Trigger: Drawing the Line in 2015

Cor Flammae. Image by belle ancell

Cor Flammae. Image by belle ancell

The Oxford Dictionary of Art, in their article on “Gay and Lesbian Art,” singles out one work out of the entire Western history spanning from Antiquity to the present, as the quintessential embodiment of queer arts: the 1990 photo-based exhibition Drawing the Line by Vancouver collective Kiss & Tell (Persimmon Blackbridge, Lizard Jones and Susan Stewart). Created in the context of the Red Hot Video fire-bombings while Canada Customs confiscated shipments to Little Sister’s Bookstore, Drawing the Line presented increasingly provocative images of lesbian sexuality, gave the audiences pens, and asked them “Where do you draw the line?” Audiences responded in a decidedly non-linear way, and impassioned debates flowered on the walls around the images. Drawing the Line toured internationally and became a rallying cry for freedom of speech, sex-positive feminism and queer art.

QAF celebrates the 25th anniversary of a landmark work of queer heritage with this year’s theme Trigger: Drawing the Line in 2015. We draw our lines today very differently than in 1990. As “trigger warnings” placed before art to alert viewers about potentially traumatizing material become increasingly common, QAF 2015 questions what we are sacrificing for safety’s sake. As Jeannette Winterson wrote: “Art has deep and difficult eyes and for many the gaze is too insistent… We avoid painful encounters with art by trivializing it, or by familiarizing it… Every day, in countless ways, you and I convince ourselves about ourselves. True art, when it happens to us, challenges the “I” that we are… Art objects. The nouns become an active force not a collector’s item. Art objects.”

QAF 2015 includes Kiss & Tell’s first new event in 13 years, a partial remount of Drawing the Line and a curated exhibition asking contemporary visual artists where they draw their own lines. In performances and workshops, artists explore flashpoints like religion, BDSM, disability, and gender panic, while others draw lines of connection instead, triggering inspiration by tracing their lineage to the queer artists who blazed trail before us

Trigger: Drawing the Line in 2015 | What sets you off? | Jul 23-Aug 7

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

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