Art History Graduate Student Association Concordia University
Parody: Mindful Subversions Third Floor Graduate Student Journal Published in April 2016 by the Art History Graduate Student Association of Concordia University Art History Graduate Student Association Department of Art History Concordia University 1455 De Maisonneuve Boulevard West Montreal, QC H3G 1M8 Editor-in-Chief: Samantha Merritt French Editor-in-Chief: Maude Johnson Editors Alyssa Hauer Katrina Caruso Estelle Wasthieu Editorial Assistance Clinton Glenn Damien Smith Samantha Wexler Design: Samantha Merritt
Funding for the publication of this journal has been generously provided by the Concordia Coucil on Student Life and the Graduate Studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Association of Concordia University
Table Of Contents
4-5 Foreword Samantha Merritt, MA Candidate - Art History, Concordia University 6-15 Détruire le patriarcat à coup de perruque, d’irrévérence, de psychédélisme et de godemiché. Jade Boivin, MA Candidate - Art History, University Quebec à Montréal 16-21 Décoloniser le territoire: Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven et l’espace queer Julie Richard, PhD Student - Art History, University Quebec à Montréal 22-29 Art performance et culture du spectacle: « Pastiche » de l’œuvre de Marina Abramović par Shawn C. Carter Émilie Poirier, MA Candidate - Art History, University de Montréal 30-39 “As long as the music is loud enough, we won’t hear the world falling apart”: Dystopia as Metaphor in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) Clinton Glenn, MA Candidate - Art History, Concordia University 47-47 Meme as Critique: On the Recent Practice of Metahaven Rebecca O’Dwyer, PhD Candidate - Art Criticism, National College of Art and Design, Dublin 48-53 Performing Satire: (Re) Appropriating American Icons in Adel Abidin’s Jihad Jenna Ann Altomonte, PhD Candidate - Interdisciplinary Arts, Ohio University 54-61 Who Are You: A Study of the Queer Author and Queering Authorship in the Work of Wynne Neilly Tal-Or Ben-Choreen, PhD Candidate - Art History, Concordia University 62-71 Vilifying the Second Empire through Allegorical Satires: Honoré Daumier and the Politics of Imperial France Maxime Valsamas, PhD Student - Art History, Washington University in St. Louis 72-77 In Between Dolls and Blocks: Building Bodies of Resistance with MyFamilyBuilders™ and BILU Clan Gabrielle Doiron, MA Student - Art History, Concordia University 78-85 YouTube and Parodic Disidentifications: the Re-Insertion of Marginalized Voices into Film History Through the Viral Videos of Todrick Hall Amanda Greer, MA Student - Film Studies, University of British Columbia 86-93 Vitto Acconci’s Body: Performing Gender & The Feminist Perspective Mallory A. Ruymann, MA Student, Art History - Tufts University 94-100
108-110 Author Biographies
As the inaugural volume of this edition, we sought to look at the relationship between parody and art. This is certainly not a new topic; this is in fact not even the first publication this year coming out of Concordia University to deal with parody or subversive comedy. Parody, however, remains ever relevant, and especially through the Internet and social media has become fixedly present in our daily lives. From publications such as the Onion or the Beaverton, parody remains a relevant method through which to peer into our lives and critique our reality in ways that can otherwise go unquestioned. In the visual arts, methods of parody help to explicitly pull the visual and the political together, as this journal shows, exploring representations of gender, sexuality, race, and national identity. How are our individual and collective identities codified? How are people represented in the media? How can these representations be questioned, subverted, and built anew? At the same time, parody is an interesting method in that it can and has been used in many ways; while parody can be used by marginalized peoples to reassert agency over their own representation or draw attention to the absurdity of stereotypes, it has also been used by people to further marginalize others and to reify harmful stereotypes. Artists who wish to tear down or complicate stereotypes through the implementation of parody must then walk a line, cautious that they they do not reify that which they mean to undermine, and wary that their comedic actions are not perceived as a flippancy or lack of genuine concern for what are deeply important issues. In his text, The Trickster Shift: Humour and Irony in Contemporary Native Art, author Allan J. Ryan borrows from the words of artist Carl
Beam to describe techniques of irony and parody in art as â&#x20AC;&#x153;serious play.â&#x20AC;? In this journal, we sought essays from graduate students that looked at parody in a similar way â&#x20AC;&#x201D; artists addressing serious issues with a playful and subversive mindset. In the design of this journal, I also hope to bring about a similar idea to the reader. This journal has been designed to mimic an adult colouring book; a popular trend in anxiety reduction through the use of colouring in complicated patterns to promote a state of mindfulness. While this design is intended to subvert the serious standard of academic journals, it should not be seen as lacking its own seriousness in relation to the journal content. I encourage the readers of this journal to colour in the patterns around the text in order to calm the anxiety possibly produced by the topics in the texts and to become mindful of the issues the authors within this texts are discussing. This design is also a nod to the experiences of graduate students who are the authors and producers of this journal. As graduate students we are under constant pressure to expand our minds and our writing, publish new and thoughtful work, all while under the ever-present shadow of imposter syndrome. It is a unique experience that is incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly daunting, and it is often easy to lose sight of ourselves in the process of our studies. Through this design, I seek for you, the reader, to maintain an awareness of the work that the authors have put into this journal, an awareness of how the topics addressed in this journal may affect your life, and how you may be implicated in these topics, but also I hope for you to take joy in this exploration. Samantha Merritt
Détruire le patriarcat à coup de perruque, d’irrévérence, de psychédélisme et de godemiché Jade Boivin
University Quebec à Montréal (Montréal, QC)
En 1984, dans un théâtre à Toronto, une femme se tient seule sur scène. Accoutrée d’une gigantesque robe, la Reine Élisabeth I parle directement au public. Elle s’allume une cigarette, puis continue: But the man had one fatal flaw. He didn’t want just the Queen, he wanted the kingdom. I started out his idol, and in his scheme of things would end up his (pause) slave! On entend des voix off, qui murmurent à l’unisson: Off with his head! La Reine poursuit: I sent him to rule Ireland. He pissed it away. Elle écrase sa cigarette. I ordered him home. He came with an army. Elle se déplace jusqu’à un calice posé non loin d’elle. I told him I would not marry. He plotted my downfall. Such a pretty head. Pity it had to roll! Elle boit le contenu du calice, et avant même d’avoir le temps de deviner ce qui allait devenir le moment le mieux connu de sa carrière artistique, elle crache du feu. (Fig. 1) La fin de la scène 3 de Pure Virtue, une performance réalisée par Tanya Mars, a vite fait de rester gravée dans les mémoires. Étant la première d’une trilogie, Pure Virtue ouvre une réflexion sur les relations qu’entretiennent les femmes avec le pouvoir, et plus largement, sur la façon dont les corps peuvent être représentés pour contrer leur objectification. C’est avec la personnification et la narration, stratégies plus souvent associées au théâtre qu’à la performance, que Tanya Mars va proposer cette réflexion : d’abord avec la Reine Élisabeth I, puis avec Mae West dans la deuxième performance Pure Sin, et enfin avec Alice au pays des merveilles dans Pure Nonsense, qui clôt la série. Alors que l’intérêt de Tanya Mars envers la narration et envers la théâtralité des corps est resté central dans sa pratique, il a permis de défier le dualisme des genres qui était alors ancré dans l’histoire de l’art - et l’art de la performance n’y a pas échappé -, où l’utilisation du corps n’obtenait pas la même signification au regard de la différence sexuelle.1 Pure Virtue a été présentée pour la première fois en 1984 au Danceworks Modern Art Variety Show, qui avait lieu cette année-là au Théâtre The Rivoli à Toronto. Divisée en quatre scènes distinctes virginité, pouvoir, sexe et mort -, la performance s’articule autour du monologue de la reine, qui est ponctué de différentes actions et de
(Fig. 1) Tanya Mars (1984). Pure Virtue. Tanya Mars as Queen Elizabeth I. Photo: George Whiteside.
Avec lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;autorisation du photographe
quelques objets, dans une mise en scène mêlant musique, éclairages et projections d’images et de citations à l’arrière-plan. La performance se termine alors qu’Élisabeth, une hache à la main, place sa tête vers le tronc d’arbre, et prend la pose pour son exécution. Puis elle tente de couper sa main mais ratant sa cible, elle regarde plutôt le public en demandant: Mom?2 Deux ans plus tard est présentée Pure Sin à la galerie A Space de Toronto. Marquant le milieu de la trilogie, la performance se trouve à être une reconstruction contemporaine des mythes classiques de la création. Le personnage de Mae West, une actrice et réalisatrice newyorkaise des années folles aujourd’hui perçue comme une figure camp, devient alors à son tour l’interprétatrice d’Ève, de Pandore et de Dieu, dans le Jardin d’Éden, le vide cosmique et, enfin, à Hollywood. Faisant son chemin mythe après mythe sous un enchainement loin d’être linéaire, Mae est guidée par ses envies et ses désirs, ayant à interagir avec différents personnages masculins, que ce soit Adam, des hommes religieux, des philosophes, des arbres ou encore des figures cosmiques. Sans chronologie, la performance devient complètement abstraite, et si elle semble être plus de l’ordre du théâtre comparativement à Pure Virtue3, elle ne comporte pourtant pas de narration logique. On retrouve dans une scène des personnages renvoyant à des figures iconiques tragico-comiques et dans l’autre, à des figures d’une époque complètement différente, sans plus d’explication. Par une attitude sexy, confiante et avec une ironie dérangeante, Mars met de l’avant la dichotomie entre la sexualité déculpabilisée de la star et la pudeur demandée par la religion, alors qu’une relation de pouvoir s’instaure entre elle et ses
(Fig. 2) Tanya Mars (1986). Pure Nonsense. Tanya Mars as Mae West. Photo : David Hlynsky.
homonymes masculins - The Men -, qui semblent être là plus en tant que prétexte aux actions et paroles de l’actrice que comme personnages significatifs, avec leur propre agentivité.4 (Fig. 2) La troisième et dernière performance de la trilogie, Pure Nonsense, a été présentée en 1987 à la Music Gallery, aussi à Toronto. Cette fois c’est Alice, le personnage tiré du roman Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland écrit par Lewis Carroll en 1965, que Mars personnifie. Se voulant être une synthèse de l’engouement pour la cocaïne des années 1880 et du psychédélisme des années 1960, la performance se concentre sur la rencontre entre Alice et les personnages du Lièvre de Mars et du Chapelier fou, qui eux représentent respectivement les deux géants de la psychanalyse patriarcale, Sigmund Freud et Carl G. Jung. Sous la forme d’une grande hallucination, Alice va descendre dans les abysses de son imaginaire, à la limite entre rêve et cauchemar, hystérie et pouvoir, infantilisation et culte de la jeunesse.5 La critique ne peut être plus claire. Mars, sous sa posture de féministe affirmée, attaque le patriarcat criant dans la conception psychanalytique de la sexualité féminine, où en recherche constante d’un phallus, les femmes ne peuvent expliquer leurs désirs sans faire référence au sexe masculin. Dans ce monde imaginaire, Alice prend à la lettre cette conception en partant à la recherche de son membre manquant, ce qui l’amènera à vivre au fil de son périple différents moments empreints d’inceste, de l’envie du pénis et du rapport ambigu avec la figure du père. (fig. 3)
Tanya Mars (1987). Affiche Why does a Venus not have a penis? Photo : David Hlynsky. Design : John Ormsby.
