Interview with Visual AIDS about the Wrrqshop

12Feb15

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My lovely collaborator Ethan Shoshan and I did an interview with Visual AIDS (who we love) about the Wrrqshop.  Here it is in its entirety.  (actually believe it or not originally it was longer!!)  For me it felt good to articulate some of the thinking behind what we’ve been up to.  Here is an excerpt:

How do you see art, craft, fashion, and style as important for activist or community-building causes?

Quito: From the beginning the WERRRQSHOP was conceived of as a space for queer movement-building and collaboration. It isn’t *just* about connecting the young people to artists who can mentor them—it is about helping them understand the systemic forces behind their very personal struggles, and connecting them with groups like Trans in Action or the Audre Lorde Project who are organizing to address some of those issues. It doesn’t always work, but we try to seed the conversations we have while we craft with current issues or histories they should be aware of. We’re really excited about the upcoming Play Smart WERRRQSHOP with Visual AIDS on February 13, where we can be super explicit in discussing HIV/AIDS. The first one we did, last fall, was a blast, with some pretty vibrant cross-pollination.

For many of the artists Ethan and I have pulled into the WERRRQSHOP, being queer is an inherently political identity. Many of us are involved in one form of activism or another—the very way we live our lives is a form of resistance. How we present ourselves in the world as queers, the external markers of fabulosity or gender non-conformity that become part of our personal style, are a form of visual resistance to the dominant culture. Not to mention many of us are in one stage or another of questioning our genders. Providing encouragement and a safe space to make identity-specific drag is a form of activism we are delighted to provide.

Every time I read about another state deciding to allow gay marriage, I think about the young people. Our problems as a community are not over when the issues personal to one demographic are resolved. As long as there are young people who still show up at Sylvia’s for emergency shelter, we as a queer community are not fully mended.

We queers are supposed to be looking out for each other, supporting each other in healing from the lies and violence of our post-colonial world, sharing our skills and resources with each other. But the bridges between us are not always there, or can have fucked-up power dynamics attached to them; not everyone has worked out their shit yet. Family Dinners are great—we all have to eat, so why not eat together? Making things together at the Wrrqshop is an extension of that family time, another cross-community-building opportunity.

Ethan: I’m glad to be part of all this with you Quito. I would note though we are not living in a “post-colonial” world, in fact we are living in a very misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, classist, economically disparate gender-biased patriarchal consumer culture which disconnects us from the very real impact and weight of our actions and words. In fact its very colonial. I think bell hooks says it best with “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” because its the interplay of the social and political systems prevalent in the US and much of the world. Its like we live as 2 or even 3 different kinds of identities and sometimes have to fight with our own internalized destructive tendencies, self hate and shame on top of all the social injustices. Anyway this is a larger discussion and we try and let it all out creatively.

Read the whole interview here.

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