Stereotype and Stigma: 1991 Conference Challenging Stereotypes

3For LGBT Month February 2016 I will be blogging about key LGBT aspects from our collections, particularly focusing on stereotypes and perception of LGBT communities in the 80s/90s by the mainstream.

This post focuses on a conference in 1991 – Stereotype and Stigma – held at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and organized by iris and the Centre of Modern Cultural Studies UKC-  this was a day forum exploring issues ‘concerning censorship, social control, national identity and sexuality in art and popular culture’. Speakers included:

  • Elizabeth Cowie, Professor at the University of Kent, looking at desire for the real in photography, and looking at difference and other, exploring areas such as disability, sexuality, migration
  • Steve Mayes, looking at censorship and control in the British Media
  • Lola Young (West Polytechnic, lecturer in Film Studies), looking at race and mental illness, and how this is linked in the film The Telephone with Whoopi Goldberg
  • Andy Medhurst (Cultural Gender Studies, Sussex University), looking at masculinity
  • Tessa Boffin (Photography, Kent Institute of Art and Design), on Lesbians Take Photographs, linked to her co-edited book and exhibition Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs, looking at representations of lesbians in photographs
  • Anna Fox (Photography,  now at University for the Creative Arts) looking how stereotyping was impetus behind her work, and how documentary photography could have greater political strength

What is particularly interesting regarding the conference is the way that as stereotypes is explored with various traditionally  marginalized groups, it recognizes that one aspect cannot be taken in isolation – for example an experience of a black lesbian may differ from a white lesbian.


Documentation about this conference comes from the Tessa Boffin archive – photographer specializing in sex and sexuality and LGBT studies in the 1980s/1990s. Our archives consist of a range of formats, and we hold the VHS documenting the full conference. As this conference is linked to Stolen Glances -Lesbians Take Photographs, the book and exhibition co-edited by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser, you can view press clippings regarding the conference, images that appear, and visitors comments regarding the exhibition linking to Boffin’s talk.

View the catalogue here and contact us to see the collection





Freewheelers Inclusive Theatre – Talk and Screening

When: 11th February 2016

When: 13:00

Where: UCA, Farnham Campus, Ground Floor of Elaine Thomas Library

To who: Open to all

The Freeewheelers Inclusive Theatre Group are giving a screening and talk of theatre, films produced. Freewheelers based in Leatherhead, Surrey, and have collaborated with the English Touring Opera and National Theatre

Productions include the History of Disability in Surrey which was produced through research within the Surrey History Centre

‘Freewheelers are pioneers of a new and inclusive language for theatre. We work with disabled and non-disabled artists using theatre, dance, film, music and animation. We achieve high production standards alongside a person-centred approach. We entertain, innovate, collaborate and challenge perceptions. We surprise people.’



Re-thinking the Body: New work inspired by UCA’s archive- Artist Statements

Re-thinking The Body
New work inspired by UCA’s archive
November – December 2015
Elaine Thomas Library

Re-thinking the Body aims to explore different ways in which disability has been represented and (mis)understood in society and culture.

Kim Cruickshank-Inns, BA Three Dimensional Design ‘Welcome’

Are we losing sight of our more sentient human qualities? Many people are currently forced into seeking asylum from war zones. Historically asylums were places people deemed mentally ill were confined away from society. Benches and tables are spaces where we can choose to spend time alone or share communally, often with strangers. Both can be commemorative, their placement being carefully selected.  We all need a small exterior corner of the universe to feel safe in, even though the physical location may not be of our choosing.  Feeling safe internally depends on individual psychological and emotional resilience. It is not only the place and how we feel, but the attitude of others that makes for safety and security.

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work 'Welcome'

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work ‘Welcome’

Joslyn Hobbis, BA Fine Art ‘Different, Not Less’  

H57cm x W167cm digital print on paper

My work was inspired by my experiences of interacting with people with invisible disabilities, as well as those with more obvious ones.  I wanted to show how at any given time you may be interacting with any number of people who have a disability and sometimes you not be aware of it.   Some people may have an intellectual disability, a medical issue which is not immediately apparent, Autism, or a mental illness as well as many different kinds of more obvious disabilities.  All are worthy of inclusion in society and we should help those with difficulties to be a part of our world as well as strive to be a part of theirs.

People who are different are just that – different – not less.

