Glenn Walls

Massacre – Bodies That Matter

Posted in Massacre by Glenn Walls on November 13, 2018

Massacre 5

Massacre (Disco Glare). Baseball bat, mirror tiles. 2018.

Massacre (after Felix). Digital Print on 4 x A3 paper stacks. 2018.

Massacre 8

Massacre (Disco Glare). Baseball bat, mirror tiles. 2018

Face 11

Massacre – Opening 30th November 2018

Kings ARI. 171 King St, Melbourne. Exhibition Dates: 1st December – 21st December 2018

Masscare Poster 9mm Ver 2

Massacre (after Felix). Digital Print on paper stack, 2018

Massacre – Bodies that Matter

‘Our blood runs in the streets and in the parks and in casualty and in the morgue…. ‘Our own blood, the blood of our brothers and sisters, has been spilt too often….

‘Our blood runs because in this country our political, educational, legal and religious systems actively encourage violence against us…

‘We are gay men and lesbians.’

From the ‘One in Seven’ Manifesto, Sydney Star Observer, 5 April 1991

During the 1970s, 80s & 90s in Sydney, Australia a high number of LGBTIQ people were violently bashed, murdered or disappeared entirely. Although some of these incidents were reported in the gay press and the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board[1] at the time many remained unreported to the authorities[2] due to cultural and societal attitudes with and within the NSW police force and the wider community tolerance of homosexuality. With the advent of AIDS in the 80s, “a significant media and social response of gay alienation within the context of ‘moral panic’ occurred” (Strike Force Parrabell 2018, p. 13).  ‘Beats’ such as toilet blocks, public parks and beaches (Bondi Headlands) where men met other men for sex or social contact became the target of gangs that felt it was their duty to rid and protect the community of such ‘intolerable’ behaviour [3].

By the late 90s, early 2000s with a growing acceptance within the wider community of homosexuality a series of media reports and research papers emerged within the mainstream press highlighting both the injustice caused to the LGBTIQ community and the entrenched homophobia and failure within the NSW police force that allowed a ‘killing and bashing spree” to take place with little repercussion to the perpetrators[4].

In 2018 the NSW Police Force released “Strike Force Parrabell”. Listed are the findings of the review of 88 deaths between 1976 and 2000. During this period “it is clear and beyond question that levels of violence inflicted upon gay men, in particular, were elevated, extreme and often brutal” (Strike Force Parrabell 2018, p. 14). The document acknowledges and highlights the unwillingness and inadequacies of the NSW Police Force, due to entrenched homophobia entwined with perceptions of Australian identity and masculinity, to investigate these crimes fully. However, this does not negate the trauma, anger, frustration and grieving for those left behind. “These people’s lives were taken prematurely and whilst we might consider the individual a victim, in reality, there are many other victims left behind to ask unanswered questions of why” (Strike Force Parrabell 2018).

American PhD candidate Scott Johnston was only 27 when he died. “It was December 10, 1988, when Scott’s naked body was found by two rock fishermen at the base of the cliff, near Blue Fish Point, just south of Manly, on Sydney’s northern beaches. Scott’s clothes had been found neatly folded on the clifftop above” (Kontominas 2017) including his pair of Adidas sneakers. This is shown in the exhibition as a wood carving. The police deemed it a suicide. Three months later, Coroner Derrick Hand came to the same conclusion. His brother Steve Johnson and boyfriend of five years, Michael Noone is still today not convinced that this is the case. All failed to acknowledge that the location was a well know beat where anti-gay gangs operated and where other gay/hate murders had occurred previously.

The main research question addressed in this exhibition is:

Through sculptures, architectural models and digital prints, in what ways can I reconfigure the masculine/heterosexual dominance of Superstudio’s anti-design grid to a personal interpretation of queer space?

My reading and understanding of this grid argues a social, philosophical and identity position in which to interpret my works, giving the audience a greater understanding in the power of things to form a narrative for the object or space. My aim is to think through these processes via practice, critiquing Superstudio’s anti-design grid to produce work that re-evaluates masculine/heterosexual dominance of architectural space by highlighting an injustice done to a minority.

