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The Artists Speak: T-room sting becomes art in the hands of William E Jones

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The Artists Speak: T-room sting becomes art in the hands of William E Jones

An introduction to The Artists Speak:

I've always been a fan of visual art, especially queer visual art and art done by queer artists. Some of it is glorious and some of it is paltry and bland. But no matter what, I think it's important to discuss and share. Like Popping Culture, Love Letters to the Past and Open Letters, The Artists Speak will be a series of posts on Down East about a specific work of art or artist. If you know of any interesting art and or artists that you think should be mentioned here, let me know.

*Warning: some content may be considered NSFW*

 

In 1962, a group of police officers carried out a sting operation in Ohio. They filmed and photographed a number of men who were congregating and meeting to have sex with men in a local restroom, colloquially known as a T-room. Many of the men who were photographed were prosecuted for their actions. 

In 2007, William E Jones created Tearoom, a silent film running close to an hour that he made by editing together portions of the footage taken during the sting.


Still from Tearoom, by William E Jones.

Tearoom has been shown around the world, from the Whitney in New York to the Pornfilmfestival in Berlin. It is a time capsule, bringing forth sexuality both open (men having sex with men in public/private spaces) and closed (sex taking place in secret due to fear of persecution/prosecution). 


Still from Tearoom, William E Jones


This work is a not-so-subtle reminder of persecution, ostracization and eroticization within the gay male experience. In an interview about the piece, Jones said:

"The authority figures who arranged this surveillance operation, who later sent the men to jail, and who controlled what this footage meant for society had an agenda, mainly the eradication of homosexuality from their fair city. My goal was to appropriate their film as something other than a pure instrument of domination, to make the film be about the men who are its subjects. I hope people can see more than oppression in TEAROOM."

You can view an excerpt of the film on Sukme, a Tumblr Blog (content NSFW).

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