Hybrid identities in archived art
ART / (queer) intersections remembers pivotal 1990s performances
Monday, December 10, 2012
Written by Erin Flegg
Vancouver has a reputation (at least among those of us not born here) for playing hard to get. A diverse range of political and artistic communities has long thrived here, but they aren’t always easy to find.
A new series of online exhibits called Activating the Archive, from the grunt gallery, aims to draw out the vibrant histories of often marginalized groups and reacquaint Vancouver with its often radical past.
Interdisciplinary artist and scholar Christine Stoddard curated one of the exhibits, titled (queer)intersections.
The exhibit, made up of essays, video and photos, focuses on queer identity politics expressed through performance art in the 1990s.
“The ’90s for me was really when that notion of queer started to emerge as a political and identity category,” she says. “It’s taking the lesbian/gay movement and way of thinking about your sexuality and identity, and kind of opening it up to a less rigid category.”
Stoddard came to Vancouver toward the end of the 1990s, moving here with her first girlfriend to do a master’s of fine arts at Simon Fraser University. She got a job at the lesbian bar Charlie’s (“Oh god, I was a terrible server!”) and started to meet women who were also interested in exploring queer feminisms and with whom she would perform.
“That was the first time I really felt like I belonged here. It sounds sort of cheesy, but it’s true, I did.”
The grunt’s Halfbred cabaret series, featuring Oliv (above), marked an important moment in Vancouver’s queer art history, says Christine Stoddard.(grunt archives)At the time, she says, she didn’t consider herself a very radical queer. She grew up in the relatively small city of Halifax and says she was just looking for some kind of reflection of herself.
When she came out to her parents as bisexual, they had a hard time understanding, she says. They probably would have had an easier time had she used the word gay or lesbian, she reflects.
“It does confuse people when you don’t fit into a nice delineated box.”