As the world mourns the massacre of nearly 50 people at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando last weekend, the spectre of fear, ignorance and hate hangs heavily in the air for the global LGBTQ community.
It is a sadly familiar perfume.
And while it remains to be seen how the world will respond to this fresh horror, locally, the Queer Arts Festival has already posited that it is often the role of artists to respond to and confront tragedies such as this, using the rawness of their work to further our emotional understanding and accelerate change within society.
That is the philosophy at the centre of Drama Queer: seducing social change, the festival’s visual arts exhibition, running June 21-30 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, curated by world renowned queer activist and scholar Jonathan D. Katz.
Katz, the founder of the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco and the first curator to place an openly gay art exhibition in a major American museum, has gathered together a collection of works by artists who have spent their lives documenting and dialoguing with the historical injustices and inequalities – be it homophobia, civil rights abuses, the AIDS epidemic – of their time. Works by Del LaGrace Volcano, Kent Monkman, Andreas Fuchs, George Steeves, Monica Majoli, Vika Kirchenbauer, and Carl Pope will sit in conversation with at least a dozen more artists who are known to “queer the perspective” of their audience and “seduce” them into seeing the world a different way.
In an added political layer, the timing of the exhibition this year – in late June rather than July – is meant to coincide with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots: three days of riots in 1969 New York that are credited with kickstarting the modern queer civil rights movement and the international phenomenon of pride parades.
Stonewall is not the theme of the visual arts show, but the emotion behind it is.