1997 - Keith Haring: Party of Life


For the 1997 Mardi Gras Parade, it was Sue-Ellen Cox's intention was to stage something which made a connection the gay community but also educated those unaware, both within and outside our community, of the breadth of the gay community's talents. A core group of about 4 (Elisa Lyphe, Only Friend, Amanda Rynn and Sue-Ellen Cox ) set about deciding the theme. Elisa Lyphe was really pushy, but we were glad she was. Everytime someone came up with an idea, she asserted that we were able to present something better.

So it was on a trip into the city one day during her Christmas holidays, that Sue-Ellen saw a poster for the Keith Haring exhibition being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art (M.C.A.). The image on the poster was that of "Baby", which along with "Dog", is one of Haring's most recognisable tags. Sue-Ellen's first exposure to the art of Haring was during her involvement with ACTUP Sydney, where she established the ACTUP Annandale branch with the motto SUFFERANCE=GLAMOUR. She visited the M.C.A. to view the exhibition, and realised that the iconography of Haring (see The Haring Foundation ), with its bold simplicity and implicit messages of AIDS, interaction with humans and nature, and human rights issues, would be ideal to stage in the Mardi Gras parade.

Keith Haring held a birthday event called the "Party of Life". It was also the name of a party held at the M.C.A. during Mardi Gras of this year. She thought it an apt title for our parade group. She then approached Nicholas Baume of the M.C.A. for research material and he gladly provided her with catalogues and entry to the exhibition for the members of the parade group. From this, with assistance from Ian McMillan, she prepared a submission to Mardi Gras for funding under the "Parade Entry We Had To Have" scheme. The group was unsuccessful, the funding granted to Corby Beard's Pauline Hanson entry. However, she used the submission as a design brief for people wishing to join the group.

22 participants were assembled for the parade group. Each member was responsible for the design and construction of their own costume. They could choose any piece of Haring art and present it in any form that they wished as long as it was an accurate representation. Some of the participants constructed their costume at the Mardi Gras workshop and others built their costumes at home by themselves or in working groups. So it was not until the night of the parade that everyone was able to see how the contingent would look. All were all pleasantly surprised. Our parade group subsequently received an award for the Best Small Group Entrant in the 1997 parade.

Keith Haring at work on a subway drawing


Keith Haring at work on a New York subway drawing.