Describe our LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Collections

Archives & Special Collections are running a project to help improve your searching experience when accessing our LGBTQ (lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) collections.

This focuses on the Working Press archive, books by and about working class artists, 1986-1996, and the Tessa Boffin, 1980s-1990s photography LGBTQ.

 

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Various research has been done into the suitability of controlled vocabulary for LGBTQ collections, and this project is starting to explore how to describe these specific collections.

We are looking for interested parties to take part for a day’s session in a pilot project to:

  1. Work with a sample of our LGBTQ archives, by describing them, and telling us how you would search for them.
  2. Tell us what you think of search terms provided via controlled vocabulary.
  3. Take a look at ways that you might contribute tags and search terms to our collections.

 

Sessions can be held in Farnham and Rochester, and time and date can be designed to suit the interested individual.

Interested? Contact Rebekah Taylor on archives@ucreative.ac.uk

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Exploring an LGBTQ Library

As part of the Tessa Boffin (photographer specialising in sex and sexuality in 1980s/90s) archive, we also hold her extensive  personal library which is accessible on the library catalogue.The collection is held in our Rochester campus and is available to view for reference only.

Personal libraries of artists are illuminating in terms of what inspired different projects, and what was of interest. The annotations and notes within the collections, highlight what was particularly important to Tessa.

It is also interesting to see the types and range of material that inspired this artists’ work – including fairy tales, the theatre, philosophy and psychology.

As well as highlighting interesting aspects into an artist’s personality and work, a personal library can also highlight the varied ways you can take inspiration from. This can also be relevant for creative writing, as you could devise your own fictional character from the types of material they keep…

 

Bookshelf shot 3Andromache - Theatre book with notesAndromache and notesBookshelf shot 2

Rebekah Taylor, Archivist & Special Collections Officer

Volunteering in the archives- MA Fashion

Volunteering experience of Lorna Harrington, alumni of UCA
As an MA Fashion student and volunteer at the Feminist Library, starting
to work with the UCA archives has been an exciting project.
I have been able to see first-hand at the Epsom campus how the art school has changed over the years through looking at past prospectuses as well as minute books. This has made me start to consider whether the art school is a feminist space, a topic I hope to explore while volunteering at the archives.
I have also had the opportunity to visit UCA Farnham where I was able to look at some of the Tessa Boffin archive and the zine collection. These were of specific interest to me, due to my studies in to feminism and my post graduate studies which have so far focused on creating my own zines and planning an exhibition.
The Tessa Boffin archive, is a collection of personal papers including hand
written notes belonging to former staff member and photographer Tessa Boffin. Part of the collection included her research for a proposed exhibition on a Billboard
which focused on a real life news story surrounding the alleged rape of a young woman by a member of her own sex pretending to be a man. Also included is the project proposal which really gives insight into what goes in to putting on an exhibition.
The zine archive includes a wealth of material and is certainly an inspiration to anyone thinking about creating their own, both in terms of content ideas as well as presentation.
I had the pleasure of looking at The Hissterics a zine created in 2001 by feminist artist Rachael House. Interestingly, since visiting the archives I have met Rachael who
was both a performer and stall holder at The Feminist Library winter fair.
From this meeting I was able to acquire three more of her zines;
C(o)unterculture–women’s land and Red hanky panky issues eight and nine. As part of my volunteering I hope to write a small guide giving an overview of Rachael House’s zine for those using the archive.
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Tessa Boffin Research: ACT-UP – AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power

UCA Archives are pleased to have hosted volunteers from Photography at UCA. Josie and Fran talk about their research on the Tessa Boffin Archive

They are looking at publicity material and reviews surrounding the AIDS exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies

ACT-UP originated in America in 1987, the community built from people suffering from HIV and AIDS, also people who were related to people that had been killed by the disease, and even people unrelated to the disease but supportive of the movement.

Our first encounter with ACT-UP was from a letter Tessa Boffin had received from ACT-UP Manchester, handwritten and signed by ‘Andy’, with leaflets of information and some articles of their movements, what stood out for us was the P.S at the end of the letter, reading; ‘This letter is the truth, it is not a rather pathetic attempt at telling a load of fibs!!’ What one of the articles stated was that the group ACT-UP Manchester ‘did not exist when the exhibition was at York’, in America the group were at their peak, protesting various causes for their campaign in our opinion this exhibition and the struggles to show it made the group want to spread globally.

