In times when LGBTQ people are still being persecuted and even murdered as reported in Chechnya, forming a strong alliance and a platform for self-expression and is as important as ever. The art world seems to have finally woken up from its political slumber and yet queer people of colour are still severely underrepresented in the international art discourse. And while queer artists from numerous countries are creating works that are aimed at evoking a sense of unity, pride and resistance on a daily basis, their voices often remain unheard.
Transnational Queer Underground is a platform that was founded to tackle precisely this. Frustrated by how hard it was to find out about the amazing works that artists located outside the Western hemisphere were creating, Verena Spilker created a website on which artists from all fields could present their works and get in touch with one another. TQU has grown constantly ever since, serving as an archive of queer works ranging from short stories to street art. Everyone is invited to become a part of it by sending in five to twelve artworks and indicating whether they would like to become involved in the page’s online shop and whether they are interested in future artistic cooperation. In addition to the individual artists, a number of queer blogs, support organisations, music projects and venues from all around the world are featured on the site, putting a spotlight on interesting projects that might otherwise go unnoticed in the English-speaking media.
“I was inspired by Bruce LaBruce and GB Jones, two punk kids that didn’t feel at home in either the punk or gay scenes and therefore just decided to create their own thing,” – Verena Spilker
Verena explains that TQU was born out of their research on the International Pop Underground Convention, a festival that was held in 1991 in Olympia, Washington. Besides discovering a number of Riot Grrrl bands, whose protests against male domination and capitalism deeply resonated with her, she also found out more about the Queercore movement, which inspired her to be more proactive in her approach to culture. “I was inspired by Bruce LaBruce and GB Jones, two punk kids that didn’t feel at home in either the punk or gay scenes and therefore just decided to create their own thing,” says Verena. “Since then I’ve become actively involved in making zines, djing, organizing and creating the things that I think are missing”.
One of those things were exhibitions featuring international queer art, so Verena decided to turn #TheGalleryProject, the website’s virtual gallery section, into a physical exhibition. After successfully launching its first edition in Tallinn, Estonia, last month, she is planning to showcase it in nine other European countries this year. “I’ve never met most of the artists in real life, still we’ve managed to set up a quite impressive collection of artworks, either original or in print, as it’s almost impossible to send physical artworks from some countries”, she reveals. “It is all purely based on trust and a common belief that we want more diverse voices to be heard”.