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Gay Bar: A dig beneath the disco

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This is a live online event hosted by The Research Forum at The Courtauld

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Jeremy Atherton Lin explores queer identities through manufactured objects and the built environment. Working from the idea that identity is not only inscribed on our bodies, but articulated through the places we inhabit, his book Gay Bar: Why We Went Out looks back on venues where he’s hung out himself to consider the boundaries of a fixed identity, exclusion within a subculture, the paradox of community within a commercial sphere, and the tension between visibility and secrecy. Seeking a lineage of gay culture while alert to the ahistoricism this quest often elicits, the author details his own experiences, but also traces back to 1970s Hollywood discos and earlier still to cruising tunnels built beneath London in the 1770s. Each site reveals itself as a palimpsest of queer rumours and suggestions. Through toponomy, legal opinions, police reports and listing applications, as well as discursive forays into literature and pop culture, the book excavates these sites to use as case studies into the various ways that gay populations have played complex roles in transforming the urban landscape. This lecture examines buildings drawn from the book to delineate the research methodologies used in such a subjective archaeology.

Jeremy Atherton Lin is an American essayist based in London. He studied playwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and worked as an editor before establishing his idiolect through observational writings in blogs and zines. He received the MA in Writing from the Royal College of Art (RCA), where his final project considered the appropriated workwear garment as reification of shifting post-industrial economies, and in particular the role of queer fetishization in that trajectory. His focus has since evolved into an ongoing exploration of the bind between place and identity. Jeremy’s debut book Gay Bar: Why We Went Out (2021), published by Little, Brown in North America and Granta in the UK, positions memoir within gay-male-centred commercial spaces and urban enclaves. Jeremy is Associate Editor at the journal Failed States, which produced ‘A Map to Fall Through,’ a programme on place and identity, in London in 2019. He has lectured at Central Saint Martins, Camberwell College of Arts and the Royal College of Art. His work has been published by The White Review, ArtReview, Index, Noon, Dirty Furniture, Tinted Window and the Times Literary Supplement.

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