Autant on reconnait ces trois femmes parce qu’elles sont des personnages cultes, autant Tanya Mars les a choisies pour représenter d’abord des archétypes féminins, qui s’hybrident à l’identité de l’artiste. Pour reprendre les propos de Dot Tuer, Tanya Mars habite le corps de ses hôtesses comme le font les parasites. Avec une bonne d’ose d’ironie, elle crée une relation symbiotique entre la féminité et le drag6, mettant en scène une véritable mascarade féministe qui s’attaque aux effets du système patriarcal sur les femmes à coup de perruque, de psychédélisme et d’irrévérence. Il y a dans l’acte de se représenter un agenda féministe qui vise à modifier les politiques des représentations et les relations de pouvoirs qui imprègnent toute relation aux genres. Selon Theresa de Lauretis, l’identité de genre est une représentation en soi, mais une représentation qui a une implication concrète sur les corps car la représentation du genre est constitutive de sa propre création en tant que réalité.7 Présenter son corps en tant qu’image devient plutôt significatif dans ce contexte, alors que créer sa propre représentation ouvre aux possibilités de reprendre une agentivité dans l’auto-détermination de son identité. Mars met alors en place un système où la théâtralisation de son corps n’est pas anodine : elle se crée en tant que sujet plutôt qu’en tant qu’objet de la représentation. Dans son texte The Women Men Love to Hate, Dot Tuer met en parallèle plusieurs citations qui dépeignent des courants de pensées ayant participé à teinter nos sociétés occidentales d’un sexisme systémique et d’un essentialisme à lesquels Mars s’oppose. Avec les paroles des personnages dans les performances de Mars, Tuer crée un dialogue atemporel entre la Reine, Mae et Alice et différents textes misogynes. En 1558, l’homme d’église et monarque John Knox publiait un livre dans lequel il écrivait : To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, a thing most contrarious to His revealed will and approved ordinance; and finally, it is the subversion of good order, or all equity and justice... From their sight in civil regiment is but blindness, their strength weakness, their counsel foolishness, and judgment frenzy, if it be rightly considered.8 Cette critique directement adressée à la Reine Élizabeth I (la vraie), se base sur une différentiation essentialiste des femmes, qui, de par nature, ne sont pas aptes à régner, ou à consentir à un quelconque pouvoir politique. Pourtant, d’une main de fer, la Reine a régné sur l’Angleterre de 1558 jusqu’à sa mort, en 1603 : “Power, strength, courage, intelligence, logic, freedom, in a woman breed not love, but suspicion. We see and we are silent. Strike, or be stricken.”9 Sa réputation de souveraine impitoyable, qui a sacrifié sa vie personnelle au profit des tâches accablantes du trône, se justifie lorsqu’on creuse les conditions de son pouvoir. Une Reine prenant époux devait donner au dit-homme non seulement sa virginité et son intimité, mais aussi une bonne partie de ses pouvoirs, conférant par son union le dit-époux Roi. Le pouvoir a un poids, tout comme la robe gargantuesque qui habille Mars. Porter une telle pièce restreint considérablement les mouvements, contraint la posture et limite la fluidité du corps. Elle s’oblige alors à la souffrance physique et pousse son corps à la limite de l’endurance, comme elle l’explique elle-
même en entrevue : « Just to bend over in an Elizabethan costume is difficult and painful. To lie down is next to impossible, and to get up is awkward and funny ».10 Elle porte le poids des sacrifices intimes que la Reine a dû faire pour conserver ses pouvoirs, et inverse le raisonnement de John Knox qui, en se basant sur la dichotomie passion/raison, considère les femmes comme étant incapables d’une vie publique et les contraint aux lieux du privé, de la domesticité et de la corporalité. Mais ici, elle n’est pas restreinte au domaine du privé plutôt qu’elle est coincée par le pouvoir, sa corporalité étant assujettie par sa robe, renvoyant alors à l’impossibilité d’être à la fois mère et souveraine. Choisir entre les deux reste de l’ordre de l’obligation, alors que la Reine ne peut jouir de son propre corps et de la liberté de ses mouvements.11 Mais pourtant, avec sa robe, Élizabeth nous met en garde : We see and we are silent, strike or be stricken. N’insinuerait-elle pas par là un pouvoir caché, latent, une force invisible qui n’attend que le bon moment pour frapper? Au moment de dire ces paroles, Mars vient justement de frapper les figurines d’hommes dessinés par ses bons soins et qu’elle avait préalablement disposées sur du gazon artificiel devant la projection d’un croquis du Déjeuner sur l’herbe de Manet, en criant à chaque coup qu’elle leur portait : Power! en frappant Aristote et Platon; Strength! en frappant le chevalier; Courage!, l’homme musclé; Intelligence!, le général; Logic!, l’homme d’affaire et Freedom!, en frappant enfin la figurine de Jésus. Quelques-uns vont jusqu’à penser que les figurines dans Pure Virtue deviennent dans Pure Sin les hommes qui accompagnent la star tout au long de la performance12: ils sont tous autant accessoires les uns les autres. Les hommes n’ont-ils alors aucune emprise sur Mae West? Selon Jacques Derrida, ils devraient pourtant lui apporter la vérité : Once she has rent the veil of blushing modesty or truth which bound and held her ‘’in the greatest ignorance possible in eroticis’’, a woman’s skepticism knows no bounds... Because a ‘’woman’’ takes so little interest in truth, because in fact she barely believes in it, the truth, as regards her, does not concern her in the least. It is rather the ‘’man’’ who has decided to believe that his discourse on woman or truth might possibly be of any concern to her.13 Dans la performance, ils deviennent prétextes au plaisir et à l’ironie nonchalante de Mae West, dont la féminité excessive, artificielle et son caractère sexuel amplifié sont bien loin de lui causer une quelconque culpabilité : Mae: For a long time I was ashamed of the life I’ve lived. Question: You mean you’ve reformed? Mae: No, I got over bein’ ashamed.14 À un moment dans la performance, Mae arrive dans le Jardin d’Éden et s’avance près d’un arbre, qui est en train d’être planté par Adam. Pourtant, ce qui intéresse le plus la star, ce n’est pas de reproduire l’espèce humaine plutôt que de déraciner l’arbre qui, sous le regard de Dieu, est cultivé très attentivement par l’homme qu’elle tente malgré tout de séduire. Bien ancrée dans le péché et le plaisir de la chair, West refuse la maternité en insistant sur le corps et ses désirs, en refusant d’être soumise à la pureté, à la virginité et à la procréation.15
Ce qui l’éloigne de la vérité, pour reprendre Derrida, perd ici tout son sens. La logique et la linéarité de la narration s’effacent au profit d’un psychédélisme et d’une absurdité kitsh et ironique, où les paillettes de la robe, la perruque rappelant le drag et la trop grande couche de maquillage ajoute à Mars l’artificialité qui règne déjà de par l’ambiance et les décors.16 On s’en rend compte entre autres par les jeux de lumières psychédéliques, les projections d’un vide cosmique et d’une voie lactée, les personnages qui se roulent par terre et qui bougent avec des formes géométriques qui leur servent à la fois d’accessoires et de costumes – des spirales, des lunes, des étoiles et des carrés – et par l’illogisme dans la succession des scènes. Et, justement, cette incohérence remet en cause le concept de vérité et de réalisme. Autant dans l’ambiance que dans les paroles des personnages, particulièrement celles de West, l’humour et l’arrogance donnent un ton bien ironique à l’ensemble. Elle dira, par exemple: When I’m good, I’m very, very good. But when I’m BAD I’m better.17 Tout est là pour faire de cette performance un moment déjanté, qui se moque carrément des mythes qui y sont présentés, tout en rendant risibles les racines mythiques de la construction de la sexualité féminine.18 L’érotisme de West, ce qui devrait la rendre ignorante, renforce plutôt le pouvoir du personnage étant donné que la narration et les interactions entre les protagonistes sont axées sur ses désirs. Les rapports entre la sexualité et le pouvoir sont certes une ligne conductrice dans la trilogie orchestrée par Mars, mais ces liens deviennent de plus en plus clairs dans Pure Sin comparativement à Pure Virtue, jusqu’à devenir plus qu’évidents dans Pure Nonsense alors qu’Alice part à la recherche de son pénis, en prenant à la lettre les théories freudiennes: A female child does not understand her lack of a penis as being a sex character; she explains it by assuming that at some earlier date she had possessed an equally large organ and had then lost it by castration... The essential difference thus comes about that the girl accepts castration as an accomplished fact, whereas the boy fears the possibility of its occurrence.19 Comme dans le récit de Caroll, Alice arrive au pays des merveilles en ne sachant pas exactement ce qu’elle doit y faire. Elle semble avoir perdu ses souvenirs, aussi elle demandera au Lièvre de Mars : Why I hardly know sir. In fact, I hardly remember anything at all. I don’t even know where I left my penis.20 D’une naïveté qu’on reconnait au personnage fictionnel, Alice rejoue sa propre castration, et contrairement à ce qu’insinue la psychanalyse, elle n’accepte pas d’avoir perdu son membre manquant. Mais comme tout bon conte se doit d’avoir un dénouement heureux, elle finira par retrouver son phallus à la dernière scène de la performance lorsqu’en dansant le boogie woogie, elle soulève sa crinoline. Un long godemiché se laisse alors découvrir sous sa forme la plus artificielle, et qui plus est en érection constante, alors qu’Alice, surprise elle-même de retrouver son pénis entre ses deux jambes, continue à danser.21 Perdant patience sur le discours des maîtres, ces personnages qui ne semblent pas l’écouter à plusieurs reprises, elle s’en prend à l’essentialisme derrière leurs théories, qui a permis de construire tout un système de pouvoir sur le dos de la différence des organes génitaux. À un moment dans la performance, Alice se fait hypnotiser par le Lièvre de Mars et le Chapelier fou, et dans la scène suivante un texte apparaitra
