Episode 91: Gregg Bordowitz and David Getsy on “queer”

May 27, 2007 · Print This Article

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This week Terri talks to Gregg Bordowitz and David Getsy about queer art, queer theory and what it means to be queer in 2007. Duncan and Meg were there too, but it is mostly Terri, Gregg and David’s show.

Gregg Bordowitz is a writer, AIDS activist, and film-and videomaker. His work, including Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993) and Habit (2001), documents his personal experiences of testing positive and living with HIV within the context of a personal and global crisis. His writings are collected in The AIDS Crisis is Ridiculous and Other Writings:1986-2003. He is currently on faculty in the Film Video and New Media department at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

David Getsy is an author, theorist and Assistant Professor of 19th and early 20th Century Art Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Greg Bordowitz<br\>David Getsy<br\>The School of the Art Institute of Chicago<br\>John Chamberlain<br\>Queer Nation<br\> Queer Eye for the Straight Guy<br\> Northwestern University<br\>Catherine Opie<br\>LTTR<br\>Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick<br\>Sigmund Freud<br\>Jacques Lacan<br\>Sir Hamo Thornycroft<br\>Ryerson Library<br\>Chinati Foundation<br\>Taylor Mead<br\>Andy Warhol<br\>Jasper Johns<br\>Judith Halberstam<br\>Robert Mapplethorpe<br\> Felix Gonzalez-Torres<br\>Amy Sillman<br\>Scott Burton<br\>Gertrude Stein<br\>Mark Rothko<br\>Richard Serra<br\>Barbarella<br\>Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Episode_91_Getsy__Bordowitz.mp3

33 thoughts on “Episode 91: Gregg Bordowitz and David Getsy on “queer””

  1. Richard says:

    Please note our bad-assed new edit-your-comment function.

    Mad kudos to Chris!

  2. Thank you thank you thank you Chris!!!!!!

    Maybe even I will be able to correct typos now!

  3. Cyrano Hercule Savinien de Balzac says:

    Wow, this week’s show was in some ways the antithesis of last weeks, last weeks was a light discussion between pals, and this show was an intellectually challenging powerhouse. Good work.

  4. Richard says:

    Did everyone get worn out by the exhaustive discussion on Episode 90?

  5. Boots says:

    You know, the whole idea behind this interview was to start a conversation, which flew like a lead zeppelin. Maybe it isn’t the Bad at Sports listenership’s topic, but fuck, I don’t know about you all, but I’m constantly faced with the Lesbian grant this and the GLBTQ that, but somehow there never seems to be room for the work that my friends and I are doing. It’s not “affirming” enough, or it’s not “Gay” enough, yet is still too gay for mainstream, or it doesn’t doesn’t offer a “positive role model.” I can’t imagine that straight people are held to this standard. What if we asked that all art that (perceived) straight people made affirm their sexuality?

  6. Boots says:

    And I am TOTALLY obsessed with the soundtrack to Sharkey’s Machine. I’m sure that if I could find it on CD my whole life would change.

  7. Cyrano Hercule Savinien de Balzac says:

    I can’t speak to Sharkey’s Machine or much of the Reynolds body of work, however a few comments on the topic of being pigeonholed by race, gender, sexuality or whatnot.

    It is utterly shitty for an artist to feel compelled to be the voice of their group. African_American artists are still critcially viewed through the eyes of their race, in some ways Boots’ comments about people who are gay being held to a certain politic holds true (although in some ways I would say less than it ued to), women artists as well.

    Why the need to put people and their work in boxes based on certain biographical and cultural details? Are we unable to appreciate the work at face value?

