drawing/ queer/ space/

at the copenhagen queer festival

Two versions of this text have been published – one in the italian fanzine clitrocket in spring 2008 and the other one in october 2008 in the online webjournal trikster.

By the end of that week in July 2007 there were about 200 people in the old buildings on the festival grounds. They had come from all over, some knew each other from other queer occasions and festivals and most of them were staying in one of the three “sleeping spaces”, 30 to 50 people were sharing one room each night. It was very crowded at the Copenhagen Queer Festival. And it got even more crowded still, as the days passed from Monday to Sunday. While already in one of the first daily morning meetings an announcement was made that “loud sex in the sleeping spaces” was not allowed (there had be complaints), by the end of the week, at five o’clock in the morning, someone ran down the narrow hallway hollering “I mean seriously, this is queer festival! we should not accept people not having sex!”

It’s strange to go to a Queer Festival, a gathering that is all about meeting people and being in contact, about performance and music and video and dressing up and partying and sex – and to then sit in a corner and do a thing as solitary and old-fashioned as drawing. I sometimes think of it as “taking drawings” instead of photos. It’s just a slower, more personal way of recording my surroundings. But since drawing takes some time, when I draw, I also withdraw. I step back and get into a kind of cocoon of concentration. People hesitate to approach me. Some come over and have a look at what I am doing, but many don’t seem to dare. Do they feel like it’s an intimate activity and the results are too personal to look at?

When I draw, I look closely. People often notice and some seem to feel uncomfortable about being looked at that way, but mostly nobody says anything. At the Festival though, one woman confronted me. She told me she didn’t like me looking at people like that and she didn’t want to be in my drawings. I felt insecure. I didn’t want to embarrass or annoy anyone. But I felt that my drawings have so much more to do with me than with whoever is in my view. And that drawing is so much part of my way of being and perceiving - I would have really had a hard time not doing it.

Sometimes I like the way I catch people’s interest when I draw, with drawing it’s sometimes possible to direct people’s attention. I mostly draw apparently “boring” details of everyday life, and I like to make people turn their looks towards these details. People see me sitting there and then they turn around to look at what I am looking at and back at what I am drawing. Are they trying to see if I “get it right”?

At the same time I hate this attention. If I could wish for one thing, I would want to be invisible. Then I could go everywhere and draw everything without anyone – including myself – being uneasy about it. I only like drawing people when they don’t notice me, because I feel bad about their dissapointment when they look at the drawings I made of them. For many people a “good” drawing is one that “looks like” the person that was being drawn. I don’t draw to get faces “right”.

But what’s queer about these drawings? Frankly - I don’t know. But I imagine queer as a space in which things can happen. If there is something queer about my drawings it’s in the space that opens up between text and image and in the things that can happen in that space.

The textfragments written in the drawings are things I overheard at the Festival while I was drawing. They didn’t have anything to do with the drawing initially. But now people look at the image and read the text and they try to make sense of it. There is no one specific meaning, though, no understanding it “right”, and finally everyone comes up with their own explanation of what the text has to do with the image and what the picture is about. And it’s these explanations I am interested in. Many different explanations for the same thing – that seems quite queer to me.