Queer Cartography

Rebecca Varidel
9th Jan 2024

Queer Cartography’ is the term artist Jeremy Smith uses to describe his artistic practice of highly detailed hand drawn maps, integrating queer psychology, history and geography.

With a First Class Honours Bachelor and Masters of Fine Arts Jeremy is currently studying his PhD in Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales Art and Design. His PhD research is titled Queer Cartography: counter-mapping the gay male body in Sydney post PrEP with his research creating a series of artistic maps of Sydney’s queer history, culture and social geography.

As an inaugural curator at Qtopia Sydney, Smith will be curating We’re Here, We’re Queer a celebration of the breadth and depth of Pride across Australia.

“Pride is the antidote to shame, and it saves lives. I am so honoured to be mapping and highlighting all the diverse Pride events across Australia be they urban, rural, large or small, that banish shame, celebrate our stories, creativity and culture."

“From parties and film festivals to drag events and archives, tea dances and tomboy raves - queer events are in every corner of Australia. Its a rainbow of Queer joy and a demonstration of our existence and visibility.”

We’re Here, We’re Queer will also showcase a ‘LGBTQIA+ Periodic Table’ as a large wall info graph, outlining an A-Z of queer groups and definitions. Smith’s PhD research explores the notion of ‘counter-mapping’, a process of mapping against dominant narratives and power structures. He uses detailed drawing to ‘countermap’ the gay male body post PrEP (anti-retroviral drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, used in the prevention of HIV transmission). Smith seeks to create a series of large-scale maps as cultural artefacts of the changing Queer experience in Sydney.

As Smith explains "so often in our history queer people have had negative or non existent narratives about us imposed on us. From our collective criminalisation, our lovers described as ‘room-mates’ to our deaths being a trope, we had others speak for us and try to define us. Qtopia represents a historic moment for us to not only counter these narratives and document our history, but to tell our stories with our own voice."

One of his works is a large scale drawing titled Sydney Queer Bubbles. The drawing map is a work in progress, in the style of old hemisphere world maps, and maps Sydney’s traditional gay bubble of the Inner East, alongside the emergent new gay bubble of the Inner West.

Describing his approach, Smith says, “I was inspired by an article in which an ABS spokesperson stated that 1 in 10 men in same sex relationships live within 2 kilometres of Taylor Square in Darlinghurst.”

“I wanted to map both the traditional gay bubble of the east using the Progress Rainbow flag-pole in Taylor Square as the centre of this bubble radiating 2 kilometres in all directions. Alongside that, is the Inner West bubble with the newly created Pride Square next to Newtown Station, radiating 2 kilometres out in all directions from there. To map the changing queer landscape of Sydney” Smith’s work will also display the range of pride flags and the identities they represent, inviting the viewer to either find themselves and their Queer kin in the rainbow family, or to learn more about LGBTQIA+ identity and representation.

Renowned Historian and Qtopia Sydney Director Garry Wotherspoon is intrigued and impressed by Smith’s work.

“What better way to show that We’re here, we’re Queerthan by showing what looks like a weather map but is actually a ‘whither’ map."

“As Dorothy once sang, in The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Somewhere over the rainbow …’– and you’re sure to find it in Sydney,” Wotherspoon concluded.