Louis Blue Newby, 2021
About the work
“The archives is a fiction. Nobody knows that better than queers – people who have had to cope with the fiction of a socially prescribed straightness. Queers make up genealogies and worlds. So let us write it down. José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity.
Named after an ancient mapping technique, where coastlines were described through paragraphs of text as a device for sailors to estimate their positions at sea, the title of this work is specifically inspired by Samuel R Delany’s invocation of the periploi as a tool in mapping the gay sexual landscape of Times Square in his seminal text Times Square Red / Times Square Blue.
Periploi_1/3 (2021), a panelled silkscreen on engraved plywood and aluminium, maps an archival space, one informed by queer and subcultural printed ephemera. The archival function of this work serves to devote space to these important artefacts, ones which have been long neglected by sanitised and cis-heteronormative mainstream cultural archives.
The work also seeks to question the belief we hold in archives as objective in their historical accounting. As outlined by Muñoz in the quote above, archives have always been results of subjective decision making as to who is and is not represented in our cultural histories.
“I wanted this subjectivity to be held at the fore of this work, to do so I leaned into my personal subjectivity when choosing, placing, and scaling each individual artefact. With some images large and some small, some on wood and some on aluminium, some engraved and some printed, the visual hierarchy at play across the works surface becomes nuanced and complex, reflecting the choices made within the canons of our social histories.”
This work is part of a series of three.
This artwork, Periploi_1/3 (2021) is a triptych made up of three square panels; the left is aluminium and the two on the right are plywood. Black and white imagery, text and drawings cover the three panels that depict comic book-like stories about queer culture. Some text is also burnt into the plywood panels, appearing in a dark brown.
A black line divides the two halves of the image. On a grey background, a printed image in black of a figure with a naked woman sitting on their forehead is partially covering the surface. The words “Telepathic”, “Gemma” and “Sex” fill the left hand side. On the right, on a beige textured background, brown engravings of comic book heroes overlap and miscellaneous pop culture icons and kitsch designs are dotted about. Crops of images are partially visible around the edges.
A faint and slightly see-through outline of a blender sits central to the image. In the background are crowded black printed images of indistinct cartoon characters. Two identical figures face each other in the centre, joined partially in a kiss, although the tops of their heads are cropped off. Along the bottom, black stencil-like text reads: “Committing a Crime Against Nature”
Detail of the main Periploi image. On a white background, a light metallic surface viewed from an angle contains black and white printed images. The words “Stop Dreaming. Start Cruising.” , “Backword” and “Campaign for Homosexual Equality Brighton Group” can be read along the top and bottom. A male figure stands facing away with their trousers round their ankles, thumbing a lift. To the right is a pixelated image of a space satellite against a faraway galaxy.
On a pale wooden surface are graffiti- style scrawls including the word SAPPHO in bold capitals as well as a pug dog in a beauty contest tiara. A few lines of text are burnt into the wood, beginning with the phrase: ‘we are always changing’