Queer activist Reena Katz has chosen 3 main platforms to present and exhibit her ideas: bed, broadcast and the stage. “Bodies as well as objects take shape through being oriented toward each other, as an orientation may be experienced as the cohabitation or sharing of space,” wrote Sarah Ahmed, in Toward a Queer Phenomenology. Katz selected this quote for her presentation. I think it directly applies to her idea of how shared space becomes political. For example when John Lennon and Yoko Ono conducted their bed-in for peace in 1969, it was an intervention into the Viet Nam War. Katz’s event, on the other hand, suggests a shift in society’s approach to queer issues through discourse. A bed-in is a suggestion of sharing space for a cause, much like a social protest - though there’s an undeniably different level of intimacy associated with bed-ins. You could almost look at lying horizontally as a collective as a metaphor for sharing a perspective because you are on the same physical level as your peers. This use of positive aesthetics, ie: white clothing, organized spaces for activity, and a shared bed can all contribute to affect among its participants and audience. All of this participation and listening creates an intense feeling of power and community.
Actively working with this idea of ‘dissolving the space,’ Katz chose to keep the lights on during her discussion to keep an open space between performer (her) and the audience during her March 3rd talk. She explained how her adaptation of bed-in activism not only exposed queers but also those who are not queer. The very act of lying down creates this inevitable vulnerability around you because you are horizontal. At the same time, it creates a very political space.
There was a strong affiliation with music in John and Yoko’s bed-in and Katz incorporated this in her bed-in event. Music experienced together inevitably creates a feeling of community (in the bed), as it does in other contexts such as concerts and sing-alongs. like that Katz collaborate with others to incorporate music. Music is often used as much as a creative outlet as it is to drive social change. I think it’s fascinating that this bed-in was re-created by Katz with a larger group of people for the four days, as opposed to John and Yoko’s which was essentially lead by the couple. This adaptation worked as a platform for discussion. Through differences and commonalities, the voicing of opinions occured fluidly in the bed. The bed-on sometimes had only a couple of people participating, but could expand to a group of people filling the bed, thus fuelling a much larger discussion.
Katz explained how this experience has exposed her to a larger community; she described some of the participants as those with “a personal investment of making change in the world.” It is always inspiring to hear about an artist reaching out to collaborate. In this case, it would bring a larger awareness to queer issues. Katz’s approach starts out solo, but gradually develops a team.
Katz is very engaging to listen to. She is involved in in many issues (eg., Black Lives Matter) and she frequently uses media, like her radio show, as a tool.
So where does the conversation converge on these different platforms? How can they be used as vehicle for media activism? There can sometimes be a disconnect in art if a piece does not personally resonate with the viewer, But it can also provoke thought in directions that wouldn’t otherwise be explored. I think it would be interesting to see the reactions and effects of the bed-in in a larger venue. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace is quite well known around the world, but I think Katz’s event would be fascinating to analyze with an even larger group of participants because her approach deserves more attention.