Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fragments for a Review of Meyers and Lord's "Art and Queer Culture" / Book Essay

So Is Art Queer (and Culture), then? - a Book Essay on Current "Queer" Art History and Cultural Studies

I need to start with the much anticipated "Art and Queer Culture" book by Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer. I must admit, and in a very unexpected way, I am extraordinarily disappointed with "Art and Queer Culture." It is, once again, an embarrassing attempt to inscribe "queer art" (whatever that may be) -- in the most un-theoretical ways, and the most reductive understand of critical queer theories and practices over the past 20+ years -- into the disciplinary practice of the 200+ year old academic field of art history.
Why would "queer art, artists, historians, and theorists" want to be placed in such a academic field that both disciplines and punished (feminists have already argued WHY NOT!) -- often reducing "radicality" to the point of non-existence: just look at what happened to Dada and Fluxes in the hands of art history and its corollaries?
Isn't queer theory/theories supposed to trouble, deconstruct, and dis-enable (Enlightenment) disciplines and mentalities: art history being one? Isn't queer a performative, an un-becoming, an un-doing that works "best" in systems (in the Bataillean sense) of non-knowledge and at the limits of reason and sense? So why desire (unconsciously or not) to make these things called "queer art" and the methodologies that may arise objects of knowledge?
In relation to this, all the "tagging and bagging" that goes on in this anthology? coffee table book (making it oh so middle-class)? is absolutely frustrating -- not to mention the "interesting" omissions and "interesting" inclusions (which can be called nepotistic). I guess this always happens now -- but it should not.
I haven't finished reading it yet, and I may put it away for a bit, but for now I am extremely saddened by the diminishing of queerness and the theoretical naivism that constructs this book published by Phaidon (a clue as to why the book may have been formatted and written in the way it has been -- but perhaps it would have been better to not produce a book: there is always the internet). In this review I will turn to "Queer Art: A Freak Theory" by Renate Lorenz, "Art and Homosexuality" by Christopher Reed, "The Queer Art of Failure" by Judith "Jack" Halberstam, and "Seeing Differently" by Amelia Jones in order to further critique "Art and Queer Culture," and to map where queer and gay and lesbian studies are head 10+ years into the new millennium.

More to follow ...

An Interesting Inclusion that could have taken place: Magritte's Not to be Reproduced (La reproduction interdite, 1937)

"Queer" Art --> Magritte's Not to be Reproduced (La reproduction interdite, 1937). this is a failed re-presentation, in a sense it is queer (failure as a mode of queerness); it is a failed, queered painting within the history of portraiture; this painting can also be understood on the level of "queer space" (a heterotopia?); it confounds knowledge -- the face, following Levinas, as that which we see and know, and queerness is a disruption of knowledge. This painting has nothing to do with connecting the subject to his "real" sexual identity, nor the sexual identity of the artist (it has nothing to do with essence). Using art such as this would have enriched, not diminished the potentialities of what (queer) art and queer culture could be. But the authors -- and they are authors in the traditional sense and not editors -- refuse to let go of stale gay and lesbian (and bi and trans, here and there) identity politics. The "queer" in the title of the book keeps on disappearing into nothing.

Addition: Richard Meyer does the most bizarre contortions to mention gay (out of no-where) and tie the work to a gay subjectivity or culture, in which gay is always already white, and which elides the very premise of the book. It is the same acrobatics he performed in Outlaw Desire -- esp. with Warhol's "Thirteen Most Wanted" -- it was pure fantasy, and which is OK-- but just admit your desire in the reading! Its been 40+ years since post-structualism, 30 years of postmodern and post-structural feminism, and the same amount of time for queer theory and invested readings

Friday, April 12, 2013

CALL FOR ART (APRIL 28): "After" Against Nature

For an Exhibition in 2014:

Call for Art for Major Exhibition (Emerging and Established Artists:

Deadline for Art Images + CV
--> June 1, 2014

THIS IS FOR A MAJOR EXHIBITION IN 2014. THE EXHIBITION IS A RE-EXAMINATION OF AGAINST NATURE: AN EXHIBITION BY GAY MEN (curated by Dennis Cooper and Richard Hawkins at LACE in 1989): http://welcometolace.org/shop/publications/against-nature-a-show-by-homosexual-men/ THE EXHIBITION IN 2014 WILL BE CALLED "AFTER" AGAINST NATURE: 25 YEARS LATER.

