Desperate Living

Desperate Living is an ongoing programme that brings artists, public organisations and informal groups together to test out new and experimental forms of collaborative programming, knowledge sharing and production explored through the lens of LGBTQ+ healthcare.

The project explores alternative ways of living and caring through a series of collaborative projects and residencies working with intergenerational LGBTQ+ people and with artists Sunil Gupta, Conal McStravick and Raju Rage and The Right Lube. From Autumn 2021, a series of public events and projects will take place onsite following the Studio Voltaire Capital Project.

Across the project, we will collaborate with key community and healthcare partners to create a public programme of events which will critically reflect on care and explore LGBTQ+ experience of this.

In response to COVID–19, we initiated Desperate Living C–19, a new phase of this programme from May – October 2020.

Supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Mila Charitable Organisation.

If you are an LGBTQ+ community or health organisation interested to find out more or get involved, please email



Sunil Gupta, Artist Residency

Sunil Gupta has embarked on a twelve–month residency in 2021-2, set within Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s adult HIV Clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital, London and Genital Affirmation Surgery service at Charing Cross Hospital, London.

Working closely with hospital staff and patients, Gupta will ask questions about one of the major institutions that plays a role in defining gender and sexuality and will collaborate with patients to explore their healthcare experiences as part of their care. The residency will lead to a series of works and a public programme of events.

This residency is a collaborative project between Studio Voltaire and Imperial Health Charity and has received additional funding from Arts Council England.

Conal McStravick, Queer Care Camp

Conal McStravick will continue his long-term collaboration with Mosaic LGBT+ Young Person’s Trust to create a ‘Queer Care Camp’ for and with young people in 2021.

‘The Queer Care Camp’ will create pedagogical and reparative spaces of care and self-care exploring materials from LGBTQIA histories of retreat, self-sufficiency and community in correspondence with queer and feminist moving image and performance archives of care.

The Camp will offer tools to explore connections between LGBTQIA history and other modes of living, learning and working collectively that are queer, feminist and ecologically oriented. The Camp will contribute new research for a series of collaborative outcomes and public events at Studio Voltaire in 2021, that explore how past care, support and survival can provide tools for our current social, political and ecological crises.

Raju Rage and The Right Lube

Raju Rage and The Right Lube are currently researching and developing their forthcoming project. They will be collaborating with people and trans health organisations on a new programme that engages with trans healthcare and the politics and experiences of self-medding.

During 2021 they will be running a series of closed and public sessions, informative and conversational public events as well as sharing resources online. Check our What’s On page to explore some of their current online research.  More information coming soon.

Sunil Gupta

Sunil Gupta (b. 1953, New Delhi India) is a photographer, writer and curator. He has exhibited internationally and published several books, including Christopher Street, 1976 (Stanley/Barker 2018) and Queer (Vadehra Art Gallery/Prestel 2011). His work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art (NY, USA) Tate Britain (UK), Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA), Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (Japan), Arts Council of Great Britain (UK) and Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA). Gupta’s major retrospective ‘From Here to Eternity’ opened at The Photographers’ Gallery in London on 9 October 2020. He is represented by Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery.

Imperial Health Charity

Imperial Health Charity helps our hospitals do more through grants, arts, volunteering and fundraising. Working in partnership with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, we fund major redevelopments, research and medical equipment at five London hospitals – Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and the Western Eye – as well as helping patients and their families at times of extreme financial difficulty. Supporting the arts in healthcare, we manage an Arts Council accredited hospital art collection and run an arts engagement programme for patients and NHS staff. We also manage volunteering across all five hospitals, adding value to the work of staff and helping to improve the hospital experience for patients. Fundraising through major appeals and community events enables us to continue our essential work.

Conal McStravick

Conal McStravick (b. 1979, Lurgan, N.Ireland) is an artist, educator and writer who makes solo and collaborative artworks, workshops and events that explore LGBTQIA and queer feminist activisms, cultures, histories and practices in moving image, performance and text. McStravick has exhibited in the UK and overseas including collaborative exhibitions and events at Generator, Dundee, CCA Glasgow, CCA Derry-Londonderry, Enclave, London and The Northern Quarter, Newcastle with collaborators including Laura Aldridge, Kathryn Elkin, Simone Hutchinson, Alexander Kennedy, Cara Tolmie, and Patrick Staff. He has appeared on panels and given presentations on Stuart Marshall, AIDS activism and broader cultural activisms at BFI Flare, Birkbeck, Concordia, Glasgow International and Chelsea College of Art, where he guest lectures. Mc Stravick studied at Glasgow School of Art and CRMEP Kingston, has served on the committee of Transmission Gallery, was selected as a LUX Associate Artist in 2011.

Raju Rage

Raju Rage is proactive about using art, education and activism to forge creative survival. Based in London and working beyond, they explore the spaces and relationships between dis/connected bodies, theory and practice, text and the body and aesthetics and the political substance. Their current interests are around value, care and resistance. They are a member of Collective Creativity arts collective, A People’s Art Collective and a creative educator with an interest in radical pedagogy. Raju has a theirstory in activism, self and collective organised queer/transgender/people of colour movements and creative projects from which their politics and works draw on and form.

The Right Lube

The Right Lube is Maz Murray and Hava Carvajal, a trans couple who write about art, culture, trans feels, gender, queerness, assimilation, class and race. They focus on the different shiny ways that power tries to hide a violent system that is out to kill them and most everybody else. Before COVID they ran a Trans Hangout every two weeks in Bethnal Green, they now moderate an online trans Discord. They feel that being messy is an effective tactic to disrupt the pressures of neoliberal assimilation, but they also want to make money so they can afford their hormones. They are currently living in Basildon, Essex.

Image credits

Sunil Gupta, From the tape–slide project London Gay Switchboard, 1980. 35mm slides transferred to digital media for ‘Keywords’, INIVA/Tate Liverpool, 2013-14. Image courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery. © Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020.

Conal McStravick, Film still from Pride Inside with Mosaic LGBT Young Person’s Trust, 2020.

Raju Rage, Film Still, A Pyramid Revealed By A Sandstorm, 2017