HERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: MARKING CHICAGO’S ‘BOYS TOWN'”
Wednsday, June 20; 7:30 pm
Location: SomArts, 934 Brannan St @ 8th St
Phone for Tickets: NQAF: 415.552.7709, Buy Tickets onLine: NQAFestivalTickets
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: MARKING CHICAGO’S ‘BOYS TOWN'”
The City of Chicago recently erected what could be called street furniture (most strikingly twenty-two, 20-foot, illuminated, rainbow-ringed pylons) for its largest gay neighborhood-Boys Town. The plan to commemorate Chicago’s historic gay district, modeled on schemes that mark the city’s ethnic neighborhoods, is similar in many respects to what San Francisco is now considering for Harvey Milk Plaza. Starting with this project and the controversy it aroused in Chicago, Chris will explore the implications of conceiving of gay identity as a search for an imagined “home” territory, the paradigm of which (as evidenced in the Chicago project) is Oz. This case study leads into an analysis of current urban initiatives to replace old-style ethnic/racial and other antagonisms by reconceptualizing urban boundaries as part of a “gorgeous mosaic” (David Dinkins’ phrase) of difference available to all the city’s residents and visitors. Yet far too often, architecture and design initiatives fail to include sexual identity in this dynamic. Ultimately, homophobic arguments (that gays should remain invisible), assimilationist arguments (that gays should blend into the mainstream), and self-styled “queer” arguments (that our identity cannot be adequately represented visually) are shown to share a common fantasy of invisibility inimical to the demands of “community.” Recent representations and appropriations of the Boys Town project reveal not only the dynamism of Chicago’s gay community, but how much Chicago’s own urban self conception is now caught up in a celebration of its historical queer community and what this implies for San Francisco’s own commemorative efforts.
Chris Reed is associate professor of art history at Lake Forest College, near Chicago. He has published widely on the relationship of sexual identity to visual culture, including both art and design. Reed is currently completing a book on that topic. His previous books are A Roger Fry Reader and Not at Home: The Supression of Domesticity in Modern Art and Architecture.