12-Sep-2006

News from New York

(The above photo: "The Nigger is a Faggot!” planted for Dwan Prince, In Brooklyn.)

I recently came across a post on the blabbeando.blogspot.com; Andrés Duque the writer is a friend of the late Edgar Garzon for whom I planted a pansy for whilst in New York. Andrés Duque wrote some kind words regarding the Pansy Project, sadly he has also written about the murder of Michael J Sandy who was killed after being attacked by a group of young men in New York, this has happened since I have returned from New York which is heartbreaking; my thoughts are with his friends and family. Andrés goes on to discuss the number of people who have been killed and attacked over the years, Dwan Prince, Kevin Aviance included and reveals some of the campaigning that has challenged this as a reality, the site is definately worth a look.

New York

I am currently in the process of touring The Pansy Project the beginnings of which are described here), my aim is to spread the word of the project and hope that people who experience verbal homophobic abuse think first of planting a pansy rather than being forced into some internal dialogue which in my own experience can evoke a sense of shame, anger, embarrassment and a profound sense of powerlessness.

It does not matter to me whether people are moved to act on the process of planting a pansy, it is simply intended to act as an internal strategy that is an optional tool to assist in the processing of this albeit relatively minor crime. Though the effects can be profound it does not compare to the physical gay bashing and murders that still frequently occur.

It is this that I eventually have moved on to explore as a result of my recent trip to New York as a participant of the Conflux Festival. My intended work in New York was to memorialise homophobic attacks in the same way that I have so far.

I realised that I appeared not to be a target in New York as I seem to be in Manchester. I didn’t feel like I was being mumbled about and didn't feel threatened as I frequently do in Manchester. I felt that this may be the case for other gay men in the city as it is appeared to more cosmopolitan and accepting. I embarked on some research, joining the New York Public Library and and began looking into homophobic attacks that had recently occurred to gauge the current environment.

I was disheartened to see a gamut of crimes that had been recently reported and there were some high profile attacks, notably and most recently a well known Drag Queen performer Kevin Avaince who had been badly beaten outside a well known gay club on 10th Street; The Phoenix. The attack had received a lot of press attention, the crimeswere referenced in such a way as to lead an interested party to other recent homophobic attacks so I began to follow this trail of abuse through the New York press. The names and locations can be seen on the site.

Statistical information that accompanied the reports also revealed that in America verbal homophobic attacks had decreased and violent anti gay hate crime had increased. This acted as an instigator for me to explore these locations.

There were other significant cultural revelations appearing whilst I was In New York a high profile politician had ‘come out’ on the Oprah show and had got front page coverage in the local press. This still highlighted that despite the apparent developments and ‘tolerance’ of gayness it is still head-line news when a luminary of any sort is outed.

The other significant location that I wanted to mark was Stonewall Inn, I had to my shame only known of its name and understood that it was important to gay history but I did not know much of the details. So I took the opportunity to visit the location and plant a pansy to memorialise the importance of the actions that had occurred there and the activity the event had instigated to try and encourage others to learn more about it.

This response marks a development of The Pansy Project and as I continue to research and develop the work, in Crate in Margate late October and in London at the Transition Gallery, in November I will endeavour to use this space to reveal what I learn through the ongoing process.

Below, (left) speaking to a visitor to The Pansy Project session at the McCaig-Welles Gallery in Williamsburg, New York and (right), planting a pansy on off 10th Avenue in Manhatten for R.J. Supa. And top a Pansy planted for Edgar Garzon in Jackson Heights.