The Seeding Trilogy: Sowing Dissent

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To live apart from a major metropolitan area is to exist in a cultural ecology that is more susceptible to anti‐queer conservatism. However, because of its smaller scale, that kind of ecology can sometimes be more immediately impacted by strong queer voices. My recent project, The Seeding Trilogy, was an attempt to reframe the hubris in West Michigan surrounding Artprize, “the world’s largest art prize,” a competition launched and funded by members of the ultra‐conservative DeVos family. Seeding was motivated by the sense of dis‐ease I felt in the potential for a family known to support anti‐gay causes to whitewash its political agenda via an art competition. The work, itself entered into Artprize, was sited in a gay bar, and employed vernacular media to help seed a conversation among the people most adversely affected by that family. The difficulty I had in finding a bar willing to host my project, and the tone of subsequent communication with superiors at my university, both reflected a fear of what the project might trigger.

The Seeding Trilogy consisted of three elements: a video projection, a scrolling led sign, and a series of coasters. The most resonant aspect of this work proved to be the coasters; working with bartenders and servers to distribute a custom series of coasters to patrons achieved the desired effect of initiating conversations on current political climates locally and nationally. Favors describes Richard DeVos’s influence in blocking domestic partner benefits at Grand Valley State University where I teach, Chipping Indetails the amount of money given by the DeVos family to support anti‐gay marriage amendments in three separate states, and Focus on the Familyoutlines the political impact and aspirations of the extended DeVos family. The tangibility of the coaster series became particularly effective in initiating dialog, and many patrons were sufficiently appreciative of the coasters that the supply was quickly depleted. The continued use of those coasters in people’s homes helps the project continue to resonate.

West Michigan is among the many locations in the queer diaspora where the conservatism of the cultural climate makes creative work that engages queerness not only more imperative than in larger metropolitan centers, but also potentially more disruptive. Engaging the long‐standing queer strategy of mixing pleasure with politics, The Seeding Trilogy used the utter ubiquity of Artprize to activate a bar that is more generally considered a site for generating pleasure than political debate. In instances where the project met resistance, opportunities emerged for people to consciously prioritize the relevance of queer voices over conservative assimilation.

three editions of 250 coasters
4″ x 4″
2011