Inqueeries of Space – Investigating queering as a practice to create intersectionally inclusive spaces
Inqueeries of Space is an artistic research project that investigates queering as a practice, by means of focusing on LGBTQIA+ experiences in Kalmar. The goal is discussing and developing queering as a tool that helps in working towards intersectionally inclusive spaces.
The spaces surrounding us are reflections of our current society’s values and norms, as well as of the people who created those spaces . While public spaces should be safe for everyone, this is not always the case. Instead, public spaces are often designed by and for the ‘human default’, which can be described as white, heterosexual, cisgender, male, able-bodied, and monogamous. In my project Inqueeries of Space I addressed how heteropatriarchal and misogynistic structures show within public spaces, making those spaces hostile for everyone who deviates from the human default. I investigated how queering can be developed as a practice and tool that helps in working towards intersectionally inclusive spaces.
By using artistic research and visual thinking I followed a playful and experimental approach to explore what queering as a practice can look like. I examined how public spaces can be queered by doing queer city walks, different physical and digital alterations of space, or using space in non-normative ways. Those practices served as metaphors that helped me in wrapping my head around structural issues regarding the inclusivity of space. The long-term goal is to translate those rather abstract explorations into formulating concrete guidance for actions on how to create intersectionally inclusive spaces.
A big part of my project was critically looking at norms within design, questioning what is supposed to be normal or professional, but also what is supposed to be inclusive or queer. For my working method this meant being playful, maximalist, experimental, and exuberant, while asking myself questions like:
- Does painting benches or buildings in rainbow colors create inclusive spaces?
- What happens if you look at a space through glittering rainbow glasses?
- What if your queer idol stood as a golden statue on the main square?
- What happens if you look at a space through a glass diamond?
- What does it mean to use a space in unexpected and rebellious ways?
Queering as a practice indicates choice, possibility, process, and a shift in perspective. Thereby, it has the potential to both disturb structures of power and celebrate marginalized experiences.
It is crucial to differ between stereotypes around LGBTQIA+ people (all glitter and rainbows) and queer aesthetics in a conceptual sense. I specified queer aesthetics as something non-universal, that challenges norms within design, and that often includes transgressiveness and maximalism. I observed the potential the terms queer and queering have when they are used less in the sense of a description or a label, but rather as a practice and action, and as a political and feminist term. Even though I focused on and collaborated with LGBTQIA+ people in Kalmar, Småland, I realized that queering goes beyond LGBTQIA+ experiences . I concluded that queering can be a change agent that dismantles, resists, and disturbs discriminative structures of heteropatriarchy within spaces.
Queering spaces means creating intersectionally inclusive and safer spaces for everyone.
The collaborative aspect of queering was vital for this project, so I included city walks together with other people and hosting a workshop in my research methods. We explored spaces in the fields of tension (however not clear binaries) of public/private, queer/non-queer, safe/unsafe, or inclusive/exclusive. Amongst others this meant sharing and discussing our perspectives, experiences, visions and wishes both in general and in connection to Kalmar, and mapping them out.
As a final reflection of my research I created a digital archive that shows the diversity and complexity of queering space. It enabled me to continue developing my own practice of queering and my own queer visual language. Together with this digital exhibition the goal is to encourage viewers to start thinking about the inclusivity and queerness of (public) spaces.
What makes a space queer?
How can we queer existing and create new queer spaces?
How can queer spaces be glimpses into utopia, and how can they provide space for imagining utopia?
Who and whose bodies are welcomed in which spaces?
Who and whose bodies are (in)visible?
How can we collaboratively work towards true inclusive spaces for a diversity of people?
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Aston, Helen, Emily Crompton, Sarah Renshaw, and Kathryn Timmins. 2020. Praxxis. Journal of Architectural Education 74, no. 2 (July 2, 2020): 280–87.
 Catterall, Pippa, and Ammar Azzouz. 2021. Queering Public Space. Exploring the Relationship between Queer Communities and Public Spaces. London: Arup.
Furman, Adam Nathaniel. 2019. Outrage: The Prejudice against Queer Aesthetics. The Architectural Review.
Mary Nardini gang. 2014. Toward the Queerest Insurrection. The Anarchist Library.
Vallerand, Olivier. 2013. Home Is the Place We All Share: Building Queer Collective Utopias. Journal of Architectural Education (1984-) 67, no. 1 (2013): 64–75.