Monuments, Sexuality, and Contested Spaces

  • Online event
  • Wednesday, 8 September 2021
  • Lecture by Dr Martin Zebracki, premiering on YouTube at 6pm. Part of our Monuments Research Season.

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How can public spaces be memorialised through art, and what critical role may sexuality play in this to promote (more) inclusive spaces? At the heart of this lecture lies a concern with the effacing of sexual minority groups. Drawing from insights gained in the multi-site AHRC-funded research project Queer Memorials with case studies based in the USA, the Netherlands and Poland, the focus of this talk is on a salient case of failure: Tęcza, Polish for 'rainbow'.

Unveiled in Warsaw’s city centre in 2012, this 26m-wide, rainbow-coloured arch by the artist Julita Wójcik was introduced as a symbol of joy, peace and connection. However, the artwork’s largely perceived LGBT+ symbolism met heated opposition from an amalgamation of ethno-nationalist, far-right, and religiously conservative parties.* The hostility against Tęcza, or a deemed ‘importation’ of Western LGBT+ rights and values, was accompanied by repeated arson attacks, leading to its destruction and removal in 2015. The social reproduction of Tęcza, spanning immaterial, imagined and digital ‘afterlives’ and mediated through social media platforms, presents a post-material narrative after the work’s physical destruction.

The debate about Tęcza continues to mark the increasingly precarious position of LGBT+ people within a growing conservative national climate. This talk tracks the erratic journey of public engagement with Tęcza and discusses how the politics over (anti-)LGBT+ memorialisation turned this public artwork into a dissonant, or ‘que(e)rying’, monument.

* LGBT+ is an acronym for people who are (self-)identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or any other non-heterosexual sexuality, including non-binary, asexual, pansexual, queer, or questioning.

Video subtitled by Stagetext.

About the speaker

Dr Martin Zebracki is an Associate Professor of Critical Human Geography at the University of Leeds. His research straddles the areas of public art, sexuality, digital culture, and social inclusivity and has been published in journals such as Progress in Human Geography, Urban Studies, and Social & Cultural Geography. Zebracki is joint editor of the Routledge anthologies Public Art Encounters (with Joni M. Palmer; 2018) and The Everyday Practice of Public Art (with Cameron Cartiere; 2016), and he is Editorial Board Member of Public Art Dialogue. Moreover, Zebracki is the Principal Investigator of Queer Memorials: International Comparative Perspectives on Sexual Diversity and Social Inclusivity, supported by a grant awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Monuments Research Season

Every Wednesday throughout September we will present new research around monuments in a variety of forms, ranging from pre-recorded lectures to podcasts and artists films.

Topics will include the relationship between monuments, gender and sexuality, the role of religion and politics, monuments and colonial memory, and artists’ responses to monumentality. All material will be available to access online on our website and YouTube channel.

See all Monuments Research Season events

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