CO-WC info booth at Lesbian and Gay City Festival in Berlin, 2016

Largest event of its kind in Europe

Musicians, artists and politicians on various stages, hundreds of organizations with their information booths, countless food and drink stations, colorful personalities and a great atmosphere – no wonder that thousands of visitors came to the Lesbian Gay City Festival in Berlin again in 2016. It is the combination of entertainment and information that makes this event so special. And now CO-WC was also there with a booth.

Time to join the Berlin Lesbian and Gay City Festival

This queer city festival is famous. With CO-WC we were there for the first time in 2015 to shoot some cool photos. Since then, we’ve been there again and again with CO-WC – check out our video from the Lesbian and Gay City Festival 2018, for example.

“Equal rights for unequal people – we are all equal from behind”. Very cool motto. Time for CO-WC to present itself with an information booth. So, we contacted the organizer Regenbogenfonds e.V. to pitch the CO-WC project. And then everything happened very fast. We registered, got a stand and started working.

Making of CO-WC booth

The booth was to be a sort of passageway. And it had to look cool. We started to build an arched frame with copper pipes. For the feet we used a pink flower pot and a blue watering can filled with cement. Colorful balloons attached to the frame created a festive mood. And two solar-powered butterflies provided a glow-in-the-dark effect. A stack of flyers was ready on the information table, with Penguin Hedwig standing next to it in a rainbow-colored petticoat. On top of the frame was a large CO-WC sign and poster.

A place to be

The city festival took place in Berlin’s trendy Schöneberg district. CO-WC booth was located in a historic street. Motzstraße had many gay hangouts in 1920s and has been a cultural hub for queers ever since. In 1993, the festival was organized here for the first time. The Lesbian and Gay City Festival is also known as the Motzstraßenfestival.

At this festival, one exciting booth follows the next. CO-WC had very cool neighbors. On the right was the Senate Administration for Labor, Integration and Women of the State of Berlin and on the left CLOF, the Creative Lobby Of the Future.

Why is CO-WC at the Lesbian and Gay City Festival?

The goal was to share thoughts with festival-goers, raise awareness of the power of signs and promote openness, diversity and respect. CO-WC sign was created to be an inspiration for a change of perspective. When you passed the sign, you saw it changing its shapes and colors. You could experience and actively participate in a process of construction, transformation and interpretation. Nothing is over and done, but in the flow.

Feedback of the festival goers

Festival-goers loved playing with the sign. Despite differing perspectives, most seemed to agree that this is about the flow of life. But people also criticized CO-WC for using binary pictograms. Some preferred hybrid signs showing half-man-half-woman figures. Others went further and wanted only labels such as “All-Gender Restroom.”

How is the situation?

Traditional man-woman pictograms reproduce the heterosexual matrix and cannot have a future. The new hybrid half-man-half-woman sign seems to be a neat way to go. However, there are some problems. The hybrid sign suggests, for example, that there are two perfect gender (man & woman). Next to them, there is a gender that is neither one nor the other, but is composed of the two complete ones. As a hybrid, split in itself, not existing on its own, it is imperfect. In addition to this devaluation, this offered deviation or exception solidifies the norm of two-sexes. And as for the non-use of pictorial representations, that is, the use of lettering: We should not forget that traditional pictograms are everywhere and deeply anchored in the collective consciousness. The “out of sight, out of mind” approach somewhat blanks out reality and just wants quick change.

Queer old sign

So, what to do? From CO-WC’s perspective, change must come from and within the system. Let’s play with an old sign and queer it. This is the idea behind CO-WC. The sign reflects the old norms and at the same time challenges their long-established power. It invites us to play with our selfies. CO-WC wants to build bridges, between past and future, theory and practice, straight and queer, and most of all, all bodies living now.

As promised, here are the best pictures of you guys, enjoy!

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