Elena Rosa is a Los Angeles-based artist who needed to create a lesbian story world the place folks of all genders, sexualities and identities might study lesbian bar historical past. She drew from images, writings and interviews with former bar patrons and bar house owners to deliver L-BAR to life. Rosa sat down with Jessica Abo to speak about her interactive on-line bar and salon, and her recommendation for anybody making an attempt to create a sacred expertise.
Jessica Abo: You have spent years working as an actor and artist and say you are actually obsessed with creating totally different worlds. What’s it about creating environments that lights you up?
I like constructing environments. I like desirous about our structure and the way that frames our id. I’ve a specific fascination with Byzantine church buildings, the best way the plenty can stroll into this dome, this heaven on earth and everybody has one point of interest. Straight forward is the focal. It is one fact, one perception. And when you look to the left or to the proper or above you, there are depictions of saints mirroring that fact and confirming that fact. I like desirous about how that informs us in these areas.
In distinction to the lesbian bar, which had been our saloons and taverns, they’re often fairly darkish. They usually may be down an alleyway or they may be down a flight of stairs, however they’re darkish. At first, there weren’t any home windows, and the place there have been home windows, they had been coated with curtains, so that you could not see what was occurring inside. I feel that encourages experimentation and strolling into the unknown. It is stuffed with thriller, and I imagine in that house is the place company may be explored.
Why did you need to create an area devoted to lesbian bar historical past?
I needed to have a good time and honor lesbian bar historical past. I feel that these bars, particularly pre-Stonewall, had been bars that actually allowed ladies to border feminism and concepts of need and methods of being on the earth. So, I needed to honor that historical past and likewise honor the trailblazers, all of the those that crossed the road to enter the bar when it wasn’t okay to do this.
I take into consideration my very own lesbian bar historical past, and I landed in San Francisco and I’d simply come out and I’d go to this bar on Sundays and it was Women’ Day on Sundays. I do not recollect it being about consuming alcohol. It wasn’t about that, the bar for me. However, on an unconscious stage, I suppose there was this different facet and I could not wait to get to the bar. There was this different facet of strolling into a spot, strolling in someplace, and the folks that you simply see mirror who you might be. I feel that unequivocal understanding that another person is such as you. It is a lifeline, actually. I used to be raised very spiritual, and to me, this was every thing. This was every thing to me. However, I do not know if I noticed it on the time, however I wanted it. I wanted that mirror to myself on the time, from folks, from these ladies in that bar.
What is the state of lesbian bars at present?
Effectively, there aren’t many lesbian bars left. Based on the Lesbian Bar Mission, which raises cash to fund the remaining lesbian bars within the U.S., there are below 25 lesbian bars. I imagine that to be able to perceive why they’ve disappeared, we have to perceive why they existed. The lesbian bars are very totally different at present. They’re much more inclusive with language. I feel once I was going to bars, there have been many alternative identities and methods of being there, however they simply weren’t spoken about. Or, in the event that they had been, it wasn’t foregrounded by that. I feel bars had been extra foregrounded by need, at the least once I was arising. Now, language is there, and inclusivity is there on the forefront, and I feel that is actually nice. I feel that is great. Generally, I’m wondering if we want the time period lesbian bar anymore if we want lesbian bar anymore.
It is fascinating to consider. I feel additionally, I’ve seen that the intergenerational facet of bars once I was arising shouldn’t be there anymore. I bear in mind going to early bars and I’d discuss to the older dykes about how you can shoot pool and how you can be and no matter, and there was numerous communication between generations, and that is not the case anymore. That is to do with the net world. A number of my older associates have great, wonderful relationships on-line they usually need not go to the bar. So, it isn’t a foul factor, it is simply totally different. The bars are very totally different at present.
What is going to somebody expertise once they enter L-BAR?
Inside L-BAR, you’ll be offered with a world, I name it a lesbian story world. That world has a great deal of cities which you could click on into, and whenever you do, you may discover bars, lesbian bars, offered to you. These bars all really existed. They’re from 1925 by way of 2005. Now, I made these bars, they’re digital artwork interpretations, I made them primarily based on oral histories from former bar house owners and bar patrons. So, you too can hear these interviews contained in the house. You may meet associates there or make new ones, sit at a bar stool and hearken to folks like Joan Nestle, Jewelle Gomez, Lillian Faderman to call a number of. You may really hear them contained in the bars.
What do you assume this challenge represents now?
I feel this challenge represents a residing archive. I feel it affords a approach to take a look at historical past in another way by being inside it, by occupying that historical past, by listening to the tales the place that historical past happened and sitting inside it and sharing your individual story inside it. I feel it is one other approach to doc and one other approach to expertise one’s self by way of historical past.
I feel it additionally reveals how necessary and sacred lesbian bars had been for lots of people, and sacred to our historical past by way of id constructing and shedding and methods of being on the earth.
What’s subsequent for you and L-Bar?
I will be shifting off of this platform that I exploit, which is named ohyay, which is wonderful. They’re shutting down on December thirty first, so L-Bar may also shut down. I am at the moment making use of for grants and searching for funding to maneuver the challenge some place else. I am additionally making a documentary about lesbian bar historical past.
What recommendation do you have got for somebody who’s making an attempt to create a sacred expertise whether or not it is by way of the metaverse or by way of a brick-and-mortar atmosphere?
I feel it is necessary, in no matter you do, no matter you create, to make it private, make it stuffed with your coronary heart, as a result of I feel persons are going to disagree with you they usually’re not going to love what it’s a must to say, and that encourages dialog. I imagine within the dialog. I imagine in distinction, and I feel that’s what sustainable enterprise is. I do not assume it is pleasing everyone. I feel it is really a dialog.