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The main reason ACT-UP got  involved with the exhibition was not because it had anything to do with politics but due to the fact that it wanted to raise peoples awareness of HIV and AIDS, ACT-UP state that ‘we are not that concerned with it (Section 28*). We are not a Lesbian and Gay organization, we are concerned with AIDS and HIV’. This reason was one of the main things that sparked the protests as people just thought the exhibition was sexualised toward the Lesbian and Gay community.

Another thing to add would be that ACT-UP Manchester included with the letter was their own ‘Action News’ in which they discuss their interview with Mr. Royston Footer**. This was when members of ACT-UP convinced him that they were reporters and to get to him to get an explanation of why he had cancelled the exhibition in Salford City’s Viewpoint Gallery, when asked why he Footer said “I decide what is appropriate for a local authority gallery”. When the ‘journalists’ would not let this go Footer realised that he was being recorded and he made an attempt to snatch the recorder from one of the activists and dragged him across the desk “if you print any of this I’ll…” ACT-UP used this for demonstration of the aggression thrown upon them when trying to display calmly.

After this interview the tape was given to Scene Out, which then allowed for the story to make it to Manchester Evening News, when this was seen Councilor Thomas, deputy chair of Saldford Council Arts and Leisure committee, declared that he was unaware the exhibition had been cancelled and then arranged to see Mr. Footer to discuss the situation.

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All in all, one thing that we noticed about ACT-UP was that the group didn’t want the protesting to go out of hand and get into situations that became political; their demonstrations seemed to rock up a fuss everywhere.

 If anybody is wanting to read up about a more in depth history of ACT-UP, we suggest you watching the film that was made; United in Anger: A History of ACT UP the film gives insight into some of the reasons people joined the community and showed the demonstrations they held. Here is a link to watch the film on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrAzU79PBVM

* Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988: The amendment stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

** Mr Royston Footer was part of Salford City’s Council.

Thank you for reading our post.

Josie Evans and Frances Jackson – Second Year Photography

Tessa Boffin Research- Council Accused of Censorship

UCA Archives are pleased to have hosted volunteers from Photography at UCA. Josie and Fran talk about their research on the Tessa Boffin Archive

They are looking at publicity material and reviews surrounding the AIDS exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies

Photocopy of a newspaper clipping on the exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies. Discussing the ideas behind the exhibition and the artwork. The article describes a few various reasons as to why the Viewpoint Gallery initially cancelled the exhibition, some of the thoughts towards the exhibition were actually that it was seen as pornographic due to various poses in some of the imagery, whether this was an understatement of the ideas behind the imagery or it could simply be a  light minded opinion of the art, it would still not be a reason for the exhibition to be cancelled.

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Denise Birkenshaw, Salford Council’s principle art officer (at the time), held an initial meeting with two gallery programmers, Jane Brake and Paul Brownridge, in reference as to whether the show should continue or not, their overall decision was cancellation, what was interesting about this factor was how the matter was not actually discussed with anybody else on the Council’s committee and it was basically and overall opinion of Birkenshaw herself, however some other articles discussed the fact that Royston Footer from the council committee cancelled the event. It was said that ‘Birkenshaw’s decision was influenced after discovering that when the exhibition was in York’s Impressions Gallery, one of the pictures was removed to an adults only area after the police request. Other than this there were no incidents.’

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A quote from the article said that ‘…a council spokesman gave the official reason that the show was “not suitable for a public gallery where young children might be”.’ this shows the conflict that the exhibition had with the council’s ideas of right and wrong. The idea that the imagery was not suitable to be shown in a ‘family gallery’ was slightly outrageous in the sense that the idea of Ecstatic Antibodies was to not horrify people, but to bring peoples attention to the matter and help the crisis, suggesting that maybe the younger generation should be able to view such things in the intentions of learning about such diseases and safer sex.

The majority of articles and opinions have actually been based on a single image, Tessa Boffin’s Angelic Rebels: Lesbians and Safer Sex, which shows two women embracing (fully clothed) with sex toys and various other objects on the floor, the article that we looked at taken from The British Journal of Photography actually captioned the image “Oral sex? Tessa Boffin thinks not”, suggesting that their views were that the image was sexually explicit. Tessa ‘told The British Journal of Photography: ‘A lot of the work as been badly misread… two women dressed as angels who end up embracing: they (Birkenshaw) said my work was about lesbians having oral sex… It’s about lesbians and safer sex’.’ The fact of the matter is that there was no communication, for something that was meant to speak out to the public about heath and disease it became about sex and the right to show the human body and their relationships.

Thank you for reading our post.

