Miron on the margin, or: how to queer Bialoszewski? / Miron na marginesie, czyli: czy mozna squeerowac Bialoszewskiego?

The fourth public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team, with Prof Joanna Nizynska discussing the writing of Miron Bialoszewski, was held at the University of Warsaw on Thursday 11 January 2018.

The fourth public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Thursday, January 11 2018. Our guest was Joanna Nizynska, Associate Professor of Polish Literature and Culture at the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures in Indiana University, Bloomington USA. Prof. Nizynska presented excerpts from her upcoming book, a Polish translation of her study “The Kingdom of Insignificance: Miron Bialoszewski and the Quotidian, the Traumatic, and the Queer” (Northwestern UP, 2013) dedicated to the work of Miron Bialoszewski, one of the most influential Polish poets and writers of the 20th century. During her lecture, she discussed the different approaches to the use of queer theory in analyzing Polish literature, emphasizing the active role of any act of queering – perceiving “queer” not as a noun, but a verb. Nizynska closely analyzed several fragments from Miron Bialoszewski’s prose published in the 1970s, focusing on the depictions of homoerotic tensions, acts of subverting the normative, as well as the intertextual connections with more recent literary works – most importantly, Michal Witkowski’s “Lubiewo” (2005) – which form a dialogue with Bialoszewski’s early queer writing. The seminar was a chance to reflect on the complicated positioning of Polish writers within Western queer theory, the possible adaption and/or translation of queer frameworks to national literature. The ensuing discussion focused on how to overcome or challenge some of the theoretical problems facing queer-oriented scholars in their studies of Polish queer culture and history.

Miron Bialoszewski

Tearoom (Dir. William E Jones, 1962/2007)

Sunday 21 January 2018
London Short Film Festival, ICA

Originally filmed in 1962 by the Ohio police, William E Jones’s Tearoom is surveillance footage, a blunt tool of oppression that documented men cruising in a public restroom. Includes a panel discussion with Crusev’s Fiona Anderson.

Sun 21 Jan 13:00 ICA
Dir. William E Jones, 1962/2007, US, 56 mins
18 recommendation – contains scenes of real sexual activity

In 2007, the video artist William E Jones presented Tearoom. Originally filmed in 1962 by the Ohio police, Tearoom is surveillance footage, a blunt tool of oppression that documented men cruising in a public restroom. This footage was eventually used as evidence to prosecute the men of sodomy and public deviancy.

In exhuming this footage 40 years later, Jones revealed hidden dimensions through recontexualisation, offering up an open democratic space where age, class and racial boundaries break down, whilst remaining a poignant reminder of the anxiety and persecution these men were forced to endure.

London Short Film Festival welcomes Dr Fiona Anderson of University of Newcastle & CRUSEV (Cruising the Seventies: Unearthing pre-HIV/AIDS Queer Sexual Cultures), to talk with filmmaker and Little Joe editor Sam Ashby (The Colour of His Hair), Tearoom video game developer Robert Yang and sculptural artist Prem Sahib for a post-screening discussion.


Prior to the screening we will also be showcasing Robert Yang’s game The Tearoom, a cruising simulation made in direct response to the film. On release, the game ran afoul of the censors and so in a bold piece of satirical provocation Yang replaced all the penises with guns. The game was then successfully passed uncut.

For further details, click here.

Four Films by Jim Hubbard at the Cinema Museum, London

Shortly after World AIDS Day 2017, CRUSEV’s Fiona Anderson and EUROPACH hosted a screening and discussion with Hubbard about his life and work.

The American filmmaker Jim Hubbard has been making experimental films that explore lesbian and gay activism and community building since the mid-1970s. Today, Hubbard is perhaps best known for his work as an AIDS activist and historian of AIDS activism. In 2012, he directed and co-produced the documentary United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, a powerful account of the emergence of AIDS activism in New York in the mid-to-late 1980s from the perspective of members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, with the activist and writer Sarah Schulman. Hubbard and Schulman also coordinate the ACT UP Oral History Project, a collection of interviews with surviving members of the group.

On 9th December 2016 – shortly after World AIDS Day 2017 – CRUSEV’s Fiona Anderson and members of the fellow HERA-funded project EUROPACH (Disentangling European HIV/AIDS Policies: Activism, Citizenship and Health) hosted a screening and discussion with Hubbard about his life and work at the Cinema Museum in London. For the screening, Hubbard selected four films which span the breadth of his practice, from poetic reflections on personal loss to documentary interviews, and dealt with themes of loss, memory, activism and empowerment.

