Proud Deviants and Queer Multiples

An Essay & Timeline by Rebecca Casalino

Audio Transcription

I. Proud Deviants and Queer Multiples in Context


Queer multiples are works made by queer artists; their work, whether it is explicitly queer in subject or not, serves to disseminate queer art and knowledge. Artists who create multiples shatter the illusion of the singular, genius creator and expensive art objects in favour of smaller, more affordable, and easily recreated multiples. This mode of making ranges in media, including but not exclusive to wearables (buttons, pins, shirts, etc.), prints, zines, comics and books. These multiples act as touchstones for peer groups, political actions, and the ever-changing vocabulary of queer aesthetics. The ability to buy, trade and collect multiples allows them to be shared using social, and commercial networks to connect artists and art lovers across communities. Queer artists have been participating in multiple making long before it was accepted by the conventional art world as a valid art making practice, as it is a form of self-publication accessible to deviant queers who exist outside of mainstream norms. Swedish curator Patrik Steorn argues that “[c]amp and queer sensibilities have historically been produced in order to shape alternative communities in times and places where homosexuality was legally or socially forbidden,”1 creating the conditions for a deviant, underground, do-it-yourself (DIY) aesthetic. Through self-publication, artist multiples enable emerging or marginalized queer artists to create and disseminate work that deviates from governmental and commercial norms. My research presents contemporary queer multiples and maps their connections with past practices that have created a foundation for queer art-making in Toronto.

i. Queer Lineage of Artists, Aesthetics and Protest

Toronto’s queer history is evoked by artists' objects and multiples within public and personal archives and contemporary art practices. Art Metropole was officially founded in 1974 by General Idea, a collective of gay men based in Toronto whose artistic practices included multiple making, collecting, and archiving.2 General Idea functioned under the group’s title “to obscure discrete identities within the group, challenging the myth of the individual artist as genius.”3 Multiples also work to conceptually distance makers from the myth of the singular genius-produced art object and allows for the exchange of art and knowledge across peer groups from within the queer community. Artist-run projects or spaces act as hubs for disseminating queer art when run by queer artists and allies invested in making practices. Art Metropole and FILE magazine, founded by General Idea in the early 1970s, were two spaces for queer artists to show their work without fear of censorship, as it was run by artists within the community.3 These formats present an alternative form of dissemination outside of the confines of mainstream publications; they allow for uncensored queer interests to be featured. The mass-produced pulpy nature of FILE and similar artist-run publications, like The Body Politic, or gendertrash, highlight the punk DIY aesthetic of the queer community, which continues today. Contemporary multiples are frequently sold at art markets or fairs, within galleries or shops, as well as online through social media or artists’ websites. Buying art and collecting ephemera acts as a research practice grounded in community.

Art Metropole’s past is shaped by the homophobic politics of Toronto’s Yonge St. during the 1970s. General Idea’s studio and Art Metropole were once located at 241 Yonge St. (south of Toronto’s Gay Village) along the so-called “Sin Strip”4 where many gay bathhouses were based. On August 1, 1977, a young boy and Portuguese immigrant named Emanuel Jaques was found dead at 245 Yonge St. and blame quickly fell to the queer community.5 The police targeted bathhouses and sex workers in attempt to ‘clean up’ Yonge St. while gay men continued to be stigmatized as pedophiles.5 General Idea moved their location to Simcoe St. in 1977 during a mass migration of queer spaces due to this increased police presence. The police escalated their tactics and raided the offices of the monthly gay magazine The Body Politic at 24 Duncan St.6 (just a short walk from Art Metropole’s former location on Yonge St.) on December 30, 19777 after the publication of member Gerald Hannon’s article “Boys loving men loving boys.”8 In January 1979, members of General Idea participated in a demonstration against the censorship of The Body Politic one year after charges were laid against collective members and General Idea contributed their performance Anatomy of Censorship to the event.3 This pattern of police escalation and queer protest reached a breaking point the night of February 5, 19813 when more than three-hundred men were arrested in bathhouse raids carried out by Toronto Police under "Operation Soap."9 Jorge Zontal, a member of General Idea, was one of the men arrested in the raids.3 The necessity of political resistance and art-making continues as artists maintain queer practices within the city and are subject to the political and social whims of the mainstream: which can fuel or subdue violent state action.


