Pride is a Verb
"Pride Is A Verb" is an interactive installation that connects the historical, political roots of pride festivals to the contemporary, commodified celebrations we know today. Inspired by both the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion as well as a rise in "Rainbow Capitalism," "Pride Is A Verb" utilizes artist-made protest signs and cardboard cutouts to create a photo booth, allowing viewers to engage with materials from historical and contemporary pride celebrations, all while examining the notion of "spectacle" that many pride committees incorporate in their events. The space is also decorated with brightly colored fabrics and tapestries, creating the set for photos to be taken. The title suggests one must be active in their pride, otherwise they are merely spectators at best, bystanders at worst. A question on the gallery wall, "what does the future of equality look like?" invites viewers to literally and rhetorically answer. The result is a communal drawing mapping the diversity of visitors to the space.
Accompanying the installation is a projection of appropriated historic news coverage from early the queer rights movement in 1970s America. This surreal, soundless video creates a rainbow ambience that pulses in and out of legibility, both conceptually and visually. Part decoration, part metaphor, these videos further attempt to combine the political history of queerness in America with the celebratory nature of pride festivals.
The following is the original essay I wrote for the original partially-sanctioned installation at Real Art Ways, my employer:
At 1:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform, and Detective Charles Smythe and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine arrived at the Stonewall Inn. The police raided the bar, a common practice in the 60s and 70s, looking to arrest any patrons whose dress did not match their assigned gender. At the time, police officers would check genitals of anyone dressed in women’s clothes and arrest those who did not match their concept of a “woman.”
On this night, however, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn rebelled, inciting multiple days of resistance against social and police oppression. A year later, organizers planned and executed Christopher Street Liberation Day 1970, the very first iteration of what we now call Pride Parades.
In 2019, we recognize the political origins of modern pride parades. This photo booth attempts to connect our current conception of pride as a party, a celebration of queerness, etc., with the deep political roots of those before us. Rejecting the current commoditization of contemporary pride celebrations, this installation appears without any logo, corporate sponsorship, and even minimal approval from Real Art Ways (sorry Will!)
Yet the struggle is in fact long from over. Studies produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics report upwards of 41.8% transgender and gender non-binary youth have attempted suicide. 32 states allow harmful conversion therapy practices against minors, 28 states allow employers to fire employees based on sexual orientation and 30 states allow employers to fire transgender employees.
Accompanying the photo booth are two projections; one is minimal and ambient in nature, while the other uses appropriated footage from various news stories in the 1970s. Part decoration, part metaphor, these videos further attempt to combine the political history of queerness in America with the celebratory nature of pride festivals.
This is a time to celebrate our queerness, what makes us unique, and what makes us beautiful. But this is also a time to remember where we come from, and how far we have yet to go. I invite you to engage with the space, take photos with the signs, and write something in response to my prompt, “what does the future of equality look like?” I invite you to imagine a world without concepts as trivial as gender and sexuality -- what would life look like without the rigid roles we are socially cast into based on what our bodies do or don’t have? Lastly, I invite you to consider what we still need to work on. Even in the progressive New England, there is much to be done.
Neil Daigle Orians • Visual Arts Coordinator • Real Art Ways