Happy LGBTQ+ History Month 2023! This year's theme is Love & Strength Through Community, centring around championing the strength of LGBTQ+ people while ensuring we celebrate the importance of love and community.
As we reflect on our history, for centuries, we have curated our own communities and chosen families in an effort to seek belonging in a society that has oftentimes othered us. It has been in this search for love that the foundations of change were able to plant its roots.
This month gives us the chance to thank our sung and unsung heroes of change, liberation, and sacrifices that have gotten us to where we are today. This year, Arts Students' Union will be curating spaces and events around finding joy and healing that give us all strength to march forwards and continue to fight for liberation. Join us as we celebrate love, strength, and community this LGBTQ+ History Month.
The history behind the history
LGBTQ+ History Month is celebrated annually in the month of February in the United Kingdom. The first LGBTQ+ History Month took place in 1994 in Missouri, and started in the United Kingdom in 2005 following the repeal of Section 28 two years prior. Not to be confused with Pride Month which is held annually in June, LGBTQ+ History Month has a particular focus on visibility and awareness within the education system for LGBT+ people, something which was illegal under Section 28.
While it has been almost 20 years since the repeal of Section 28, the impact of this homophobic legislation is still felt today. As recent as 2003, children in schools would have been forbidden from learning or teaching LGBT+ issues, and this stigma did not disappear overnight. And the current political climate is seeing trans people's livelihoods threatened more than ever. This is why it is so important to celebrate and to encourage visibility and awareness of LGBTQ+ people and their experiences across all genders, sexualities, races, cultures, abilities and faiths.
This February we will offer you a series of talks, workshops, artist showcases, and opportunities to have your voices heard and your work seen and celebrated. We are committed to making sure that your experience at UAL as and LGBTQIA+ person is the best it can be, and to help our allies understand why we do this every year.
UAL's new Queer Liberation Society has collaborated with us on this month's events, you can find them on Instagram @UAL_Queer.
Want to read more from a fellow UAL student about the past, present, and future of LGBTQ+ History Month? Check out Sachika Bhojani's blog post.
"This month, this year, and every year, at UAL we have this message to our LGBTQIA+ students and teachers: you are seen, you are heard, you are valid, and you are loved! If there is one thing the LGBTQIA+ community is good at, it is being a community. In the past we have had to do this in secret, but now we do so in the open, hand in hand, lifting up and supporting the most vulnerable amongst us. While COVID restrictions mean we can’t meet in the same ways as previous years, this community still thrives and with your help we can make this LGBT+ History Month one to remember."
-- Justin South, LGBTQ+ Students Officer 2021/22 (He/Him)
"Art allows for self-expression. We can escape through art, be immersed in it. Our practices communicate our voices in unique ways. Our art can act as a safe space for us, it may protect us, challenge us, help us answer difficult questions in our lives. As LGBTQIA+ artists our art deserves to be seen, heard, digested and celebrated.
What does this celebration of self and practice look like at UAL? This exhibition space for LGBTQIA+ History Month displays student artwork with their peers and recognises the unique importance of themselves and their practice."
-- Georgia Spencer, Arts SU Welfare Sabbatical Officer 2021/22 (She/Her)
LGBTQIA+ History Month 2023 Event Programme
Love & Strength Through Community - LGBTQIA+ History Month 2023 Exhibition - Artist Info
Artist name: Adam Cole
Course: MSc Creative Computing
College: Creative Computing Institute
Instagram: adamcole.studio Twitter: adamcole_studio
Artist statement: "The Last Supper, 1981" explores the theme of queer joy in the face of betrayal.
This piece reimagines Da Vinci's classic painting of The Last Supper through a queer lens using AI image-translation. Here instead of a renaissance painting, we arrive at a contemporary black-and-white photograph, instead of somber apostles in robes we have exuberant queer folk in drag, and instead of depicting the betrayal of Christ, we frame it around the imminent betrayal of the gay community at the outset of the AIDs epidemic. Specifically, this image references a 1980’s gay aesthetic popular in New York City at a time when AIDS was just about to ravage the community and be largely ignored by the Christian right wing of the country which believed AIDs to be a religious plague. Repurposing the Christian iconography, the Last Supper is reimagined as a moment of unapologetic queer joy, celebrating the brazen resilience of the community in the face of their betrayal by state institutions.
However, the fact that the image is clearly AI-generated, with its many eerie imperfections, adds a layer of ambiguity, highlighting the fact that this is not a straightforward representation of history but a projection from a future generation: a hopeful reimagining of an inconceivably terrifying reality. In doing so, it forces us to confront the relationship between history, representation, and the way we continually shape our understanding of the past.
