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Exhibition: Queer view of austerity

ANTON JOHNSON reports on a photographic exhibition which gives an LGBT perspective on the economic crisis in Europe

Next Friday a ground-breaking photographic exhibition is opening at the White Rabbit gallery in north London.

Featuring work by Unite member Francisco Gomez de Villaboa, it aims to raise awareness and solidarity in resisting the austerity measures sweeping Europe.

They have had a profound effect on LGBTQ communities, especially in countries such as Greece and Spain.

Commissioned by the union's London and eastern region LGBT committee and the Sertuc LGBT network, the X-press Yourself exhibition is a series of portrait photographs of LGBTQ personalities from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Ireland and Spain who live in London and who've made their mark on the scene here.

Each portrait is accompanied by a text written by the subject on why they've chosen a particular setting to be photographed in and how it conveys the effect of the austerity policies both on them and their native country.

At first glance the images may not appear overtly political but the text conveys a personal message to inspire solidarity and encourage viewers to get involved in the resistance against austerity.

Some, such as an image (pictured) with the Spanish republican flag and Franco's monument being destroyed, are more explicit in their message.

The subjects are not political activists but when the project was explained to them by de Villaboa they understood its purpose and readily took part.

Communicating to an LGBTQ audience not necessarily on board with the struggle against the austerity policies of the Con Dem government is a major aim of the exhibition.

There is a need to get that message across to the wider LGBTQ communities which the LGBTQ People's Assembly is looking to do by use of Queer art and performance.

One such initiative is Left Front Art, a network of LGBTQ activists, who advocate the importance of art in communicating an alternative message in the same way the agit-prop trains did when travelling around Russia after the 1917 revolution.

In its history month events the Sertuc LGBT network uses film, performance and music to get across the importance of trade unions to LGBTQ people.

They're aimed especially at those who are young and working in non-secure employment, encouraging them to join and be active.

By linking with the politically active Queer scene, trade unions can have a presence and reach a section of the public who would not usually consider engaging with, or are sceptical of, trade unions.

One of the images from the exhibition was used by LGBTQ club night KAOS last month for its flyer, with the Unite logo and a message about resisting austerity.

Striking and inspiring, de Villaboa's show is well worth a visit to the White Rabbit.

And if any activist, union branch or trades council would like to display the exhibition at an LGBTQ event in their area, the Unite London and eastern region along with the LGBT committee will be happy to facilitate.


n X-press Yourself runs from January 24-February 24 at the White Rabbit, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16. There'll be an opening evening from 7pm on January 24, addressed by the secretary of the Sertuc LGBT Network David Sharkey, and some of the exhibitions images will be on display in Ipswich, supported by the local trades council, later this month.


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