Tom Burr - Green Bomber Jacket - 2019
Tom Burr’s edition for the Whitechapel Gallery is a series of 20 green bomber jackets each with a different inscription printed in silver ink on the reverse. These short texts are listings from an issue of Spartacus International Gay Guide from the 1990’s, and describe cruising areas from cites and towns across the UK and USA. Burr first deployed listings of US cruising sites in a series of sculptures in 1989/90, printed onto free standing 4’ x 4’ sections of sheet rock wall. Never exhibited outside of the artist’s studio, the work is now being reprised for a forthcoming exhibition.
Individually each text describes specific landmarks, instructions, and at times warnings for unmapped locations. The passages in the series form a highly codified language, as well as collectively creating a sort of poetic discourse that links places, subjectivities, and conditions ( of secrecy, danger, illegality, pleasure, visibility, and invisibility).
In these works Burr wanted to evoke the invisible and precarious status of queer (specifically gay male) geographic meeting points, as camouflaged within the larger normative landscape. Displayed in a gallery, they are also intended to rupture the alleged neutrality of an exhibition space, and the corresponding alleged neutrality of its viewing public. Worn, on a jacket, the meaning shifts, the passages hint at hidden modes of survival. The bodies which are referred to indirectly through the texts become complicit.
This particular era of ‘Spartacus,’ the 1980’s and 90’s, is significant for Burr, as signalling a new gay male tourist class, one that had the financial means to travel frequently. However due to shifting urban forces, with gentrification and privatisation no longer allowing for unspeculated space, many of these spaces no longer exist. In this sense, ‘Spartacus’ guide was a map for survival, a sort of playbook for pleasure and queer communal connection, while it was also born in the same moment of neo liberal global economies that would ultimately, along with the internet, pronounce its obsolescence. If spaces produce subjects, what subjectivities will emerge from the new spaces of control and constraint? Green Bomber Jacket is both a memorial to the just recent past, and an attempt at reclaiming some of queer culture’s historical strategies from the grip of capital, as memory to be reconstituted in the present.
Medium: Silkscreen onto Bomber Jacket.
Approximate dimensions: 72 x 120 cm (Men's Medium).
Series of 20
Accompanied by signed certificate
Price: £ 900 (WG-members: £ 810)
This limited edition Tom Burr Bomber Jacket is available at Whitechapel Gallery