy, honesty and sharing lived experience. However, we decided to honour this aesthetic and document our journey through screenshots, chats, gifs and Zoom calls which became our new normal, using the digital screen as a conduit for being together.
This page includes captions that unpick the artists’ final creative outcomes, their working methods and responses, intertwined with documentation from the programme and responses to the creative exercises throughout.
‘Our Existence is Inherently Political’ From the Queer History Now Manifesto Recorded by Ellie Turner Kilburn
As part of the group’s outcomes, Queer History Now were invited to create a Manifesto about they way they’ve worked during this project, their ambitions of how they want archives to be used and shared, and what they hope to see in the sector in the coming years with regards to talking, sharing and learning about our histories. This Manifesto is part of the Photoworks ‘Festival In A Box’.
‘Representation must breed representation’ From the Queer History Now Manifesto Recorded by Reuben Davidson
Two members of the group; Adrian Devany and Janet Jones collaborated on an Instagram takeover, with Adrian uploading stories which traced Janet’s personal, social and political life.
In Adrian’s words: ‘Get ready for a little queer history!’
Jamie Brett from Youth Club Archive facilitated two sessions with us; the first looking at how to diversify archives and the other about how to use and conserve digital archives. QHN member, Ellie, wrote a piece about archiving online as a response to Jamie’s inspiring session. Learn more about Youth Club and what we covered here.
Creative outcome ideas 2020, Liam Croot
Regarding the objective of creating a response to the Tommy & Betty collection, I feel strongly that the response I’m most passionate about making is one that actually addresses the ethical concerns of putting the private belongings of the queer and recently deceased on public display without obtaining their consent, with particular regard to the potential implications of those depicted in the photos that are still alive, issues of consent, privacy, anonymity, and the “heterosexual gaze”.
Ideas for this response include: Intimate photos of modern queer life with identities obscured This response would not be exhibited alongside the Tommy & Betty collection, and perhaps not even refer to it by name, rather stating “This work is a response to the exhibition of a collection of private objects of a deceased LGBTQ+ couple who lived in a time where being openly gay was less accepted, and the implications that putting said objects on public display has on queer people today.” (i.e. reinforces that we are still kind of something to gawp at but not really)
Reflections, Adrian Devany
My creative responses can be considered an archive of our collaborative work: of trying to make peace with the struggling, sticky cobweb of our communal history. Working through photos of my own life alongside those of Betty and Tommie’s, I tried to celebrate the messiest parts of our methodology as queer historians: the fallibility of human memory and ever-mutating oral histories; the way we projected ourselves into the history of two people we had never met; and rejecting empirical truth-telling to understand two lives that, in order to be lived, could not be named. When museums neglect us, we build archives in our own homes, and accept that our artefacts may fade, age, and someday perhaps be sold in an auction and become the subject of an art project by a youth group. And when we build these new museums – in photo albums, in living rooms, in lifelong partnerships, and in Zoom calls during a pandemic – we build them on our own terms, for each other’s eyes only, for now (and maybe not forever!), and along every struggling, sticky thread of that cobweb.