Welcome to our monthly creative spur post! Verse Kraken started as an experimental journal where, for each issue, we asked people to respond to existing works that dealt in some way with transformation, which could in turn be transformed or reimagined into new works. This series continues that idea: we share a spur, a challenge, and some further reading. We hope it’s useful for anyone looking to inject some fresh inspiration into their practice – you can use these ideas in combination or separately, as a starting point for a new work or an intervention in an existing one.
It’s LGBT History Month in the UK, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of community and collaboration in queer art and protest. About the particular energy of creating together, and how vital that can be for movements – the power, support, and reach that collective work can bring to a group and its members.
The posters above are from Gran Fury, an artist collective associated with the AIDS activist group ACT UP. Their graphics repurposed existing language and imagery from history and mass media – as well as their own previous work – to disrupt and reclaim space in the public discourse about homosexuality and AIDS. Their work was produced in a context of action, publicising events and spreading information.
Queer collaboration as art as action exists across genres, from print and poster collectives like Gran Fury to punk bands, dance and theatre troupes, drag and performance art collectives, zine makers, protest organisers and probably any other creative endeavour you can think of.
Working collaboratively can be challenging: both in the personal sense, and as a tool and method for challenging others. And even if working alone, you’re definitely working in conversation with your environment. This month’s challenge is an invitation to collaborate, and also to think about the contexts and conversations that art lives within.
Gather materials, physical or digital, that you encounter in your life and communities. These could be newspapers and junk mail, flyers from shops or public places, online articles, social media ads, photos from your camera reel, et cetera.
Get together with a friend or a few, in person or online. Ask them to bring their own materials. Discuss what you’ve gathered: what narratives these materials are part of, what they mean personally, what they mean publicly.
Repurpose what you’ve got, whether by rewriting/drawing, copypasting, or using collage techniques, to change, expand or otherwise address some aspect the narratives they present. This could become a poem, a poster, a zine or anything else you can think of. It could be agitprop, a personal piece, or somewhere in between; something you want to disseminate, or keep between you and your collaborators.
Maybe this could be the start of a new project, or maybe it could inform your next one. Whatever the case, think about what working in this way meant, and what it could continue to mean!
Your further reading & ACTION
QUEERSEUM is a grassroots “collective of activists, artists and queer educators” who organise exhibitions, workshops and other interventions in cultural spaces. Their acts of archiving, educating and celebrating are rooted in community and activism, “activating the past”. Most recently, they opened an exhibition space in collaboration with the Museum of Homelessness, also a community-led museum, and The Outside Project, The UK’s 1st LGBTIQ+ community shelter – a collaboration that continues with Outsiders Then and Now, “a year long creative project on heritage of resistance”.
And while this is a creative challenge post, in the spirit of creativity-as-action, please go follow, support & learn from these these amazing projects, and seek out community art projects to share and support wherever you are.
Happy LGBT History Month <3!