Research contribution

Architecture’s preoccupation with ‘normality’ has left little room for queer domestic space to come to the fore. I argue that ‘the “normality” of heterosexuality is so deeply ingrained in Western culture that it is not even seen’ (Myslik 1996, p. 159). So entrenched is this understanding that I have found little evidence of the public acknowledgement of queer space in the built environment, let alone one highlighting queer injustices. Few artists have broached this subject. I am interested in creating a personal definition of queer space that was not hidden and is a reaction against normative symbols of masculinity and the ‘heterosexual assumption’ presented by Superstudio anti-design grid.

Inspired by Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres work “Untitled” (Death by Gun), 1990, this exhibition will be based on research conducted on the gay killings that took place in Sydney in the late 1970s till 2000. This was a period of extreme distrust by the LGBTQI community in the NSW Police Force who symmetrically failed to acknowledge, protect, report or simply dismissed community concerns. This will result in a series of works highlighting the high number of victims and the fact that a number of murders are unsolved. Although there is conjecture as to whether some of these murders are a gay/hate crime, the fact that were not properly investigated at the time is a dark stain on our history.

What is Strike Force Parrabell?

On 30 August 2015 Strike Force Parrabell commenced a thorough investigative review to determine whether 88 deaths originally listed in a submission to the Australian Institute of Criminology[5], and commonly referred to by media representatives, could be classified as motivated by bias including gay-hate (Strike Force Parrabell 2018).

NOTES

[1] While the onset of HIV/AIDS has been seen as 
a motivating factor for some of the violence, the start of the violence predates that. A report by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board in 1982 already highlighted the issue, and over that decade, there was ongoing and increasing violence. In 1990 the Surry Hills police noted a 34% increase in reports of street bashings during that year alone (Wotherspoon 2017).

[2] The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and later, the AIDS Council of NSW (now ACON) kept records, usually comprising self-reported incidents of gay-hate violence, that on several occasions amounted to more than 20 entries per day. Unfortunately, fear associated with anti-gay attitudes of officers within the NSW Police Force at the time prevented these reports being formally recorded, which in turn meant that crimes were not investigated (Strike Force Parrabell 2018, p. 14 & 15)

[3] This inherent lack of consequences or accountability meant that perpetrators were given a kind of ‘social license’ to continue inflicting violence upon members of the gay community. This phenomenon has been associated with what some perpetrators believed was their moral obligation, driven by poor societal expectations. The Bondi incidents together with similar disappearances and deaths of men in and around beats attracted heightened levels of violence and were often associated with a victim’s sexuality or perceived sexuality (Strike Force Parrabell).

[4] During the 1970s, there were ongoing demonstrations in Sydney focusing on what needed to be changed to give homosexuals equal civil rights with their heterosexual counterparts. One of the catchcries of the time was ‘stop police attacks, on gays, women and blacks’. And this catchcry highlights an important fact: that the police were seen as the enemy by many of these emerging social movements. As for gays, the police had 
never been sympathetic to their parading through Sydney’s streets. And this antipathy culminated
in the notorious first Mardi Gras, on the night of Saturday 24 June 1978; it started out as a peaceful march down Oxford Street from Taylor’s Square to Hyde Park, and ended in Kings Cross with police wading into the marchers with their batons, leading to 53 arrests (Wotherspoon 2017).

[5] In 2002, a list of 88 deaths of gay men between 1976 and 2000, potentially motivated by gay hate bias were compiled by Sue Thompson, the then NSW Police Gay and Lesbian consultant. There has been significant media coverage of presumed facts associated with gay hate motivation for each of these 88 deaths.

Reference List

In the Pursuit of Justice. Documenting Gay and Transgender Prejudice Killing in NSW in the Late 20th Century 2017, ACON. viewed 11th November 2018, https://www.acon.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/In-Pursuit-of-Truth-and-Justice-Report-FINAL-220518.pdf.

Kontominas, B 2017, Scott Johnson: Inside one brother’s 30-year fight to find the truth, ABC News, viewed 11 November 2018, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-30/scott-johnson-inside-brothers-fight-to-find-the-truth/9211466

Strike Force Parrabell 2018, New South Wales Police Force. viewed November 11 2018, https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/safety_and_prevention/your_community/working_with_lgbtqia/lgbtqia_accordian/strike_force_parrabell

Wotherspoon, G 2017, Gay Hate Crimes in New South Wales from the 1970s, viewed 11th November 2018, https://www.acon.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/In-Pursuit-of-Truth-and-Justice-Report-FINAL-220518.pdf.

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