For over 10 years the Queer Arts Festival has been bringing thought-provoking works and performances to initiate dialogue and engage audiences. Each year is carefully themed and curated. Here is a historical archive of the Queer Arts Festival from its inception.
We often think of revolution in relation to ways of knowing, but we rarely think about revolution in relation to our colonial habits of being—how our habits are dependent on, maintained and enabled by colonization. A revolution of being is not about what we say, how we look, how we perform, or how we trade in the different economies of colonial modernity. A revolution of being invites us to change our desires, our hopes, how we hope, how we sense, how we love, and above all, regenerate and recalibrate our relationships with each other, with the land, with time, with form and with space. In this recalibration of being, time and revolution are not linear.
2018 marks 10 years of the Queer Arts Festival and Pride in Art’s 20th year as an artist-led organization. 2018’s curated visual art exhibition DECADEnce remembers the Other marks and interrogates what we collectively choose to celebrate. By engaging queer artists across disciplines DECADEnce explores marks that live beyond the page, numerical devices, and quantitative data; the mark that lives in actions unnoticed, voices unheard, lost stories of self, and races won in forgotten Herstories/Ourstories.
What is a mark? In a settler colonial society we have a very solidified perception of what “counts” as worthy of articulating. Programmed in an imperial tradition, we literally count success and attach dates to significant momentous occasions, times in history when someone is said to have “accomplished something” that should be celebrated and then written down to measure its worth, annually. HIStory has tried to erase the Other in its wake of calculating difference, asserting authority, superiority, a bar to be set by systems of power to ensure the success of a single story.
DECADEnce marks a time for us to revisit, and therefore represent and archive, the stories of us by celebrating and honouring our community of trailblazing queer ancestors, the stories untold, the unmeasurable progress, visceral pleasures, tragic loses, the almosts, the push back, the unnamed, the unmarked, the dead, the blood-sweat-and tears. These marks continue to live in and inform our actions, our reality to fuel a discourse that challenges perceptions of success by sharing the stories of how we got here and what sacrifices and struggles it required.
Our marks draw circles, wherein the repeating struggle continues in the company of a rejuvenated resistance, reviving of power and strength through art.
These marks are where we find joy, love, thrive, and create to feed our spirits and develop thick skin. We are time travelers, we have been here before, and will do it again.
UnSettled is curated by Two-Spirit and queer-identified Indigenous artists, and developed in collaboration with Indigenous arts organizations. The term “Two-Spirit” is used by many Indigenous people to describe their gender, sexual and spiritual identity—often inclusive of all Indigenous LGBTQ+—in reclaiming and restoring traditional concepts suppressed by colonial heteronormativity.
UnSettled presents work from a Two-Spirit perspective, exploring contemporary roles and experiences, as well providing a platform for innovation and experimentation at the intersection between the Indigenous and queer art milieux. UnSettled deploys artistic and critical discourse to focus on Two-Spirit resilience with work addressing power, representation, sexuality, language, body, tradition, memory, colonial narratives, and knowledge sharing. Highlights include performances by Cris Derksen with the Chippewa Travellers and the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, Kinnie Starr with DJ O Show and Tiffany Moses, contemporary dance with Circadia Indigena, lemonTree creations’ dance theatre work MSM [men seeking men], and of course QAF’s signature visual art show curated this year by Adrian Stimson.
Drama Queer is about queer politics, but not in the usual sense. It doesn’t ask you to assume a position and endorse a belief, for that would only meet you in known, familiar territory.
Drama Queer is queer precisely because of the way it shifts the ground to questions we didn’t think to ask, taking us out of our comfortable, acknowledged limits towards new social possibilities and combinations. Powerful emotion has a way of invalidating our automatically held beliefs, bleeding past our comforting parameters and making us account for things we may not even understand. In short Drama Queer is about the messy, incoherent, contradictory realities of queer life, the way a category of sexual identity born of the age of the steam locomotive, and conceived in an attempt to pathologize, police and prosecute homosexuality, now constitutes the very banner we march beneath in our successful pursuit for civil rights.
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’s 2014 theme, Regenerations, is a defiant reframing of the Nazi term “Degenerate Art”, the moniker under which they banned work by the avant-garde, Jews, Communists and queers.
Tyrants throughout history have censored artists on the grounds that their work posed an imminent danger to society. QAF embraces the premise of art as dangerous, even revolutionary. For it is in the intimate act of sharing as artists and audiences we find meaning and transformation. And from that place of vulnerable connection, we find the strength and inspiration to change the world.
Since the days of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, queers have prided themselves on the notion of being at odds with straight culture. Indeed the whole Gay Pride movement is predicated on the right to be different than society at large.
