John Q to take over Cyclorama in May

An arts collective is looking for resonance between queer migration and the Battle of Atlanta painting


Queer arts collective John Q will return with a two-day event titled The Campaign for Atlanta at the Cyclorama in May. The ambitious work - they’re calling it a “performative essay” - will tell the story of Georgia native and celebrated gay photographer Crawford Barton, address issues of queer migration, and, perhaps, find some resonance in the Cyclorama’s great Battle of Atlanta painting.

The connection that runs through the work is the result of research collective members Andy Ditzler, Joey Orr, and Wesley Chenault have been doing for the better part of the past year.

Crawford Barton is best known as a photographer who chronicled San Francisco’s queer scene in the late ’60s and ’70s. His photos have been collected in various publications, exhibited alongside the premiere of Gus Van Sant’s Milk, and posthumously exhibited at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco. While in San Francisco for a performance at that museum, John Q came across Barton’s archive, including a trove of rarely seen Super 8 films. The films include a wide range of material, from early Pride parades and staged performances to intimate documents of Barton’s cross-country move from Georgia to California.

Inspired by Barton’s documents, the collective began drafting a project that addressed the larger story of queer migration, the way that urban centers like San Francisco or Atlanta become destinations for queer communities drawn from throughout the country. The Cyclorama, which also depicts a story of a large population descending upon Atlanta, albeit in the context of war, seemed a fitting place for the work.

The result promises to be a unusual combination of cinema, painting, the written word, and performance, though Orr cautions against taking that last point literally.

“It’s not performative in the sense of wearing a costume and behaving a certain way,” he says. “I’d call it essay. Essay in the sense of: to try. To take on a form and try to say something. We think about our work as research, too. What did you do with that research? We made an essay. I can’t send it to you as a .pdf, but it’s an essay.”

The Campaign for Atlanta will run Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18. A reception will begin at 6:30 pm, essay at 7 pm. Admission is $8.