Colored paper, laser ink
45 7” x 7” x 1.5” and 45 3” x 3” x 1.5”
A project that began as a performance piece, Strange Inheritance, A Riot Book is a set of uniquely printed art books that pull from the research, documents, photographs, and performances that I conducted around the visualization of queer monuments in public spaces. Traveling the US and Europe, I cleaned and helped restore Queer Monuments that were under disrepair or just simply needed maintenance work. Along the way, I interviewed historians, activists, and scholars that work in the same vein of queer visibility and history making.
Using those materials collected, I created this art book installation that invites deeper inquiry into the way queer history is archived and seen. Due to the oppression of our communities and the rarity of materials (being of ephemeral quality such as pins, t-shirt, posters, etc.), much of our LGBTQ+ histories have either been discarded or sequestered to private and special collections. For this reason, I found it important to explore ways to visualize a different form for seeing and experiencing this cultural lineage project.
Riot Book consists of a collage of images and documents that were animated into a short animated film. Creating my own method of exporting and placing, the animated film was then converted to pages in the books so that each page was one frame of the animation. As the images go in and out of the pages, they cascade down the sides of the books, creating a three dimensional viewing experience of the book and its content. The pages were printed all at once, with each book being connected to the next by way of the cascading images. Because of this specialized way of printing, each book has an unnumbered amount of pages, ranging at around an inch and a half in thickness. In total, there were over 26,600 pages printed for this project. With hand collated colored paper and individual page printings, each unique book in this series is connected to one another by way of content and relationship to each bound book in succession.
Though each books contents are unique to that specific book, I inserted a poem I wrote that accompanies each book. The poem, I Want a Chosen Family, is a reference to Zoe Leonards poem I want a President, written in 1992. Zoe’s poem was an inspiration to me over the past few years and I wanted to use its patterning to talk about todays queer culture that I wanted to see around me. I Want a Chosen Family is an homage to the generations of queer people who we know and don’t know.
This project was created during my artist residency at Paper Machine in the fall of 2020.
I want a Chosen Family
I want a dyke for a mother. I want a fag father and I want him to give me an immaculate birth. I want my fathers groom to be in the room and I want them to to be the blood donor. I want to know the stories of my great grandparents and I want to know how they fought for the kids they didn’t know they would have and I want my blood to show that through generations of love, we are now immune to AIDS. I want my trans uncle to be the next drag king that will carry on the family name. I want my hair to be the color of cerulean blue, and for my eyebrows to match. I want to be in a union, not a marriage, with my lover and I want to know the pressure of having to live up to the nuptial rites and traditions of my chosen family tree. I want to read James Baldwin in seventh grade literature class and I want to buy the books with the five bucks that have Harvey Milk’s likeness on it. I want to be fifteen and have my math teacher look at me actually look at me and tell me that I am capable of achievements and worth their time. I want to have a blow out gender reveal party for my friend at 16 who has decided on their current gender identity and I want this to be the norm. I want to know why I can’t have this chosen family. I want to know why the lack of care for my community has seeped so far into our walls that it’s made us just as blind to our wavering rights. I want to know why our history is constantly erased, and why I have to look for it in the “special collections” at Universities and nonprofit organizations where napkins, poster, and pins and t-shirts are held like sacred material, because it’s all we’ve got. I want to know why every four years my ability to exist in this country is questioned and why I have to cherish the most basic of rights that the generation before me never received. I’m tired of being used for politics and I want to be the one debating my past, present, and futures. When can my life be the example. When can my life not be the problem and when will I be neither glorified or villainized, traumatized or sexualized, but just simply alive.