Josie Evans and Frances Jackson – Second Year Photography

Tessa Boffin Research: Lesbian erotica on show: By women, for women

UCA Archives are pleased to have hosted volunteers from Photography at UCA. Josie and Fran talk about their research on the Tessa Boffin Archive

They are looking at publicity material and reviews surrounding the AIDS exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies

This next blog we are talking about small article in the ‘The Pink Paper’ about the show Lesbian Erotica and how a show has finally been made for women to express themselves. The photograph the article used, is the most used Tessa Boffin image when talking about sexuality, and the comments that are made in the article are in support of this exhibition, for example: ‘For too long the portrayal of lesbian erotica has been by men, for men, from past to present’.

The majority of imagery used to display women are sexualized, however is this opinion of the artist or whether the viewer took that opinion. The Angelic Rebels: Lesbians and Safer Sex displays multiple ideas behind HIV and AIDS, also the ideas of teaching people about safer sex. It is true to state that most artistic work that has been produced about women have been by men, this demonstrates the ideas that male fantasies fuels their imagination for creating art, this is not a bad thing, however the article displays the joy that finally there was an exhibition containing work of women that was created by women, in a sense allowing ‘…women to give their side of the story’.

Tessa Boffin, being a lesbian herself, was able to express her own opinions on her sexuality through her art, ‘…female homosexuality has been almost exclusively a matter of male titillation’ this quote from the article expressing the fact that imagery of lesbians were normally seen as for the pleasure of men, from Tessa’s perspective she moved this idea to the expression of her own experiences and also in the idea of helping others to understand.

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Pornographic styled imagery is mostly aimed towards the male audiences, we are not suggesting in any way that the imagery in Ecstatic Antibodies was pornographic, but that the ideas towards sexualisation of women are mostly aimed for men. For a slightly crude example, there are not many porn sites that are aimed at women in this day and age, so the fact that this exhibition was created for the soul purpose for women caused for slight celebration in the ability for women to express themselves without being seen as sexual. The idea that women are viewed as sexual objects but are not meant to enjoy the sexual world is borderline brutish, ‘…Representing and repossessing their own sexuality’ that was the aim of the exhibition and is now the main focal point in society today, this has not changed.

comic

‘We’re Taking Lesbian Sexuality Back from the Male Gaze* and the Result Is Awesome’

“This comic says it all about men co-opting lesbian sexuality for their own pleasure – and how we can take it back. Finally, the kind of queer media we’ve been wishing for!”

The reason we chose to refer to this comic, relating to the article By Women for Women as it helps our argument on the fact that the male gaze is constantly around the sexualisation of women. This comic strip shows the mindset of lesbians when growing up and when in relationships, they are still affected by the men in and around their lives, their preferences in media (films, TV programs and music) created by men and aimed at men, they are not targeted at a female audience making it harder for lesbian women growing up in a world were sex is aimed at men. The comic is humorous, however at the same time it really pushes the feelings that become overpowering in some women’s lives, the ideas that everything they say and do is for a sexual cause, but of course the ending reveals that even though she felt this way she overcame it and told everyone that it is none of their business what she does in her private life, this linking to Tessa Boffin’s cause to express her opinions on HIV and AIDS, as it shows how peoples opinions of the subject that is being fought for sometimes downs out your want to continue, but Tessa did not stop until she was heard, like the women in the comic.

*“The NY, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975). It is used to describe when the audience is put into the perspective of a (heterosexual) man. Female characters are sexualized, and the camera may zero in on female body parts considered sexual. This takes after the psychoanalytical term brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan.

Thank you for reading our post.

Josie Evans and Frances Jackson – Second Year Photography

Original comic: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/lesbian-sexuality-male-gaze/

Tessa Boffin Research – Public opinion based on one image from Ecstatic Antibodies

UCA Archives are pleased to have hosted volunteers from Photography at UCA. Josie and Fran talk about their research on the Tessa Boffin Archive

They are looking at publicity material and reviews surrounding the AIDS exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies

Public opinion based on one image from the overall exhibition

We are Josie and Fran and we have been working on the Tessa Boffin archive, listing and looking at the things that she had collected in connection to Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology. The book and exhibition launched with it represent and powerful exploration of both images and text of the AIDS crisis. The contributors disrupt the politically laden mythology of HIV and AIDS, and affirm the persistence of love and desire in the face of death.