Artist name: Ayshe-Mira Yashin
Course: BA Illustration (1st year)
College: Camberwell College of Arts
Artist statement: I'm a 19-year-old lesbian artist from Istanbul, Turkey, and Nicosia, Cyprus, currently studying Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. My art primarily involves linework and ink illustrations, menstrual blood paintings, risograph prints and bookbinding. I am interested in exploring themes of queer love, ecofeminism and witchcraft, celebrating raw feminine power through an empowering representation of women's bodies, imagining possibilities of what queer love and intimacy could look like in a peaceful, matriarchal world. One of my biggest and most long-term projects is the Earth Mother Magic tarot deck, an ecofeminist handmade risograph tarot deck made for queer women and femme people. I also created a risograph hand-bound zine filled with illustrated spells specifically for queer women called the Enchantress Riot zine. My hope is that my tarot deck and zines can serve to empower and uplift queer women and non-binary people, as well as being used in queer/woman-centred spaces as a form of community-building.
Artist name: Stela ‘Morphine’ Csizmazia
Course: BA Photography
College: London College of Communication
Schism / 's(k)iz?m/ • n. a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief.
This work is a part of a long-term project consisting of several interdisciplinary art pieces mapping the split between two, physical bodies, that caused my own, personal schism.
In May of 2022, my partner and I were forcefully separated from each other by her parents, due to cultural and religious differences. My partner as a Muslim woman was not accepted or allowed to have a romantic relationship with another woman. As we were forbidden to communicate with each other, I started researching this Gap between us. As a Christian born and raised, I opened Quran for the first time, to answer the forbidden between us. Slowly and latently, I started accepting the schism.
The work explores the relationship between God, me, and my estranged partner. Gradually, this project becomes my personal, liberating ritual mapping my religious conversion. Work itself evolves into an altar of my thoughts, where the ritual of sacrifice and transformation begins: the need to sacrifice my identity, family, and religious beliefs to accept new beliefs and a new identity. It is mapping the frustration to build something out of nothing, to bring the dead back to life, to accept the new and forget the old, to satisfy everyone and lose no one. It is mapping the guilt, the shame, the pain, the tears, the strength, the revival, and the new beginning.
Artist name: Neometa / Julia Shu
Course: MA Art & Science
College: Central Saint Martins
Artist statement: Julia Shu (Neometa) is a multidisciplinary artist blending art, technology, science and nature to explore the vastness of time and space through the creation of visual metaphors that extend our ways of comprehending the universe.
Neometa* derives from the binary numeral system, the synergy of human and technogenic and alludes to metamodernism. It’s the way of working with reality divided between zero and one: the art and science of combining polar opposites to reach a fragile harmony.
Neometa likes to challenge artistic norms in order to encourage her viewer to see the world outside the box, whilst remaining deeply sincere about communicating existential issues through universal symbols.
*neo – from Ancient Greek ν?ος (néos), meaning “new”, “young”.
meta – from the Greek μετ? (meta), meaning "after" or “beyond", more comprehensive or transcending.
Artist name: Gross Kramer
Course: Graphic and Media Design
College: London College of Communication
Artist Statement:What started off with a sketchbook and some Posca Pens is now getting bigger and bigger like the characters I draw, which in fact, they have become a part of me, as if I had grown a new joint.
What I aim to reflect with my art, apart from my taste in men, is two big social issues such as LGBTQI+phobia and body shaming, this is why my characters (they're called Papis) are always in lack of clothes, enjoying and celebrating their big and furry bodies.
Artist name: Elio Fantini
Course: BA Costume for Performance
College: London College of Fashion
Artist statement: As a trans practicing artist, I find it fitting that the mediums that often go underrepresented in galleries and by the art world at large, are the ones I am most drawn to. Usually referred to as ‘woman’s work’ or relegated to a craft practiced by grandmothers to fill their day, quilting and hand embellishment are a dying artistic medium in young people today. However, quiltings secret radical history is something I enjoy leaning into, with the NAMES AIDS memorial quilt being my main inspiration, along with artists working at the time of the crisis including David Wojnarowicz, Gran Fury, Keith Haring, and many others.
The response the queer community had to the HIV/AIDS crisis is a perfect example of the post-stonewall solidarity that connected all queer people from all walks of life to fight back. This community was formed around love and strength in the face of adversity, and I feel as though today we are losing that solidarity
Reflections on the Forgotten Crisis is an homage to the work of these queer artists from the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and emphasises my desire to educate younger generations of queer people on the unifying strength that the community showed in the face of government negligence and incompetence. It also acts as a rallying cry for the modern community to reconnect with our forgotten histories and realise that the same rhetoric is being recycled against trans people today.