Lesbian Art Activism revisited: 'Hot Moment' exhibition

Sophie Wilson discusses the new exhibiton revisting lesbian art activism of the 80's and 90's

Sophie Wilson
23rd March 2020
image: burlingtoncontemporary

In the 1980s and 1990s, a time where Margaret Thatcher was trying to stop people talking about queerness in schools and in other areas associated with the council, three artists were working towards documenting the culture of queerness. And now, their work has been revisited in a new exhibition.

Tessa Boffin, Jill Posener and Ingrid Pollard were the three photographers who documented the lives of lesbian Londoners in the 1980s and early 1990s. Their work celebrated a positive alternative that was queer female identity, and touched on homophobic representations of these people in the press. They lived in a time when there was an anti-LGBT law through section 28, and when there was widespread homophobia, and their work sought to correct this.

Their work is now being featured in an East London art space named Auto Italia. The exhibition is called Hot Moment, and was curated by Radclyffe Hall. It not only collates their photographs but also footage of their performances and interviews.

Tessa Boffin, Jill Posener and Ingrid Pollard were the three photographers who documented the lives of lesbian Londoners in the 1980s and early 1990s

But even their photography is so diverse within their styles. Posener reproduced imagery of theatrical performers, and had regularly worked with a gay professional theatre company prior to this. Her photos show the vandalization of billboards. Pollard photographed the late night performances of a community of Black women, but also documented protests for lesbian rights. And Boffin used satire in her work: she focuses on crossdressing and how this was represented in a case in her time where a crossdresser was accused of raping two girls.

As Frieze has described, it “offers glimpses into a significant recent past that has been woefully accounted for and wilfully erased, attending to artists who pushed back against poisonous cultural narratives with care, humour and style.”

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