Queer art and politics have always included notions of transgression but in the media age ideas of transgression have changed radically. What we once saw as transgressive is now commonplace when the internet can put any manner of visual and digital material on everyone’s screen in seconds. But the digital age is also embedded in one of the most conservative social environments in many decades creating many dichotomies and contradictions. TransgressionNow looks at where Queer artists still transgress social, gender, and political boundaries and what that looks like now.
The 2012 Queer Arts Festival brings you “Random Acts of Queerness”, to commemorate the centenary of the experimental multidisciplinary queer artist John Cage. A pioneer of experimental music, Cage is best known for championing Indeterminacy: a philosophy that opens up artistic practice to include the random as a way of radically breaking with tradition, convention and habit.
For this year’s theme, some artists have chosen to explore literal “random acts of queerness”: those odd, spontaneous moments when our queerness bursts forth upon the world. Others decided to include random or indeterminate elements in their work, whether it be Indeterminacy of Process, Indeterminacy of Form or Indeterminacy of Identity; perhaps risking the effects of random juxtaposition. Cage used strategies such as the I Ching, playing random radio stations and putting odd objects inside of pianos before performing as methods of creating indeterminate music. What kinds of systems, symbols or strategies will be harnessed?
To celebrate the North America Outgames in Vancouver this summer, the Queer Arts Festival has chosen Games People Play as its theme for 2011.
Queer cultures often emphasize elements of game-play: from camp to butch/femme to strictures of “straight looking/straight acting”, we play around with identity and its shadows of artifice, passing and trespassing. The curators are encouraging artists to queer the idea of games and play: board games, bored games, war games, mind games, drinking games, parlor games, gender games, games theory, game shows, word play, gun play, foreplay, BDSM play, playing the fool, playing by ear, playing along, playing around, playing for the team, playback, playmates, team sports, blood sport, water sports… With this exuberance of possibilities we will build a show of divergent investigations; a game for viewers to trace commonalities and conflicts along the through-line of gaming.
‘Maturity means to have rediscovered the seriousness one had as a child at play.’
Imagine the ultimate Queer community… Would it be a place where being Queer was the norm, and heterosexuals were the minority? Or a place where attitudes towards difference didn’t exist? Where government monikers proclaim “the best place on earth” — a recent slogan from a Government of BC tourism ad — that would illustrate how magnificently Queer the province is? Would Queertopia be the same? Or even better?
There is no program available to view for this year.
Visual Art Curators: Valerie Arntzen, Glen Alteen and Martin Borden
With our 2009 theme Faerie Tales, the Pride in Art Festival invited Queer artists to explore the myths and legends that have shaped us, and our community.
Light or dark, strange or powerful, these whimsical and sometimes political fables can have far-reaching effects upon our collective psyche. PiAF challenged artists to look back — into our childhoods, into our histories, into the mists of time — and explore the symbols and archetypes that have helped us to build Queer identities. The juried Visual Art Exhibition features works in many different artistic disciplines, and pairs established and emerging artists from across BC and Canada.
There is no program available to view for this year.
Pride in Art becomes a festival, with two performing arts events in addition to the exhibition and Opening.
Opening night performances were curated by David Blue of Raving Theatre, with remarks by MP.s Libby Davies and Hedy Fry. Our very first JODAIKO concert in the Performance Center was sold out success. In the Performance Centre, we presented “Queering the Air,” with performances by Joel Klein and Michael Robert Broder, baritones; and Karen Lee-Morlang, piano. Queering the Air also featured the world premiere of Jocelyn Morlock’s flute and piano duo, “I conversed with you in a dream,” performed by Tiresias (Mark McGregor flute, and Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, piano), the recording of which was subsequently nominated for a 2008 Western Canadian Music Award.
The first juried visual art show, exhibiting the work of 24 artists including Mary Taylor, Margaret Matsuyama and Piere Gour.
The festival performance line-up included PIAF Cabaret, a night of transgressive music and dance; QUEEROTICA, readings of censored literature; Still Breathing Fire, Anna Camilleri’s ground-breaking one woman show; Wilde @ Art, a tribute to Oscar Wilde; Gilding the Lily, 50th birthday retrospective of composer Rodney Sharman; and JODAIKO, the incendiary all woman taiko ensemble. These shows included world premieres of works by Anna Camilleri, Jeffrey Ryan, and Rodney Sharman. Performers included Bill Richardson, Denis Simpson, Amber Dawn, Cris Derksen, Shaira Holman, Karen Lee-Morlang, Tiresias and many others. The festival included for the first time two workshops by featured artists: writer Anna Camilleri and Taiko Drummer Tiffany Tamaribuchi.