Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lesbian National Parks and Services

Lesbian National Parks and Services / Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan

Lesbian National Parks and Services was founded in 1997 to insert a lesbian presence into the landscape. In full uniform as Lesbian Rangers, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan patrol parklands, challenging the general public's ideas of tourism, recreation, and the "natural" environment. Equipped with informative brochures and well-researched knowledge, they are a visible homosexual presence in spaces where concepts of history and biology exclude all but a very few.

Lesbian National Parks and Services: A Force of Nature (Video Clip 7.2 MB)

This mock-u-mentary follows the intrepid Lesbian Rangers through Jr. Lesbian Ranger training camp, research missions, deep-sea rescue, and field work around the globe. Premiered at the Sydney (Australia) Gay/Lesbian Film Festival.

Watch another LNPS promotional video here.

Lesbian National Parks and Services: Field Guide to North America
By Ranger Shawna Dempsey and Ranger Lorri Millan
Illustrated by Daniel Barrow
Pedlar Press (2002)

Whether you are a veteran outdoors-woman or a novice bushwacker, this is the comprehensive lesbiancraft manual you have been waiting for! After extensive tours-of-duty around the globe and in the field, the world-famous Lesbian Rangers have compiled their exhaustive findings in this richly illustrated book. A practical field guide, the Lesbian Rangers describe Flora, Fauna, and Lesbian Survival Skills in intimate detail. Discover how to start a fire and keep it going, what and whom to eat, and the secrets of lesbian psychology.

Read excerpts from the Field Guide here.

Lesbian National Parks and Services: Field Guide to North America / Reviewed by Anne Borden / The Danforth Review

Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan's Field Guide is a witty, indelibly Canadian exploration of a variety of species, including, of course, our own. It is designed to mimic the field guides of the 1950s and 1960s, with rounded corners, pen-and-ink illustrations and a lilting, Audubon parlance. Through their double-voiced narration, the authors urge readers to protect not only the Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle and other rare creatures, but the endangered beauty and diversity of queer culture, which is constantly under threat due to "unnatural disasters such as religious fundamentalism and assimilation."

The Lesbian Rangers were conceived by Dempsey and Millan as part of a residency through the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Center, in which they donned uniforms and established an onsite information centre for the preservation of "lesbian wildlife." The reaction from guests at the provincial park was overwhelmingly positive, in part because of Dempsey and Millan's adept humour, steeped in double-entendre that manages to fall far short of mockery, and never stoops to mean-spiritedness. "Busy Hands, Happy Heart" goes the Rangers' motto, but this work ethic expands beyond the work of preserving North American wildlife to advocating for LGBT visibility and establishing the important role that queers play in society, in a voice that alternates between authoritative fact and radical cheek.

Read the full review here.

Interview with Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan / The Danforth Review

As collaborators since 1989, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan have created a prolific body of performance art, print publications, video and film. Their most recent text, the Lesbian National Parks and Services Field Guide to North America (2002, Pedlar Press) is a thought-provoking, uproarious send-up of the field guide genre. It looks and feels like a field guide from the 1950's, from the light sheen of its pages and the cover lamination, to its rounded corners and romantic illustrations. But within its pages lies an examination of the diversity of sexual practices among animals and plants, and a radical critique of sexism in science and sexual conservatism in the broader culture.

Shawna and Lorri spoke with Anne Borden (The Danforth Review) via telephone in early February 2003. Read the full interview here.

Junior Lesbian Ranger Handbook

Everything you need to get started on life's bushpath. This handy guide covers knot-tying, how to move an insensible lesbian and more! Also includes a full-colour embroidered Junior Lesbian Ranger patch.

Recent Projects

Lesbian Rangers / Reorientation 2005 / University of Winnipeg

Consideration Liberation Army / The Revolution Begins June 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Labor Histories

The Howling Mob Society

The Howling Mob Society (HMS) is a collaboration of artists, activists and historians committed to unearthing stories neglected by mainstream history. HMS brings increased visibility to the radical history of Pittsburgh, PA through grassroots artistic practice. Our current focus is The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a national uprising that saw some of its most dramatic moments in Pittsburgh.

Ten New Historical Markers Commemorate The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

The Howling Mob Society has created ten historical markers, detailing events and significant locations from The Great Strike, and mounted them throughout the Strip District, Downtown, Polish Hill and Lawrenceville. Visit the map link to find out where the signs are located.

