Dyke! Fag! Centurion! Whore! an Appreciation of Tessa Boffin
Tessa pillaged the past for images from which to reinvent an identity and articulate desire, and placed her characters ‘into the great heterosexual narratives of courtly and romantic love: by making the Knight’s Move-a lateral or sideways leap’ (Boffin and Fraser 1991). Her invention of dramatis personae re-interpreted notions of history as well as the contemporary spaces lesbians can enter. The location of the piece, the cemetery, not only summons our dead heroines, from Janet Flanner to Gertrude Stein, but also vibrates with the frisson of public, outdoor sex. Gay male sex. Cruising cemeteries is more dangerous for girls. It’s only in gangs that we can be seen there. The display beneath a tombstone of black and white photographs of women who have been claimed as lesbian heroes, emphasizes the necessity of visual representations for lesbians to claim and record our desire. The work then proceeds to create individual representations of historical fantasy figures: the indomitable knight, the earnest knave, the sorrowful angel, the haughty Casanova and the inscrutable lady-inwaiting. ‘I could hardly find you in my history books, but now in this scene, you all come together’ (Boffin and Fraser 1991).