BREATHING QUEER AIR
Published Date: Jun. 23 2022
Image: Photo Credit: Cordeley Samuels
From a distance, this project manifests as dots of colour along a walkway. In this section of Seneca Park, (also known as Étienne Brûlé Park), the planters register as circles of white, blue, and pink solidifying amongst the tattered grass as one wanders down the ramp from Old Mill Rd.
Started in 2021, Queering Place is a public art project from SKETCH Arts that, working with 2SQTBIPOC Artist-Stewards in Residence, asks what it means for a place to be queer, how nature can be incorporated into the healing and nurturing of queer communities. It stretches across the boundaries of the city, centering itself with a medicine wheel in the Fort York Garrison Common and creating touchpoints to the north, east, south, and west through planter installations.
For this post, I have gone to the western point, inside Ward 3, Etobicoke-Lakeshore. The seven planters are dotted across a slit of grass that bisects the path, their interiors holding native plants cultivated with care (strawberry, liatris, sage), the outer skin stamped with QR codes that invite visitors to investigate. Scanning them will link to audio accompaniments from the artists, an invisible soundscape for discovery; on my visit I stood amongst the planters to listen as I took solace from the light rain.
The Gathering Space (recording one, excerpt): “Queers, like many other communities that have been intensely marginalized, have been dispossessed from our relationships to place, to land. We still think and feel like we only exist in bars, which are great . . . but I also want to have a garden.”
Zephyr (recording two, excerpt): “Queerness to me has existed in so many formats and so many spaces, whether they are literal physical spaces or not.”
Dirt in my Nether Regions (recording three): impromptu communal singing, an expression of queer radiance
(and in the background of each recording, there is joyous laughter.)
The feeling I am left with when viewing this project is hope – I leave lighter than I entered, knowing these leaves have nurtured me as well. Often times, queer art is narrowed down to or defined by how we are externally identified, a contrast of explicit sexualism and suffering. Instead, this project approaches the queer needs first; it identifies queerness as a unique way of being in this world, one that needs to be nurtured. It asks the question what is queer healing and where does it start? and, in turn, answers right here.
More than any other work, I highly recommend you experience at least a part of queering space for yourself – travel to the nearest touchstone to walk and listen. Spend a day to see them all. Immerse yourself in gentle queerness