04-Oct-2011

The Pansy Project / Discussion

"Die Queer! Die Queer!Die Queer!" Birmingham

As The Pansy Project and Tatty Devine Brooches have launched I have as usual gone about the now customary procedure of utilising social networking to promote the collaboration. People seem to have embraced the element of subterfuge and narrative with the brooches which reclaim the language of abuse and enable people to show solidarity with people who experience homophobia. What surprises me is how willing people have been to play around with the roles suggested on the brooch, women bought ‘Queer Boy’ to wear and friends bought the brooches for their straight family members to wear as an act of solidarity.

Though the limitations for proper discussion through Twitter arose when Twitter@MsBathtub suggested she felt excluded from The Pansy Project due to her Bisexuality, what follows is a rather disjointed discourse due in part to my frustration with the limited characters allowed on Twitter.

“@MsBathTub ‘@tattydevine I adore you, but can we have a Pansy Project brooch for us Dirty Bisexuals?’

@ThePansyProject ‘ @tattydevine @MsBathtub The fun thing is that people of all sexualities have bought them of each slogan! This I guess is about solidarity!:)’

TPP ‘@MsBathtub it’s about opening discussion rather than identity politics, I love that a friend bought a "Queer Boy" Brooch for her husband! :)’

MBT ‘@ThePansyProject With respect, it's easy to say it's not about identity politics when it isn't your identity being erased.’

TPP ‘@MsBathtub I don't believe I'm erasing identities; TPP began as an artwork from my own experience. Making it a catch all 'abuse'….’

TPP…..’would demean TPP and the various experiences of abuse that many groups go through!.....’

TPP…..’I've been doing this for six years and have thought hard about the various issues that surround TPP! It's the discussion I like.’

MBT ‘@ThePansyProject You don't get to tell other people what their experiences are. I have discussed this with other bi people, and we feel .. ‘

MBT…..excluded by TPP. Whether you 'believe' you're erasing identities is beside the point. We're not asking for a 'catch all', we're asking that….

MBT….’an entity that supposes it speaks for the whole queer community to acknowledge a significant portion of it. To say that that would demean…..’

MBT…..’TPP is frankly insulting. You spoke of someone who wears a 'fucking faggot' pin even though he is straight. That reeks of hetero privilege…..’

MBT….’.and, while I applaud his solidarity, it doesn't work for the bi community…..’”

So that is what was Tweeted; looking at it in this way makes me realise that the points I was intending to make weren’t made very clearly, so I intend to do that here, as I think this is a complex and interesting discussion:

Primarily The Pansy Project is an artwork derived from my own experience as an artist (who also happens to be gay). The authenticity of this is extremely important to me; The Pansy Project’s role as a comment on homophobia is just one element of a work that utilises photography and installation to explore issues surrounding psycho-geography, urban art and the politics of location. I began to plant and distribute pansies to others who experienced homophobic abuse quite early on which was primarily embraced by many though it was at this point that some gay women suggested that they felt ostracised from The Pansy Project because ‘Pansy’ mainly refers to weak or effeminate gay men, however I felt that it was a close enough leap as the hatred expressed in these attacks is rooted in homophobia a description of which is below.

“Homophobia is a term used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and in some cases bisexual, transgender people and behavior, although these are usually covered under other terms such as biphobia and transphobia. Definitions refer to irrational fear, with the implication of antipathy, contempt, prejudice, and aversion. The term "homophobia" is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of a perceived homosexual or in some cases any non-heterosexual orientation. In a 1998 address, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King stated that "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”

(Forgive the Wikipedia Source)

As I continued to meet people and discuss the nature of The Pansy Project another issue arose; that straight people also experience homophobia simply for being perceived as a gay person. The point is, is that any person can experience homophobia at any time, whether they are straight or gay. It is the experience of homophobia I mark as an artwork; I do not intend to “speak for the whole queer community” I simply mark one very small element of human experience, an occurrence that unfortunately anyone can experience at any time, including it should be said bisexual people. I simply mark homophobia that occurs on the street by planting a pansy. I do not alter the action if the person is gay, black or happens to fall into any other group as so defined by society. This to me is the simplicity of The Pansy Project that people seem to appreciate. It is not the addition of so called identities that would “demean” the work, if I began to alter the fundamental methodologies of The Pansy Project to include people who claim a separate identity and therefore demand a separate methodology I would be diluting the conceptual clarity of my work. In my opinion it is this that would be insulting. The brooches titles were quoted from actual plantings I have made over the last six years, “Fucking Faggot!” being the most commonly occurring. This is rooted in real experience; my experience and others. I hope this clarifies my motivation as an artist. I am nothing more than that, I do not claim to have answers or solutions to homophobia I simply make work that I hope is good work and, work that opens up discussion.

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