A NEW DISCOVERY: QUEER IMMIGRATION IN PERSPECTIVE
QUEEROCRACY & CARLOS MOTTA
To highlight the issues faced by queer immigrants in the United States, the grassroots organization QUEEROCRACY in collaboration with artist Carlos Motta presented “A New Discovery: Queer Immigration in Perspective.” The two-day event was composed of a social intervention-based performance held on Columbus Day at Columbus Circle in New York City, where we collectively read excerpts of “A Timeline of Queer Immigration” and a panel discussion with leading queer immigration activists that took place at the Museum of Art and Design on October 15, 2011.
The social intervention-based performance consisted of 20 performers. We walked in single file from the Southwest corner of Central Park to Columbus Circle on Columbus Day. At the same time people on Fifth Avenue celebrated the “discovery of America” in the annual Columbus Day parade. As we began walking to Columbus Circle, each performer held on their right hand a copy of “A Timeline of Queer Immigration.” This timeline, which was specifically compiled by us for this performance, documents key events, laws, and existing policy regimes regarding queer immigration internationally. Each performer was connected to one another by holding with our left hand a rope. When we arrived on Columbus Circle we surrounded the statue of Columbus and then gathered in chorus style to begin reading the timeline. Each performer announced an excerpt from the timeline and the 19 other performers re-announced it, forming a human microphone for the public audience to hear. After the last excerpt was read, one performer tied the rope around the head of a relief sculpture of Columbus at the bottom of the monument and began pulling the rope away. The other 19 performers also began pulling and after a minute of pulling, the performers symbolically fell to the ground. This gesture intended to represent the ways in which state practices have functioned as mechanisms of murder, normalization, silence, discipline, and expulsion.
We found it necessary to perform “A New Discovery: Queer Immigration in Perspective” to insert a queer narrative on Columbus Day. We were interested to put in perspective and to bring attention to the way immigrant and queer politics intersect in the public sphere in ways that both confront, challenge, and transform the state mechanisms that police borders and bodies in the United States. This dialogue strives to generate a productive conversation and new ideas on how to better make a difference in the lives of queer people around the world.