In the late 1970s, Hubbard recorded protests against the filming of William Friedkin’s controversial movie Cruising in New York’s West Village on Super 8 film, using the material in a short work that he titled Stop the Movie Cruising (1980). Hubbard’s film switches between footage of street protests in the West Village, aiming to disrupt the filming of Cruising, and voyeuristic recordings of extras on the set, chatting, laughing, and dancing inside the leather bars by the waterfront like the Ramrod and the Eagle’s Nest in which Friedkin filmed. Filming the action from outside the bar, peering in, Hubbard utilised the vantage point of cruising in this work. Moving between the club and the street, between inside and outside, setting up clear parallels between the multiple queer bodies congregating, fictionally, in the bars and the crowds of queer activists rallying against the film in the streets of the Village.

Two Marches (1991), shot on 16mm film, juxtaposes scenes recorded at two national marches on Washington D.C.: the first and second National Marches on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979 and 1987. Hubbard’s combination of footage, presented mostly in silence, makes clear the devastating and unanticipated changes that impacted queer communities in the US between the late 1970s and the late 1980s. Hubbard’s earlier film Elegy in the Streets (1989), also shot in 16mm, takes a similar approach, bringing together intimate footage of Hubbard’s former partner, the filmmaker Roger Jacoby, who died in 1985, and documentations of public demonstrations by ACT UP and the public unfurling of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1987.

The event concluded with an excerpt from the documentary film Speak for Yourself (1990), in which the AIDS activists and ACT UP members Sarah Schulman and Maxine Wolfe shared their thoughts on the challenges facing activists as they seek to establish solidarity between the diverse communities affected by AIDS. This rarely screened footage provided a fascinating counterpoint to Hubbard and Schulman’s work with the ACT UP Oral History Project and the interviews which appear in Hubbard and Schulman’s film United in Anger: A History of ACT UP.

In a generous discussion with the audience after the screening, Hubbard shared his thoughts on new challenges facing LGBTQ activists in the present and the relationship between recent activism for marriage equality and the historic examples of AIDS activism documented in his film work. He also spoke about the distinctions between his recent work as a documentary filmmaker and his longstanding investment in experimental filmmaking and his desire to make non-narrative films which explore the emotional and visual experience of personal connection, loss, social exclusion, and activist world making in the time of AIDS and earlier. This collaborative event provided the CRUSEV and EUROPACH teams with an opportunity to cruise the queer visual cultures of the 1970s through Hubbard’s films, and trace the experience of activism, citizenship, and health from the 1970s to the present.

Photograph of attendees sat around small tables at the Cinema Museum. The tables are adorned with flowers and chequered green and white table cloth. To the left of the image is the bar, where two men with hats and beards stand, facing opposite directions.

Text and Photographs by Fiona Anderson.

À propos unmarked, brown paper packaging

Mark Clintberg and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay presented a book-wrapping action as part of the Between the Sheets: Radical Print Before the Queer Bookstore

Artist Mark Clintberg and CRUSEV UK team member Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay presented a book-wrapping action as part of the Between the Sheets: Radical Print Before the Queer Bookstore symposium held at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Art on February 24, 2017. 

The action, created especially for the symposium, responded to the history of printed material of a sexual or queer nature being wrapped in paper that conceals its contents when purchased in shops or sent by post. Symposium guests were invited to bring books or other printed matter to the artists, who provided a wrapping service using screen-printed paper of their own design, created to increase the visibility of the wrapped material, rather than to conceal it. The artists also wrapped and displayed a selection of books from the Glasgow Women’s Library, chosen by Lesbian Archive Project Worker Alice Andrews.

The project evolved out of other collaborative projects between Clintberg and Nemerofsky involving hospitality, wrapping and exchange, including Garde Rose and For the Last Guest. More documentation of the action can be seen here.

CRUSEV at SCMS

CRUSEV’s Glyn Davis attended this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Chicago. Here’s his report.

CRUSEV’s Glyn Davis organised and contributed to a panel for this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference. Here’s his report on the event.

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I put together a panel for this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference, which took place in Chicago from 22nd to 26th March. The panel was titled ‘Cruising the Seventies: Glancing Backwards at Queer Cinema’, and was comprised of talks by Assistant Professor Greg Youmans (Western Washington University – pictured), Professor Bill Marshall (University of Stirling) and myself, with Associate Professor Richard T. Rodriguez (University of California Riverside) as a respondent. Whereas the focus of the HERA-funded project ‘Cruising the Seventies’ is on Europe, this panel expanded the parameters of investigation to also include the United States. The panel was sponsored by SCMS’s Queer Caucus.

