Paul Harfleet

The Pansy Project, 2005-ongoing
Archival inkjet prints

In English, the word “pansy” has been historically used as an insult to belittle a gay man. It is synonymous with effeminate, weak, and frail—qualities that have been negatively valued in past patriarchal contexts. The association between the flower and homosexuality originated in the mid 15th century when it was used to insult a man who thinks too much (like a woman does); the name of the flower originates from the French, penser: to think. The Pansy Project began in 2005 after Harfleet and his partner endured a string of homophobic abuse on a warm summer day in Manchester. Since then, Harfleet has planted pansies at sites where such assaults have taken place. Portraits of fragility and defiance, the pansies are simultaneously a temporary memorial and a sign of hope. By making the abuse visible, the plants attract attention and generate discussion instilling the possibility of positive cultural growth.

Courtesy of the artist.