Desperate Living C–19

We commissioned artists Sunil Gupta, Juliet Jacques, Fredde Lanka, Conal McStravick, Raju Rage with the right lube, Virgil B/G Taylor, Ain Bailey and Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski and Jamie Beard to realise this programme.

Sitting within our wider Desperate Living programme, which launched in February 2020, this new phase was conceived in response to the effects of COVID-19, whilst physical workshops and engagement were paused.

We collaborated with individuals, informal groups and charities who provide vital services for intergenerational LGBTQ+ people across London to realise a programme of live events, support groups, workshops, social activities and commissioning through digital and non-physical channels, establishing new partnerships with: The Outside Project, Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons’ Trust, Positive East, ELOP and Gendered Intelligence.

Individual projects worked to maintain intergenerational dialogues and queer online spaces, enact virtual wellbeing, explore international perspectives on public health and COVID–19, interrogate the term ‘community’ and critically reflect on the current status of queer and trans healthcare.


Pride Inside with Conal McStravick and Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons' Trust

Pride Inside was a series of queer, collaborative and intergenerational workshops to celebrate Pride at a social distance. Led by artist Conal McStravick and young persons aged 13-19, the project explored how LGBT+ artists, thinkers and activists have shaped Pride as a protest, a celebration and as an approach to living queerly. The young persons received art packs with materials as well as weekly contextual resources, and invited artists and activists Peter Scott-Presland, Ash Kotak and Linda Stupart, who contributed to sessions, leading towards a final online event during Pride week in July 2020.

Må bra?
Fredde Lanka

Må bra? (Feel Well?) was a series of free online wellbeing sessions focusing on sharing and creating tools to help us maintain a sense of wellbeing in the face of the Covid–19 pandemic. Each session was led by a different LGBTQIA+ artist who shared their own take on the subject including Fredde Lanka, Soofiya, Amy Pennington, Dex Grodner, Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson and G(end)er Swap. Må bra? Was conceived in collaboration with The Outside Project.

Desperate Living
Raju Rage and the right lube

Raju Rage and the right lube hosted a series of five focused research, conversation and sharing sessions throughout July and August working in collaboration with a group of fifteen people found through an open call. These constructive sessions unpacked the context and intersections of ‘community’, explored the history of queer movements, and planned positively for the present and future.

¶ Study Object Room organised by Virgil B/G Taylor

An online reading and discussion group organised by Taylor with Tiffany Sia, Sam Richardson, Maya Binyam, Zainab Haidary, Sophia Hussain and Ashkan Sepahvand. Each session or room revolved around a text, selected by an invited LGBTQIA+ artist/activist or collaborator. SOR represented a free and open space to congregate around a collection of timely, political, unexpected writings. This archive, alongside recordings of the sessions, is online at the ¶ Study Object Room website.

Remember to Exhale
Ain Bailey and Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski

Remember to Exhale is a meditation resource and tool. An exploration of what it means as an artist in this moment to produce and create from a place of rest and restoration. The notion of rest has been part of an

ongoing transatlantic conversation the artists have been participating in. To exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), the reminder to exhale, is meant to encourage and support the act of relaxation, healing and to aid in the recovery of trauma. Alongside their sound commission, Bailey and Ahaiwe Sowinski produced a limited-edition screen print with contemporary serigraph artist Aida Wilde, supporting the East London Out Project (ELOP).

Trans 20:20s
Juliet Jacques

Trans 20:20s was an eight-part podcast series created by leading writer and filmmaker Juliet Jacques, looking at life for young trans, non–binary and gender diverse people from across the UK and beyond, at the start of the 2020s. Juliet spoke to eight people in their twenties in 2020 about the tumultuous events of the past year including lockdown, recent changes in government legislation, and media representation in the UK. This unique record of the current moment looks ahead, with hope, at the decade to come. Trans 20:20s was created in partnership with leading trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence.

Jamie Beard

Illustrator Jamie Beard was commissioned through an open call for emerging LGBTQ+ creatives to create the graphic identity for Desperate Living C–19. Jamie created a series of illustrations, visuals, event posters and identities for different projects that explored the theme of lockdown and its effects.

Desperate Living C–19 was supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The London Community Response Fund administered by City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder and Mila Charitable Organisation.

Studio Voltaire’s Participation Programme has received additional support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

  1. Ain Bailey is a sound artist and DJ. She facilitates workshops considering the role of sound in the formation of identity and recently held a residency at the ICA, London. Exhibitions in 2019 included the group shows: ‘The Range’ at Eastside Projects, Birmingham; ‘RE:Respite’ at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland, and ‘And We’ll Always Be A Disco In The Glow Of Love’, a solo show at Cubitt Gallery, London. Last year, Bailey was commissioned by Supernormal and Jupiter festivals to create and perform a new work, ‘Super JR’. Currently, following a commission by Serpentine Projects, she is conducting sound workshops with LGBTI+ refugees and asylum seekers, as well as working on commissions for radio for Deutshlandfunk Kultur and Savvy Contemporary’s new radio station, SAVVYZAAR.

  2. Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski is a Minneapolis/London based, mixed media artist and designer, archivist and organiser. She investigates archives in relation to Black and minority ethnic histories and experiences in Britain and throughout the Diaspora, theorising and sharing her ideas on archives as spaces of therapy. Her current research focuses on the synergies between feminist, queer and (self-)archiving as curatorial and artistic practice. She is currently the archivist for the Rita Keegan Archive Project.

