QAF 2016: Stonewall Was a Riot

In 2016, QAF makes the move to June from our long-established dates around the August long weekend. On June 28, 1969, the patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City fought back against a police raid, sparking three days of riots that captured world attention. Widely credited as the beginning of the modern-day queer civil rights movement, those riots ignited the international phenomenon of Gay Pride Parades. By referencing Stonewall, QAF renews the connection between contemporary Pride celebrations and a history of struggle. Today, perhaps especially in Canada, with a decade behind us of same-sex marriage and legal protections against discrimination, complacency comes easy. As Sarah Schulman wrote in her meditation on art and AIDS The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination: “Now after all this death and all this pain and all this unbearable truth about persecution, suffering and the indifference of the protected, Now, they’re going to pretend that naturally, naturally, things just happened to get better… We come around when it’s the right thing to do. We’re so nice. Everything just happens the way it should.”

From Oscar Wilde to General Idea, artists have been the vanguard of the queer civil rights struggle, with social and aesthetic innovation inextricably entwined. As renowned art historian and queer theorist Jonathan D. Katz explains: “Wildly diverging queer artists have shared credence in art’s ability to, if not produce social change, at least lubricate its prospects. And central to this generalized belief is the idea that queerness works a seduction away from naturalized, normative and thus invisible ideological creeds towards a position that is precisely other to, at a tangent from, social expectation. In deviating from social norms, queer art thus calls the viewer, of whatever sexualities, to an awareness of their own deviancy.”

QAF is delighted to welcome Katz as visual arts curator for 2016. Widely recognized as a leading authority in our field, Katz’s work as curator, scholar, and activist has had a profound impact on the understanding of queer art and artists in both academia and the larger world. Katz is best known for co-curating Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2010, the first openly queer exhibition at a major US museum.

Drama Queer: seducing social change –  visual arts exhibition curated by Jonathan D. Katz and Conor Moynihan

This exhibition explores the role of emotion in contemporary queer art as a form of political practice. As a mechanism to coalesce feelings and direct them with activist intent, emotion is increasingly central to much contemporary work. This exhibition places the queer use of emotion into a historical frame, arguing that the solicitation of an emotional response has been of central import at least since the 1960s, as underscored by critics from Frank O’Hara to Jill Johnston to Gene Swenson. While much of the art world foregrounded formal innovation, leaving the nakedly emotional unacknowledged, even unseen, queers have long championed the emotional in contradistinction to the formal. A means to challenge the dominant formal values so often elevated by critics, while undercutting anti-expressive postmodernist tenets, emotion had the added value of returning the field of art-making to the socio-political present. With the advent of AIDS, this emotional undercurrent grew in force and power, challenging the equanimity of dominant culture in the face of holocaust. Nakedly manipulative, this earlier queer art sought to move the viewer into action.

Drama Queer solicits a range of contemporary work towards understanding how feelings function in our political present, and the different facets of art and emotion — political emotion, erotic emotion etc. This exhibition will explore art that seeks to engender social change through making the viewer an accomplice, queering their perspective or seducing them into seeing the world from a dissident vantage point.


At the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre | 181 Roundhouse Mews | Davie @ Pacific | Vancouver BC

Melbourne Herald Sun

Viewed as one of the top five queer arts and cultural festivals in the world.

Robin Laurence, Georgia Straight

Concise, brilliant, and moving.

WE Weekly

2013 Best of the City: Visual Arts Festivals


On the forefront of aesthetic and cultural dialogue today.

Vancouver Province

Some of the most adventurous programming of any local festival.

Vancouver Sun

An out-and-out cultural bonanza.