Does This Bother You?
keywords: broadsheet, collaboration, appropriation, culture jamming, street art, illegal art, queer self-representation, homonormativity.
project description: In March of 2013 the provincial government of Quebec launched a $7.1 million dollar campaign to fight homophobia. Despite whatever good intentions the government may have had in creating this advertising campaign, we also see considerable damage it does by further marginalizing non-heteronormative people (ie. non-monogamous, gender non-conforming, HIV+ people, sex workers, kinksters, etc). The campaign relies on portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) people as nonsexual subjects whose lives mimic those of heteronormative people. This dubious portrayal and erasure of queer difference suggests that the worth of our lives, as LGBT people, is based on our ability to appear and pass as straight heteronormative people.
Quietly, a small cadre of fed up queers got together to spoof the campaign to point out its problematic nature. The group designed a set of 6 French and English posters emulating the language and design of the governments anti-homophobia website (luttehomophobie.gouv.qc.ca), but with an added twist. “Gay respectability? We don’t give a fuck! Does this bother you?” reads the new text with either an image of 1970s gay/trans porn or kink images from well known gay artists—Robert Mapplethorpe and Montreal’s own Evergon. These posters went up with wheat paste overnight throughout Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, the Village, Centre-Sud, the Plateau, and downtown Montreal. Within eight hours we were already making headlines in the gay press and within twelve hours all the posters were systematically removed.
This work caused an uproar, both angry and jovial. Most importantly this work provoked much needed conversation about the nature of the government’s campaign by raising questions about the best way to use the $7.1 million dollars set aside by the province to fight transphobia and heterosexism. Unfortunately the work was removed so quickly and systematically that our attempt at opening up space for conversation feels foreshortened. It is through a proper gallery exhibition and vernissage that we believe we can reopen this space for critical dialog about sexuality, respect, and dignity on our own terms.
The exhibition will include sets of the original posters for the taking, enlargements of the original posters hung, documentation of our original street intervention, an extensive exhibition catalogue, a small scale photo studio where visitors on the night of the opening can participate in our project by making their own posters with our templates, and a gallery talk with both the artists and representatives from a number of LGBT community organizations.