Guest Post by Autumn Hays
Let us start off by acknowledging that there is a distinct difference between Queer and Transgender subjects. It’s important not to lump these two together. Though related and often overlapping, these are not interchangeable terms. Queer being a reclaimed pejorative for gay, and transgender being a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender. (see more.) With that in mind what I would like to look into a reoccurring concern in the discussions that take place around both queer and transgender performance art.
In the last month I have seen multiple panels touching on the subject of new Queer and or Transgender works. There was a definitive connection between all panels: and attempt to shake up current the definitions, and what some define as new codified zones of safety. When I say zones of safety, I am referring a kind of identity politics that sits safely in a form of expression that is confortable enough for new standards of acceptance. Artworks that sit in this comfort zone fail to realize the full potentiality of the subjects and often begging to forum it’s own predictable cliché. The challenging of the formulation of a tamed queerness or transgender performance is an often-highlighted theme appearing in new works. The formulation of a safely circumscribed zone undermines the attempt to reconsider the subject due to an inadequate scope.
Queer and or transgender arts panels often attempt to define the new wave of artists making work in these areas. Today many artists are attempting to define a new direction that departs from the identity work that came out the 80s and 90s. Often these earlier works are ascribed the quality of crying out for recognition. Much of the work being produced today is looking for finer definitions, as opposed to this preliminary awareness.
We could go on to talk about the subject of the word Queer as discussed during the roundtable “New Queer Aesthetics” in late October. Queer New York International Arts Festival (QNYI) had come to Chicago to exhibit a Queer Fest as an extension of the one in New York at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery . The Chicago show featured artists Suka Off, Bruno Isakovic, Gabreiela Mureb, and Keijaun Thomas. Queer fest distinctly pulls itself away from other Queer festivals which they feel are accepted ideas of the term Queer. As one of the festivals curators, Zvonimir Dobrović, explained, the festival seeks to redefine and challenge preconceived notions of the term Queer. Not all work is made by the LGBT community and instead is defined loosely by a sort of norm-challenging ascetic. After struggling through various definitions, redefinitions, embracing, rejections, fears of washing out the word of meaning completely, and other post-modern linguistic dilemmas an audience member mentions queerness in regards to race, specifically the colored queer. Why is this important? Because the conversations began to progress from the semanticlogical, what is Queer, to what are current Queer issues are concerned about, who are we dealing with the queer female of color in art today.
This November I attended a panel at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Transgender / Arts : A roundtable on the future of transgender cultural production, which included panelists Trish Salah, Jules Rosskam, Julian Carter, David Getsy, and Micha Cárdenas. During the panel many valid points were made about Transgender art. Micha Cárdenas presented important question to the panel, “Where are the trans women of color in art?” Many of the panelist themselves who specialize in Transgender arts could in fact not think of a single artist. The panel began to discus a kind of film festival, performance and art transgender normative narrative. A washed down version, where you began to see something constrained, not quite all the way there. Sitting in a place somewhere in academia where it is comfortable and safe.
How does performance readjust and challenge Queer and Trans identity without losing site of the community in general? There is something that happens to us when we are about to fully realize the other; we find a way to compromise, to only go so far. Many Queer or Trans artist today are attempting to push at the boundaries of a newly accepted normative narrative and point at the things we are forgetting, those who still don’t have a voice. The Art world, the world, is still white male dominated. In a way the lull of sleep we put ourselves in this supposedly post-feminism, post-racism, post- sexism, post-gender issues world that we keep referring to as better than it was before is more dangerous. Because hiding under that comfort is the fact we haven’t changed all that much, we should be forging new grounds and making sure it doesn’t fall asleep.
If I was asked where the new queer or trans aesthetic is headed today, I would say somewhere within the struggle of continuous disturbance, in the understanding that things aren’t there yet and we have to keep shaking it up, shaking ourselves up, so we don’t become our own worse enemies, the perpetuators of a normative Queer of Trans identity. As performance art specifically keeps pushing on with another panel at the Hemispheric Institute for Performing Arts, this week discussing “Race & the Colonial Impulse: Queer Performance Practices”, I look forward t a continued discussion that bridges gaps in the dialogue between racial queer and transgender issues in the arts.
