18 June 2023

Final Presentation ‘The Lesbian Continuum’

Pia Louwerens en Katinka van Gorkum

'Koffie pauze in het L.A.L. april '85', foto: Majo, eigen scan, foto uit het Lesbisch Archief Leeuwarden in beheer van Tresoar.

Kunsthuis SYB cordially invites you to ‘The Lesbian Continuum’, the concluding presentation of the project ‘Húsgenoaten: echoes and traces of a lesbian archive’ on Sunday, June 18 at 15:00.

During their artist-in-residency at Kunsthuis SYB, Pia Louwerens and Katinka van Gorkum researched the Lesbisch Archief Leeuwarden (Lesbian Archive Leeuwarden) and considered what it means to open up this archive in an artistic context.

For their presentation on Sunday, Pia and Katinka will join in conversation with Arnisa Zeqo discuss their research, residency and working process. This will be followed by a performative tour by the artists through their echo of the archive.

Final presentation:
Sunday, June 18, 2023 at 15:00.
Walk-in from 13:00.

The work can be seen on:
Saturday, June 17 and Sunday, June 18, 2023
from 13:00 – 17:00.

In 1976, Henny Smid and Majo Georgie started an archive documenting lesbian history in their home in Leeuwarden. In 1981-1982 a call went out through the community to keep lesbian lives and experiences from falling into oblivion. This led to the creation of a constellation of regional archives of which this Lesbisch Archief Leeuwarden (L.A.L.) became part.

The L.A.L., which later became the Anna Blaman Huis, based their collection policy in the 80’s on the “Lesbian Continuum”: a political and literary concept introduced by radical feminist Adrienne Rich. Connected to the women’s movement, this concept includes, in addition to the existence of lesbians throughout the centuries: familial and caregiving ties between women; women who in one way or another chose each other as life-partners or allies; and other forms of female resistance of the heteropatriarchy. The title for this event refers to this “continuum,” which paradoxically operates both as a selection framework and a fluid spectrum.

The L.A.L. focused on the visibility and empowerment of the lesbian community and made itself part of this history by attending, organising, documenting and archiving events. During their residency, Pia and Katinka focused primarily on the early days of the archive, when it was still located in Henny Smid’s home and the status of the materials lingered between utilitarian object and archival piece.

Following the example of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York, the L.A.L. chose to organize books by first name, in opposition to the patrilineal system of surnames. Attending to this kind of archival experimentation, Pia and Katinka began to wonder if there could be such a thing as a queer archival methodology. What falls outside the archival norm? What escapes the categorization and organizing principles of even a lesbian archive? An archive necessarily concentrates on documents, at the expense of, for example, performative events and gestures that are considered to be ephemeral. These slip out of the archiving process, or remain as photographs while the “performative” disappears.

With this project, Pia and Katinka reproduce the gestures of an archivist when they search, browse, pack, unpack and copy materials at IHLIA or Tresoar, re-index them digitally at SYB, exchange information with COC Friesland, or carry on the role of desk clerk during open days. An important part of this practice for Pia and Katinka is the affective relationship with the material, an echo of the intimacy from the early days of the archive, while drawing on their bond as roommates. In their archiving process they were guided by the intimate and affective jokes, conversations, memories and thoughts evoked by the archive. The documentation of archive-worthy events is haunted by the unknowability of practices that weren’t preserved, including repetitive daily and domestic life that may seem too boring or unimportant to document and archive, but which guarantees the continuum.

This project is made possible by: