Visual History of LGBTIQ+ in Austria and Beyond

Preserving and Curating Queer Ephemeral Media Spaces in an Age of Datafication

Queer has a history and it can be shown. The only question is how, since representations of queer lifestyles were forbidden in Austria until the mid 1990s by harsh criminal legislation. In accordance with the ban on advertising and clubs in effect until 1996, queer lifestyles were mostly ignored historically in films and on television and when they were not, they were represented and reproduced more so as a history of oppression.
As a result, the audiovisual traces of the LGBTIQ+ community that we find outside of official representations and state control, are even more important – namely, in so-called ephemeral films and videos: home movies, amateur films, films documenting political and social movements, and campaign videos, i.e., recordings made outside of industrial and artistic distribution contexts. From small-gauge filmmaking into the 2000s, we find testimonies of a multi-faceted, diverse and transnationally active queer culture over the decades. Under the working title "Rainbow Films," the Austrian Film Museum – in collaboration with the Österreichische Mediathek, QWIEN – Zentrum für queere Geschichte, STICHWORT Archiv der Frauen- und Lesbenbewegung as well as the Schwules Museum Berlin and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History – has begun a long-term project to collect these films and videos. The material collected so far comprises a running time of more than several thousand minutes.
The "Visual History of LGBTIQ+ in Austria and Beyond" project analyses, first, the audiovisual, ephemeral self-documentation of the LGBTIQ+ community in and with connections to Austria. From living room settings to activist films, the material is a resource for emancipatory utopias of subjectivity, sociality and collectivity: it tells us the story of forms of collective living in precarious and crisis-laden contexts, and seems relevant and actual for all of society: how does one live in times of collapsing democracy, of repression, racism, hate, and homo and transphobia? Queer history as a subcultural history is always, also, a history of spaces, whether local or virtual, in which something is possible. This is why the project does not approach the films and videos as "private documents," but – contrary to the ubiquitous privatization of contemporary life – as the ephemeral spaces of a secret public.
The project goal is to produce an audiovisual history of the LGBTIQ+ movement and daily life as well as to develop curatorial strategies for its presentation. The latter presents challenges to visual and data ethics. There is a thin line between empowerment and vulnerability: in view of the fragility of ephemera, the challenge is how to deal with material from so-called visual "minorities." What are the possibilities between archival confidentiality and haphazardly uploading media to a cloud? How does one deal with visual gaps? What strategic role do the arts play?       

Applicant and project manager
Dr. Katharina Müller (Österreichisches Filmmuseum & IFK Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften | Kunstuniversität Linz in Wien)

This research is funded by FWF Austrian Science Fund (Elise Richter Programme).

January 2023 to December 2025


FWF Der Wissenschaftsfonds
Kunstuniversität Linz
Dr. Katharina Müller