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QRL Reading Corner at PS Shop: Queer Visual Culture of Hong Kong in the 1990s and 2000s

Start
Dec 3, 2021
End
Feb 20, 2022

Venue

Para Site
22/F, Wing Wah Ind. Building, 677 King's Road
Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

As a queer millenial in Hong Kong, I came of age at the dawn of the internet. I feel grateful to have met many of my closest queer and trans friends on Instagram, and through online groups and forums. That being said, forging a queer community is hardly a digitally exclusive endeavour. Working on Queer Reads Library with my collaborators Beatrix and Rachel connected me to a previous generation of LGBTQ+ activists and friends, who taught me about the way self-published and small edition zines and magazines were pivotal in multiple ways:

  • They allowed queer people to connect and forge friendships across distances and places
  • They provided a platform through which both important issues/resources as well as more light-hearted creativity could be explored and disseminated, and
  • These print ephemera, while designed to circulate perhaps amongst close friends and lovers, end up leaving a tangible, powerful record of the ways queer people decided to tell their own stories and document their lives and times, beyond mainstream media representation, in the days before corporate pinkwashing and rainbow capitalism began to take hold in Hong Kong and in the world.

This selection at the QRL Reading Corner at PS Shop is drawn from theatre ephemera from Hong Kong (1990s-2000s), as well as QRL’s holdings of vintage (late 1990s) Hong Kong queer magazines and published titles on cinematic culture, the majority of which were donated by Connie Chan, Alice, and QRL co-founder Beatrix Pang. Threading through this collection are two core themes: an investment in independent culture-making and publishing one’s own zeitgeist, as well as an acknowledgement of the importance of the performing and cinematic arts in the development of Hong Kong queer culture. In addition to their rich textual and historical value, these printed matters provide an aesthetic and visual entry point into a particular time in Hong Kong culture, in which graphic design and photography were pivoting from analogue to digital—a transition that resulted in a dynamic in-between state of self-publishing, as reflected in the unique designs of these publications, some of which are early forays into digital layouts, and others using the copy-shop cut-and-paste aesthetic.

During a public dialogue with QRL at the 2019 Hong Kong Queer Literary and Culture Festival, the activist and writer Connie Chan described the irreplaceable feeling of opening the mail to find a gay zine. I loosely paraphrase her here:

“It felt so personal, that people had made this with their hands, and now it was with me.”

We feel that these sentiments radiate from these publications created thirty years ago, reaching us today.

– Kaitlin Chan on behalf of Queer Reads Library


About Queer Reads Library:

Queer Reads Library (QRL) is a collection of books and independently published zines centred around queer narratives and themes. Established in 2018, QRL is a collaboration between artist-curator Kaitlin Chan, artist-writer Rachel Lau and artist-publisher Beatrix Pang.

QRL, much like queer gender and sexuality, is fuelled by the fluid, experimental, and (sometimes) mischievous. We are interested in where our library will take us and who wants to engage with queer histories and narratives, specifically through printed matter.

@queer_reads_library / qrlib.net