Greg Youmans’ paper, ‘Locating the 1970s: Sex and Cinema at Druid Heights’, focused on a particular geographical location, and its role in the history of sexual representation in the United States. Located deep in the woods of Marin County, California, the artist colony known as Druid Heights was a countercultural mecca in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a haven for young lesbian feminists who journeyed there to visit the older poet Elsa Gidlow, who died in 1986. Since then, however, most of the structures have fallen into decay and disrepair.

Films shot at Druid Heights include James Broughton’s experimental short ‘The Bed’ (1968), sequences of the Mariposa Film Group’s ‘Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives’ (1977), and sections of the Mitchell Brothers’ pornographic feature ‘The Grafenberg Spot’ (1985). Together these films trace the history of sexual politics across the “long 1970s”, from the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s through the explosion of gay lifestyles and politics in the 1970s to the exhausted, post-liberation ethos and conservative backlash of the early 1980s. Greg’s paper explored the films’ competing cinematic visions of sexual liberation. In part, he did this through juxtaposing his own video footage with content from the original films, attempting to recreate or unearth traces of the past through his camera.

Bill Marshall’s talk, ‘Lional Soukaz: Historicity and Time’, discussed one specific film by Soukaz: his four-part documentary on queer history, ‘Race d’Ep!’ (1979). Bill focused in particular on the fourth part of the film, ‘Royal Opera’, which takes the form of a philosophical dialogue of sorts between a straight middle-class executive (played by porn star Piotr Stanislas) and a ‘folle’ or queer (played by Soukaz’s collaborator and theorist Guy Hocquenghem). ‘Royal Opera’ is particularly self-conscious about space and time: made on the cusp of the 1970s/1980s, it follows the pair through a Paris marked by the spatial history of same-sex desire. Bill’s talk connected Soukaz’s film-making practice to the 1970s context in Paris – before the opening of the first gay bar in the Marais, the AIDS crisis, and the creation of an equal age of consent – and to arguments made by Hocquenghem in his book ‘La Derive homosexuelle’ (1977) about queerness, marginality, and social acceptability.

As with the preceding papers, my own talk, ‘Hanging out in Derek Jarman’s warehouse’, also looked at the relationships between sexuality, space and the moving image. The different London warehouse spaces that the artist, filmmaker and author Derek Jarman occupied during the 1970s – at Upper Ground, Bankside, and Butler’s Wharf, all located along the south bank of the Thames – were introduced: Jarman lived and worked in these places, his studio doubling as his home. All of these spaces were inhabited legitimately – rent was paid to landlords – but the state of their upkeep was variable, at worst rudimentary. Their shabby state, I argued, served as a generative geography for Jarman: he turned the run-down locations into sanctuaries, othered spaces, in which a queer demimonde of artists and personalities gathered, socialized, and fostered each other’s work. The queer model of sociality and creativity supported by these warehouse studios, I suggested, was not only fleeting but is difficult to account for within existing understandings of both film-making and artistic practice. Attempting to capture that model allows us to think through ways in which, potentially, similar modes of creativity and interaction might be fostered in the present.

Richard T. Rodriguez’s response to the panel, ‘Looking back, thinking forward’, provided a fitting conclusion, and served as a provocative prompt for audience discussion. Richard drew attention to the historian Antoinette Burton’s insistence on “the need for archive stories – narratives about how archives are created, drawn upon, and experienced by those who use them to write history.” Lionel Soukaz, Derek Jarman, and the filmmakers associated with Druid Heights, said Richard, provide us with rich archive stories that enable us to do a queer history of 1970s cinema that teases out the overlooked elements of that era: they illuminate a rich temporal moment that does more than set the stage for future decades of queer filmmaking, but also illustrates a dynamic interplay between film culture and cultural politics.

 

Cruising the 70s is funded by HERA.

The project Cruising the 70s is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme 3 Uses of the Past which is co-funded by AHRC, AKA, BMBF via DLR-PT, CAS, CNR, DASTI, ETAg, FWF, F.R.S. – FNRS, FWO, FCT, FNR, HAZU, IRC, LMT, MIZS, MINECO, NWO, NCN, RANN?S, RCN, SNF, VIAA and VR and the European Commission through Horizon 2020.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and  innovation programme under grant agreement No 649307