Queer Arts Festival 2019: rEvolution opened amid two widely celebrated semicentennials. On June 28, 2019, we were 50 years from the Stonewall Riots. On XXX day month year (do you know when?) we had completed fifty long, slow revolutions of the earth around the sun since the partial decriminalization of sodomy in Canada (for some people, some of the time, in some places…) In those fifty years, so much changed. For some people, some of the time, in some places.
In a year filled with self-congratulatory festivities proclaiming the official inclusion of queers within liberal capitalism, I kept coming back to J. Halberstam’s warning in The Queer Art of Failure to “suspect memorialization… a ‘ritual of power’ [that] selects for what is important (the histories of triumph), it reads a continuous narrative into one full of ruptures and contradictions.” How do we address the cognitive dissonance between these liberatory quinquagenary milestones and the concomitant turn to the right in
Canada and so many places around the world? How do we resist the urge to tidy history into a comforting chronicle of linear advancement and recognize instead the messy multivalence of the movement? How do we live in the rupture between rainbow crosswalks and death threats?
Art sparked the Stonewall Riots: the queers who fought back that day were gathered to mourn the death of Judy Garland. QAF 2019 rEvolution gathered together artists who push and transgress; engaging with our annals of struggle and erasure to revamp artifacts of the past and turn them to our own ends: art as the evolution of the revolution.
I was introduced to Elwood Jimmy as an interesting new curator to consider by Hunkpapa Lakota (Sioux) artist Dana Claxton at the opening of her solo show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Elwood and I started a dialogue that led to him curating the visual arts exhibition at QAF 2019. Elwood is a Two-Spirit artist, facilitator, cultural manager, and writer originally from Thunderchild First Nation whose practice spans 20 years.
One of the most valuable teachings I have learned from Two-Spirit artists and partners during my time at QAF is to question the premise of queer liberation as progressive, but rather to understand homophobia as a product of colonization introduced to this continent scant centuries ago, and to recognize and celebrate the reclamation of precolonial ways of knowing in which gender and sexuality were conceived beyond binaries and compulsory heterosexuailty was unheard of.
In a brilliant move, Elwood spun the festival’s 2019 theme of rEvolution away from implications of one-time, unidirectional, cataclysmic change, toward its alternate allusions to the cyclical and orbital. With his visual arts curation Relational rEvolutions, Elwood invites us to consider a radically different and tender way of being. Elwood’s practice at the intersection between Disability Arts, Indigenous Arts, and socially engaged arts brought a rich and multi- layered mix of voices to the exhibition. Relational rEvolutions proposed a revolution of being, inviting us to recalibrate how we hope, how we sense, how we love, and above all to reexamine our relationships with each other and with the land.
— SD Holman, Artistic Director
This catalogue is lovingly dedicated to the wonderful and fierce mother and collaborator of artist Alexandra Gelis.
Cristina Lombana, b. 30 de mayo de 1957 – d. 14 de octubre de 2021