The Archive Chronicling The Lived Reality Of London’s Queer Community
Dedicated to the dyke, lesbian, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming communities and their creative heritage, HÄN is not an ordinary archive. “Anyone can submit whatever they feel like submitting,” says founder Ella Boucht. “Their work, text, an old message to a lover, an image of their queer elder or a person they look up to, a strap on, their breakfast or first binder.”
Alongside writer Anastasiia Fedorova and photographer Anya Gorkova, Boucht, a Finnish fashion designer and creative director, launched HÄN in July 2022 to illustrate the breadth and depth of queer experience and creativity in London. Encompassing publishing, art, a digital archive, a website, and community projects, HÄN chronicles “the beautiful day-to-day feeling and lived reality of queerness”, simultaneously deconstructing what a contemporary archive is and what it can be. It’s a living, breathing entity, expanding, morphing and shifting like the identities it puts in the limelight.
Originally conceived by Boucht in 2020, the project has been in the works for two years, during which the trio delved into existing queer archives at the Bishopsgate Institute (“the best spot for dates,” says Gorkova) and Central Saint Martins library, among others. To mark the launch of HÄN at Reference Point in London, the team behind the archive have released a namesake limited-edition publication that serves as a bridge between queer past and queer futures.
Illustrated with Gorkova’s intimate monochromatic portraits, the first edition focuses on gender and its representation today, celebrating “the fluidity of it, and the excitement of it shifting,” says Fedorova. For the publication, Fedorova interviewed members of the LGBTQIA+ community from various walks of life, from drag king and burlesque performer Prinx Silver to mudlark Lydia Birgani-Nia and martial artist Black Venus. The result is a sexy, serious, entertaining, tender, defiantly outspoken and, above all, radically hopeful publication in “a world which is burning – and in a world which is being reborn”.
The ultimate mission is to build an internationally accessible contemporary queer archive, which is as apposite as ever considering the backslide on LGBTQIA+ rights the world over. “It feels like at this stage we are finally reconnecting with ourselves, reflecting on the past, acknowledging the present and creating a new, exciting future for ourselves,” says Gorkova. “And this time, it is happening on our terms.”
Nini Barbakadze is a fashion journalist and editor of Phreak Issue who has written for publications such as the Financial Times, Love Magazine, Metal Magazine, Forbes, Coeval Magazine and Year Zero