When I first saw the gallery space at the bottom of the Duhig Tower in the Central Library at The University of Queensland I was taken back to the darkened halls of the private girls school of my youth.
The tower forms part of the sandstone ‘Great Court‘ designed in 1935 by Queensland Government architects Hennessy, Hennessy & Co. The Great Court was envisioned as a modern take on the traditional quadrangles of monasteries and universities in Europe. This imagined Europe speaks to the imagined west found so often in shojo manga and literature – often centred in educational or institutional buildings such as Hagio Moto’s November Gymnasium or The Heart of Thomas – both published in the 1970s, these works have been hugely influential on shojo culture including, but not limited to, BL narratives.
The dark grey walls of the display space nestled in the opening fouyer of the Duhig Tower provided a surprisingly warm background for the bright colours of the exhibits. The thick walls and bench seating invited visitors to sit and enjoy the space – maybe with a good book or an eReader.
This space also featured a triple screen which we were able to take advantage of to screen images of Australian cosplayers (dressed in shojo manga costumes) and fashion films produced by Deerstalker Pictures.
This is something of a reflection on a reflection. For someone who has never worked or studied at the University of Queensland campus, it is one of my favourite places to visit. Most Brisbane cosplayers will be familiar with the long sandstone walks of the Great Court and have photographed there regardless of their status as a student. I still can’t believe we got to take over this beautiful space for a month and to contribute to the cosplay and lolita fashion culture of the area.