The Smiling Room is an interactive and immersive community engaged media art installation exploring the interplay and politics of Queer Happiness, Resistance and Struggle within the intersections of Toronto’s dynamic LGBTQ2SIA communities.
What’s in a Queer smile? Joy, desire, anxiety, disdain, fulfillment, disappointment, resistance, insight, trickery, resilience?
This piece reflects on the smile as a symbol or stand in for happiness and its relationship to the queer experience. Though the root of the word happiness is “Hap” as in “to happen to you”, it is easy to argue that contemporary (capitalist-ruling class) directives for achieving happiness are less about “happenings” and more about what you do and what path you follow. These prescriptions are so tied to classist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, racist and colonial ideals that achieving normativity and thus happiness by these standards may be theoretically and practically impossible for many Queer & Trans* peoples. The Queer* Other, especially racialized, poor, gender deviant, and differently abled Queers* experience great hardship navigating these scripted pathways. We also fail and/or choose to evade these pathways all together. We carve our own ways forward with conviction & self love, with creativity, courage and community support. This project locates the smile within various critical aspects of queer identity; self - regardless of external factors, performativity -how we pretend or perform while needing to walk pathways not intended for us, and community -how we draw strength and connection from our chosen Queer* families. We are very interested in learning from our community about the ways we survive and thrive both through stories and through the subtle implications and imbued meanings within a variation of coded facial expressions.
We are also very interested in the ways that this media installation can serve as a form of conceptual community archive of images, emotions, gestures, and micro-stories loaded invariably with history, symbolism and intersectionality. How are these smiles used or charged differently depending on who is smiling and why? Where does this take the viewer as they encounter each individual frame in the installation? What narratives are constructed? What is implied about self-determination, oppression, resilience and sadness? How is this complicated by Queer & Trans people “smiling” together? What guides us to deviate from the scripted path, to unbind ourselves from dominant imperial narratives and chart our own Queer, Trans & Two Spirit paths towards self-knowledge and fulfillment? Can we be Queerly happy while being social justice killjoys? What does a radical & fulfilling queer future look like and how do we get there?