Autumn Hays is an Artist, Curator, Teacher and Writer. She graduated the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in Performance where she received the John Quincy Adams Fellowship. She received her BA in Visual Arts at UCSD. Hays was the recipient of numerous scholarships, grants and awards including two major Jack Kent Cooke association scholarships.Currently she is assistant curator at Defibrillator and Directing Coordinator of the Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival. www.autumnhays.com
March 28, 2008 · Print This Article
An exhibition at the San Francisco Art Institute’s (SFAI) Walter And McBean Galleries has been suspended after the gallery received over 3000 emails from students, faculty, and community members in protest. Don’t Trust Me is French artist Adel Abdessemed’s first exhibition on the West Coast. The controversial work consists of several monitors, each showing looped footage of a tethered animal – a goat, an ox, a horse, a sheep, a pig, and a fawn – being hit on the head with sledge hammer. In addition to the contentious footage, the exhibition includes a large neon brain, a series of wall drawings, and a large video installation that features the artist hanging from a helicopter while trying to draw Gericault’s Raft Of The Medusa (1818).
The institute is having an open forum at 12PM Monday at their lecture hall where concerned individuals will be able to discuss the issues surrounding the work with Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs and former BAS interviewee Hou Hanru, Dean of Academic Affairs Okwui Enwezor, and institute professors and artists John Rapko and Tony Labat. If you happen to be in the area, please come.
Mining the media fallout:
The San Francisco FOX affiliate KTVU did a short segment on the exhibition, watch it here.
SFAI has a statement out on Tuesday.
San Rafael-based animal rights organization In Defense Of Animals has referred to the videos as animal snuff films, you can link to their interpretation of the exhibition, here.
San Francisco SPCA has released a statement condemning the exhibition, read that here.
The San Francisco Examiner published an article about the exhibition, read that here.
Finally, after a six month wait, it is here…
The audio from the 2007 Stone Summer Theory Institute: Is Art History Global?
This will be a series of six or seven 2-4 hour excerpts from the week-long event. In advance of the second iteration “What is an Image?” You can find more info and the application for the 2008 Institute at… http://www.stonesummertheoryinstitute.org
The 2007 participants can be viewed at http://www.badatsports.com/megsmagic/2007-panorama.jpg
Keep in mind that this audio is rough “B-side stuff,” but nonetheless provides a chance to go behind the curtain on this thoughtful conversation.
In this episode we present… “The Intro Round Table Event.”
From The Stone Summer Theory Institute Site…
2007: The Globalization of Art, co-organized with Zhivka Valiavicharska
The book will be co-edited with Alice Kim; please see the book series for more information.
The “biennale culture” now determines much of the art market. Literature on the worldwide dissemination of art assumes nationalism and ethnic identity, but rarely analyzes it. At the same time, there is extensive theorizing about globalization in politics, postcolonial theory, economics, sociology, and anthropology.
This was the first event of the series to bring political theorists together with writers and historians concerned specifically the visual arts and its art history.
Seminars were taught by Fredric Jameson, Harry Harootunian, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Shigemi Inaga, Susan Buck-Morss, James Elkins, and Zhivka Valiavicharska.
Brian and Marc recently collaborated on a review of Tony Lebat’s Bulk at Queens Nails Annex for Shotgun Review. Here’s an excerpt:
“Tony Labat’s exhibition Bulk opened to throngs of art students, smoking and drinking on the sidewalk. At first, the event seemed like any other gallery reception. However, as a show focusing on the manifestation of social relations in an art event, the students hadn’t come to see anything in particular, but to rather simply be with one another. With the gallery’s main space converted to a bar, complete with amateur bartenders, swill cocktails at criminal prices, and makeshift wooden tables; Bulk turned Queens Nails Annex into a speakeasy, one built like a cheap theatrical set.
… Bulk’s events have drawn together those who share in a common perspective – art students, gallerists, curators, etc.- participating in their prescribed roles of social exchange and power dynamics, as if the events had a written script. The exhibition doesn’t challenge itself to compose the audience, who provide its labor, or translate their efforts into meaning. Any examination into the relationship between the mechanics of audience as a means of production, and how it conditions the possibilities of interpretation, is absent. Without intervention, the events emerged as expected; codified and rigid. Creating work that fosters social relations shouldn’t reduce an event to the calling together of a coterie, turning the artist into a socialite of aesthetics whose practice would be a chain of well-hosted shin-digs. Bulk is emblematic of this festivalist, lackadaisical attitude that’s far too common in contemporary art.”
Sometime in the last couple of weeks the participant list was released for the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Wouldn’t you know it a couple of great Chicago oriented Artists are on the list!!! Our heart felt congratulations go out to Melanie Schiff and Amanda Ross-Ho!!! Please see the full list here.