Queeruption & the value of documenting and archiving hard conversations

Zine of the Gay

A few days after I decided to make this week’s blog post about Queeruption, I sent up a distress flare to QZAP: I wasn’t sure how to write about it in any kind of concise way.

Queeruption is a queer anarchist festival that’s had 12 editions in 12 locations between 1998 and 2017. QZAP holds materials on 5 of these: Queeruptions 3 (2001 in San Francisco), 4 (2002, in London), 8 (2005, in Barcelona), 9 (2006, in Tel-Aviv), and 10 (2007 on Coast Salish territory, Vancouver).

Here’s what Milo of QZAP said when I asked them for their help in thinking through how to write about Queeruption:

“Thinking about Queeruption, and the abundance of materials that came out of it, either officially or unofficially, and the number of folks who have been involved can be a little overwhelming.

One of the ways that I think of it is that it was (and this is my perception and experiences) intended to be a radical queer temporary autonomous space. Because it happened in multiple locations, and was leaderless, for the most part, each instance was a reflection of the needs, desires and situations of the folks who organized and hosted, while also trying to take into account the needs of all of the participants, as well.

All that to say, that’s why each one is different and might be hard to capture the zeitgeist in a single post. Also something something about liminality and the intentional places on the margins that we create and then collapse.”

Each edition of Queeruption grapples with its location in a particular way. In the case of Barcelona, this focuses on the politics of gentrification and squatting. For the event held on Coast Salish land, the event materials have a stronger emphasis on the historic and ongoing colonization of that land, and how to support Indigenous resistance. The fraught and contested relationship between Queeruption and its location is most evident in the materials for Q9, held in Tel-Aviv in 2006.

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When in doubt, it’s good to start by situating yourself. I’m writing this on the traditional territories of the Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk and Menominee peoples, in so-called Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. I live and hold citizenship on the other side of the border in Canada. I’m a white person with a Canadian passport, which makes it pretty easy for me to cross the border and come here. It’s probably easier for me to get to Tel-Aviv than it is for a Palestinian in Gaza to get there.

The Queeruption materials all make clear that the organizers and participants try, in various ways, and probably with varying degrees of success, to be in good relationship with the locations the events are held. As politically engaged people, they show a clear desire to add something to their communities via Queeruption that would last beyond the duration of the event. In Barcelona, the organizers squatted a previously unoccupied factory for the event. It had formerly produced synthetic leather, and attendees were invited to use the leftover materials to make jewelry, BDSM gear, or sex toy harnesses. The space was turned over for other use after the event, and best as I can tell, it still seems to house artist studios today. It’s extremely cool!

Map of the Queeruption Barcelona space

I don’t expect a queer anarchist party to solve all the problems of the world or the country or the city it takes place in. But part of reading about these events is inevitably picturing myself there. Would I have fun? Would I feel comfortable? If I felt uncomfortable, would it be in a productive way or just a shitty way? And what about my friends? Would they be able to get through the border? Would they be able to get through the door?

I generally feel like the answer is to organize more things, and fight to make more space at the current things, not that we shouldn’t organize anything if it’s not going to be perfect and magically exempt from all of the violence of the world that surrounds us. And also, to always remain curious and critical, to look at who’s in the room and consider who isn’t.

The Queeruption materials are cool because they show a community in the process of figuring out its collective values and how to align an event to them on the fly. Everything is provisional and up for debate. The way the Queeruption zines and materials present snapshots of this work is remarkable and precious.

The festival zine for Queeruption Barcelona reminds participants that to make the event successful, they needed to take part in “DJing, performing, dressing up, dancing, flirting, fucking, talking, laughing, and meeting new people… Wash your own dish, clean a toilet once this week, chop a carrot!! CONTRIBUTE!!! DON’T JUST CONSUME!!!”

To build the world we want to live in, we’re gonna need to chop a lot of carrots and have a lot of hard, messy community conversations. Consensus-based decision-making is pretty mind-boggling if you’re not used to it! It can be really seductive to want someone else to do all the work, and just be able to show up to a fully-realized event. But learning how to work together and talk it out and compromise, how to build in a way that’s really different from capitalist ways of gathering, how to sometimes take space in illegal or unauthorized ways.

Documenting this work gives us something to build on, and shows us some things that are possible but that we may not have considered. And archiving this documentation means that the work and conversations can spread far beyond the time and space of one event.

Lee P is interning at QZAP in spring 2024. Ze is a long-time zine maker, and hir current project is Sheer Spite Press, a small press and zine distro. Originally from unceded Algonquin land, Lee calls Tiohtià:ke // Mooniyang // Montreal home. Ze’s also a member of the organizing collective for Dick’s Lending Library, a community-run, local library of books by trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit authors.

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