    Most recent exhibitions include, Show & Tell, Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths (2015), WARM Guerrillas: Feminist Visions, Minneapolis (2016), Stardate: 02.20.2017, Controlled Burn, Patrick’s Cabaret, Minneapolis (2017), Dunkle Energie/Dark Energy: Feminist Organising, Working Collectively, Vienna’s Fine Art Academy, (2019), Mercator: Distortions and Projections in Discovery, The Triangle, University Arts London (2019). 

  3. Juliet Jacques (b. Redhill, 1981) is a writer and filmmaker. She has published two books, most recently Trans: A Memoir (Verso, 2015), which was runner-up in Polari LGBT Literary Salon’s First Book Award in 2016. Her next book, a volume of short stories about the history of British trans and non-binary people entitled Variations, will be published by Influx Press in June 2021. Her short fiction, essays, journalism and criticism have appeared in numerous publications including The Guardian, New York Times, Granta, London Review of Books, Sight & Sound, Art Review, Frieze, Wire, The Washington Post, Five Dials, The New Inquiry and elsewhere.

    Her short films have screened in galleries and at festivals worldwide; she also hosts the political arts podcast/radio programme Suite (212) and teaches at the Royal College of Art and elsewhere. She featured on the Independent on Sunday Pink List between 2011 and 2015, and spoke at the PEN International Congress in 2014.

  4. Sunil Gupta (b. 1953, New Delhi India) is a photographer, writer and curator. He has exhibited internationally and published several books, including Christopher Street, 1976 (Stanley/Barker 2018) and Queer (Vadehra Art Gallery/Prestel 2011). His work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art (NY, USA) Tate Britain (UK), Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA), Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (Japan), Arts Council of Great Britain (UK) and Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA). Gupta’s major retrospective ‘From Here to Eternity’ opened at The Photographers’ Gallery in London on 9 October 2020. He is represented by Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery.

  5. Fred(rik) Andersson is an Illustrator and ceramicist. Originally from Sweden, for the last five years he has been based in London, working as an independent artist and educator. He works in a bold, colourful style across illustration, comic books and ceramics. His work is humorous and strongly narrative and addresses topics ranging from queer culture, family dynamics and sex.

    He is the artistic director for The Outside Project (UK’s first LGBTQIA+ Shelter and community centre) where he raises money, runs workshops and facilitates the Project’s physical and digital spaces alongside the diverse group of stakeholders who use them. Queer community is important to him. He believes that it is critical to recognise our own privilege and give back to the communities that inspire and educate his practice.

  6. Conal McStravick (b. 1979, Lurgan, N.Ireland) is an artist, educator and writer who makes solo and collaborative artworks, workshops and events that explore LGBTQIA and queer feminist activisms, cultures, histories and practices in moving image, performance and text. McStravick has exhibited in the UK and overseas including collaborative exhibitions and events at Generator, Dundee, CCA Glasgow, CCA Derry-Londonderry, Enclave, London and The Northern Quarter, Newcastle with collaborators including Laura Aldridge, Kathryn Elkin, Simone Hutchinson, Alexander Kennedy, Cara Tolmie, and Patrick Staff. He has appeared on panels and given presentations on Stuart Marshall, AIDS activism and broader cultural activisms at BFI Flare, Birkbeck, Concordia, Glasgow International and Chelsea College of Art, where he guest lectures. Mc Stravick studied at Glasgow School of Art and CRMEP Kingston, has served on the committee of Transmission Gallery, was selected as a LUX Associate Artist in 2011.

  7. Raju Rage is proactive about using art, education and activism to forge creative survival. Based in London and working beyond, they explore the spaces and relationships between dis/connected bodies, theory and practice, text and the body and aesthetics and the political substance. Their current interests are around value, care and resistance. They are a member of Collective Creativity arts collective, A People's Art Collective and a creative educator with an interest in radical pedagogy. Raju has a theirstory in activism, self and collective organised queer/transgender/people of colour movements and creative projects from which their politics and works draw on and form.

  8. The Right Lube is Maz Murray and Hava Carvajal, a trans couple who write about art, culture, trans feels, gender, queerness, assimilation, class and race. They focus on the different shiny ways that power tries to hide a violent system that is out to kill them and most everybody else. Before COVID they ran a Trans Hangout every two weeks in Bethnal Green, they now moderate an online trans Discord. They feel that being messy is an effective tactic to disrupt the pressures of neoliberal assimilation, but they also want to make money so they can afford their hormones. They are currently living in Basildon, Essex.

  9. Virgil B/G Taylor is an american faggot based in Beacon or London or Bremen or Berlin. He makes fag tips, an online speculative zine. He is one half of sssssssssSsss, a study-friendship with Ashkan Sepahvand and a member of What Would An HIV Doula Do?, a collective of artists, writers, caretakers, activists and more gathered in response to the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic. His work explores histories of care and crisis, magic and toxicity. In addition to his art practice, which has been exhibited and performed in the US and Europe, he is a member of the editorial collective of PINKO Magazine, a magazine of gay communism. He was a 2017-18 Queer|Art|Mentorship fellow in Fine Art during which he was mentored by Carrie Yamaoka, a member of Fierce Pussy. He has a masters degree in Public Histories from Birkbeck College, University of London and is a Meisterschüler under the supervision of Natascha Sadr Haghighian at the Hochschule für Künste, Bremen.

  10. Conal McStravick, Mosaic Pride Inside, film still, 2020

    Fredde Lanka, Events banner for Ma Bra?, 2020

    Raju Rage, A Pyramid Revealed By A Sandstorm, 2017

    ¶ Study Object Room organised by Virgil B/G Taylor, graphic, 2020

    Ain Bailey and Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Remember to Exhale, 2020

    Jamie Beard, Desperate Living graphic identity, Trans 20:20s identity, 2020 

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