curated by Sophie Roberge
IN THE STUDIO
Moscow Does Not Believe In Queers
John Greyson, 1986, 27min.
Based on the experience of attending the 1986 Moscow Youth Festival as an out gay delegate, this tape is an eccentric diary of those ten days. Reconstructions of adventures in Moscow’s gay sub-culture are cut with lurid Rock Hudson headlines and scenes from his cold war classic Ice Station Zebra. A tape about the impossibility of escaping East/West redundancies, travelling, shaping a gay identity and politics from the contradictory fragments of homophobic culture.
Wayne Yung, 1996, 5min.
From the Noodle House to Stanley Park, this video captures a specifically queer sensibililty . With re-scanned footage from Farewell My Concubine and Joy Luck Club, Yung follows his gay male Lotus Sisters in a day-in-the-life of a promiscuous fag.
We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Fabulous!
Maureen Bradley, 1990, 27min.
Montreal’s Stonewall! In July 1989, riot police broke up a predominantly gay and lesbian party, assaulting party-goers and arresting eight people. Two days later, club-wielding police brutally attacked a mass demonstration in broad daylight, leaving dozens injured and 48 arrested. WE’RE HERE tells the story of communities coming together in the face of police brutality to organize, demonstrate and demand their rights as citizens.
Ivan E. Coyote, 2001, 17min.
Rescued from the ashes of a house fire, from the sole remaining VHS tape, Ivan E. Coyote’s road tripping instructional tale for female travellers (who want to pee standing up) is a time-worn document of pee theory and the American road.
Hi everyone. My name is Sophie Roberge, and I was the Crista Dahl Media Library & Archives’ Archivist-in-Residence for 2019. I’m excited to get to the screening and let the materials speak for themselves, because it’s such an amazing collection, and you really get a feel for its depth by actually experiencing the voices held in the archives. But I thought I would give a little run-down of the catalogue and the thoughts I was having while forming it.
As an archivist, I’m shaped by critical librarianship and archival studies, and this school of thought informed the way I went about creating this guide. For me, the main tenets of this way of imagining archives are:
Criticality about naming and categorizing
These theories and concepts helped guide me as I worked through the Every Queer Thing project. I don’t have a ton of time, but I thought a good way of demonstrating some of the features of the guide would be through the lens of these concepts. If you’re curious about any of these ideas, come talk to me afterwards and I can provide you with some resources. There are tons of people who have written about these things and are way more knowledgable about them than I am.
At its most basic, Every Queer Thing is a catalogue. It’s actually a few catalogues, divided into Media, Publications, Special Collections, and Video Guides. Most of us have probably encountered a library catalogue before, and in many ways these catalogues are no different than those catalogues. The Publications catalogue contains over 1000 items, many of which hold multiple articles or writings on queer subjects. The Media catalogue lists nearly 250 works. You can browse the collections by title, by year, by author/artist. You can also search by any of these categories.
However, one area where it differs from many other catalogues is the fact that you can download it as an Excel sheet, a CSV document, or a PDF. This gets to the question of archival post-custodialism, which asserts that archives should be decentralized, that power over the records should lay with the communities they are about and for, and that inter-institutional (and I would argue inter-personal) cooperation is a necessity. I didn’t want my catalogue to exist as an “authoritative” and static document. I wanted community members to be able to take what I’ve put out there and rearrange it or reuse it in whatever way they’d like.
Another feature of the catalogue which also speaks to post-custodialism, but also to criticality about naming and categorizing, is my blurb on the opening page, which explicitly asks for community input on naming and identifying people, movements, and works. I’m trying to find ways to reject traditional archival notions of authority, impartiality, or objectivity which have frequently shaped archival thought. I acknowledge that the catalogue has been shaped by my experiences and my understandings of queerness, and hope to find ways to ensure that those experiences and understandings don’t misrepresent those of anyone represented in the catalogue. I know that names, gender identities, political identifications, and comfort with certain terminology can change over time, and I’m open to making those changes in the catalogue if they’re brought to my attention.
For a period of time I also thought about inserting a field with subject headings – a way of indicating the subject matter of the item in the catalogue – for example “Coming Out,” “Drag,” or “Chosen Family.” However, I figured the blurbs or the titles, which have usually been provided by the artist themselves, should be enough to provide this insight. I recognize that these descriptions are not always indicative of the work’s subject matter, but I think that anyone who spends enough time with the catalogue should be able to piece together a solid grasp of the works representing the topic they’re looking for. This may sometimes take some creativity or a bit of a meandering route, but I think that’s what research is all about anyway, and that the final research product usually becomes richer and more nuanced for it.
Another way I wanted to help VIVO researchers gain a more nuanced picture of the queer artist and activist communities who created these works, writings, and records was through an expansion of the information we had available. An area I spent a lot of time on was the “Collaborator” field in the Media catalogue, which contains information which had previously been unrecorded. I watched almost every video in the archive, and copied down the credits and acknowledgements exactly as displayed in the work. In making these available, I think the catalogue will help provide users with an appreciation of the extent to which the queer artists and activists worked together, supported each other, provided inspiration, time and resources and truly built community. I also wanted to build a “feminist citation practice” – a concept I first heard from Emily Guerrero, who was VIVO’s archivist for 2019 – which can expand our understanding of who is responsible for a work, an action, a movement, or a thought.