The events that unfolded in July of 1877 marked a unique moment in the history of the United States. Exceptional as it was, however, what has come to be known as the Great Railroad Strike goes largely unmentioned in mainstream accounts of Pittsburgh history. Common people were pushed to the breaking point and struck out in resistance, however they did not have the opportunity to preserve their stories for posterity. Those who had the means to record the strike quickly revealed their sympathetic relationship to the business leaders of the day and set the tone for how 1877 would be remembered. Their bias can be seen in published accounts of the riots, which use racist and xenophobic language to blame immigrants and transient laborers for the property damage and looting that took place. Considerably less attention is paid to the conditions that incited the riot in the first place; the fact that one quarter of the cities entire population participated in the uprising; or the lives lost at the hands of the state militia and National Guard.

In a culture that tells its history through the stories of great men and war heroes, a movement without iconic leaders quietly falls to the wayside. Telling the story of a decentralized social insurrection requires a different approach to history making. It requires that individuals outside the traditional power structure stand up and take responsibility for setting the record straight. The Howling Mob Society seeks to do just that.

Thanks Dara Greenwald and Just Seeds!!!

Don't Mourn / Sarah Kanouse / Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies (Volume 3, Number 3)


Dust rises in sheets from the hard-pounded ground, hesitates for a moment, and disperses on the dry wind. Hulking steel and concrete structures, their functions lost to Free Trade, rust ominously. A few second-generation industries — mostly recycling and storage concerns — have set up shop in some of the scattered outbuildings, and a trickle of dirty pick-ups checks in and out at the guard post, though the automatic gate seems permanently open. They take little notice of the car, my videographer, or me, a young woman with a battered, vinyl-sided suitcase and a HAM antenna cut to a commercial FM frequency.

I’ve been making pilgrimages to sites like this for a few years now to bear witness to the unmarked relics of old and not-so-old labor struggles in my home state, a place known for a solid union backbone that’s been much bent in recent years. Maybe it was always bent: the struggles I commemorate were not always the heroic or victorious ones but also the shameful episodes: armed conflicts between white strikers and black workers brought from faraway and tricked into taking their places, big unions selling out their struggling locals with a wink and a nod. Sometimes struggles that were victorious and heroic on one level were shameful and disquieting at another. I come to mourn but I don’t want it to stop at that.

The premise is simple: I make radio monuments, monuments composed of radio waves. I squat in the dust for two minutes to broadcast a mournful, distorted version of the Internationale over a commercial radio station to the usually empty immediate vicinity. Without a radio to listen in, it looks like a moment of silence, with luggage. In the name of the events that took place here, I bathe the site in radio waves in a slight, invisible, ephemeral memorial that doesn’t make heroes of the fallen, doesn’t fix the narrative, doesn’t pretend that the story — of the strike, the massacre, the battle, the labor movement, or capitalism — ended any differently or better.

Pana, Illinois

I do not make the bronze plaques, stone monuments or epic murals often sought by labor groups for their permanence and aura of legitimacy. I am not inspiring or instructing but remembering these events and their sometimes ambivalent outcomes. “Public memory” is more often performed than it is read, a difference that Diana Taylor has identified between the “archival” knowledge of history and the “repertoire” of embodied understanding. “Performed, embodied practices make the “past” available as a political resource in the present.... [A] performance may be about something that helps us understand the past, and it may reactivate issues or scenarios from the past by staging them in the present.” Uttering, singing, dancing, visiting, eating or drinking in a ritual fashion, imbued with symbolic meaning, is how individuals access the accumulated experience of a culture such that what has happened in times past to others feels as real, as palpable, as understandable as what has happened in their own lives.

Battle of the Viaduct

To my ears memorial is silent, and I have two minutes of silence in which to think — think about what I am doing, think about what happened here and about what is still happening here and in other places like it. The metal box, its whirring fan faintly audible even in the wind, is reorganizing a sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum, encoding it to carry my Internationale, more dirge-like than martial, to the unsuspecting receivers of passing cars. The disturbance to the commercial frequency I am jamming is so localized that car radios may flicker with only a few notes of a strange, sad march before resolving again to a steady, static-free mix of Top-40 and commercials. I have no way of knowing for sure how far my signal travels or if anyone is listening, yet the temporary and quixotic interruption of frequency-modulation-as-usual resonates in satisfying ways with the battles I am marking. The symbolic value of reclaiming the electromagnetic commons collides with the fact that the transmissions are local, dissipate, and are drowned out, just as the battles won or lost have been made mute by the onward march of capital and time.

The Labor Trail

The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people - often unsung - who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. We invite you to report new themes for research and investigation on both the city and state level.

Labor Trail Map / Interactive Labor Trail