projeté sur l’écran : Woman has done for psychoanalysis what the frog has done for biology.22 Les représentations des femmes que Tanya Mars met en scène au sein de sa trilogie obtiennent un pouvoir subversif de la féminité, étant donné qu’elle positionne ses personnages féminins – et se positionne elle-même au passage – au centre de la narration de chacune des trois performances. Cette stratégie prend tout son sens lorsqu’on considère la façon dont ont été objectifiées les femmes au sein de leurs représentations, le régime du male gaze ayant obtenu une importance particulière au sein de la culture visuelle et du cinéma avant les années 80. Dans son texte Film And The Masquerade : Theorizing The Female Spectator (1982), Mary Ann Doane explique que l’objectification des femmes, comme elle était faite au moyen de la représentation cinématographique, était conçue selon les théories psychanalytiques de la représentation, où la femme passive devenait de facto l’objet du regard masculin. L’efficacité du male gaze réside alors, selon l’auteure, au sein de la relation qu’entretient le personnage à l’écran au spectateur, car la représentation était conçue pour un spectateur masculin hétérosexuel. En voulant comprendre les possibilités d’une spectatrice féminine à s’identifier à un personnage féminin, Doane va amener son concept de travestissement, puis de mascarade. En effet, sous ce système, une femme pouvait s’identifier à celle qu’elle regarde seulement qu’en acceptant sa propre passivité (masochisme) ou qu’en se valorisant en tant qu’objet du désir masculin (narcissisme).23 Car pour la spectatrice femme, il y a une surprésence de l’image: elle est l’image, et elle est donc à la fois celle qui regarde et celle qui se fait regarder.24 Pour que la spectatrice puisse se réapproprier le regard pour son propre plaisir, sans assimiler sa propre passivité et sa propre objectification, Doane suggère qu’elle passe par le processus de travestissement, c’est-à-dire qu’elle se positionne comme si elle était un spectateur masculin pour pouvoir sortir de la passivité dont est imprégné son regard. Doane intervient alors avec son concept de mascarade, qui serait la production de sa propre représentation en tant qu’excès de féminité : la figure féminine ne serait alors plus l’objet du regard masculin pour ce qu’elle est, plutôt que pour ce qu’elle paraît. En se créant elle-même en tant que mascarade, la spectatrice pourrait retrouver un pouvoir dans l’acte de regarder et éviter de tomber dans le narcissisme et le masochisme.25 Il y aurait là la possibilité de se réapproprier une féminité, mais comme le pointe Sue-Ellen Case dans son texte Towards a Butch-Femme Aesthetic (1988), Doane considère la mascarade alors que l’économie du regard est basée sur une hétérosexualité prise pour acquis. Ce faisant, la femme obtient la possibilité de regarder, mais cette possibilité se retrouve toujours du côté de la spectatrice, et non du côté du sujet.26 Alors, comment les femmes peuvent-elles être le sujet de la représentation sans devenir l’objet du regard masculin? Il y a là un rapport de pouvoir entre le sujet et l’objet du regard qui se doit d’être redéfini autrement que dans l’hétérosexualité, pour réellement pouvoir contrer le male gaze. Pour en revenir à Tanya Mars, parce que ses personnages féminins sont au centre des actions de chaque performance, il y a un détournement qui se fait : il devient possible de créer une relation entre la spectatrice et le sujet de la performance qui n’oblige pas à accepter sa propre passivité. Dans la relation qu’entretient la spectatrice à l’image se retrouve toute la question de la politique de la représentation des corps
sous une critique de la contrainte à l’hétérosexualité et de l’essentialisme. Malgré que Mars ne mette pas de l’avant une sexualité homosexuelle et queer, sa trilogie participe à la création d’une économie du regard qui redonne un pouvoir à la féminité pour elle-même, sous la même logique que le camp et le drag.27 On retrouve dans la performance canadienne des années 1980 des réflexions analogues qui émergent chez les artistes féministes. On ne traite pas directement de la féminité, mais il y a un questionnement des systèmes de représentation au regard des différences sexuelles, de race, et de genre, qui prend forme. Implicitement liée à sa diffusion, vidéographique ou photographique, la performance est sans conteste un lieu foisonnant pour questionner le rapport du corps à l’image, à sa présence et à sa théâtralité, et surtout parce qu’elle se développe en parallèle des théories et militantismes féministes qui se renforcent à la même époque. Selon Jayne Wark, comme elle l’exprime dans son texte Dressed to Thrill. Costume, body, and dress in Canadian performative art (2004), les costumes et les vêtements ont une connotation culturelle, et jouent un rôle important dans la reconnaissance sociale et culturelle de l’identité. Mais pourtant, ces accessoires ont largement été ignorés dans l’étude de la performance, malgré qu’ils demeurent essentiels à la performativité28 et qu’ils constituent une stratégie employée par plusieurs artistes contemporaines à Mars, telles que Colette Urban, Anna Banana Shawna Dempsey, Lorri Millan Margaret Dragu, Lori Blondeau et The Hummer Sisters. Alors que la plupart des artistes de la performance aux États-Unis et en Europe étaient engagé-e-s dans des pratiques exemptes d’humour, on retrouve au sein des pratiques de plusieurs femmes performeuses canadiennes une abondante utilisation de l’humour et de références à la culture populaire, au sein de leur pratique performative. Peut-être est-ce parce qu’il y a au Canada un long héritage du comique, autant dans le cinéma du milieu du siècle (Mary Walsh et Cathy Jones par exemple) que dans les avant-gardes artistiques plus actuelles (Sheila Gosticks, Diane Flacks, Marcia Canon, Gwendolyn)29, mais la performance de la fin des années 70 en arrive à un moment où l’hégémonie des identités normatives est remise en question. En investiguant leur propre identité à travers des interventions humoristiques, ces artistes vont déployer leur corps selon une théâtralité subversive basée sur l’autofiction. Leur colonisation de la culture populaire, pour reprendre les termes de Wark, leur permet d’user du plaisir et des artifices qui la composent afin de politiser les représentations qui stigmatisent les corps et les identités, à l’endroit même où les différences et les déviances sont construites. En subvertissant les idéaux de la culture dominante, qui n’ont absolument rien à voir avec la réalité du vieillissement et de toute autre réalité des corps, autant qu’avec celle des plaisirs et des désirs qui sont pris dans une contrainte à l’hétérosexualité, ces artistes féministes participent à une déconstruction de l’hégémonie des normes identitaires.30 Ainsi, on ira puiser dans les sphères du théâtre, du vaudeville, du stand up comic, et de l’humour; autant de stratégies qu’on insèrera au sein de la performance. Tanya Mars défendait l’idée selon laquelle le spectacle peut créer des relations sociales, et que les images, malgré leur artificialité, ne nous aliènent pas en nous faisant croire à l’illusion d’un univers préfabriqué plutôt qu’elles créent un espace où il est possible de redéployer leur pouvoir politique.31 Ce faisant, elle se pose à contre-
courant de Guy Debord et sa Société du Spectacle, mais aussi de plusieurs pratiques de la performance féministe des années 70 et 80, qui ont participé à la construction d’un territoire plus sérieux de la performance. Mars a ainsi contribué à ouvrir la discipline aux sphères visuelles et culturelles, participant alors à la création de nouvelles méthodes pour investir la performance en tant que pratique féministe. Et ce n’est pas seulement le corps qui est au centre de la question ici, mais les façons dont on le représente et dont on le façonne avec des costumes, des robes, mais aussi avec l’excès du queer camp, la parodie, l’exagération de la satire et l’autodérision.32 Perruques, paillettes, robes, godemiché et artifices de toutes sortes participent à la performativité de la mascarade mise en scène par Tanya Mars afin d’aborder autrement les points de rencontre qu’il existe entre différence sexuelle, pouvoir, violence, représentation et objectification.
Décoloniser le Territoire: Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven et
University Quebec à Montréal (Montréal, QC)
L’intérêt des études sur le genre, des théories queer et de la géographie féministe pour les espaces d’interaction entre le corps, l’environnement et les cadres architecturaux, passe généralement par une analyse des mécanismes de division sexuelle dans nos espaces communs. La performativité des identités, la performance du corps en mouvement, leurs pouvoirs de résistance et de dialogue avec les dispositifs bâtis et sociaux qui façonnent le tissu urbain, se révèlent alors comme une voie d’exploration des pratiques furtives et performatives. Ces champs théoriques permettent de re-voir ou de re-contextualiser la déambulation urbaine d’Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927), artiste aujourd’hui considérée comme précurseur-e de l’art performance. Cette analyse porte sur les stratégies de décolonisation de l’espace ainsi que sur la transgression des codes définissant le genre – artistique et sexuel – présents dans les actions performatives d’Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Les actions de performances urbaines mises en place par l’artiste seront ici mises à contribution, afin de poser une réflexion sur l’espace queer qu’elles engendrent. Dès son arrivée à New York, l’artiste multidisciplinaire conteste les normes sociales, les interactions, ainsi que les codes définissants les genres féminin et masculin. Il sera d’abord question ici d’interroger la notion de performativité de l’expérience identitaire très présente dans les diverses actions de résistance de l’artiste dans la sphère publique. Le potentiel réformateur du corps en tant que site de contestation suggéré par David Halperin et Michel Foucault ainsi que la notion de la « pratique de soi » permettront également de renouveler l’analyse des actions de von Freytag, telles que la déambulation dans l’espace public dans des costumes anti-genre et une résistance menée contre les espaces genrés par des stratégies subversives, intégrées à un mode de vie singulier. La vie quotidienne de l’artiste s’apparente d’ailleurs à une esthétique de vie totale, en constante mutation, intégrant par exemple l’esthétique du cirque et celle de la mascarade. La baronne Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven C’est selon une posture de contestation de la définition du genre que l’artiste dadaïste Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven investit le territoire de Greenwich Village à New York à partir de 1910 jusqu’en 1923. La pratique multidisciplinaire de l’artiste bouscule inévitablement les attentes face aux comportements de la belle société bourgeoise moderne et surtout, de la femme moderne. C’est au moyen d’une approche que l’on pourrait aujourd’hui qualifier de queer et d’une esthétique fragmentaire et non homogène que se multiplient les gestes artistiques et politiques de von Freytag, notamment à travers la poésie, la sculpture, le dessin et la performance. Une performance qui s’éloigne d’ailleurs du spectacle conventionnel avec un public défini, mais qui intègre plutôt le quotidien, dans une performance intégrée au mode de vie de l’artiste, afin d’infiltrer le réel et de déranger l’ordre établi. L’art fait ainsi partie de l’expérience quotidienne de l’artiste d’origine allemande et implique directement la gestualité et l’action corporelles dans l’espace public et domestique.
