‘I want a future that lives up to my past’: David McDiarmid and local queer stories

‘I want a future that lives up to my past’: David McDiarmid and local queer stories

Coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of WA’s Pride Parade, AGWA presents the ironic, playful and scathing poster work of queer artist and activist David McDiarmid alongside Connections Nightclub’s iconic altars and archival material from the Gay and Lesbian Archive WA (GALAWA).

Created at the height of the AIDS epidemic, McDiarmid’s poster works from the State Art Collection are presented in conversation with local stories of the late 1980s and early ’90s, bringing to the fore the lived experience, tragedy and enormous strength of the local queer community.

AGWA Curator, Dunja Rmandić said, “to celebrate Pride is to rejoice but also remember what came before us, to know what the genesis of the parade is, and to remind ourselves that rights are hard fought for, and sometimes, hard kept. When the global pandemic hit, many recalled that there was another group of people who had experience with isolation, stigma and death at a global level.”

The AIDS/HIV crisis of the 1980s and early ’90s hit the LGBTIQA+ community hard and for 15 years the fight for equal rights and life was one and the same. Sharing the local stories of this time puts into perspective not only the global fight but how grass-roots activism, community love, spirit and determination at a smaller, local level, can make all the difference to a community at large.”

David McDiarmid’s work transverses art, design, craft, fashion and music, and exists between activism, high art and community art, with gay rights and identity politics being the primary focus. Rainbow Aphorisms—made shortly before McDiarmid’s death of AIDS/HIV-related conditions in 1995—combines gay and queer activism with tongue-in-cheek statements, some pointed truths and messages of hope. 

Featuring alongside McDiarmid’s works are two altars from Connections, Perth’s premier gay and lesbian nightspot and Australia’s longest running gay club, made in the 1990s by Nana Neil and Paul ‘JJ’ Chat. Commemorating those lost to AIDS/HIV with photographs, personal mementos, candles and incense lit in their memory, these altars became a symbol of shared remembrance for the local LGBTIQA+ community. 

Archival material from the GALAWA presents a selection of local queer press and paper objects documenting the stories and struggles of the LGBTIQA+ community during the 1980s and ’90s. Brought together, the display reveals the depth of the community’s support for each other and the shared fight for civil rights reform and better visibility for a community that was marginalised, discriminated against, and in some cases openly vilified. 

Opens at AGWA on Saturday 14 November 2020 | FREE