Tessa Boffin, a photographer was the first British lesbian artist to produce photography work in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Together, she and Sunil Gupta curated the travelling exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology, and edited the accompanying book. Her Angelic Rebels: Lesbians and Safer Sex (1989), remains one of the most important photographic artworks to address AIDS from a lesbian perspective. Boffin was active in promoting the importance of lesbian photography, and in bringing it to a largely ignorant audience, she was able to mould it into a subtle language with which to articulate specific aspects of the lesbian experience generally erased in mainstream culture.

‘‘Homosexuality is an evasion/flight of difference.”

IMG_4796While looking into different items we came across what we thought was an article written about the exhibition, after reading it in further detail we realised that it was a letter that someone had written in to The British Journal of Photography. The following writings express some of the quotes we found interesting, ‘…bizarre sexual fantasies will merely reinforce the (supposed) popular misconceptions of the nature of AIDS’. We feel like this may have been kept to show the public’s view and the views that they themselves (Tessa Boffin and Sunil Gupta) thought that they would come across during this exhibition, seeing as most of the clippings that we have sorted through detail the fight that they had trying to get the show seen. In this letter his comments seem to portray an uneducated and unnecessary attitude towards the work of Ecstatic Antibodies; ‘Exhibitions of pretentious ‘artistic’ fooleries may have good publicity value, but will contribute nothing to the understanding of the disease.’ – seeing as most people that didn’t know the whole side and the purpose of the exhibition this was their main opinion, it was about sex and not about the story of the aftermath from various artists.

‘The militant sexual activists (of whatever predilection) may conduct business as usual under the banner of ‘safer sex’; there is no particular reason why the good people of Salford should be belabored with their theatricalities under the thin pretext of ‘AIDs awareness’, and no amount of exhortation to safer sex will necessarily result in saner sex.’ Martin describes the exhibition executives as ‘militant sexual activists’ which allows us to suspect that his opinion of the actual exhibition being put up is a way of protesting for sexuality, rather than the awareness of HIV and AIDS. A few other articles we read suggested similar ideas, that maybe the show did not display the right amounts of awareness for the HIV, AIDS and safer sex, however the majority of viewers did not go and see the show. The majority of the articles and pieces of writings we have looked at actually suggest the split of opinions, however the majority of positive views come from the gay and lesbian community, people suffering with HIV and AIDS or women, although this is just a brief first overlook it is something that stands to mind about the opinion of people who don’t fit these genres.

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After reading, it had become clear that Martin J Dobson knew about activity’s that had been going on with Salford Council and by the sound of what he had written into the magazine he was in agreement that it should not be shown, or at least been one of the many that they thought would complain about the nature of the exhibition. All this negativity was based off of one image, his response to this was this ‘My apologies to any contributors whose integrity I may have mistakenly impugned, obviously it is difficult to judge a complete exhibition from a single picture’. From this we believed that his apology was sincere – however it displays that he himself believes that his opinion was a judgment made too irrationally.

 Thank you for reading our post.

 Josie Evans and Frances Jackson – Second Year Photography

Well behaved women seldom make history…

March is Women’s History Month and UCA’s archives & Special collections are shining a spotlight on female contribution, and female struggles towards and within the arts.

Looking at the themes of ‘well behaved women seldom make history’ and ‘for most of history anonymous was a woman’ we will be tweeting our images through #UCAWHM (University for the Creative Arts, Women’s History Month). Also look out for #photography #womenshealth #womensfashion among others. Access our twitter @uca_ae

We will also be undertaking a talk and hands on session with our archives – ‘men act, women appear’. Book for this event here

Also take  a look out for our pop up event in Farnham Library of Great Women in History!

We will be putting the spot lights on our institutional archives dating from 1889, tracing numbers of female students attending, ‘female’ courses, biographies of female students and teachers. How did females fare within art education from 19th century onwards? Who were the key female pioneers of UCA? What about the ‘nameless’ women, or anon?

'i'm pitting myself against the men and i'll win' - Gail Wilson, only photography student in the year

‘i’m pitting myself against the men and i’ll win’ – Gail Wilson, only photography student in the year

Our collections also will look at key females, such as photographer Jo Spence, who did photography work from the 1970s related to her own breast cancer, Tessa Boffin, who did LGBT photography work from the 1980s, also looking at gender identity, masculinity, femininity, perceptions of rape. We see who she is inspired by. We also take a look at her links with organisations such as Feminists against censorship.

The Working Press, books by and about working class artists, questions what it means to be working class, and questions what it may mean to be a working class female.