C’est effectivement en tant qu’artiste interdisciplinaire que von Freytag met au défi les normes artistiques et sexuelles. La sexualité est indissociable de son œuvre et constitue l’élément le plus radical de sa démarche.1 Elle est évoquée tant dans le discours oral ou écrit qu’à travers la performance ou le dessin. C’est d’ailleurs par l’adoption de cette posture libertaire que von Freytag tente de délier les mœurs de son époque. Cet esprit libre se transpose également dans tous les agissements de l’artiste, dont la pratique décloisonne les attentes face aux codes définissant l’objet artistique, puisque l’art chez la baronne est partout. Il concerne les moindres gestes posés par l’artiste et sa façon d’être au monde. Il s’agit d’une application littérale d’une volonté extrêmement forte qu’éprouvaient les avant-gardes historiques de lier l’art et la vie, afin d’affirmer leur implication sociale et politique.2 Dans cette optique d’ouverture du champ de l’art comme expérience, l’objet artistique se décuple et subit une redéfinition. On assiste donc au développement d’une esthétique comportementale qui implique directement le corps en tant qu’outil créatif principal. On privilégie également un art fragmentaire par lequel s’exprime une incapacité à catégoriser le genre en perpétuelle mouvance. D’après le développement de la théorie actuelle sur l’art comportemental, l’ « art d’attitude » viserait d’abord le « décloisonnement des systèmes esthétiques » et consisterait à « offrir une sorte de déconditionnement, une déstabilisation devant des modèles confectionnant l’allure des productions ».3 Elsa von Freytag transforme ainsi l’art en une attitude générale, qui transcende la nature de l’objet artistique, présenté le plus souvent sous une forme matérielle. L’objet artistique ici est plutôt intimement lié à la position adoptée par l’artiste et l’influence qu’il-elle exerce dans son environnement immédiat. Il semble opportun d’analyser cette forme d’art disséminée par le corps dans le réel d’après le concept foucaldien d’ « esthétique de l’existence ».4 La notion amenée par Michel Foucault servira en tant que modèle de lecture pour analyser les actions politiques de von Freytag et cerner les paramètres d’une esthétique de soi. L’ « Esthétique de l’existence » D’abord, Foucault se réfère à une position morale adoptée par les grecs anciens au IVe siècle av. J-C. Ce que l’auteur nomme la « notion de soi » ou encore la « technique de soi » est liée au « mode de constitution du sujet moral ».5 Aussi nommée la « tekhnê tou biou », cette attitude est d’abord considérée en tant qu’ « expérience éthique ».6 Il s’agit d’une maîtrise totale des gestes posés dans l’espace public et privé qui concerne entre autres celle des pulsions sexuelles. Selon Foucault, « c’est un art de vivre où l’économie du plaisir jouait un grand rôle ». Si cette discipline austère dont parle l’auteur ne peut toutefois pas s’appliquer à la performance de von Freytag – puisque c’est justement cette rigidité des codes définissant le genre qu’elle conteste – la cohérence et la rigueur qu’elle convoque peuvent se retrouver dans l’art de vivre défendu au quotidien par la baronne (jusqu’à ce qu’ils laissent place au chaos). En effet, l’art d’attitude pratiqué par von Freytag à l’aune d’une société capitaliste adopte une position dadaïste anti-art, anti-objet, anti-bourgeois, afin de réfuter notre rapport matérialiste à l’art et au monde. Selon Foucault, le rapport à soi doit également pouvoir être décrit dans la multiplicité de ses formes et non dans un rapport authentique à soi-même. Ce pourquoi l’auteur définit l’être en tant qu’entité performative.7 Dans le même sillage, Judith Butler définit la performativité du genre allant à l’encontre d’une définition essentialiste des identités sexuelles, qui, pour sa
part, est de l’ordre de la construction sociale: Dire que le corps genré est performatif veut dire qu’il n’a pas de statut ontologique indépendamment des différents actes qui constituent sa réalité. Si cette réalité est constituée comme une essence intérieure, cela implique que cette intériorité est précisément l’un des effets d’un discours fondamentalement social et public, de la régularisation publique du fantasme par la politique de la surface du corps, du contrôle des frontières du genre intérieur et extérieur.8 En ce qui concerne le style de vie total d’Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, on pourrait plutôt l’associer aux micro-gestes disséminés dans la vie quotidienne. C’est en effet par l’accumulation des actions dans l’espace social et l’utilisation du quotidien en tant que matériau, que l’approche artistique de von Freytag fait du corps à la fois un lieu de représentation et un instrument critique et politique. David Halperin, dans Saint Foucault (1990), fait appel à cette notion pour insister davantage sur le rôle politique du corps en tant que site de contestation et de pouvoir. L’auteur expose également l’idée de Foucault, selon laquelle la résistance naît à l’intérieur même du pouvoir.9 Le corps pour Foucault est par conséquent politique et son potentiel de résistance réside dans un processus qui est créatif.10 Enfin, la performativité intrinsèque à l’identité queer représente en soi un potentiel pour combattre la norme, selon Halperin qui propose sa propre définition du queer : “Queer” does not name some natural kind or refer to some determinate object: it acquires its meaning from its oppositional relation to the norm. Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legetimate, the dominant. […] It is an identity without an essence.11 Ainsi, la résistance de l’identité queer est contenue dans sa nature non stable et en constante mouvance, voire insaisissable.12 Performer le territoire C’est à partir de 1915 qu’Elsa von Freytag débute ses balades urbaines. Il s’agit d’actes de déambulation costumés effectués dans les rues de Greenwich Village, un quartier de New York qu’elle habite à l’époque. Par ses actions, von Freytag tente de remettre en question la normativité du genre (masculin et féminin) en imitant et pervertissant leur propre performativité hétéro-normative. Elle s’attaque alors aux limites et aux catégorisations du genre de diverses façons, notamment par l’habillement. Il convient également d’admettre que dans ce contexte historique, l’adoption d’un style queer en tant qu’apparence constitue un acte politique en soi. Adam Geczy et Vicki Karaminas dans l’ouvrage Queer Style (2013) déterminent l’identité queer en tant que site dynamique de constante « renégociation » par opposition à une identité hétéro-normative imposant un binarisme homo-hétéro. En outre, le queer rejette et déjoue ainsi le binarisme identitaire en performant son genre.13 Si la performativité du genre ne tient pas uniquement à l’apparence physique, il importe tout de même de mesurer son impact dans l’espace social à partir de l’adoption d’une esthétique queer. Lors de ses promenades, von Freytag porte un costume anti-genre, qui ne cadre d’aucune façon dans les codes vestimentaires féminins ou masculins des années d’avant et d’après guerre. Elle se plaît à porter des
objets du quotidien, tels que des ustensiles en guise de bijoux, une cage contenant des oiseaux vivants pendue à son cou, ainsi que des boîtes de conserves comme soutien-gorge. Cet art valorisant le fragment et le port d’objets usuels, se voulait alors une critique de la société de consommation et mettait de l’avant la nature éphémère de la vie. Elle remettait également en question les présupposés du genre et de la féminité par un habit qui se distanciait des normes vestimentaires féminines de l’époque (fig. 1). Cette distanciation s’opère avec l’introduction de codes empruntés à l’art du cirque, dont le collant moulant, les motifs voyants et dynamiques ainsi qu’une coupe propice aux gestes expressifs. Le style de l’ensemble se présente comme une caricature de l’acrobate, mais aussi comme une esthétique qui est de l’ordre de l’entre-deux, qui n’appartient ni aux stéréotypes féminin ni masculin. Dans le contexte de 1915, cet habit « anti-genre » défie les catégorisations possibles. En ce sens, il est hors du temps et de la norme sociale, car le queer ne peut être qu’ « extérieur ».14 Il naît effectivement des interstices de l’espace commun, où prennent forme les luttes des identités marginales. Susan Keller souligne qu’Elsa von Freytag mets au défi les normes qui déterminent le genre, notamment en s’attaquant aux nouvelles notions d’hygiènes mises en place à la suite de la Première Guerre et de l’obsession de l’odeur de la société de l’entre-deux-guerres.15 En effet, en plus de porter un chapeau, la femme à cette époque adopte les nouvelles gammes de parfum développées par une industrie de la parfumerie en pleine effervescence. L’apparition de l’hygiène buccale acquiert également une grande importance. Ces normes imposent une standardisation du comportement et une rationalisation du traitement du corps que von Freytag rejette totalement. Au contraire, la baronne Elsa se plaît à cultiver une odeur nauséabonde pour faire un pied de nez à ces nouvelles conventions: In discarding contemporary standards of cleanliness and the modern products marketed to achieve it, the Baroness demonstrated to the people around her that these standards were in fact arbitrary and culturally specific, reasserting the unruly messiness of the human body.16 Par ses actions artistiques, la baronne Elsa von Freytag mène un combat contre la passivité collective mise en place par une acceptation générale des conceptions prédéterminées de la beauté, en créant un sentiment de dégoût chez les gens qu’elle fréquente en arborant des aliments en décomposition qui sont intégrés à ses vêtements.17 À ce sujet, Adam Geczy et Vicki Karaminas citent Patricia Calefato, qui pour sa part voit une ouverture dans l’adoption d’un style grotesque: Fashion has turned the body into a discourse, a sign, a thing. A body permeated by discourse, of which clothes and objects are an intrinsic part, is a body exposed to transformations, to grotesque opening toward the world; a body that will feel and taste all that the world feels and tastes, if it simply lets itself open up.18 Enfin, il semble également important de rappeler que ce style queer n’aurait pu être véritablement effectif ici sans le rapport établi par l’artiste avec l’espace
(Fig. 1) Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven dans son studio de Greenwich Village, dĂŠcembre 1915. Provenance: Bettman-Corbis-Magma.
