Safe Haven is a community focused project that explores the intersection of place, belonging and queer identity in Tasmania. In 2018, I visited the homes of 3 people from the LGBTIQ+ community to talk about their experience of being queer and why they like to call Tasmania home, and I created billboard artworks in response to these interactions.
I visited Caleb, a young gay Aboriginal man, on Country on the outskirts of Burnie and I found his spiritual connection to the Land and how that intersects with his queer identity and idea of home incredibly powerful. What was particularly moving was the strength Caleb finds in his Aboriginal identity and how that offers refuge when he is experiencing oppression relating to his gay identity.
I visited Holly, who is non-binary, on their boat that they live in in Sandy Bay. It soon became very apparent that Holly’s hope and passion for making a difference was very significant to the way they make meaning and find a sense of belonging in this place.
And I visited Felicity, a transgender woman who lives on a beautiful property near the Snug tiers in Margate. Despite Felicity’s adoration and dedication to the weather —Felicity is a retired meteorologist—her eyes lit up the most when she spoke about her love for her partner and the landscape in which their home is situated.
For decades, queer activism in Tasmania has responded to the relationship between our island state and the mainland. Some campaigns have even irreverently proclaimed, 'we're here, we're queer, we're not moving to the mainland'. These billboards respond to the connection between queerness and place, not through refusal, but through belonging. As Tasmania's geographic and cultural spoils attract the attention of those from elsewhere, these billboards aim to invite the viewer to inhabit and witness the personal and political renderings of our state.
They use a combination of photography and quotes to articulate the reasons why members from an at risk community choose to remain in regional areas rather than relocating to more populated cities, and explore how queer community members define and experience home, from both within and beyond the walls of a house.
The billboards will be on display May-July 2019 in Mathers Place, Hobart.
This project was supported by the City of Hobart, Working It Out and the Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia.
Image 1: Billboard artwork #1: Caleb
Image 2: Installation view of billboard #1
Image 3: Billboard artwork #2: Holly
Image 4: Installation view of billboard #2
Image 5: Holly (participant) standing in front of billboard - image courtesy of the City of Hobart
Image 6: Billboard artwork #3: Felicity
Image 7: Installation view of billboard #3
Image 8: Felicity (participant) standing in front of billboard - image courtesy of the City of Hobart
Image 9: Dexter (artist) in front of billboard #1 - image courtesy of the City of Hobart
Image 10: Holly (left), Dexter (center), Felicity (right) at Safe Haven launch - image courtesy of the City of Hobart