i. Fluxus Roots of Multiple Making

Multiple making within artistic practices has roots in Fluxus traditions. Led by Lithuanian artist George Maciunas, Fluxus is an international movement that began in New York in the 1960s.10 The practice follows the avant-garde traditions of Dada using mundane or found objects to create art rejecting ‘high culture’.11 Fluxus methods were employed in the Flux Shop built by Maciunas and fellow Fluxus artist Ay-O in 1964 which sold artist multiples at relatively low prices, creating a more accessible venue for buying art.12 Fluxus utopian socialist ideologies drove the mode of production and was facilitated by spaces like Flux Hall, creating a blueprint for an artist-run space dedicated to selling artists multiples. Within the context of Toronto, artist-run centres are key figures in the support, production, circulation and collection of art forms across mediums.13
The accessible pricing of multiples allows art lovers to invest in artists of their choice creating a democratic system for sharing work.14 The shareable and collectable nature of multiples create opportunities for community building through personal collections shared intimately through domestic spheres. The history and theory of multiples shareability is outlined in Dave Dyment and Gregory Elgstrand’s text, aptly titled One for Me and One to Share: Artists Multiples and Editions, but does not directly address artists’ queerness or sexuality. Queer collections of artists multiples and ephemera tend to enter the public when gifted or donated to community archives, such as David Buchan’s contributions to Art Metropole’s collection,15 or Mirha-Soleil Ross finds in the ArQuives.16

ii. Print Culture

Understanding nationalism and colonialism as a process of Othering begins with Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities; which explores nationalism through the lenses of history and culture.17 In Canada the Massey Commission (A Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences), a series of government reports created in 1949-1951 to build an understanding of the Canadian arts, continues to dictate cultural production.18 Zainub Verjee describes the final Massey Report as an “out-of-date document premised on elitist, Eurocentric, 19th-century notions of culture but that, in the strangest and most distressing manner, continues to define Canadian society”.19 Reading Anderson’s theory of ‘print-capitalism’17 and through the complications of Arjun Appadurai’s writing illuminates print media’s method of othering those who do not fit within the imagined national identity.20 Print culture “was accelerated by the technology transfers and accelerations of late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which created complex colonial orders centred on European capitals and spread throughout the non-European world,”20 thus importing European heteronormative ‘family’ values. Appadurai discusses this within the context of Edward Said’s Orientalism and international migration: “the work of cultural reproduction in new settings is profoundly complicated by the politics of representing a family as ‘normal’ (particularly for the young) to neighbors and peers in the new setting”.20 The emergence of small presses run by queer artists, sparked by the accessibility of printing (or reproducing) technology in the late 1900s,21 further de-centres large Canadian presses built on the foundations of European print culture with roots in homophobic scriptural and political writings. Zine culture is the underground press which helps construct and present identities that exist outside the mainstream, creating a sense of community for people historically excluded and stigmatized by print culture.
Zine culture is key to understanding the underground, feminist and queer roots of multiple making. Communication through zine-making, buying and trading allowed participants to swap ideas without fear of censorship. In the 1990s “riotgrrrl and zine culture … sustained the feminist conviction that going public with your feelings can make a difference both to how you feel and to the state of the world”22 giving weight to the power of affect in art making as outlined in the writings of Ann Cvetkovich in relation to queer and feminist practices.23 So-called ‘subjective’ affective qualities and strategies of art making are destigmatized through feminist and queer movements that reject ‘objective’ universalisms of modernism, which is highlighted through zine culture. The do-it-yourself approach to zine making and publication plays a major role in establishing multiple making and artist led self-publication as methods to undercut or skirt norms.

