In their most expansive sense, acts of care involve affection and support, both material and immaterial, for each other. This section considers the networks and communities of care developed among friends, lovers, organizers, and collaborators, and variously expressed by friendship, intimacy, companionship, and chosen kinship. For LGBTQ+ communities, caring for one another can be a radical act in the face of oppression, violence, and discrimination. Strategies for mutual support have long been organized by and for LGBTQ+ people. Everyday acts of care also underpin public-facing activism and help to make resistance and direct action sustainable.
The exuberance and intimacy of caring for one another within a community—whether at a bar, on a beach, in a commune, or as a collective—pervades the works shown in this section. Nightlife has often been a space where LGBTQ+ people can gather to socialize, cruise, and find community. The vibrant possibilities of going out to get together at bars and parties are depicted in Mohammed Fayaz’s illustrations for Papi Juice parties, and in Elle Pérez’s photographs. Inspired by gay and lesbian communes of the 1960s, Lavender Hill Historical Society addresses the desire for collective living, while LJ Roberts’s textile work maps recent constellations of queer and trans collective houses, activist groups, and friendships across Brooklyn. Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos bring attention to the labor required by acts of care and focus on networks created to support people with disabilities.
Elle Pérez’s ongoing, ten-year project in black-and-white photography is represented here by a sequence of photographs showing an array of moments and locations, including local feast day festivities for patron saints in Puerto Rico; underground wrestling rings and punk nights in the Bronx; and queer dance clubs in the Bronx, New Haven, and Baltimore. For Pérez, these community sites provide a backdrop for a detailed view into how people transform their daily aesthetics to reflect their sense of self.
We Have Always Been on Fire is a collaboration between filmmaker Sasha Wortzel and musician and performer Morgan Bassichis, whose work also appears in this section. In this music video, Bassichis sings a track off More Protest Songs! (2018) from within the dunes of Cherry Grove on Fire Island, New York. Bassichis describes the album, whose title can be understood as both an imperative (Listen to more protest songs!) and an eye roll (Not another protest song!), as “falling somewhere between adult lullabies and practical spells.” Simple chords and lyrical repetition offer up an incantation to the ghosts of Cherry Grove, a decades-long site of sanctuary for queer communities.
As Bassichis intones that “We have always been on fire / We have always been let down / We have always been an island,” Wortzel echoes this refrain visually, interweaving seaside imagery she captured in recent years on Fire Island with found footage by documentarian Nelson Sullivan from July 4, 1976, before the onset of HIV/AIDS. We Have Always Been on Fire culminates with Bassichis serenading the viewer from within the halo of a disco ball, evoking an intergenerational sense of loss and disappointment in the ongoing struggle for queer liberation.
Borrowing from the visual tropes of historical societies and house museums, this installation pays tribute to Lavender Hill, a queer commune founded outside Ithaca, New York, that was active through the 1970s. The artists first came together in 2017 to adapt for performance the beloved book The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions (1977), written by Larry Mitchell and illustrated by Ned Asta, both Lavender Hill members. For this project, the artists engage with and playfully reimagine archives of chosen family and queer radicalism by assembling photographs, original drawings, and fliers by Asta and other members of Lavender Hill, alongside new “ephemera” and an audio recording they composed.
The artists celebrate the release of a new edition of The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions (published by Nightboat Books), on June 1, 2019.
The dependency and labor inherent to care and intimacy are evoked in Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos’s open-captioned video. Consisting of instructions for acts of care between two or more people, Scores for Carolyn focuses attention on the actions shared within care collectives—groups of friends organized to support people with disabilities—and on daily acts of care among lovers, partners, and companions. The care collective that Zavitsanos participates in and that organizes McArthur’s nightly care routine is a source of inspiration for this work. The video also makes reference to the artist Carolyn Lazard, a friend and collaborator of McArthur’s and Zavitsanos’s. Their video pairs open-captioning and a slowed down reading of the text to facilitate communication for individuals with disabilities. By turns addressing physical movements of lifting a partner, navigating interior spaces, and more subtle shifts of emotion, the work blurs the distinction between supposedly static roles of caregiver and receiver.
Jeffrey Gibson blends the aesthetic heritages of Native America, rave culture, and punk rock, breathing new life into the traditions of Modernist Abstraction. In his paintings, sculptures, garments, performances and films, indigenous craftwork and ancient abstract references coalesce to form metaphysical bridges between 20th century art movements like Geometric Abstraction, Neo-Dada and Pop Art, and contemporary fields of inquiry such as Relational Aesthetics, Institutional Critique and Identity Politics.
Inspired by four years in the mid-1990s when Gibson called Chicago home, the exhibition’s title echoes the classic house jam of the same name by Chicago-born DJ Larry Fine, a.k.a. Mr. Fingers. The lyric referenced in the work, “Before the devil knows you’re dead,” is attributed to an Irish saying: "May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you're dead."
Says Gibson, “This was a period when house music was so welcoming and inclusive, and being in Chicago was very optimistic. There was a space carved out for people of different backgrounds coming together and celebrating each other, letting everything go and having a good time. It felt hopeful. That was a big critical experience for me in terms of thinking about how to respond to a challenging larger culture.”
Formed in 2013, Papi Juice is a roving, Brooklyn-based dance party and artistic collective that creates community events for queer and trans people of color and the people who love them. Evolving in size, venue, and scope of engagement over their more than five-year run, Papi Juice parties have maintained a commitment to creating intentional space for people of color at a time when many queer parties are mostly white. Mohammed Fayaz’s illustrations double as digital promotion for the parties, as well as vivid reflections of care and love among brown and Black queer and trans people of varying bodies and cultures.