mapping queerstories

I wish we could do a drag show in broad daylight

2023, by Irène Mélix in cooperation with queerANarchive, Split, Croatia

Landscape format image of a bright pink neon sign in three lines "I wish we could do a drag show in broad daylight", individual connections can be seen between the letters on the dark wall, cables lead down from the lettering on the right.

(text: Tonči Kranjčević Batalić)

The artistic activity of Irène Mélix is archival in its nature. She explores hidden archives, collects stories that are rarely heard, enters the realm of alternative knowledge and counter-memories. Her work thus corrects the omissions of official histories and becomes political. If we refer to Derrida1, who aserted that “there is no political power without control of the archives, if not of memory”, then any encroachment on archives is an encroachment on political positions of power.
The area of memory and archive that interests Irène Mélix is that of the queer community. The artist asks questions about how to talk about queer pasts based on the scant traces we have, how to write our own histories, how to record our own existence in the absence of its visibility? And finally, how to think about the queer future on the basis of a fragmented history? In search for the answers, the artist goes into the archives and works with the local community. For the purpose of creating this exhibition, the artist stayed in Split, Croatia in May 2023. In the archives of the University Library in Split, she found old magazines with ads for lonely queer hearts and thus added to her rich collection of “lonely hearts2” from all over the world. The artist translates the collected ads into works of art. In cooperation with the local community, which gave answers to individual ads, but also participated in the creation of individual works, the artist creates a combined technique work “Personal ads”. The artist transfers ads from magazines to textile using the silk screen printing technique, and visualizes the answers using the hand embroidery technique. A series of interviews conducted during her stay in Split, through which the artist learns about queer lives and spaces in the city, are the basis of the video work and the fanzine “It’s a queer takeover of the city, but only for 15 minutes”, and a series of drawings “Mapping queer Split”. One quote becames a glowing neon – “I wish we could do a drag show in broad daylight.” Through these works, the artist creates a map of lively, although not very public, queer communities in Split, answers the questions of where people meet, how do they find each other, what places are important to them, both today and in the past?
In addition to her work on creating alternative archives and mapping counter-memories, the artist opens a dialogue with institutions that traditionally have the role of preserving the cultural memory. Thus, the above-mentioned works are joined by another work “ONA”, acrylic on canvas, created on the basis of the section of the magazine Erotika in which the artist found a series of lesbian and queer ads. For the duration of the exhibition, which is set up in the Gallery of Klub Kocka at the Youth Center Split, as a sort of satellite exhibit, the work will be placed as part of the permanent exhibition of the Art Gallery Split.

click here to see the zine

Landscape format color photograph of an exhibition space. In the foreground, a wooden panel on which five stacks of thin paper publications lie, tied with threads whose ends protrude from the stacks. In the background, a room with white walls photographed in the corner, a projection can be seen on the left, 6 large drawings blurred on the right wall and 4 larger, round objects on the front half of the wall.

Curator: Tonči Kranjčević Batalić (queeerANarchive)

Donors: Ministarstvo kulture i medija Republike Hrvatske, Grad Split, Zaklada Kultura nova, Institut Für Auslandsbeziehungen, Culture Moves Europe – Goethe Institut – European Union
Partners: Platforma Doma mladih, Koalicija udruga mladih, Multimedijalni kulturni centar, Galerija umjetnina, Split

Thanks to: Culture Hub Croatia, Sveučilišna knjižnica u Splitu

Special thanks to:
Emanuel, Olga, Nikolina, Tonči, a volunteer of the LGBT centar Split, ZM, and all those who prefer to stay anonymous for telling me their stories.
Thanks to Igor, Jastreb, Mirta, Notes on, Olga and Tihana for helping on the production of the video and the zine.
Thanks to Split Pride, the Embroidery Club – Ćakula i vez, the LGBT centar Split and Klub Kocka.

And thanks to Juri, Elsa and Lilli for your support.