Testing Grounds

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Testing Grounds

Testing Grounds

Queer-ways; an exercise in personal stories and data collection.


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This is a case study of an ambitious new project. Queer-ways: Retracing Melbourne’s Queer Footprint is a collaborative community art project by Luciano and Georgia Keats, supported by the Australian Queer Archive (AQuA). 

Luciano and Georgia Keats were Creative Development Program participants in December 2020. As a collective these two creative practitioners were particularly productive, as well as proactive, and fastidiously prepared for their residency period. They had very clear goals and milestones which they were able to achieve through the course of the program.

Significant to the project was their success in the teeing up of a collaboration with, and gaining support from, the Australian Queer Archive (AQuA). 

Through the Creative Development Program at Testing Grounds, together we experimented and brainstormed new modes of data collection for the project.

During the residency we spoke about alternate modes of gathering stories;

  • Using local and allied community radio stations, in the form of both advertisement and interviews.
  • Paste-ups across a range of different suburbs aiming for a minimum of eight.
  • Posters as a semi-permanent feature on the Testing Grounds site.
  • Distributing flyers in allied organisations (such as LGBTIQA+ health centres, libraries, queer bookstores etc.)
  • By appearing on podcasts as guests; Queer-Ways appeared as a guest on ‘The Hairy Community’ podcast.
  • Another option that was discussed was using the dating app Lex, which is inspired by the personal ads in On Our Backs, a women-run erotica magazine of the ’80s and ’90s. The personals were written by lesbians and detailed their desires and romantic requirements. We thought of using this platform as a potentially rewarding space to post an advertisement seeking contributions.
  • Queer-ways was also a reoccurring guest at Testing Nights, trialing different modes of engaging with patrons, live data collection and presentations of the project.

Luciano (pictured left) and Georgia Keats (pictured right).

Interview with Luciano of Queer-ways.

Bella: What were your most successful methods of data collection?

Queer-ways: Our method of data collection has not changed, because of covid we have had to rely on a web-based platform but this frees us up to be able to accept more entries more quickly.  We have however changed our approach and how we use the space.  Creating a sort of booth with the map on display draws people in and has them begin exploring.  Through this process, they seem more comfortable adding their own stories.

B: Can you define what success of this project looks like? I.e is it the number of stories that you collect, the quality of stories or something entirely different?

QW: The success of our project relies on the quality of the stories.  As we will be illustrating the data that we have collected in the form of a map, we need to know details about the locations and people involved in the story so we can best capture this later on.  Our historical entries – collected with support from AQuA – have very specific details. Stories that have given us multiple locations or various elements have been much appreciated as this lets us be able to produce more dynamic and interesting illustrations.

B: In your experience, now presenting this work to the public on several occasions, what has been the most conducive way to engage people with the project and to share their stories?

QW: As above, creating a sort of booth with the map on display draws people in and has them begin exploring.  I think it’s important for people to have the space to think before we approach them about the project or explain the details of it.  We have found some people prefer to look in person then add their story later on. Forming a response can take a lot of time, so we have found letting people gather their thoughts before we engage is a lot more rewarding.

B: Have you made any adaptations in the way that you collect data and stories since the inception of the project?

QW: We had initially hoped to collect the community stories during the Midsumma Carnival Day at Alexandra Gardens. Because of COVID-19 we adapted the project to instead be a web platform as the carnival did not go ahead.  Once we had refined our submission process during our time at Testing Grounds we haven’t needed to go change it and have had no issues collecting data.

B: What’s next for this project?

QW: The next steps for our project is to move into the production of the illustrated maps and the integrated Augmented Reality, we will begin this process in July.  We are excited to move onto this stage as it means we are one step closer to the exhibition of the works at the Victorian Pride Centre, which is our main goal. The exhibition will create greater exchange of knowledge and communication between groups and ages in Melbourne’s LGBTQIA+ community.

Luciano on-site at Testing Nights event in February 2021.

Links to Queer-Ways; project, interviews and their podcast inclusion.

To explore or learn more about the project, click the links below.

This case study and interview were written by Bella Hone-Saunders, Program Manager.