In 1954 a Joint Committee of the House of Commons and House of Lords was called to consider homosexual offences and prostitution in society. The subsequent Wolfenden Report documented their findings and recommended that ‘homosexual behaviour between consenting adults be no longer a criminal offence’. Polari was a secretive language of the homosexual subculture which was predominantly prevalent among men in the 1960s. At a time when homosexuality was still taboo, the language provided gay men with a means to communicate exclusively and separately from suspicious eavesdroppers.
Wolfenden by Jez Dolan combines the official language of the report with Polari and highlights the differences between the public political voice and the hidden expressions of the gay community. Originally commissioned by the Houses of Parliament this light installation projecting the Polari text onto the walls of Bury Art Museum is part of his ongoing residency 60/50.
Since February, artist Jez Dolan has been in residence at Bury Art Museum undertaking an ongoing series of artist-led interventions in the Permanent Collection Gallery entitled ‘60/50’. The project title refers to the significant anniversaries of 2017; 60 years since the Wolfenden Report recommended the decriminalisation of sexual relations in private between men, and 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act executed partial decriminalisation. Two of the most important milestones in UK LGBT+ emancipation and legislation. Both of these had significant impact around the world.
During his residency, Dolan has exhibited his own related work and has worked with the permanent collection at Bury Art Museum, creating a series of interventions from a queer perspective, drawing new parallels and casting new light on overlooked aspects of the collection, which celebrate and commemorate the queer histories which often remain concealed.
Jez Dolan’s practice is interdisciplinary, project-based and research-driven. He utilises a range of media accord- ing to the specific needs, demands and context of each project.
He is currently working with printmaking, photography, performance, installation and curating, whilst explor- ing the creation of new works from archival sources, through which we recall and revisit individual and shared memories and histories, often through the use of text as both visual presence and mode of communication.
He is interested in researching Queer identity; histories, heritage and personal archives, and how we place these, and ourselves in the wider world. Events and experiences always leave behind a trace or residual mark of their occurrence and it is these traces, marks and events which Jez is interested in exploring, expressing these ideas through a process which is performative, collaborative, and celebrates the physical act of ‘making’.