iii. Queer as Niche

Queer multiples have not been heavily researched in their own right, often appearing in writing about General Idea in passing but rarely as a dedicated chapter or subject matter. Queerness often is considered niche or taboo within curatorial and art historical circles as outlined in writing by Steorn’s research and lived experience1 as well as queer theorist Jennifer Doyle’s analysis of the perception of Andy Warhol’s work and the erasure of his sexuality.24 In researching the queer multiple excerpts from texts covering queer artists overall practices such as Sarah Liss’s community history of Will Munro’s life and Sarah E.K Smith’s text on the life and work of General Idea aided my understanding of how queer artists approached their practices in relation to their sexuality and connection to queer community.25 Even in the contemporary moment post sexual revolution Söll and Katz agree that “queer exhibitions are quite rare [...] and in many nations they are still contentious,”26 which allow for the further censorship and marginalization of queer artists. Pleasure activist adrienne maree brown frames27 Audrey Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic” to highlight sexuality and the erotic as centres of power for women (and I would argue for queer folks as well). Both argue in favour of sexual liberation and love that work to unlearn European-American traditions that stifle sexuality.28 In a conversation with Black curator and organizer Cara Page, brown and Page speak to the limitations of sexuality analyzed by Lorde and how queer and feminist movements have benefited from the erotic as a point of jubilation and activism. Queer multiples that engage with sexuality, politically, aesthetically or conceptually, draw from the work of Black feminists, like Lorde, to function deviantly and erotically.

III. Conclusion

This research is presented to expose audiences to a range of queer artists’ multiples within the political, social, and historical context of queer multiple making within Toronto. My work in re-tracing Toronto’s queer history and connections to multiple making has solidified my understanding of the continued traditions of deviancy through self-publication and queer space making through art. As a young queer isolated from community in the suburbs of Oshawa, I learned about queer history in adulthood through the teachings of queers and allies in a university setting and then later through oral histories and storytelling while attending queer gatherings. It is through the queer archive and the preserved memories of queer elders that I am able to access deviant histories and making strategies otherwise ignored within mainstream art histories and theory. In presenting this research I aim to illuminate sustained patterns of deviancy and resistance by Toronto’s queer communities and encourage queers to learn about their inherited lineages.

Works Cited

1Patrik Steorn, “Curating Queer Heritage: Queer Knowledge and Museum Practice,” Creator: The Museum Journal(Vol 55, No 3, July 2012), 363.
2 “About,” Art Metropole, Last Accessed February 28th, 2021, https://artmetropole.com/about.
3 Sarah E.K. Smith, General Idea: Life and Work (Toronto: Art Canada Institute, 2016), 7, 51.
4 Daniel Ross, “When Sex Dominated Yonge St,” Spacing: The City Hall Issue (Fall 2014), 26-27.
5 Laura Fraser, “Murder of Emanuel Jaques changed the face of Yonge St and Toronto,” CBC News: Toronto, June 22nd, 2017, Last Accessed February 19th, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/emanuel-jaques-yonge-street-sex-work-1.4172511.
6 Year Zero One (YZO), “The Body Politic: 1978,” Queerstory, Last Accessed December 30th, 2020, https://www.queerstory.ca/project/thebodypolitic78/.
7Brenda Crossman, “Censor, Resist, Repeat: A History of Censorship of Gay and Lesbian Sexual Representation in Canada,” Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy (Vol 21:45. 2013), 52.
8 Gerald Hannon, “The Year of the Children,” The Body Politic (Toronto: Pink Triangle Press, Dec 1977- Jan 1978), 29-33.
9“Queer Canadian History Timeline - Pre-Colonization to Present.” Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. 2018. 5.
10 "Fluxus.” Tate. Last Accessed February 18th, 2021, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/fluxus
11 Paul Wood, “Avant-Gardism Resumed,” Conceptual Art (New York: Delano Greenidge Editions, 2002), 22, 25-26.
12 Midori Yoshimoto, “Fluxus Nexus: Fluxus in New York and Japan,” Between New York and Tokyo: Fluxus and Graphic Scores, Post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art Around the Globe, MOMA, July 9th, 2013, Last accessed February 18th, 2021, https://post.moma.org/fluxus-nexus-fluxus-in-new-york-and-japan/.
13 See Philip Monk, Is Toronto Burning? Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene, (Blackdog Publishing, 2016), and Dot Tuer, “The CEAC Was Banned in Canada,” C Magazine, 11, (1986). PDF.

