Trygve Skogrand

Viewing the past through a pink haze

This art project will draw inspiration from the early queer history of Berlin. The German pioneering research and struggle for queer rights from the mid-19th century onwards represent the foundation of Western queer liberation and rights. My flat is located on Nollendorfstraße, at the heart of the city’s queer area. This district has been a hub for the queer community since the late 1800s, making it an intriguing place to live while working on this project.

Today marked my first day here in Berlin, and I spent the day familiarizing myself with my surroundings. First I visited an important exhibition at the Schwules Museum, about the gay community’s very problematic inheritance from the early Greek tradition, that romanticises relationships between older men and younger boys. I also visited a wonderful exhibition at the George Grosz museum, where in addition to his well-known earlier works from the Weimar-era Berlin, also included pessimistic and brilliant works from his post-war period in the USA. 

Most importantly, I took a walk through the streets to observe the characteristics of a queer area and its diverse elements. I come from a rural background and a somewhat conservative family, with limited exposure to such areas. And here I find something interesting in myself. Because I notice my owe prejudices, both against the current “Gay Berlin”, and actually also towards the historic one. I notice that I tend to see the past through some kind of pink idyllic glasses, that gives me great sympathy with these “poor, innocent queers” who met so much misunderstanding and persecution. The dears! They even dressed up as women, called each other “Tante”, and danced at glittery, secret Christmas dances! How wonderful! You see, how I subconsciously have coloured everything on pinky glitter! But in the current streets of gay Berlin, I first notice fetish shops, “massage” parlours, dubious clubs. And I notice my first reaction, which is shame. Embarrassment. And the equally interesting, burgouis reaction – “Even if I am queer, at least I am not like this!”. So here I also colour everything, not pink, but in dark and somewhat frightening shades.

Of course, this is not what I believe and think to be just and constructive thoughts about my fellow queers. But it is how I react subconsciously through my own prejudice, that I no doubt have inherited from society on my way through life.  It’s of course a bit embarrassing to notice ones foolish prejudices, but I know that a prejudice seen and reflected upon is a source to growth, learning and freedom. I will certainly use this as one of the paths into my art project.

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