Setting up exhibition 31

Alli Inwards, BA Illustration ‘Origins’

Mixed Media (thread drawing on foam board, collage, acrylic, corkboard support)

Articles with titles such as ‘Lesbian erotica on show – By Women for women’ and dated dot matrix style printed documents referencing Sylvia Pankhurst’s socialist activity were in the archival box that provided inspiration for ‘Origins’. Borrowing from ‘L’origines du monde’ (Courbet), this illustration is by a woman primarily for the female gaze. Copies of archive material are juxtaposed with other historical and contemporary references around the focal point of a vagina.

The principal goal with this image is to arrest the viewer, to start a conversation – it is not intended to be a piece of wall decoration. The conversation is as much about Illustration and the role it has to play within the body of a largely fine art dominated world, as it is about women – especially women within the male controlled media and art world. It is unashamedly feminist; it is not misandry.

Imperfections and the ‘unpolished’ nature of the work are intentional and a reaction against the unrealistic, airbrushed versions of perfection that relentlessly present themselves to females of all ages in magazines, digital media, ads, even in selfies and profile photos. Related to this is awareness that the postmodern era of art may be giving way to a new ‘ism’ grounded in authenticity. What will this mean for women as individual, as a collective, as artist and as subject?

and what could it mean for Illustration?

Setting up exhibition 32

Daire Lawlor, BA Illustration

I come from a family of medical practitioners, and so I have grown up around hospitals and doctors and nurses my entire life.  Talk about medicine has been a staple part of my growing up, and as someone who suffers from chronic recurring depression and insomnia, constant visits to my GP are something of the norm.  This project allowed me access to the archives where stigma was present and art was made into a conductor of emotional resonance for those who suffered.  During my research, I began to wonder, how can I reflect the trials of mental illness?  Is it necessary to show the face at all, which initially had been so important to me?  In the end, I wanted to create something that was uncomfortable to look at, that was empty inside, hollowed out, and drained from the constant need to put up a front.  Mental illness renders you invisible to society, and yet also considered a burden.  In this piece, I wished to explore the feelings of otherness, powerlessness, seclusion, and, through the perception of others, the loss of personhood and autonomy.  


Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art  ‘She’s in a nightie and so forth’, (subtitles: Troll tweet to female MP/Female causes of insanity, Politician arguing against suffrage/Tweet from male MP to female MP, The 17th century rape exemption used until 1991/US Senator speech about marital rape/ Corinthians 14:34-35/Pope’s speech)

Understanding can never be assumed. As the French philosopher Derrida discussed many times, words only ever have meaning in relation to the other words that they are used in conjunction with or in relation to. What we say, what we do and even who we think we are is described by language. Language that can be interpreted and reinterpreted, corrupted and changed beyond all intent.

As a professional Interpreter I’m placed in a position of privilege and power in relation to this very aspect of understanding. The power to have control over the interpretation, the meaning and intent.

I have begun to explore texts, letters, reports and articles from people within power in history and compare the beliefs and prejudice that I saw to contemporary society. With this I am starting to ask; Do we ever have full understanding of the intended meaning of a message or piece of text? What happens when we see it out of context? From a different source, or translated in an unexpected way? Does it gain or lose power? Do meanings of terms stay the same through time? Or do we simply apply our current understanding to them?

Exhibition set up

Madeline Sparrow, MA Fine Art

With art I find it easier to translate my thoughts and emotions, for communication is a weakness for me. This goes back to my dyslexia; some part of me feels like an outsider because my sense of language differs from others. I suppose it is the child-like empathy, which is why art gives me creativity from the difficulty in communicating, especially in written language. Art welcomed me into a warm embrace to continue speaking out loud with a visual noise of colours. Some have critiqued my style, but I conclude that it is my own Madeline-ish madness in the moment.

I became inspired by UCA Archive to re-think my narrative art. I questioned myself in how my body is a mechanical object in writing. I felt merely typing or handwritten was not enough to thinking beyond my own movements. Instead of the process in making, I want to reflect on how the audiences would use their bodies in part of the narrative. I thought about the visual appearances and the energy to read. I felt Braille was a unique development in the creation. Due to awareness in disabilities and the harsh word beginning with ‘Dis…’ I want to remove this ‘disadvantage’ of who we are.

Abilities are a strength in which we learn and grow in knowledge. I felt that those who can read Braille are advance to the power of this secretive language in which appears in everyday life. The Braille is not about the dots, but the space surrounding them. As the artist who wrote these narrative and have not the ability of actually read Braille, yet, I felt as if my words were simplified into an extraordinary pattern basis. The aesthetic feeling of movement of my finger around the space and dots became curiosity at its best.

Setting up exhibition 24