  8. I am currently curating a show in honor of Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) 20 year anniversary (it is also the 20 year anniversary of ACT UP) and David Getsy has given me new understanding of identity by placing it in temporality, that everyone has moments of queerness. This is very helpful in looking at art as activism over the past 20 years. I also find it interesting that Getsy says identity politics is a reverse discourse—not trying to carve out or create a new positive space for a fixed identity—but also a subversive practice. Gregg Bordowitz has said before, three stages of identity politics each had a different motto. First the call to arms of radical politics was “Can you HEAR me?” about gaining a voice, next people asked “Can you SEE me?” about visibility, and now people say “Can you FEEL me?” about empathizing emotionally. Also, Felix Gonzalez-Torres breathtaking, and Getsy really touches on his openness. Why wasn’t HIV/AIDS even mentioned?

  9. Richard says:

    Felix Gozalez-Torres kicks ass. I had the opportunity to work with him when I worked at the AIC. I love his work great stuff.

  10. Richard says:

    Kicked ass, sorry.

  11. elijah says:

    One of the confusing aspects of thinking through queer identity issues is how exactly sexuality gives rise to political commitments, and how political, social and economic contexts influence or inflect our sexualities? For instance, fluidity, temporality, etc. are not only superlative values in much queer theory but also in our neo-liberal, hyper-consumerist, post-global world. On the other hand, a strong identification (as “Gay,” for instance – god forbid!) can feel like a market niche. I feel a strong nostalgia for queer countercultural figures like Jean Genet and W.S. Burroughs, who valued their same-sex desires exactly for the evil-ness, criminality, and general destructiveness imputed to them by society.

    One last thing: why does everybody always have to diss on Mapplethorpe?

  12. Richard says:

    His work needs to be viewed in the context of the time where it was made. The world has changed a whole lot since the 80s.

  13. The world has always changed a lot, even at every moment, but I know what you mean!

    Richard, you didn’t have to swich to the past tense when discussing F G-T’s art. In English and most Euro languages, the correct form is thze present tense when talking about an artist qua artist, but the past if it is about them as a person and they are dead. E. g.: Picasso was an asshole as a husband, but is a great artist. Therefore, for you, F G-T kicks ass. I’m not so sure, but about his art’s quality not about its “presentness.” I think that this convention feels right too — for me, Tintoretto kicks more ass right this minute than M Dumas ever will. And so on.

  14. elijah says:

    Re: Mapplethorpe
    I think his pictures merit a more nuanced interpretation, much like David Getsy intends to give to John Chamberlain’s work.

  15. Richard says:


    I appreciate the language lesson. I am barely literate!


  16. BillDolan says:

    “Picasso was an asshole as…”

    “Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole.”

  17. The Mapplethorpe photographs have, for me, a rigorous kind of discipline, and they still speak to me — for me ; he was one of the good things about the 80’s.

  18. Steve Hamann says:

    Nice Burning Sensations quote. Or is that David Bowie?

  19. Bill Dolan says:

    It was The Modern Lovers, originally.

  20. Richard says:

    I like the Burning Sensations version better.

  21. mike kaysen says:

    I vote for John Cale’s version ……


  22. Bill Dolan says:

    I think John Cale produced The Modern Lovers’ album.

  23. JF says:

    Elijah, I think I understand your nostalgia. Embracing victimization as a creative position can yield very dark and deep results. However, to continue to promote this sort of seedy, criminal position, as Burroughs so much enjoyed doing, would diss decades’ worth of ‘progress’ in equalizing gay, straight, whatever.

    Granted, as I saw last weekend, hordes of pretty freaky men all around downtown for the IML, a sense of hetero-normalcy is not totally desired in the queer community. Like feminism: first equality, then appreciation of difference.

    The benefit of ‘queerness’ is that it helps us realize that straight people can also be rather disgusting in their ways, just as queers are/were. This is not a judgment. It is an awakening.

  24. Boots says:

    The “seedy,” the “criminal” are at the heart of queer identity. This is what sets it apart from the binary of homosexuality or gay or lesbian. The definition of queer is formed on the idea outsiderness. So much ‘progress’ is assimilation. Queer might desire equality, but not equivalence.

