‘I want a future that lives up to my past’: David McDiarmid and local queer stories

‘I want a future that lives up to my past’: David McDiarmid and local queer stories

Coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of WA’s Pride Parade, AGWA presents the bright, ironic, playful and scathing poster work of queer artist and activist David McDiarmid, from the State Art Collection.

Created at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the posters are presented alongside the iconic Connie's altars in conversation with local stories of the late 1980s and early ‘90s, bringing to the fore the lived experience, tragedy and enormous strength of the local queer community.

The display will be accompanied by the Long Table community discussion held during PrideFEST 2020.

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About the artist

David McDiarmid worked in Melbourne and Sydney from 1972-79 and in New York from 1979-1987. in 1988, he started working at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as a workshop artist and art director. One of his key functions in these roles was to work with community groups in developing public profile for the annual parade. He worked with every group associated with AIDS support and awareness in Sydney. In that he gave at an AIDS conference in 1993, two years before he died of HIV-related conditions, he described his approach to art making:

"My priority as an artist has always been to record and celebrate our lives. Having lived through an extraordinary time of redefinition and deconstruction of identities, from camp to gay to queer: seeing our lives and histories marginalised every day, we all have a responsibility to speak out."

The vibrant series, Rainbow Aphorisms produced in 1994 used full-spectrum rainbow colours, symbol for gay liberation, as the visual backdrop for texts of saccharine truisms that counter the dark humour and sad anger of the socially and politically disenfranchised. The series is, decades on, provocative, challenging and representative of the gay rights movement and the issues confronting its front-line activists. As McDiarmid himself remarked in 1993:

"I never saw art as being a safe thing. I know that exists but that's not something that involves me."