public. Geczy et Karaminas soulignent à cet effet la dimension vivante de la construction de l’esthétique queer : « […] queer is something far more lived, experienced, enjoyed and suffered than it is theoretical ».19 Ainsi, les actions multiples d’Elsa von Freytag dans les rues de Greenwich Village et l’implication du corps en tant que moteur et instrument de changement, semblent tous converger vers un espace autre qu’il conviendrait de nommer un espace queer par la pluralité des possibles qu’il convoque. Cet espace pervertit les codes comportementaux ainsi que la fonctionnalité même du lieu. La décolonisation du territoire du genre – au sens propre comme au figuré – s’effectue ici par le corps. Il fait partie intégrante du projet de l’artiste, dont la jonction d’une attitude physique et d’un style queer singuliers participe à une esthétique de vie totale. En effet, chez von Freytag, le corps constitue un instrument politique servant à rompre avec les stéréotypes du genre et il est conçu par l’artiste en tant que matrice discursive, à partir de laquelle la contestation devient possible, voire éminente. Le corps est donc agent de changement à la fois en tant qu’outil et lieu de transgression du genre hétéro-normatif. C’est en ce sens que le style queer de l’artiste rejoint les notions d’« esthétique de l’existence » (Foucault) et de « site de contestation du pouvoir » (Halperin) évoqués en premier lieu. Enfin, c’est également par le corps que naissent de nouveaux lieux ou de nouveaux rapports au lieu. L’émergence de l’espace queer20 semble possible par la prise de position de celui ou celle qui l’occupe. L’investigation du quotidien par un corps performatif, un corps social dépassant les considérations individuelles, semble être au cœur des réflexions des théories queer et du champ de recherche visé par la géographie féministe et queer.21
Art performance et culture du spectacle: « Pastiche » de l’œuvre de Marina Abramović par Shawn C. Carter University de Montréal (Montréal, QC)
Picasso Baby : A Performance Art Film est une vidéo réalisée par Mark Romanek et produite par HBO et JAY-Z, documentant une performance du rappeur – de son vrai nom Shawn C. Carter – à la Pace Gallery de New York le 10 juillet 2013. Ce film agit à titre de vidéoclip officiel de son nouveau simple intitulé Picasso Baby. La performance de Carter, que l’on peut observer grâce à la documentation vidéo, s’inspire directement de l’œuvre The Artist is Present de Marina Abramović présentée au Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) de New York en 2010. Abramović figure également dans le film. Dans le cas du présent article, les relations qui existent entre la performance réalisée par Carter et celle d’Abramović seront à l’étude. Plus précisément, il ne s’agit pas de présenter une analyse des médiations des performances, mais des performances en elles-mêmes. La performance de Carter est si indéniablement reliée à l’œuvre d’Abramović qu’on pourrait l’interpréter et la qualifier de « pastiche ». La description des performances de l’œuvre d’Abramović et de la prestation de Carter sera effectuée afin de mieux comparer leurs caractéristiques et comprendre leurs différences, aussi minimes soient-elles. La notion d’hypertextualité développée par Gérard Genette permettra d’expliciter le mécanisme de l’emprunt ou de la référence à une œuvre précédente. La définition contemporaine du pastiche de Fredric Jameson ainsi que le concept de « mash-up », qui est très présent dans la culture hip hop, aideront à poursuivre la discussion sur le sujet en ouvrant sur les modalités de l’utilisation de la notion de pastiche et d’assemblage, et des relations humaines à considérer dans l’analyse de l’art actuel. À partir de ce constat, le travail de Carter traduit une tension qui s’articule entre la performance en art visuel et la culture du spectacle, tension aussi présente et développée dans la pratique d’Abramović depuis plusieurs années. Les analyses des tensions dans ces deux pratiques seront alors mises en relation pour éclairer notre réflexion et comprendre si le potentiel critique est évacué dans les pratiques des principaux intéressés. Description des « œuvres » Dans The Artist is Present (présenté du 14 mars au 31 mai 2010), Abramović était assise sur une chaise sans bouger et en silence, pendant la totalité des heures d’ouverture du Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Une autre chaise était placée devant la sienne afin que les spectateurs puissent s’y assoir tour à tour. Cela signifie que l’artiste a performé cette œuvre pendant plus de 700 heures. Pendant les deux premiers mois, une table séparait l’artiste et les participants. Elle fût retirée pour le troisième et dernier mois de la performance. La durée de l’échange silencieux entre l’artiste et le spectateur était à la discrétion du spectateur. Pour ce qui est du style vestimentaire, Abramović revêtit une robe bleue durant le mois de mars, une robe rouge pendant le mois d’avril et une blanche lors du mois de mai.1 Certes, l’endurance et le défi de repousser les frontières du potentiel physique et mental sont centraux dans cette performance. Cette œuvre s’inscrit d’ailleurs dans la démarche et l’approche d’une artiste qui étudie et repousse les frontières corporelles et psychologiques depuis
plusieurs décennies. Comme dans plusieurs autres de ses œuvres, le corps est à la fois son sujet et son médium. Souvent, elle performe des actions quotidiennes dans une forme de rituel — par exemple l’acte de s’assoir à table — afin de mettre en évidence et de démontrer le caractère unique et précis de cet état mental. Avec The Artist is Present, Abramović continue d’explorer les limites de son corps et de son esprit à travers l’épuisement physique et mental des échanges silencieux. Quant à lui, Carter a performé la chanson Picasso Baby sans relâche pendant 6 heures d’une même journée dans la Pace Gallery de New York. Les lieux physiques de la galerie correspondent aux codes du White Cube: murs et plancher blanc, lumière naturelle indirecte, textes d’exposition sur support mural. L’action du rappeur prenait vie sur une petite scène blanche qui faisait face à un banc où les spectateurs étaient invités à s’assoir un à un. Carter a « rappé » Picasso Baby plus de quarante fois, à raison d’une personne par prestation. Entrepreneur et homme d’affaires aguerri, cette prestation s’inscrit dans le cheminement de cette figure emblématique de la culture hip hop qui cherche probablement à élargir son champ d’action et à accroître sa notoriété. Il collectionne des œuvres d’art et cherche maintenant à intégrer le monde de l’art en faisant une « performance dite artistique ».2 Avec Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film, Carter veut porter son message à un nouveau public. Hypertextualité À la lumière de ces précisions sur les deux prestations, l’utilisation de la notion d’hypertextualité développée par Gérard Genette3 sert à comprendre la façon dont on peut interpréter la prestation de Carter comme un pastiche de l’œuvre d’Abramović. Tout d’abord, l’hypertextualité signifie toute relation unissant un texte postérieur (l’hypertexte) à un texte antérieur (l’hypotexte) sur lequel il se greffe d’une manière qui n’est pas celle du commentaire.4 Ici, Carter s’inspire des œuvres d’Abramović comme hypotexte afin de créer un hypertexte, soit la performance de Picasso Baby. Cette dérivation de l’hypotexte vers l’hypertexte s’obtient par une opération de nature transformatrice, qu’elle soit directe ou non. Genette définit respectivement ces deux types d’opération comme transformation et imitation. Dans ce cas-ci, Carter obtient son hypertexte grâce à une imitation puisque les caractéristiques de la performance d’Abramović ne sont pas transposées à un autre moment, mais que quelques détails sont repris pour créer une toute nouvelle prestation. Abramović souhaite un rapport silencieux avec le spectateur d’une durée indéterminée tandis que Carter chante et interagit avec le spectateur pendant la durée de la chanson. L’épuisement presque total de la performance de longue durée n’est en rien comparable à l’endurance de Carter pendant un moment d’une journée. Il a performé son simple pendant une demi-journée tandis qu’Abramović passe trois mois au MoMA. D’autre part, Genette définit les pratiques intertextuelles en associant ces deux types de relations (transformation et imitation) à trois régimes qu’il nomme ludique, satirique et sérieux.5 Il obtient 6 pratiques intertextuelles, soit la parodie (transformation ludique), le travestissement (transformation satirique), la transposition (transformation sérieuse), la charge (imitation satirique), la forgerie (imitation sérieuse) et le pastiche (imitation ludique), en précisant que les catégories ne sont pas finies et cloisonnées. Les frontières entre chacune des pratiques intertextuelles sont délibérément brouillées et floues. Nous avons mentionné que l’opération requise pour le passage de l’hypotexte à l’hypertexte de Carter est une imitation. Cette imitation de style est
dépourvue de fonction satirique, car le but du rappeur n’est pas de plagier l’œuvre de l’artiste ou de tomber dans la dérision. On assiste plutôt à un déplacement du contenu de l’œuvre, au sens où l’œuvre devient un élément dans une stratégie sociologique et esthétique plus large. On sent une volonté de continuité et d’hommage envers le travail de l’artiste, ce qui nous permet de faire un rapprochement entre Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film et la forme du pastiche explicitée par Genette. Il faut bien comprendre que l’action de Carter ne crée pas une œuvre contemporaine, mais bien une prestation musicale dans le cadre d’une stratégie de marketing, et ne se situe pas dans le registre de la simple copie. Pastiche, assemblage et postproduction Chez Fredric Jameson, le pastiche revêt une définition bien précise. Il est « l’imitation d’un style idiosyncrasique, particulier ou unique, le port d’un masque linguistique, la parole dans une langue morte. Mais il s’agit d’une pratique neutre de l’imitation, de la mimique, sans aucune des arrière-pensées de la parodie, amputée de l’élan satirique, dépourvue du rire et de la conviction que subsiste encore, à côté du parler anormal que vous avez emprunté momentanément, une saine normalité linguistique. »6 Carter fait allusion à une source, qui est ici la performance de longue durée avec épuisement chez Abramović en tentant de lui rendre « hommage » et de s’en inspirer pour servir son but. Le côté neutre de son imitation correspond aux propos de Jameson, qui précise que le pastiche est amputé de l’élan satirique et des arrière-pensées de la parodie, car aucune dérision n’est proposée par Carter. Il emprunte à Abramović : l’action de la répétition, un certain rapport au public, le recours à une forme de l’endurance et utilise un lieu de diffusion et des acteurs associés aux arts visuels pour présenter la sortie de son simple de façon « originale » à un tout nouveau public, qui est assez restreint et privilégié. Jameson ajoute que « cette omniprésence du pastiche à l’heure actuelle n’est toutefois pas incompatible avec un certain humour, ni détachée de toute passion, elle est en tout cas compatible avec l’addiction – cet appétit historiquement original des consommateurs pour un monde transformé en pure image de lui-même, pour les pseudoévénements et les spectacles ».7 Ici, Jameson se réfère à l’International situationniste et à Guy Debord, pour qui la notion de spectacle peut faire écho à la consommation, étant donné que le monde est devenu sa propre image et cette image est devenue la forme ultime de la réification de la marchandise. Cette dépendance à l’image et au style dans la société de consommation dont parle Jameson, pose les conditions gagnantes à la propagation de l’utilisation du pastiche et des phénomènes d’assemblage, car la prolifération des informations disponibles y est astronomique. À l’heure actuelle, chacun a la possibilité de créer son propre « mash-up », sa propre vision du monde, car devant cette infinité, la création d’une œuvre originale sans référence préalable à une autre création se voit désormais réduite. Du point de vue musical, Carter a déjà
utilisé cette technique de « mash-up » avec Max Tannone, qui a mixé ses chansons avec celles du célèbre groupe britannique Radiohead, d’où le nom du projet Jaydiohead. Le genre musical du « mash-up » et de l’échantillonnage sonore prend racine dans la culture hip hop, dont Carter fait partie depuis les années 90. Chez Nicolas Bourriaud, la théorisation de la culture du « mash-up » propose que les œuvres d’art ne doivent plus être originales, complètes ou terminées.8 En ce sens, elles doivent se prêter à la réinterprétation pour que les artistes puissent reprogrammer les œuvres existantes, habiter les styles et les formes historicisées, faire usage des images, utiliser la société comme un répertoire de forme et inclure la mode et les médias afin de multiplier les formes de production artistique et de déclencher une chaîne infinie de contributions. Dans ce cas-ci, nous passons d’un recyclage des formes artistiques (mash-up) à un recyclage des codes contextuels et sociologiques. L’exemple de la DJ culture, employé par Bourriaud – notion fort intéressante pour décrire le geste de Carter –, illustre que le DJ devient alors plus important que le musicien (ou l’artiste) original. Ainsi, le scénario comme forme place le rappeur comme créateur de nouveaux usages aux œuvres en redécoupant l’histoire et en créant un nouveau scénario personnel afin d’activer et de déplacer les nouvelles significations, ce qui crée de nouvelles formes de productions artistiques. Chez Bourriaud, la surproduction n’est donc pas vue comme un problème, mais bien comme un écosystème culturel en perpétuel mouvement. Avec ce cas d’étude, nous pouvons remarquer que Carter est un acteur important de cet écosystème. Si l’on regarde la carrière du rappeur, on peut comprendre que le « mash-up » est partie intégrante de son travail depuis plusieurs années. Le principe de collaboration (que ce soit avec des artistes, des musiciens, des producteurs, des vidéastes, des marques de chaussures à la mode, de vêtements, des événements ou des commerces) est l’essence de la création chez Carter, tout comme plusieurs acteurs de la culture hip hop. Après quoi, le problème de l’impossibilité d’originalité et de l’infini pousse l’artiste à créer des combinaisons uniques et à délaisser le désir de création pure. Carter ne veut en aucun cas plagier l’œuvre d’Abramović, car sa créativité et son unicité résident dans sa réclamation de l’assemblage unique entre son répertoire musical, son expérience de concert, ses références à la culture populaire et à l’art contemporain. Il combat alors la pureté du geste créateur avec un nouvel assemblage tel un DJ. L’originalité repose ici sur la réputation de l’artiste, le choix de l’œuvre pastichée, et l’originalité de son assemblage avec le répertoire musical du chanteur. Art performance et culture du spectacle Le pastiche que fait Carter de l’œuvre d’Abramović introduit également une diversité notable, voire une certaine hétérogénéité, dans le mode performatif du rappeur, soit la façon de performer la chanson dans un concert ou dans un contexte d’exposition. Cette hétérogénéité traduit une tension qui s’articule entre
