Dear Queensland: LGBTQI+ stories


In collaboration with ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT10) artist Shannon Novak, and QAGOMA launched Dear Queensland — a project that gathers, documents and archives some of the important stories of LGBTQI+ people in Queensland.

As Novak explains, ‘currently there is very little to no local LGBTQI+ history being recorded in our public museums and libraries, and that needs to change.’

Shannon Novak ’81 Percent (Australia)’ 2021

Shannon Novak, Aotearoa New Zealand b.1979 / 81 Percent (Australia): Someone you know (from ‘Make Visible: Queensland’) 2021 / Transparent vinyl / Commissioned for ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT10) / Courtesy and ©: Shannon Novak / Photographs: M Campbell & J Ruckli © QAGOMA

Dear Queensland invited members of Queensland’s LGBTQI+ community to pen a virtual letter to Queenslanders, reflecting on their challenges and triumphs. The submissions formed part of an important archive centering and amplifying voices from the LGBTQI+ community. The digital archive is available to the public and shareable, and some responses were displayed onsite at the Gallery and in QAGOMA’s Research Library.

In line with Novak’s broader practice, the Dear Queensland project is inspired by the lived experience of LGBTQI+ people, and the statistics which reveal the issues faced by the community in this country.

LGBTQI+ people in Australia experience highly disproportionate rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide – recent statistics (2021) revealing between three to fifteen times higher than non-LGBTQI+ people. One thing we can do to help drive these numbers down is to make visible the challenges we face so people can see what we are going through and consider ways they may be able to support us. Shannon Novak

An important aspect of visibility is to account for the breadth and depth of lived experience. The experience of LGBTQI+ folks in Queensland can vary tremendously throughout the state; from regional towns to city centres and between the many cultures who call Queensland home, with over 220 languages spoken, and one third of Queenslanders being born overseas or from parents born overseas1.

For this reason, the Dear Queensland submission process offered participants the option to self-identify, tag and reflect on all the intersecting identities that effect their lived experience as a member of the LBGTQI+ community. It is hoped this highlighting of intersectionality will offer tangible insight and nuanced representation of the LBGTQI+ community here in Queensland. 

Novak hopes ’cataloguing (the LGBTQI+ community’s) experiences at QAGOMA sparks a movement towards a more inclusive and representative archive that all can access and be inspired by’.

1 Statistics drawn from “Queensland Cultural Diversity Policy” (2013), Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs.

Dear Queensland

Dear Queensland formed part of Make Visible, an ongoing community led project developed by artist, curator, and activist Shannon Novak, whose work features as part of APT10. The aim of the project was to grow support for the LGBTQI+ community worldwide by making visible challenges and triumphs for this community.

If you need support, free support services for the LGBTQI+ community are available.

Watch | Time-lapse of Shannon Novak’s ’81 Percent (Australia): Someone you know’

The installation — encompassing GOMA’s ground-floor River Room window — signals, from the artist’s perspective, a view to a positive future for the local LGBTQI+ community in and beyond the city visible across the river. As the light changes during the day, the large, colourful patchwork designs of 81 Percent (Australia): Someone you know offers a sensory immersion: a continuously changing atmosphere of diffuse colours.

Shannon Novak, Aotearoa New Zealand b.1979 / 81 Percent (Australia): Someone you know (from ‘Make Visible: Queensland’) 2021 / Transparent vinyl / Commissioned for ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT10) / © Shannon Novak

Watch | Brisbane Pride Choir perform at GOMA

On the opening weekend of APT10, the Brisbane Pride Choir performed as part of Shannon Novak’s ‘Make Visible’ project. The project seeks to make visible the challenges and triumphs of the LGBTQI+ community.

Watch | Make Visible

What role does art and culture play in creating safer spaces for the LGBTIQ+ community? We discuss how artists, writers, performers and community groups are leading projects which make visible the challenges and triumphs of the LGBTQI+ community, and how the arts can be a powerful medium for sharing the stories and experiences of diverse members from the rainbow community.

Watch | Young, LGBTQI+ & Amplified

Stories about LGBTQI+ young people are always in the news. So, what role can art and culture play in empowering them to tell their own story? Hear from three young creatives from the LGBTQI+ community, as they chat about their connection with the arts and discuss whether they think art should be treated as a form of activism, an outlet for self-expression or a means to amplify diverse voices.

Watch | Queerstories x QAGOMA

In this special edition of Queerstories held in conjunction with ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT10), hear unexpected tales of pride, discovery and resilience from incredible local storytellers. This video contains content that might be triggering for some viewers. Some of the stories presented may include adult themes, that aren’t appropriate for children. Viewer discretion advised.

Featured image: Shannon Novak’s artwork for the installation in Edison Lane, Brisbane