14 Dave Dyment, and Gregory Elgstrand, “Introduction,” One for Me and One to Share: Artists’ Multiples and Editions. Ed. Dave Dyment and Gregory Elgstrand (YYZ, Toronto: 2012), 11.
15 “David Buchan fonds, Art Metropole Collection: Finding Aid,” National Gallery of Canada, 1950-1994, Last Accessed January 31st, 2021, https://www.gallery.ca/library/ngc002.html#a16.
16 “Mirha-Soleil Ross Fonds,” The ArQuives, Last Accessed February 21st, 2021, https://collections.arquives.ca/en/list?q=setName%3A%22Mirha-Soleil%20Ross%20fonds%22&p=1&ps=20.
17 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Verso, London: 1991), 4.
18“The Massey Report,”Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences, Report (Ottawa: King's Printer, 1951), Last Accessed March 4th, 2021, https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/2/5/h5-400-e.html/.
19Zainub Verjee, “The Great Canadian Amnesia,” Canadian Art, June 20th, 2018, Last Accessed March 4th, 2021, https://canadianart.ca/essays/massey-report-the-great-canadian-amnesia/.
20Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1995 [Reprint from Public Culture. 2, 2, Spring 1990]), 325,335.
21Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations, Ed. Hannah Arendt, Translated by Harry Zohn from the 1935 essay (Schocken Books, New York: 1969), 3.
22Ann Cvetkovich, “The Utopia of Ordinary Habit.” Depression: A Public Feeling (Duke University Press: 2012), 161.
23 Ann Cvetkovich, “Processing Killjoy’s Kastle,” Inside Killjoy’s Kastle, Ed. Allyson Mitchell and Cait McKinney(Art Gallery of York University, Toronto: 2019), 123-136.
24 Jennifer Doyle,“Queer Wallpaper,” A Companion to Contemporary Art since 1945, Ed. Amelia Jones (Blackwell: Malden. 2006), 343-355.
25Sarah Liss, Army of Lovers (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2013), 9.
26Jonathan D. Katz, “Queer Curating and Covert Censorship,” On Curating (Issue 37, May 2018), 3.
27adrienne maree brown, “The Legacy of ‘Uses of the Erotic’: A Conversation with Cara Page,” Pleasure Activism (AK Press, Chico: 2019), 37-52.
28Audrey Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic,” in Pleasure Activism, adrienne maree brown, ed., Reprinted from Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Mount Holyoke College: 1978 (AK Press, Chico: 2019), 33.

Picture (1993), "The body politic" by clasesdeperiodismo is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Queer History Timeline

“Progress is a really weird word for Indigenous people because progress is very colonial...homophobia and transphobia was a concept forced upon us. So I don’t think so much about moving forward as finding things from our history that were lost and bringing them back.”
-Thirza Cuthand (@TIFF_NET)

Timeline (1805-2019)*

1805 Toronto Purchase, Treaty 13

1950s-1960s The Red Scare, RCMP and FBI monitor known homosexuals

1959 homosexuality is a declared a psychiatric problem

1967 Supreme Court sends Everette George Klipper to jail “indefinitely” for being gay

1969 decriminilization of homosexuality

1969 General Idea met

1971 The Body Politic, Gladday Bookstore (and what later became The ArQuives) at 4 Kensington: “a loose organization of individuals, based at 4 Kensington Avenue, who were interested in challenging capitalism’s ‘specialization of roles and its homophobic sexism.’” (Tuer 58)

1971 first issue of The Body Politic

1972 first issue of FILE

1973 homosexuality removed from DSM

1973 Art Metropole opened at 241 Yonge St, founded by General Idea

1973 The ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Gay Liberation Movement Archives) is founded by members of The Body Politic