la performance dans les arts visuels et la performance dans la culture du spectacle, tension aussi présente dans la pratique d’Abramović, bien que de manière différente. Dans l’histoire de l’art, la performance est née afin de briser les catégories et d’offrir de nouvelles possibilités d’expression aux artistes. Elle a également joué un rôle important dans les luttes féministes des années 60 et 70 en déconstruisant les codes attitrés au genre, en proposant une nouvelle critique sociale et en réévaluant la place des femmes dans l’histoire de l’art. Souvent, la performance est un moyen critique de questionner le monde de l’art et une tentative d’ébranler la hiérarchie en place. Cette tension entre l’éthos classique de la performance et la culture du spectacle se situe donc dans l’utilisation de la performance comme moyen critique et/ou comme spectacle/divertissement. Même si Carter souhaite rapprocher la culture populaire et l’art contemporain, dans ce cas-ci, l’utilisation de la performance semble mieux servir le divertissement et la promotion que la tradition critique. On peut supposer que le but de Carter n’est pas de brouiller les frontières entre art et vie et de critiquer le système – comme Fluxus a pu le faire –, mais qu’il fait le choix de la performance en art probablement dans le but d’acquérir une certaine notoriété et de possiblement faire partie de la classe symbolique des artistes consacrés. Dans le travail d’Abramović, on retrouve aussi cette tension entre la performance dans les arts visuels et la performance dans la culture populaire. Depuis quelques années, cette artiste est un des sujets de prédilection de plusieurs critiques d’art avec ses « transgressions » vers la culture populaire, la publicité et le spectacle : « It’s also good for visual artists to cross the borders of different mediums and music, it has always been the immaterial form of art, which is so wonderful. »9 On peut la voir donner des conférences TED, recréer sa performance Work pour une publicité de la marque Adidas, collaborer avec des acteurs de culture populaire comme Lady Gaga et James Franco. On peut penser que « la grand-mère de l’art performance » (titre autoproclamé), a antérieurement utilisé ce médium comme critique des limites corporelles, mais qu’à présent, elle l’utilise afin de contrôler son legs à l’histoire de l’art. Abramović développe sa propre philosophie de la performance en lien avec le corps et enseigne cette « méthode » depuis plus de 40 ans.10 À l’heure actuelle, Abramović poursuit sa quête en créant le Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) afin de faire la promotion de sa propre méthode de l’exploration du corps et de l’esprit et de préserver l’essence de la performance de longue durée. D’après Lacis, le MAI est le legs d’Abramović, qu’elle tente de contrôler et de structurer avant sa mort.11 Il est intéressant d’observer son rapport à la performance à ce moment dans sa carrière – artiste consacrée, faisant partie du Kunstkompass et n’ayant plus rien à prouver. D’un côté, le MAI peut sembler fascinant pour la préservation de la performance en art visuel et de l’autre, il semble ne servir qu’à des intérêts mercantiles grâce aux partenariats développés avec des géants du Web comme Tumblr et Google qui sous-tendent l’accessibilité à un certain capital économique. Il est difficile de statuer sur ses intentions (ce qui mériterait une recherche à part entière). D’autant plus que sa présence sur les médias sociaux s’est accrue grâce à des acteurs de la culture populaire comme Lady Gaga: Lady Gaga became such a big part of this change because she entered the museum to see the show. She didn’t sit with me because the line was too long, but the moment she entered there was a twitter everywhere that she was in the museum. So the kids from 12 and 14 years old to about 18, the public who normally don’t go to the museum, who don’t give a shit about performance art or don’t even know what that is, started coming because of Lady Gaga. And they saw the show and then they started coming back. And that’s how I get a whole new audience.12 Abramović n’utilise pas les réseaux sociaux comme médium artistique, mais bien
comme simple outil promotionnel de visibilité pour bâtir sa base d’admirateurs et comme plateforme de diffusion. Dans sa recherche portant sur les différentes phases de célébrité de l’artiste, Indra K. Lacis qualifie la phase actuelle de la carrière d’Abramović comme de l’autopromotion.13 Abramović se concentre sur l’ouverture de son futur institut et de ses activités de financement. Souvent, elle obtient des dons substantiels pour le MAI provenant de marques, d’entreprises ou de collaborateurs en échange de l’utilisation de ses œuvres, de sa présence ou tout simplement de sa réputation. C’est ainsi que Carter a pu s’inspirer de sa performance pour créer sa prestation et demander la présence d’Abramović au moment de l’événement. En lien avec cette collaboration, il faut noter la sortie médiatique (et fort amusante) d’Abramović sur le sujet. Outrée par le fait que Carter n’avait pas encore fait de don à sa fondation, elle s’en voyait extrêmement déçue et offensée, car elle avait approuvé l’utilisation de sa performance en échange d’un don considérable de la part du rappeur et entrepreneur. Elle a senti que l’échange s’est fait de façon unilatérale. Quelques jours plus tard, elle fut informée que le don avait bel et bien été fait au nom de Shawn C. Carter, quelques années auparavant. L’institut dû faire des excuses publiques à Carter pour cette diffamation ainsi qu’à Abramović, car elle précise qu’elle n’avait pas été informée de ce don avant sa sortie impulsive et « explosive » dans les médias.14 Carter n’a pas commenté. Pour sa part, Carter a travaillé de pair avec la Pace Gallery et son équipe. Il s’entoure des acteurs du monde de l’art afin d’inscrire l’œuvre dans une relation à l’autorité du discours d’Abramović et d’un réseau légitimé dans le milieu de l’art. Sa façon de procéder et sa stratégie parviennent à tendre vers son but, à savoir obtenir une plus grande crédibilité auprès des acteurs du monde de l’art: « I went in doubting. I left elated. Any performer who can get a room full of strangers chanting, “Picasso baby” over and over again is good in my book. Better yet, Jay-Z even got me to actually start liking Marina Abramovic. That’s art.»15 Il faut aussi noter que Jerry Saltz est revenu sur son expérience et sur cet enchantement qui semble avoir disparu. On peut aussi voir que son public s’est élargi, car plusieurs admirateurs d’art ne connaissaient pas le rappeur, mais suivaient assidument la carrière d’Abramović, ce qui du rendre le rappeur plus intéressant aux yeux de ceux-ci. Carter s’inscrit aussi dans une mouvance sur la popularisation de l’art contemporain et des sous-cultures (si elles existent encore) comme style de vie. Le fait de vouloir faire un objet d’art convoitable et d’accéder au statut d’artiste contemporain démontre qu’il tente de styliser tous les espaces de sa vie dans un monde où les frontières entre art contemporain et culture populaire sont de plus en plus brouillées, sans toutefois être un phénomène totalement nouveau. Comme Funcke le dénote dans Pop or Populus: Admittedly, that purely private realm has today been largely eliminated through blatant commercialization and the aggressive popularization of contemporary art, subculture, and creativity as a lifetsyle. To a certain extend, art has managed to trip itself up, since its utopian endeavor to unify art with life has perhaps been more successful that it had hoped. Mass culture, meanwhile, has learned much from the craft of art, introducing it in a diluted form into many other aspect of everyday life.[…] Moreover, when one calls the aestheticization of our « life-space » (Lebensraum) and the lessons learned from the visual arts now appropriated by so many products […] it is all strangely reminiscent of those old manifestos of Russian Constructivism that posit the total aesthetic designing of our habitat.16 Conclusion Enfin, la performance documentée dans Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film est un exemple-symptôme fascinant de la multiplication actuelle des collaborations entre artistes contemporains et célébrités de la culture populaire, et de la conjoncture néolibérale qui la nourrit. Les artistes et les institutions contemporain(e)s qui collaborent avec les figures les plus éminentes de la culture populaire jouissent par là
d’un accroissement de visibilité particulièrement profitable (comme Abramović dans ce cas-ci); quant aux célébrités qui proviennent de la culture populaire, elles s’accaparent ainsi une partie du prestige et du capital symbolique du « grand art » (qui peut aussi se traduire en gains économiques). Comme le mentionne Moulin : « [la] stratégie de carrière, inspirée du modèle warholien, repos[e] sur un usage ambigu des médias et de la publicité dont leur art, critique et politique, fai[t] le procès. »17 Cependant, d’une situation qui voyait l’artiste contemporain emprunter les images et les objets de la culture populaire, ou infiltrer la culture du spectacle avec une complaisance sous-tendue d’ironie critique, nous sommes passés à une situation d’échange pragmatique et mutuellement profitable entre les « élites » de l’art contemporain et celles de la culture du spectacle. Se détachant du modèle warholien, la collaboration entre Carter et Abramović est un exemple fascinant de cet échange pragmatique, profitable et mercantile. Comme le souligne Fraser : « art prices do not go up as society as a whole becomes wealthier, but only when incomes inequality increases. »18 Cette collaboration entre Abramović et Carter s’inscrit principalement dans ce contexte sociopolitique et économique avec la croissance des inégalités sociales dans le monde occidental, plus précisément à la suite de la crise des prêts à haut risque aux États-Unis. « This implies that we can expect art booms whenever income inequality rises quickly. This seems exactly what we witnessed during the last period of strong art price appreciation, 20022007. »19 Appartenant à une même classe sociale, Abramović et Carter s’associent, non pas seulement par souci esthétique ou par intérêt, mais parce qu’ils ont également en commun plusieurs codes culturels et économiques. Un important paradoxe se dessine ici: alors que le rapprochement entre art moderne/ contemporain et art populaire s’était mis en place pour ébranler l’édifice hiérarchique et exclusif des valeurs bourgeoises traditionnelles, c’est précisément à un retour en force du consensus idéologique et au langage partagé du conservatisme et de la hiérarchisation économique qu’il contribue désormais. De la même façon, le phénomène d’internationalisation du marché permet l’ouverture des frontières à un plus grand nombre, mais c’est « en ne donnant le statut de (grandes) stars internationales qu’à un nombre limité d’artistes [que ce phénomène] risque de marginaliser un grand nombre d’artistes [...] aussi reconnus soient-ils. »20 On assiste donc à une réduction de la diversification des types d’artistes stars en haut du système, même si le rapprochement entre art populaire et art contemporain favorisait la destruction de la hiérarchie. Par contre, il faudrait noter que les études, les considérations et les préoccupations sur les phénomènes de notoriété, de consécration et de célébrité sont loin d’être récentes. Comme le mentionne Quemin, « [d]ans son livre, Edgar Morin […] s’est intéressé à la fois au processus de création des stars comme produits de consommation de masse, mais aussi au mode de consommation par les admirateurs, d’une façon proche de celle dont Jean Baudrillard a pu, par la suite, étudier la consommation en général. »21 L’accessibilité sans borne de l’information à l’heure actuelle fait partie de notre quotidien, mais rappelons-nous que le palmarès du Kunstkompass existe depuis plus de 40 ans et qu’« il constitue un instrument exceptionnel pour mieux comprendre la construction, mais aussi les transformations des formes de reconnaissance dans le secteur de l’art contemporain […] . C’est
donc comme si l’art contemporain avait suscité, en même temps que son apparition, la nécessité d’un palmarès visant à objectiver les positions occupées par les différents artistes les plus en vue. »22 Dans ce cas-ci, Abramović, l’artiste concernée par l’étude, est passée du 50e rang en 2014 au 47e rang en 2015. En collaborant avec Carter, Abramović s’assure donc une certaine visibilité et un certain rang afin de demeurer dans l’esprit commun grâce à sa célébrité, à son entourage et à son style de vie : « Les rockers de l’art doivent leur célébrité à leur style de vie et à leur carrière ; asservis aux exigences d’une production abondante (pour couvrir sur un temps court une demande liée à la mode) et d’une représentation constante, ils sont, pour beaucoup d’entre eux, condamnés par le fonctionnement du système à déclassement rapide. »23 Par conséquent, l’échange entre Abramović et Carter s’inscrit dans la vision de Quemin ainsi que de Moulin étant donné que la célébrité des deux principaux acteurs est construite à la fois comme un produit de consommation par les fans et un produit de consommation de masse (qui inclut fans et non-fans).
