FORTY

Format: Research project, texts
Dates: Jun — Aug 2022
Language: English
Publication: Online



Research, text, design: Chris Gylee

People call me a philosopher or a scientist or an anthropologist. I am none of those things. I am an anamneisologist. I study what has been forgotten. I divine what has disappeared utterly. I work with absences, with silences, with curious gaps between things.
Susanna Clark, Piranesi, 2020

FORTY is an artistic research project exploring 40 years of Queer history by compiling biographical and archival snapshots of 40 of my Queer predecessors alongside creative written responses. Born at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic and faced with the systematic erasure of Queer lives from the historical record, I wish, in my 40th year, to explore the library-archives of the Schwules Museum in Berlin to better understand those who came before me, how they lived, and how their actions shape the world I live in. 
My research will begin in 1983 — my birth year — and work forwards to 2022. I will investigate anniversaries, death dates, imprisonments, love affairs, gender transitions, and more, gathering striking images and biographical evidence from 40 of my Queer elders — one for each year of my life. I will respond to these artefacts with short fictionalised texts reaching towards those memories and experiences that are not explicitly contained in the archive. By using my imagination to animate the gaps in the archival record, I will attempt to forge an emotional link to the life experiences of my Queer elders. The artefacts and texts will be collated into a timeline and shared through a simple website accessible to the public. With this research I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of my Queer elders and develop an artistic methodology that places fictional texts alongside artefact, ephemera, and historical records to create emotional resonance.



Timeline of Poems



2022— Tiona Nekkia McClodden

2021— Paco y Manolo (also 2006)

2020 — Leng Montgomery

2019 — Stephen Varble 

2018 — Melvin Dixon 

2017 — Bet van Beeren 

2016 — David W. Dunlap 

2015 — Barbara Smith

2014 — Alvin Baltrop

2013 — Alain Guiraudie

2012 — Cal Yeomans

2011 — Every Ocean Hughes (also 1989, 1992)

2010 — Hugues Cuénod

2009 — David Hoyle

2008 — Tallulah & Bette Bourne

2007 — Chavela Vargas

2006 — Paco y Manolo (also 2021)

2005 — Peter Berlin

2004 — Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin

2003 — Datti Kapella

2002 — Fred C. Gormley Jr. a.k.a. Michael Flent

2001 — Richard Glatzer

2000 — Jason Daniel Roberts

1999 — Ana Kokkinos

1998 — Rob Halford

1997 — Animal J. Smith 

1996 — Greer Lankton

1995 — Brenda Fassie

1994 — Hunter Reynolds

1993 — Jürgen Baldiga

1992  — Jeremy Atherton Lin (also 1989, 2011)

1991 — Luz María Umpierre 

1990 —  Essex Hemphill

1989 — Susan Sontag (also 1992, 2011)

1988 — Simon Nkoli

1987 —  Sylvia Witts Vitale

1986 — Michelle Parkerson

1985 — Andrew Holleran & Robert Giard

1984 — David Rees

1983 — Paul T. Rogers





The above images include photos and scans taken by Chris Gylee. Additional archive sources are listed with the texts. Various texts sample fragments and phrases from the listed source materials. 

FORTY is a #TakeHeart research project by Chris Gylee, supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media within the program NEUSTART KULTUR.


Additional thanks to: Peter Rehberg and the volunteers of the Archive at the Schwules Museum; Aslan; Toria Banks; Jason Corff; Rachael Clerke; Cole Collins; Kit Gee; Óscar González; Mmakgosi Kgabi; Jamila Woods for writing the album Legacy! Legacy!