1974 The Brunswick Four sing “I Enjoy Being a Dyke” and are arrested

1977 August 1st, Emanuel Jaques found dead at 245 Yonge St.

1977 General Idea moves to Simcoe Street

1977 October, 36 out of 40 sex shops on Yonge St. close

1977 ‘Men loving boys loving men’ by Gerald Hannon published in The Body Politic

1977 December 30th, Office of The Body Politic raided by police

1978 January 5th, The Body Politic “were charged under sections 159 and 164 of the Criminal Code with ‘possession of obscene material for distribution’ and ‘use of the mails or the purpose of transmitting indecent, immoral or scurrilous materials’”

1978 Buddies in Bad Times is founded

1979 January, public demonstrations against censorship in support of The Body Politic,members of General Idea participated

1979 UTS Freedom Rally

1981 February 5th, Operation Soap is carried out by Toronto Police

1981 February 5th over 300 men were arrested in the Bathhouse Raids

1981 February 5th Jorge Zontal, member of General Idea, arrested in raid

1981 February 6th, Bathhouse Riots in response to Bathhouse Raids

1981 February 20th, another protest held against raids

1981 March 6th, Gay Freedom Rally at St Lawrence Market

1981 June 16th, more bathhouse raids by police

1981 June 20th, peaceful protest followed violent encounters with queer bashers and a delayed, and violent police response

1981 June 20th police bring down Tim McCaskell, member of The Body Politic, six stitches were needed for the gash on his head

1981 June 20th Ken Popert, member of The Body Politic, injured in hit and run

1982 May, The Body Politic offices raided, again

1982 May 12, The Body Politic “were charged with publishing obscene material, this time for an article about fisting entitled ‘Lust with a Very Proper Stranger’”.

1985 Health Canada introduces blood ban against ‘men seeking men’

1985 The Body Politic is acquitted on all charges and seized archival materials are returned

1988 AIDS Action Now! formed

1989 last issue of FILE

1990 WHO removes homosexuality as a mental disorder

1990 Two-Spirit formally introduced at intertribal Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg

1993 Jorge Zontal illness manifests

1994 February 3, Jorge Zontal dies of AIDS related illness

1994 June 5, Felix Partz dies of AIDS related illness

1997 Will Munro’s underwear controversy

1998 sexual orientation added to Canadian Charter

1998 Blockorama founded

2000 January, Vazaleen launches by Will Munro

2000 Pussy Palace Raid

2005 proposal to add gender identity to Canadian Charter rejected

2005 ‘same-sex’ marriage legalized

2006 International AIDS Conference held in Toronto

2008 Health Canada bans gay men from donating organs

2009 first Trans March, not endorsed by Pride Toronto

2012 Toby’s Law

2013 Gender Dysphoria added to DSM replacing dated language

2014 World Pride in Toronto

2015 conversion therapy banned in Ontario

2016 Toronto Police chief regrets bathhouse raids

2016 Black Lives Matter Toronto Pride sit-in

2016 Health Cards without gender markers

2017 Gender marker X

2017 Gender Identity and expression added to Canadian Charter

2017 Justin Trudeau apologizes on behalf of RCMP

2018 January serial killer Bruce McArthur arrested

2018 documents show Toronto police surveilling activists in Black Lives Matter

2019 October 29th, protest against transphobia outside Toronto Public Library, Palmerston Branch group of protesters locked inside library by police, held until shortly after the building closed.

*If you wish to get ahold of the bibliography for this timeline, shoot us an e-mail.

Rebecca Casalino is an artist, writer and curator based in Hamilton, Ontario (Treaty 3) on the land of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe First Nations people. She is a queer Italian-Canadian settler, maintaining her practice through deeply personal collaborations in her community and sheer willpower. Casalino holds an MFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. Her curatorial and research practices are based in queer theory, and artists’ multiples.

Reach Rebecca on Instagram @goodnight.johnboy or check out her website and her research.