Chris Vargas, New Museum in MOTHA drag, 2018. Digital image
Join the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA), for a special evening with a group of artists commissioned by MOTHA to propose new monuments to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. Comprised of an intergenerational group of artists working across a wide range of mediums, the project takes up Stonewall’s legacy through radically different forms and on divergent terms. Presented during the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, each proposal makes an argument for how to understand and situate this hirstory in our contemporary moment. With an eye to the many ways the Stonewall story is told, these artists consider the possibilities of each for generating alternative futures.
This program is presented on the occasion of Chris E. Vargas’s exhibition and residency, “Consciousness Razing: The Stonewall Re-memorialization Project,” which embeds MOTHA within the New Museum. This iteration of the project will explore Stonewall as a geographically, demographically, and historically contested site. Throughout MOTHA’s four-month exhibition, Vargas questions what we think we know about the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, often cited as a formative event for gay liberation and the modern LGBTQI civil rights movement in the US. In 2016, to commemorate the riots, President Obama designated Stonewall Inn and the adjacent Christopher Park a national monument. Yet for years, many of the activists who led the fight against violence and police brutality against queer and trans people—including Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, and many others—were not properly recognized in popular accounts of Stonewall. These figures are increasingly acknowledged in mainstream LGBTQI histories, but narratives of their work often elide their more radical demands and their critiques of racism, economic marginalization, and transphobia. Rather than construct a neat historical trajectory, the overall project contends that attempting to narrate a stable history does the past a disservice. Instead, MOTHA finds new ways to uncover, recast, and recuperate elements of the past.