PLEASE EMAIL ONE to TWO IMAGES + CV TO ROBERT SUMMERS, PhD @ afteragainstnature@gmail.com BY JUNE 1, 2014

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, THEN PLEASE EMAIL: afteragainstnature@gmail.com

Proposal for Exhibition:

"After" Against Nature: 25 Years Later (revisiting L.A.C.E.'s
Against Nature), 2014, Curator: Robert Summers, e: afteragainstnature@gmail.com -- for info and submissions

The proposed exhibition "After" Against Nature will be a critical re-staging and a re-thinking of an earlier exhibition held at L.A.C.E. in 1989. It was titled Against Nature: A Show by Homosexual Men, which takes part of its title from Joris-Karl Huysmans seminal novel, and which was curated by Dennis Cooper and Richard Hawkins; it was held from January to February of 1989. Both curators are supportive of this re-exhibition, and a number of the exhibition's original artists are willing to re-show their work (not included as artists requested). In addition to “After” Against Nature, a one-day conference will consist of various discussions of "gay” and “queer” art, “gay” and “queer” aesthetics, and AIDS and activism in the art world—then and now. There will also be an artists’ talk, and a catalogue similar to the original one.

Overall, Cooper and Hawkins’ Against Nature was a response to several interlocking political events that took place in the 80’s: the Reagan and Bush presidencies, the rise to power of the "Religious Right," legal discrimination against homosexuals (e.g., Bowers vs. Hardwick), the backlash against art (the “culture wars”), and, of course, the AIDS/HIV epidemic—with the murderous government non-response. The specific aim of Against Nature exhibition was to look, specifically, at artworks by "gay male artists" and how they reckoned with sexual identity and desire that was intertwined with AIDS/HIV, and, in general, how gay men were re-presenting themselves, their community, and their desires. The implied audience was gay men, gay artists, and their allies.

With these histories, theories, and political systems and trajectories in mind, as well as examining the concerns of younger gay artists—and also, importantly, all non-gender conforming and sexually other artists—over the past 25 years, the proposed exhibition "After" Against Nature asks: How would the artwork of the past be (re-)read in and for the "present"—and alongside current artwork that reckons with sexuality, gender and AIDS/HIV politics and activism? Has queer and trans theory changed the way art participated in identity politics? Does the most significant aspect of “gay art” still revolve around, as the original curators argued, "sexual desire [that] informs, distances, and empowers the recent history of art made by guys like us?" Do we still believe that art made by "guys like us" contains the intentions, identities, and desires the artists? Do we now read this as, important then, but exclusionary now? In other words, are the identity politics that framed Against Nature "mean" anything of significance today? What has changed, and what has remained? Finally, is a "gay aesthetic" and “gay art” now understood as theoretically naive?

I believe that by re-staging Against Nature as "After" Against Nature, we can re-open the artworks interpretations and assumptions in the original exhibition to what may have been unknown and unseen. Overall, I hope that by repeating, with a difference, Against Nature this new exhibition will surface historical blind-spots—not by scolding or fixing, but rather by adding to the necessary discourses and arts that aided in the emergence of queer theories, queer feminism, and what we may mean now by “gay” art, as well as “queer” art and public practices. Furthermore, the re-staging of the original exhibition will not be a repeating the "true" meaning of the original curators' “intentions” and the various artists' artworks, but rather art's untimely power: its power to disrupt the past and present. This will be an exhibition without conclusion or prescription: it will be a “producer exhibition”: allowing an every expanding discourse and production of arts. Finally, this re-staging will not be "against nature", which already participates in a certain closed binary system: the unnatural against the natural and the cultural against the natural; rather, "After" Against Nature will be, indeed, “after” (“post”) the historical phase of belief in the natural of any kind for the art(ifice) and fabricated, and “after” that is "for" becoming-queer, becoming-historical, becoming-art, and the queer deconstructive practice of welcoming the future—hence, other exhibitions that will add to this one.

As a postscript, I believe this exhibition to be extremely valuable, given the silence around issues concerning AIDS/HIV, sex/gender, and non-normative sexualities (especially practiced by people of color). With an explosion of HIV infection by the 20-something group, and the historical marginalization of discourses around (sexually) political art work in the art world (and its institutions at large) make this exhibition both necessary and timely. With the production of a panel and an artists’ talk will aid in other knowledge productions, and with the production of an affordable catalog, which copies will be donated to various gay/lesbian archives, and AIDS/HIV cultural institutions, such as Visual AIDS and The Body, various knowledges will be circuated, and finally, with the artwork as public practice by an artist such as Camilo Godoy, will give info on AIDS/HIV in “high-risk” spaces—such as gay bath house and clubs.