Diasporic Intimacies is the first explicitly queer Filipino/a event in North America. Co-organized by OCAD University’s Robert Diaz, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the event brought together artists, scholars and community workers to discuss the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos/as to Canadian culture and society.
From the well-attended reception at OCAD U’s Open Gallery, to the day-long OCAD U conference panels that extended into the evening to accommodate all the speakers, Diaz and co-organizers, artist Marissa Largo and students Karlo Azores and Fritz Pino, were encouraged by the enthusiasm of the 250 participants..
Says Diaz, “The most innovative leaders in settlement work, academia, and the art scene are often Filipino/a and LGBTQ identified. We wanted to create a space for these individuals to share their creativity and to celebrate their work with the general public.”
Diasporic Intimacies is based on Diaz’s research at OCAD U. His interviews with LGBTQ Filipinos/as in Toronto (focussed on their everyday struggles and strategies for empowerment) inspired him to create a forum to encourage LGBTQ Filipinos/as to share their experiences, insights and art, as well as build networks between mainstream and Filipino/a LGBTQ Communities in Canada.
During the conference, panelists and participants addressed such question as:
- How might queer Filipinos/as in Canada contribute to our understanding of indigeneity and collectivity?
- How do regional policies on labour, migration and multiculturalism influence queer Filipino/a Canadian lives?
- How might Filipino/a lesbian and transgender communities reimagine social formations that have come to be attributed to Canadian queer oral histories?
- What forms of resistance and resilience do queer Filipinos/as practice as they inhabit multiple spaces within Canada?
As well as the conference, a three-week long exhibit, Visualizing the Intimate in Filipino/a Lives, co-curated by the organizers, highlights the work of community-based artists and OCAD U alumni. Examples of visual culture, new media, community-based and critical work by Filipino/a artists are on display at Open Gallery from January 23 to February 15. Installations explore what is sometimes called the third space — where issues of identity and community are not considered fixed, but fluid and hybrid. In the case of Visualizing the Intimate, representations of immigration, gender and colonialism suggest how queer identity is neither universally understood nor expressed.
According to Diaz, “The issues, concerns, and contributions that LGBTQ Filipinos/as have made enrich how we see ourselves as Canadians. These events allow us to recognize the hard work of those who strive to make Canada a better and more equitable society, while also highlighting the areas we can still improve upon.”
Visualizing the Intimate in Filipino/a Lives art exhibition runs until February 15, 2015, at OCAD U’s Open Gallery, 49 McCaul Street.