Today from our partners at Art Practical we bring you an essay on the New York-based LTTR, who describe themselves as “a feminist genderqueer artist collective with a flexible project-oriented practice.” As author Julia Bryan-Wilson notes, “…LTTR rallies people together with ardent enthusiasm.” This article was originally published on December 4, 2013.
“It is our promiscuity that will save us,” AIDS activist and art theorist Douglas Crimp asserted in 1987, a time often marked by the brutal vilification of gay sex, when a devastating health crisis was portrayed in the media as punishment for pleasure. Crimp defied this moralism by arguing that gay men’s sexual flexibility might help them adapt to safer sex strategies. While the AIDS crisis continues, albeit cushioned for some by the effects of life-extending drugs, it is nevertheless difficult to render Crimp’s claim intelligible today. The value of promiscuity considered literally, as Crimp did, seems impossible to imagine given the profound conservatism of much of the contemporary gay and lesbian movement. (The terms of public discourse have changed, clearly, when debates focus on the participation of gays in the institutions of marriage and the military.) Gay couples have perhaps become more tolerated in U.S. society, but other queer practices and community formations have arguably become more limited. Given the current, narrow visions of queerness, there are still lessons to be learned from Crimp’s promotion of openness and diverse encounters.
An embrace of a kind of promiscuity, then, has driven the New York–based collective LTTR from the outset. LTTR is a shifting acronym; it started in 2001 as “Lesbians to the Rescue”—a superhero slogan if there ever was one—and has since stood for phrases ranging from “Lacan Teaches to Repeat” to “Let’s Take the Role.” Just as the words behind its initials are variable, so too are its membership and output. Founded by Ginger Brooks Takahashi and K8 Hardy, LTTR has been joined by Emily Roysdon and Ulrike Müller; all four have ongoing individual practices as artists, videomakers, writers, and/or performers, and they frequently participate in other artistic and activist projects. (Lanke Tattersall was also an editor for the fourth issue.) While LTTR began as a collectively edited and produced journal, the group now also organizes screenings, exhibitions, performances, read-ins, and workshops. The original phrase “Lesbians to the Rescue” suggests that someone, or something, needs to be saved (the phrase is missing only an exclamation point to drive home its campy urgency)—and it is clear from the excited, even libidinal ethos of its projects that LTTR sees this redemption as rooted in desire.