Sydney’s LGBT Museum Qtopia To Showcase The History Of The Taylor Square Toilets 

Sydney’s LGBT Museum Qtopia To Showcase The History Of The Taylor Square Toilets 
Image: Image: City of Sydney archives

Writer and curator Laura Castagnini has been named a curator for the LGBTQI museum, Qtopia Sydney, which opens on February 23.

Curating for over 15 years, Castagnini has most recently worked at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Before that, they worked as Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate.

The Underground: Sexuality and Protest

As one of 12 curators, Castagnini will curate an exhibition called, The Underground: Sexuality and Protest in the infamous Taylor Square toilets as part of the museum’s opening exhibition.

A popular beat before they were closed in 1988, the Taylor Square Underground Public Toilets is significant in the history of Queer culture and liberation.

The toilets were a secluded place where men could cruise for sex after having a night out on Oxford Street.

‘Charts a history of cruising and Queer sex in Sydney’

The Underground: Sexuality and Protest will showcase a range of visual materials, including photography, film, and performance documentation. 

Talking about the exhibit, Castagnini explained, “The Underground: Sexuality and Protest charts a history of cruising and Queer sex in Sydney during the 1980s and 1990s. 

“It draws on archival visual materials related to key meeting places for queer sex – including beats, gay saunas, fetish competitions, performances and club nights. The exhibition pays tribute to some of the subcultural icons and creative communities that emerged in Sydney during this time, from Troughman to Wicked Women and cLUB bENT.” 

Castagnini continued, “The exhibition shows the importance of beats in Queer culture and popular imagination. For example, it includes documentary photographs by Ulo Klemmer who worked as a Beats Project Officer at ACON (AIDS Council of New South Wales Inc.) from 1988 to 1993. These photographs show graffiti in toilets as an analogue precursor to Grindr. These messages were a way for gay men to find anonymous sex but also build relationships and community. 

“Whilst lesbian and transgender people are traditionally excluded from sex-on-premise spaces, which mostly cater to cis gay men, the exhibition highlights the curated spaces that explored Queer desire, SM and fantasy during the 1980s and 1990s. This includes rarely seen footage of Sex Intents performing at the 1993 Ms Wicked competition, an open annual fetish contest organised by the erotic lesbian magazine Wicked Women (1987-1996).” 

They added, “The show also highlights the crucial role that gay saunas played in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in Australia. The exhibition brings together material related to Ken’s Karate Klub (later Ken’s of Kensington), including original signage as well as safe sex posters by David McDiarmid.”

Set To Open This Month

Qtopia Sydney is set to open at its permanent location at the Darlinghurst Police Station (Taylor Square Underground Public Toilet Block adjacent) on February 23.

The site of the old Darlinghurst Police Station on Forbes and Bourke Streets has an important place in the city’s Queer history. 

The police station was once associated with the harassment and persecution of Sydney’s LGBTQI community, including 78ers.

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