“Watchqueen” is a multi-channel video installation using sociologist Laud Humphreys’ study of male public sex as reference for 3D animations that utilize sweeping fly-over shots of imaginary archeological sites. Published in 1965, Humphreys’ “Tearoom Trade” sought to understand the culture of male anonymous sex. To conduct his study, Humphreys infiltrated and adopted the role of the “Watchqueen”--a passive participant who is both a voyeur and a guard against the police.
During his covert research, Humphreys created dozens of maps and diagrams of public bathrooms that documented his observations of the movements and cruising patterns between men engaged in anonymous sex. These maps become the primary imagery in 3D animated sequences where I bring the maps to life using 3D animation and worldbuilding techniques borrowed from video games.
Depicted as ancient archeological ruins, dilapidated monuments, and abandoned sites of ritual, the animated sequences are paired with voice-overs that use first-person observation narratives written by Humphreys that detail the positions and moves made by the men he observed.
Ultimately, “Watchqueen'' poses counter-narratives about the data chronicled in Humphreys’ maps. Whereas Humphreys thought he was attempting to decipher a deviant phenomenon, I posit that the maps inadvertently documented a lost “code” legible only to those in the subculture.