Queering Space At Alfred University

We talk to Res, one of the curators of the exhibit, about a show that asks, “What is a Queer Perspective and How Does Queerness Meet Form”?

Queering Space At Alfred University

Originally the title of a show at Yale curated by a group that consisted mostly of artists who were at the time enrolled in the Yale art program, Queering Space has since become a collective of a larger group of curators who continue the Queering Space project. Most recently this continuation was made manifest with the show at Alfred University, which addressed concerns surrounding “visibility, censorship, materiality, and lived experience” in a way that is both globally relatable and also engages locally with the Alfred University community.

While the exhibition that we are featuring took place at Alfred University, it seems to me that Queering Space is an organic, evolving, and diachronic project that both speaks directly to the context it is being presented in and at the same time works through questions that span the various instances of Queering Space exhibitions.

We weren’t able to make to it Alfred University for the show, but we did experience it through the images presented here, and were fortunate to be able to talk to Res about it. They tell us that part of the curatorial process is selecting a diverse group of artists, and the work on display at Alfred University suggests that they absolutely succeeded. The individual works in the show each manage to speak with a clearly unique voice but also be part of a common dialog. This is true of the gallery show, and also of the events surrounding the show. Unfortunately, some of these events have already come and gone, but Res describes a few that you can still join, including the St. Patrick’s day protest and a talk by Kristen Beck, the first Transgender Navy Seal.  

Queering Space at Alfred was curated by the Queering Space collective consisting of Loren Britton, Christie DeNizio, Sara Ferguson, Asad Pervaiz, Erica Wessmann and Res. Our interview with Res follows.

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Can you tell us more about the curatorial collective that worked on this show and how the collective was formed? I know that it started at Yale with the first queer exhibition at the art school there. I was wondering if you can tell us more about what the conversations were that led to the collective’s formation and if/how its mission has evolved as it moved beyond Yale?

Queering Space at Alfred was curated by: Loren Britton, Christie DeNizio, Sara

Ferguson, Asad Pervaiz, Erica Wessmann and Res (myself).

The collective started out the way most things do, because there wasn’t one and we felt there needed to be. Loren Britton and I met when we first got to Yale and we were both searching for a community of queer artists that were interested in building a critical queer discourse around art and art making. We decided the best way to encourage this discussion and bring our varied community together was to curate a show. As we began at Yale we firmly believed we needed to expand to include a committee of people coming from different experiences and backgrounds both in the world and as artists.  From here the collective expanded to include Loren Britton, Shikeith Cathey, Christie DeNizio, Erik Freer, Johnathan Payne, Asad Pervaiz, Buzz Slutzky, Erica Wessmann and myself.

Over time we evolved together as a collective and as artists and most recently our mission has become clear.

Queering Space is an artist run, anti-racist, trans*-feminist, experimental collective interested in approaching curating and events that prioritize multiplicity as a mode of investigating the ideas around the formation of a queer subjectivity as it meets the expanded field of art making.

The mission of Queering Space, to bring together a community of queer art and artists, continues beyond its beginning at Yale to ask the questions what is a queer perspective and how does queerness meet form? We develop and curate each project with the specific needs of the community we are working within and collaborating with, in mind. The structure of the collective is designed to move, evolve and shift with every project. The concerns of our community at Yale informed how we curated that show, and as we moved to Alfred University, we adjusted and expanded our approach to breech concerns around: visibility, censorship, materiality and lived experience to reach the community of students at Alfred – differently than we needed to engage a conversation at Yale.

In looking forward to our next projects. Queering Space is thinking about how to work globally and locally at the same time. In each project we collaborate with someone local to connect whatever space we are working in/within so that we can be in the position of reaching across communities and (hopefully!) inspiring new conversations and ideas between artists and viewers.

As your background is in photography, did you focus on the photography in Queering Space, or is your involvement more holistic?

Each one of the collective members of Queering Space is an artist and has a background in a different medium. I did not focus solely on the photography in Queering Space, but I did provide deeper insight into the medium and aspects of each photographer’s practice during our curatorial discussions. We built our collective to ensure that together we had enough expertise to best honor and represent each artist we work with as complexly and passionately as possible.

How were the artists in the show chosen? Are they mostly artists you and other curators have previous relationships with or did you set out to discover new artists?

The curatorial selection of Queering Space is a long process, including a combination of fostering previous relationships and discovering new artists. Each one of the collective members sets up a one-on-one relationship with the artists we work with; conducting studio visits and handling correspondence with the artists. We then individually select around 10 people each to review for the Queering Space exhibitions. The way our system works is we individually present the work of each artist to the group to review, acting almost like representatives, and from there everyone in the collective votes. Some of the artists we work with are within our various communities, some we have discovered and some submit work for us to review, but everyone we work with becomes part of an ever-expanding community of queer artists. Queering Space strives to bring in a diverse group of artists with a ride range of formal and material interests to cultivate conversations across age, class, race, nationality, geographic location and educational backgrounds.

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Queering Space is an artist run, anti-racist, trans*-feminist, experimental collective interested in approaching curating and events that prioritize multiplicity as a mode of investigating the ideas around the formation of a queer subjectivity as it meets the expanded field of art making.
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How did the relationship with Alfred University come about?

We knew after going through the process of curating our first show that we wanted to use the exhibition as a way to create new spaces, expand the show’s dialogue, make our investigations accessible to new communities, and bring different artists into the spaces we were creating. We also wanted to use the exhibition space as a tool for education, advocacy, and political enlightenment. After Trump’s election and after seeing our show at Yale, a friend and colleague who later became our collaborator, Sara Ferguson, reached out to the collective and suggested we work together on a Queering Space show at Alfred University. Sara, an Assistant Professor at Alfred University in Foundations and prolific artist herself, saw a great need to initiate a conversation at Alfred as it relates to Queer identity and Queer art making. And like us, she believed curating a show with programing designed for the population of Alfred University and the surrounding communities was the best way to do it!

More than just an exhibition, there’s a whole program of events associated with Queering Space. Can you tell us about a few of them and how they fit in with Queering Space’s larger project?

We were all up at Alfred University for a week before the opening, it was an incredible experience to be able to meet the students and present the work, have studio visits and expand the conversation outside of the gallery walls, which is what the programming we developed is designed to do. We want to make the most of our exhibition by incorporating interventions and programing into our overall project. This allows us to bridge, expand and connect to the urgencies of the students and larger Alfred Community. The work we make and our politics, although they live in the gallery, do not stay locked up in the gallery. We believe that Queering Space must function as a resource and the beginning of an ever-evolving and urgent conversation in the communities it touches.

Some of the extended programming includes, Rethinking the Public Restroom: Signage Design Workshop, a workshop to create a new system of bathroom signage to create gender neutral restrooms at Alfred University.

We worked with artist Kale Roberts and Tailgate Projects on a flag design workshop which will create the material for an intervention at the Hornell St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17th. Tailgating is a practice adopted by artist Kale Roberts as a way ensure LGBTQ+ visibility through the intervention of a mobile exhibition at events that historically turned away LGBTQ communities from participating.

And the incredible Kristen Beck, Alfred University Alumna and the first openly transgender U.S. Navy SEAL, will be giving a talk about her memoir, Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender, detailing her experiences on March 22nd.

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