Yuen Fong Ling

Querying Queer History and Public Memorial


Output: Other

The research explores historically omitted intersectional identities through public memorial-making as artistic practice, revealing the process of participation and performance art practice through the production of the artwork, or monument. The research developed from remaking sandals once designed and handmade by gay, socialist, activist, writer, Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), from sources in Sheffield City Archives and Local Studies Library.

After gifting the sandals to “The Friends of Edward Carpenter”, an activist group who aim to commission a permanent monument to Carpenter in Sheffield City centre, the research took a critical redirection. Questioning whether the sandals themselves, when gifted and worn, could be an alternative form of public memorial, the antithesis of a permanent monument, operating outside of institutionalised procedures associated with public art commissioning.

The research explored how the deliberate commemorative value of public memorials, activated by people, could enliven the idea of Carpenter’s body, spirit, and ideology, embodied through Ling’s own (and other’s) actions. Early artworks developed strategies that linked to local heritage walks and guides, whilst wearing found postcards in his shoes, to form the shape and character of the feet, and awaken the foot’s senses in everyday remembrance. Subsequently, this developed “Towards Memorial” a 3-channel film documenting the making, gifting and wearing of Carpenter inspired sandals. The film follows how Carpenter’s emancipatory ideals are remembered by activists now through their campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Lesbian and Gay Men Support the Miners, and Save Sheffield Trees.

The research generated an exhibition at Persistence Works, Sheffield 2019; museum display at Millennium Galleries, Sheffield for Carpenter’s 175th Birthday Celebrations, was acquired by Sheffield City Archives in Spring 2020, and presented as part of “Outing the Past 2020” online symposium for the national conference event for the annual LGBTQ+ History Month, at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Research Output


This project contains further videos that can accessed via the full case study below.

Research Method

Ling’s methodological approach to practice has developed from previous artworks reconfiguring the traditions and conventions of the life model, and the public and private life class. This developed a ‘tactical life model’ position that shifted between his roles of artist, model and tutor.

Key Methodologies:

Full Project Output

REF '21

To learn more about the output, methods and dissemination of this work, explore the full project submission.