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