    And Burroughs. His definition of ‘queer,’ as defined in his novel “Queer” is formed in opposition to heterosexuality, but also in direct opposition to homosexuality–whole book is filled with references to faggots and marys. He equates queerness with being disembodied, with being in a constant state of other. He wrote that in 1949. Fuck, I love Burroughs.

  25. elijah says:

    I don’t think Genet or Burroughs embraced victimization so much as they aggressively inverted moral norms in order to invent alternate realities. Genet treated thieves as kings and betrayal as the utmost virtue in his novels, for instance. What I appreciate about them now is that they used their sexuality as a springboard, not so much for radical politics, always – although Genet certainly did at some points – but for social and political mischief. Rather than ignoring decades of progress, I think they are excellent models for Right Now because we are currently in such a state of political mortification – the war in Iraq, impending environmental disaster, etc. Whatever energies that we have in us from which to mobilize dissent and imagination, let’s use them!

    Also, Genet and Burroughs may be models from the past, but their work has been carried on, worked on, and elaborated by certain queer folks. In the spirit of Bad at Sports, I am gonna drop the names of some darksided men-who-fuck-men: Coil (now sadly defunct, but continuing in part as the Threshold House Boys Choir), Dennis Cooper, Bruce LaBruce, Samuel Delany, Scott Treleaven, Black Sun Productions/Massimo & Pierce, Hakim Bey. I like to think of it as an underground lineage of queer magick, stretching from Rimbaud to Wojnarowicz to …

  26. I just listened to the whole thing straight through — entrancing! That’s some good theor-o-rizin’! With Breadth, erudite, yet with exact concrete details on application.

    I had never read much Queer theory, mostly assuming it was rather more Gay rights issues — with which I have no problems, am rather in agreement, but just wasn’t a large interest of mine — i suppose because I’m straight. This was a lesson to me.

    They canvassed a truly startlingly original new possible theoretical re-imagining of a position for the individual in a poststructural anti-individual world. Philosophically hopeful and impressive.

    There is a word in German that the participants might find interesting — it is “schräg” and means something like the original meaning of “queer”, that is, quirky, at a slant to the “normal” etc., but it carries no negative nor “other sexual” overtones. I thought of it as they discussed “queer moments” and the like, including bikers and other outsiders. These ideas, similar to feminist gendering, could be a great springborad for a humanizing of even mainstream cultural theory. (And I didn’t mean humanist nor re-humanizing, but a beginning of an actual humanized individualism, shorn of the “universal” normative stuff). Keep it up. You guys just might even “liberate” us straight folks too (probably against the wishes of many)!

  27. Boots says:

    “Schräg” What a great word. Sometimes new words (to me) function better than old because they lack the burden of connotation.

    I want to add a few more authors I admire to Elija’s list. Not all men-who-fuck men, but all are transgressive and all are queer by my standards: Georges Bataille, Heather Lewis, Gary Indiana, and without the guidance of Hubert Selby, Jr. I never would have understood Trade. I like books that hurt me physically. When I first got Delany’s “Hogg,” I started reading it while riding the Red Line home. Talk about that dirty touch feeling. Just READING the book made me feel as if I was the one doing the dirty touching. Delany is my literary daddy.

  28. elijah says:

    In total agreement about “Hogg.” Its my litmus test/trial-by-fire with new friends – I lend it to them (inflict it on them?) to see what happens …

  29. Elijah,

    Are you in contact with any of the dark “underground lineage of queer magick” you posted about? I would really like to include the work of at least one of those artists in the Show I am curating in September. Please e-mail me if you have more information:

    And thank you again for sharing your insight.

  30. Brian says:


    You may want to check out the Center for Tactical Magic. We’ll be interviewing them this summer.


  31. Verssmesymn says:

    I’d prefer reading in my native language, because my knowledge of your languange is no so well. But it was interesting! Look for some my links:

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