"When we think about drag we think about performance in night clubs.. cabaret bars... the work of Lady Kitt questions what it means to be represented in queer culture and the relationship of queer people in a space "
Ben Haley, DGA member (lgbtq performance collective, co- collaborators on Folded Stories drag take over at Bowes Museum)

"Sappho is my Queer Mam", 2019-2020

Queer-ing "The Bowes Museum", UK

A socially engaged project conceived and facilitated by Lady Kitt

Created through collaboration with Sofia Barton, Sarah Li, Edwin Li and members of the DGA

Hidden stories exist everywhere,

I think they just need “unfolding”. I’m

particularly interested in unfolding

stories in museum collections and

archives.

In searching for queer history I find

myself reflecting on my "queer kin".

Both my chosen family (or as 

Armistead Maupin describes it

"logical family") and the LGBTQ+

people in history with whom I feel

a connection. Most queer people 

don't grown up in LGBTQ+ families,

this makes the search for "family

history" a confusing, exciting (sometimes 

fraught) endeavour. In the work I

imagine a world where my queer

linage stretches all the way back

to 5th century BC poet

Sappho, making her my

"queer mam*".

I also consider my future and the

future of my children, being raised

by a me now, as a "queer mam".

 

Through this project I experimented

with creating a series of unfolding

paper sculptures and interactive

performances .

These  aim to

investigate and communicate

lost or ignored experiences, objects,

interpretations and cultures from

Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, UK

as part of the #Untitled10 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bowes project included:

 

  • Studying archives, objects & associated texts (with a focus on bisexual and gender non conforming people) to find and celebrate queer interpretations and stories relating to the collection

  • Working alongside local groups, artists, staff, individuals exploring collective identities / cultures and personal stories. Through both formal workshops and informal interactions in the museum and wider area.

  • Making human sized paper cut / origami sculptures, unfolding/opening to reveal pop-up scenes / stories. 

  • My self and others interacting/experimenting with these sculptures

  • I also made a series of short videos (below) and images documenting my research

#Untitled10 2019, Bowes Museum

Opening Oct 10th 2019,

Lady Kitt and DGA performances throughout the day Oct 11th 2019, for more info about the performances click HERE

Title ”Folded Stories: We are Stowaways. Always?” and "Gentleman Josephine and Mr Sappho” 

I have a life-long love of Bowes. I also have deep frustrations with the lack of LGBTQ+ interpretation/stories in the collection. During Untitled 10 2019 I’ve used paper sculpting, performance workshops and lots of chatting to explore, share and play with queer interpretations of, and personal stories relating to, Bowes.

 

These stories are present, yet veiled. Interpretation is coy. The stories are stowaways. They shouldn’t be. They are part of our collective history. To share and celebrate them is to be part of a more equal, more accepting future.

 

I’ve been particularly curious about James Pradier’s 1848 silver sculpture of Sappho and Josephine Bowes’ performance work in Paris. 

 

Sappho was a 5th century Greek poet who wrote passionate love poems to both women and men. Little is known about her and she has been represented in a wide (and wild) variety of ways through history: from tragic suicidal lesbian to iconic bisexual rebel. For a time, her writing was assumed to be by a man, as it was considered too skilled to have been written by a woman.

 

Before she married John Bowes, Josephine performed several "breeches roles" (young male characters played by women) during her career. This was not unusual for female performers at the time: it allowed women to showcase a broad range of performance skills (and also, to display their legs in short trousers, which they could not do in restrictive 19th century gowns). 

 

I’ve recorded elements of my processes and experiments in a sketch book and with a series of short videos. I am showing work made from paper (finished and unfinished), photographs and performances. Visitors are invited to take away and share small pieces of the work. Take them proudly out into the world. Sometimes love is still be forced to be a stowaway… but it doesn’t have to be. You can help change that, right now.

*local North Eastern variation of "mum".

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Images by:
Sofia Barton,
Jason Thompson
Matthew Read
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