Our animation archives highlight portrayal of women in animation, including portrayal of female politicians, such as Margaret Thatcher, in Margaret Thatcher, Where am I Now?, 1999 and our royal family, such as Queen Victoria in Great, the Lives and Times of Isambaard Brunel, 1975

Email archives@ucreative.ac.uk to access us, and be inspired by our extraordinary women!

Rebekah Taylor,

Archivist & Special Collections Officer

Call For Exhibition Artwork: LGBT Representation and Photographic Discourse

Shake the Bottle: We are seeking new/recent photographic work that reflect and capture contemporary LGBT experience, culture and politics. Submissions will be towards an exhibition exploring shifts in photographic representation and discourse between the late 1980s and now.

The catalyst of this event is the UCA archive of Tessa Boffin, an LGBT photographer in the 1980s/90s, who undertook work around AIDS and exploration of the tensions between contemporary media representation and ways in which performance and stereotype could be exploited through tableau, drawing on historical and mythical figures. With Sunil Gupta, Tessa co-curated Ecstatic Antibodies, an exhibition which contributed to the role that images played in the understanding of AIDS. Tessa Boffin, (with Jean Fraser) also edited ‘Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs ‘(1991). The catalogue is available here

Keywords: LGBT gender & sexuality, HIV/AIDS, performance, masquerade , politics of representation

The exhibition will be at the Herbert Read Gallery, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, to take place in September 2015. Please see here for further information on the Gallery and previous exhibitions

A series of talks responding to the themes raised will follow

Dates for submission: Work should be sent by Tuesday 31st March 2015, 5pm. Please submit as PDF with an artist’s statement (maximum 300 words) contextualizing the work, to Adrian Lovis at alovis@ucreative.ac.uk

Selection outcomes will be notified by the 30 th May 2015.Tessa Boffin image

For any further information or questions please email Adrian Lovis at alovis@ucreative.ac.uk

Images from ‘The Sailor and the Showgirl’, by Tessa Boffin

 

AIDS in Image: World AIDS Day

For Worlds AIDS Day on the 1st December, we are shedding a light on our resources in Archives and Special Collections, and how material on AIDS or the body and disease, can be used in your creative practice. You can find our archive catalogue on our website, and you can search for keywords such as AIDS or disease.

Tessa Boffin, undertook photography work around AIDS, in the 1980/90s, a terrifying time when the stigma of AIDS was just emerging, and the persecution of the LGBT communities in this regard was most notable, with backlash from the media. The adverts around AIDS at the time, including this advert highlight the terror around this.

Tessa Boffin co-curated an exhibition, Ecstatic Antibodies, with Sunil Gupta in 1990 which played an understanding in how image contributed to the AIDS crisis; the finished book  is available on our library catalogue

Ecstatic_Bodies

 

Her archive  shows the whole artistic journey related to her work with AIDS. of her original notes shows exactly where she got her inspiration from, relating to the persecution of LGBT communities via the media. Her carefully articulated notes document different media forms and how they portray LGBT communities, and AIDS, such as radio and television, with the name and date of the programme. After providing a summary of the media, she analyses the material to see how it can be used in her own artistic practice.

Coursework regarding her AIDS work

Coursework regarding her AIDS work

 

Her study notes also use religious imagery, including images of Martyrs, and her work Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune: AIDS and the Body Politic, also references Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Her archive also includes reviews on Ecstatic antibodies.

We also have the archives from our previous 6 art schools, which includes student magazines, which highlight attitudes to LGBT issues, and safe sex, with one magazine with the front cover on AIDS.

So how can material on AIDS in the 1980s be used for Creative Practice today? Well one of the areas is theoretically to look at the social commentary related to this practice :-

how does the media’s voice differ from the 80s -90s? Does it? What do differing newspapers say? Why do they have that perspective?

What are the attitudes to safe sex then and now?

Is image and disease still a key area in Creative Arts? Why do you think that image and Disease works?

Look through the images related to AIDS in our archive.  What significance regarding the colour? Why are there allusions to Shakespeare?

The topic of persecution

Practice based creative work has also be created in relation to AIDS work. Recently first year Fashion Promotion students created responses to Tessa Boffin’s archive, in an exhibition entitled Stolen Glances, after a book by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser.  This was done as a homage to her, looking at her technique.

Another way of looking at this, is ‘then and now’- would these 1980s/90s images fit in today’s setting? How would you interpret them?

To find more about our AIDS archives, you can access our catalogue on our website, and search for ‘AIDS’. Alternatively you can email us at archives@ucreative.ac.uk for 1-1 tutorials. We can also advise on other AIDS collections and archives.

For further inspiration take a look at library books in our library catalogue on AIDS