Below, Behind, Across: Bttm Methodology and Queer Representation in Contemporary Art
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This practice-led PhD investigates how socio-ecological art practices can facilitate queer representation in Aotearoa. Through the development of the research project, a bttm methodology emerged as an activating agent across a series of art installations, participatory workshops, queer history walks and discussion groups. Drawing on queer theory and socio-ecological art practices, bttm methodology is a guide to my art-making that valorises ‘lowly’ or marginalised positions. bttm (bottom) was developed with Val Smith and encompasses a range of queer socio-political relations, past and present, including: a receptive position in intimate relations, ethical alliances between the human and nonhuman, and a grounding in the whenua of the Aotearoa. below, behind, across considers the potential to produce queer knowledge and empowerment by adopting creative counter-positions, recalling queer histories and resisting oppressive uses of power. Drawing on the work of Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Jack Halberstam, this research generates artistic platforms for queer representation that challenge dominant colonial, capitalist, and heteropatriarchal narratives. As the site of the first Gay Liberation Front (GLF) protest in Aotearoa in 1972, Rangipuke (Albert Park) in the centre of Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), is the physical and conceptual starting point of below, behind, across. As such, Rangipuke constitutes fertile terrain for exploring critical intersections of queer, environmental and colonial-capitalist discourse. Walking in Trees (2019) and Queer Pavilion (2020), two significant research projects, involved hosting a diverse range of artist performances and installations in temporary structures in this location. The GLF was an activist group formed by university students who sought liberation from discrimination and the confines of heteronormativity. My artistic research exhumes local history to reclaim critical moments of radicalism in queer politics. Like the GLF, my art practice and bttm methodology emerge from a university campus adjacent to Rangipuke; in the spirit of this movement I also seek to question hegemonic power, claim queer representation, and actively engage in creating co-operative and socially just formations.