“As long as the music is loud enough, we won’t hear the world falling apart”:1 Dystopia as Metaphor in Derek Jarman’s Jubliee (1978) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) Clinton Glenn
Concordia University (Montréal, QC)
This paper looks at the function of dystopia in two films from either side of the Iron Curtain. It is my contention that both films utilize dystopia as metaphors, which reflect the overriding concerns of their respective directors. Jubilee, with its punk aesthetic and anarchic violence, directly implicates capitalism and media cooption of youth counterculture in the wholesale destruction of 1970s London. Stalker foregoes any such direct political reading, concerning itself instead with the concept of free will — one connected to the lack of faith and spirituality endemic in modernity. While these films are distinctly different in a number of ways, the invocation of postindustrial landscapes and a breakdown in social values in society makes them ripe for comparison. I will argue that Jarman’s film was overtly political, and tied to changes in society and geography as a result of rampant capitalism. In contrast, Tarkovsky’s film has been taken up as political not for its content but because of its position between East and West – in the East, as a key moment in Soviet cinema; in the West as an example of dissent in an otherwise closed, propagandistic system. While Jubilee and Stalker feature dystopian narratives, at first glance they appear to share little resemblance to one another. The former is a bleak vision of London ruled by sex, violence, and the almighty Pound, whereas the latter shifts between a gritty, post-industrial landscape and the lush, greenery of the mysterious Zone. Upon closer examination they share some striking similarities: the films are concerned with a perceived breakdown in social and cultural values in their respective societies; and, they share a similar view of the post-industrial landscape as linked to the degradation of society. The films also lend themselves well to comparison because of their release dates: Jubilee in 1978 and Stalker in 1979. Turning to the concept of dystopia, its roots can be found in the word utopia— an ideal world based upon perfected social and political structures. Outopia comes from Greek meaning no place. This renders the utopic space as an ideal that can never be attained because it does not exist in a specific location; rather, it “belongs to the future.”2 The term thus became a byword for “any place of ideal perfection”; however, it can also refer to “an impractical scheme of social regeneration.”3 Dystopia, however, is not simply an inversion of utopia. As scholars Gordin, Tilley, and Prakash note, the opposite of utopia “would be a society that is either completely unplanned or is planned to be deliberately terrifying and awful”; in contrast, dystopia operates as “a utopia that has gone wrong, or a utopia that functions only for a particular segment of society.”4 This is not to say that dystopian narratives must exist in some nightmarish future; rather, they can also critique totalitarian tendencies in present day society or exist as a way to undermine the idea that society will naturally evolve to be better.5 Within the context of the twentieth century, dystopian narratives have proliferated throughout visual and literary culture, from Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) to the replicants of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and human-
cyborg wars in James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The question, however, is: when did such narratives come into common parlance, and how have they reflected the concerns of their authors and filmmakers? In his essay, “On Dystopia,” M. Keith Booker points to the rise in anxieties over technology and industrialization, and their role in society in the late nineteenth century as one of the key catalysts for such dystopian nightmares. The promises of the Enlightenment led not to perfected societies, but rather to a “modern sense of crisis” exacerbated by a “frustration at the outcome of centuries of utopian dreams.”6 Instead of seeing society shift towards an egalitarian utopia as promised, historical events “contributed to an overall sense of crisis, perhaps most clearly embodied in the turn-of-the-century notion of degeneration.” This notion challenged any sense of utopianism and instead played on the fears of society regressing.7 Within the context of the Cold War, it is important to acknowledge how dystopian narratives were intimately tied to their social and political contexts. As scholar Erika Gottlieb explains, such narratives in the West traditionally focused on “a monster state in the future, a society that reflects the writers’ fear of the possible development of totalitarian dictatorship in their own societies.”8 This located dystopia in a potential future, one that could be avoided by heeding the warnings inherent in the narrative itself. In contrast, narratives from the Soviet Bloc countries or the East were characterised by “an accurate reflection of the ‘worst of all possible worlds’ experienced as a historical reality.”9 They reflected society not as it could potentially become, but as it was – one heavily encoded within the context of a totalitarian system. Due to the direct critiques these narratives had of the Communist systems in the East, they were produced outside the auspices of state writers’ unions. Many dystopian works were censored and repressed; those that slipped past state censors were often smuggled to the West.10 By comparison, dystopian narratives from the West were bound up in the fear of Marxism as a totalizing system, “buttressed by such a powerful theory turning into dystopian societies of terror and dictatorship.”11 In essence, their fear was that if such a totalitarian system could exist in the East, it could easily expand and adapt to the West. The main distinction to be drawn from an East/West perspective is that dystopian narratives from the West were tied up in possible futures or alternative visions of contemporary time; those from the East depicted reality that already existed, one written from within rather than as a warning of a potential future. However, I do not wish to reinforce an East/West dichotomy within the trope of dystopia – both can be seen as preoccupied with the disintegration of the social and political fabric of society, whether the worlds they depict are located in the here and now or in some dark future. While neither filmmaker made any claim to document reality “as it is,” they both perceived cinema as a medium by which the question of what is real can be interrogated. In his description of Jubilee, Jarman continually referred to the film not as fiction, but as a “fantasy documentary,” one that “[was] fabricated so that documentary and fictional form are confused. Art and life become synonymous.”12 The use of his neighbourhood, living space, friends, and colleagues in the production of the film lends a certain amount of credibility to this argument.13 In contrast, Tarkovsky viewed cinema as a way to depict a specific reality, one that was unique to the medium and
consisted of what was captured on celluloid. His own aesthetic reinforced a view that: [C]inematography can only be personified by natural forms of visible and audible life. Essentially, the portrayal must be naturalistic, whereby the purity and unwavering strength of cinematography lies not in the symbolic simplicity of the images, but in the fact that these images express a specific and unique reality.14 The image, therefore, was not necessarily a reproduction of the world as it is, but could be understood as a reality in and of itself. Jubilee itself was produced on a shoestring budget of £50,00015 and was Jarman’s second full-length feature film after the homoerotic Sebastiane (1976). The filmmaker employed a number of his close friends and collaborators to help build sets that were constructed in his neighbourhood on the south bank of the Thames. His own experience of witnessing the destruction of his environs due to government interference and encroaching gentrification fuelled much of the anger that characterized the film’s visuals and narrative.16 Film critic Jon Savage, in the introduction to Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks, states that the director’s work of this period was “all about archetypes, myths either set in or recast for the moment,” and Jubilee in particular could be read as “an extraordinary document of a decayed London now lost and an allegory of rebellion, oppression and corruption.”17 The film does not have much in the way of plot in the conventional sense: instead, it is a series of vignettes set in a dystopian vision of London, highlighting the wanton carnage, violence, and disorder that Jarman feared was becoming endemic in British society. The film begins with John Dee, court astronomer to Queen Elizabeth I, summoning the angel Ariel (from Shakespeare’s The Tempest); upon his arrival, Ariel warns of a dark and stormy future, one that in effect is a shadow of the Golden Age in which Elizabeth exists. Ariel transports the Queen, her advisor, and her serving girl to a dystopian London, a city that features a burnt out landscape where gang of girls roam the street spreading fear and violence. The gang kills, steals, and sleeps their way across a city where law and order have been abolished. As the film’s heroine Amyl Nitrate notes, the world is no longer interested in heroes; instead, they choose to act out their desires instead of longing for them. In making their desires reality, they eschew any will towards dreams and fantasy. Unfortunately for those around them, their desires typically involve violence, thievery, and general chaos. London’s physical space is depicted as a burnt out husk with graffiti scrawled across council flats, rubble littering the streets, and fires burning amidst the destruction. A rough metal fence and a bleak, concrete morass frame the first scene. The character of Mad (Toyah Willcox) cradles an assault weapon and yells at a group of youth who are lined up against the wall, fearful of what she is about to do. The film continually links this decaying urban fabric to the threat and enactment of violence. Elsewhere hoodlums loiter in the graffiti’d streets, overturned cars and abandoned council housing visible in the background (fig. 1). The street itself is repeatedly positioned as a space of (potential) violence: for example, members of the girl gang take out their violent retribution on a police officer in an alley, a burnt out industrial building clearly visible behind them. This is contrasted with the idyllic past of Queen Elizabeth I. In the opening sequence, the natural splendour
(Fig. 1) Loitering. Screen cap from Jubilee.
