Back in 2019, Jessica Walter was at the Schwules Museum to queer her Valentine’s Day. Four years later, she’s filling the full-time position as a research trainee at SMU. Here, she talks about her love for outreach work, zines, and the mini-comic ASS-TRO-BOY as October’s Darling of the Month.
Hey Jessica! Can you introduce yourself?
Can do: I’m Jessica, I’m doing the research traineeship here at the Schwules Museum in the areas of exhibitions, archives, education, and outreach. I’ve been here since April, and before that I was really just a visitor at SMU during my undergrad in American Studies. I like being able to put my theoretical skills from literary and cultural studies into practice in my museum work now.
How cool! What are your topics here at the museum?
Right now, I’m working a lot at the intersection of education and archives. I’m trying to build projects where people who don’t have access to the archive yet can get it. So, bringing in people, who really feel fear or awe of the archive, and showing them easy ways to access it and research, that’s what I’m doing. I like to go to the archive a lot myself and look at things related to diaspora, comics, photography, and art.
That makes sense, I see you interacting with museum visitors a lot.
Exactly, one of my jobs is to book tours; I usually write to our guides for that. Since I was curatorial assistant for the exhibition „Photography as Way of Life. Rüdiger Trautsch. Bilder aus 50 Jahren“, and did the photo selection together Peter Rehberg and Dragan Šimičević, for example, I like to give tours through this exhibition myself. I’m really proud of that, Peter and Dragan did a great job.
So you’re particularly good at education work?
Yes, I think so. I’m sometimes reserved, but I can get rid of that here. When I give tours or do workshops, I quickly realize how much content actually is in this work. And then it comes, my favorite moment: when a person writes down something I said.
Can you remember your first time at the Schwules Museum?
That was on Valentine’s Day 2019, because I was here for a party of the exhibition Extra+Terrestrial. A friend of mine was the curator of this show and invited me. There I was allowed to spend the day with friends I love; together we queered Valentine’s Day a little bit.
And would you have thought that four years later you would be part of the team?
Not at all! At that point, I was at the beginning of my Master’s degree, so I had just started something new. And between then and now, as you know, a lot of unexpected things happened… I wasn’t able to imagine the future so well back then.
It feels like you’ve always been with us.
I feel the same way, even though I’ve only been here for five months. I quickly felt comfortable and got on well with my colleagues very well. My onboarding also went by fast, although that’s not just due to my great personality, of course, but also to my super colleagues!
A big compliment! How long have you known your darling?
I’ve known my darling since Queer History Month, when Frede from the guides team gave a guided tour of the archive and laid out a few archival objects. I went to see what Frede was interested in, and I came across this zine: ASS-TRO-BOY from Uranus Comics.
What is this zine about?
I did some research and saw that this zine is based on the Japanese manga Astro Boy. However, ASS-TRO-BOY is about a little robot that was made to be a bottom. What I find quite interesting is that we only have chapter two, so the story has a few gaps, it just lacks a lot of context. Still, it’s exciting to see ASS-TRO-BOY escape to another planet and make himself comfortable there through his big ass.
Do you have any idea why you like this object so much?
Yes, I like it so much because I love zines and I make zines myself. The format of the zine delights me because there’s just something playful about dealing with queer content in a accessible and creative way. I also like the anti-capitalist aspect of zines because they are DIY, meaning easy to produce, reproduce, and give away. I learned about zines via the punk rock scene and in a way exist outside of a capitalist logic of exploitation. It’s more about making something yourself instead of waiting for publishers or waiting to be ‘ready’, which is such an obstaclein the creative realm. A zine, especially a mini-zine like this, can lighten things up.
Cool! When you say you make zines yourself, are they also about big butts, or do you have other topics?
(laughs) My zines are definitely my artistic outlet. Privately I am a person who writes, and I always try to reach other people with it, maybe even inspire them. Dreaming, for example, is one topic that occupies me.
Your darling in three words?
Playful, subversive and adventurous. The thing at the end of ASS-TRO-BOY is his realization that “I am an amazing robot!” – so that has a lot to do with self-love and recognition. At the end I was really proud of ASS-TRO-BOY, and he was too, that’s why the story ends with the words “I am free”… Maybe I’ll take “playful subversive self-love” after all.
Do the darlings that you miss at the museums look like this as well?
I think we already have many of them, but I am greedy and want more. So, yes, I would like to see more objects that offer a playful approach to maybe even difficult topics; things from our queer history that bring us joy and make us light up.
Foto: mino Künze