of her time is depicted through the visual representation of a garden—a lush, verdant landscape that stands in stark juxtaposition to the blackness of London. This depiction of the contemporary city as decaying and destroyed was directly tied to Jarman’s own social location in the urban environment. He lived for a number of years on the south bank of the Thames and witnessed the destruction and demolition that accompanied local government decisions to redevelop the area. Many of his early Super 8 films depicted the industrial lofts and streetscape that were inhabited by his community composed of homosexuals, artists, and other marginalized individuals. As Jon Savage notes, Jarman’s Studio Bankside (1970-72) served as: “a record of the warehouse in which he lived in what was an experiment in communal living and radical homosexuality.”18 This community was being rapidly pushed out in favour of high-rise council flats in the name of social progress; the architectural form of the council block comes under sarcastic attack in Jubilee as the character of Angel relates his own debased childhood in one such concrete and plastic monstrosity. The visual rhetoric of the decaying urban landscape reiterates the role that dystopia plays within the narrative. In contrast Stalker (1979), was the sixth full-length feature film of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Tarkovsky was not heavily involved in producing propaganda films for the Soviet Union; rather, his lyrical and poetic works focused heavily on ideas of religion, human intelligence and its limits, and existentialism. The film was shot on location near a disused power plant on the edges of Tallinn, Estonia, and at an active power plant near Moscow.19 The filming and production took place over four years, with extensive reshoots needed because of errors in film processing and Tarkovsky’s perfectionism.20 The film’s narrative structure is circular; not much occurs in the film and the characters never attain any sense of the transcendence that they seek. Rather, it focuses on the intention of its characters and their implications for agency, as well as the limits of intellectual thought and knowledge. The film begins with an intertitle that describes a mysterious event in which an unnamed object fell to earth, creating an area around it called the Zone. There is no clear indication what the object was; it is variously described as a meteor or alien artefact. The Zone is heavily guarded by the state police force – those who manage to enter never return. The inhabited world is represented visually through a dark sepia tone; characters faces are often covered in grime and cast in dark shadows. The main narrative thrust features the titular Stalker guiding two paying customers into the Zone. Their final destination is the Room, a space in which it is said that all desires are made manifest. The customers are Writer and Professor – they represent different facets of humanity, greed and ignorance versus skepticism and fear. The urban landscape in Stalker is depicted much in the same way as it is in Jubilee – as dark, alienating, and post-industrial. The Stalker’s dwelling is depicted in dark shadows, the walls covered in black grime. The sound of the train often punctuates the shot and is deafening. The Stalker meets his customers in a run down bar. The main sources of light in this scene are doors and windows; the walls look gritty from years of industrial pollution. The relationship between interior and exterior is often reinforced through shots framed by doors; for example, as the main characters exit the bar, cooling towers of a nuclear power plant can be glimpsed in the background.
The characters’ escape into the Zone is featured as a cat-and-mouse game. They manoeuvre their jeep through the police cordon around the Zone, evading detection where possible. This is represented in the film through a series of shots framed within burnt out industrial buildings (Fig. 2), with the soundtrack interrupted by gunshots and the crunch of glass under foot. The most prominent visual representation of this dystopian landscape comes as the three pass from the outside world into the Zone: the images shift from a sepia-toned landscape covered in rubble, debris, building materials, pipes, destruction to a lush, green landscape punctuated by buildings succumbing to the forces of nature. This mirrors the post-industrial wasteland in the exterior world, but the absence of human inhabitants and the cinematographic shift in colour reinforces the dichotomy between exterior and interior. Jubilee focusing on lawlessness and violence, with a narrative emphasis on the wanton chaos and destruction that Amyl Nitrate’s gang unleashes upon those around them. One key scene features Amyl, dressed in a tutu, dancing around a burning pyre as a masked individual tosses books into the flames. This sequence consists of footage shot for an earlier Super 8 short entitled Jordan’s Dance. Jarman himself was concerned with the loss of British heritage and was particularly fascinated by “a gnostic, hidden English past” as exemplified by court astrologer John Dee in the narrative.21 This scene, when taken in the larger context of the film, can be read as a metaphor for the loss of traditional values and history and the rise of media culture that was permeating English culture during the late 1970s. Social degradation is also exemplified through the depiction of violence throughout the film. For example, members of Amyl’s gang murder a man they pick up for sex, dumping his body into the muddy bank of the Thames. Sexual violence is thus inverted, placing women in the position of power and men as their victims.22 Another particular example comes in the invocation of class violence. Towards the end of the film the gang ties a fashionista to a pole, winding barbed wire around her fashionably clothed body. The implication in this scene, where lower class punks violate the upper class, reinforces the dystopian narrative in which law and order have been abolished. The youth, represented in the film through disaffected punks, are free to enact their desires in any way they wish. In contrast, Stalker is not so much concerned with the breakdown of law and order and the violence that this unleashes, but rather focuses on the role that faith and spirituality play in society. The Stalker in particular is placed as being a central figure, one depicted as “a prophet who believes that humanity will perish for lack of a spiritual life.”23 Film critics have noted how this role of the prophet and vessel for faith shifted throughout the production of the film. Late in production Tarkovsky had changed the Stalker from the criminal of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, the source material of the film, into “something of a martyr figure; a relentless worker on a great mission who would let nothing stand in the way of his goal, a ascetic with messianic and prophetic, if somewhat unstable, qualities.”24 This positioning of the character within the role of prophet, messiah, creator of truth, sets the film apart from Jubilee. Whereas Jarman’s film is intimately linked to social concerns and depicts dystopia as he sees it, Tarkovsky’s film plays with the relationship between truth and faith, reality and metaphor, in a much more complex manner. The Stalker also highly depends upon the act of faith of the Writer and Professor. Whereas the outside world is depicted as decaying and fallen, the Stalker is entirely dependent upon these two
(Fig. 2) Escape into the Zone. Screen cap from Stalker. characters: “The Stalker needs to find people who believe in something, in a world that no longer believes in anything.”25 Unlike the dystopian space in Jubilee, the reality of the Room and the Zone are questioned throughout the film.26 Instead, the Room represents an act of faith on the part of the Writer and Professor – in asking the Stalker to take them to the Room, they are placing their trust, their blind faith in him. Rather than giving any clear answer as to whether the dangers of the Zone were in fact real or simply fabricated by the Stalker, the director acknowledged that the latter reading was entirely valid: “I entirely accept the idea that this world was created by the Stalker in order to instill faith—faith in his reality. It was a working hypothesis that we used to create this universe.”27 The role that the audience plays in reading the film as either a direct representation of reality, one in which the Stalker is in fact a guide through the dangers of the Zone, versus a fabrication in which the Stalker is creator of the Zone must also be taken into account. As Robert Bird notes in Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema, the question of what exactly the Zone represents is never made quite clear: The physical evidence for the Zone and the Room of Desires is almost entirely circumstantial: the closed perimeter, the rumours of miracles and the flags by which the Stalker marks out a path […] In sum, Tarkovsky professed: “It would be good if at the end the spectator came to doubt whether he had even seen a story.”28 This observation reinforces the locus of meaning as lying in the director’s own statements regarding the film. One could also argue that the director merely acted as a provocateur, intentionally obfuscating
any easy and direct reading of his film in order to reinforce its own mystical qualities and opaque nature. Jubilee is far less nuanced in its social concerns. The character of Amyl Nitrate is continually invoked as a historian, rewriting the history of the world to suit her own needs. At the beginning of the film she is seen scribbling notes, opining how history can be easily shaped at will. This, as William Pencak notes, reflected Jarman’s own preoccupation with historical narratives. Pencak notes that the director “explained that the oppressed and dissatisfied must write their own history because ‘all establishments rewrite history’ to obliterate or vilify their enemies.”29 This points towards the very political nature of rewriting history – in doing so to suit one’s ends, it serves to shift the locus of power from the powerful to the dispossessed. Amyl Nitrate rewriting the history of the world can be viewed both as a transgressive act and as a simple reconfiguration of the structures of power within the narrative. In spite of this, Pencak notes that such a reconfiguration of power ultimately fails because anyone can rewrite history to suit his or her needs; the act itself does little to challenge history as a dominant mode of social and political control.30 The invocation of history as a political action points towards larger concerns that must be addressed when examining these films. While Jubilee wears its politics on its sleeve, Stalker is more difficult to address within this context. Jubilee is highly critical of the invasive nature of capitalism, in particular through its co-opting of youth counterculture and the consolidation of control over the media by tyrannical figures. The film has been described by a number of sources as a punk film, while derided by key figures of punk such as Viviane Westwood as being boring and an inaccurate representation of the subculture.31 However, as actress Toyah Willcox notes in her reflection on Jubilee, to create a film that can be described as punk goes against its ethos as being outside dominant forms of power, noting that “to make a movie about punk was to exploit and commercialize it.”32 The film itself reinforces this message through the character of Borgia Ginz. In convincing Amyl Nitrate’s girl gang to sell out and join his media empire, Ginz, and by extension Jarman himself directly implicated youth culture in the act of selling out. As he noted in Dancing Ledge, the “gang of media heroines move socially upwards” by signing to Ginz’ record label; this is reinforced
by a sarcastic remark made by the media impresario shortly thereafter: “they all sign up in the end one way or another.”33 In contrast, Stalker is unclear in terms of its own political inclination. The film rarely depicts the agents of the state, and when it does, they appear in the faceless form of the police and the military, as opposed to recognizable symbols of the Soviet regime. Tarkovsky himself noted that the relationship between the state and the Zone was not one of representing political and social control. Rather, it merely reflected a means of control over individualistic desires and the danger they represented through access to the Room where a person “could enter with desires that are very dangerous for society at large.”34 In spite of this seeming refutation of any political invective inherent in the film, its power might not necessarily lie in the dystopian narrative per se, but in its reception by the Russian intelligentsia of the Soviet state and Western critics and moviegoers. Scholar Robert Bird reflects upon Tarkovsky’s seemingly apolitical nature, stating that the director was not necessarily concerned with ideology or political systems, but rather cinema allowed him to represent reality as a “set of spatial and social constraints that condition temporal existence and its capture on film.”35 Interestingly enough Jarman commented on the relationship between Tarkovsky’s work and his situated-ness within the discourse of the Soviet state. He stated that, had Tarkovsky been working in Great Britain, it is doubtful that “he would have been able to make a single film; in the Soviet Union he worked with difficulty, but he worked.”36 The opaque nature of his films worked precisely against any political value they may have had. Rather, because the director faced censorship and repression in the Soviet Union, he became emblematic of the “misunderstood and prosecuted artist” that could be taken up by intellectuals in the West.37 As Vladimir Golstein notes, whether Tarkovsky was cognizant of this fact or not, “he was an ally in the Cold War […] In light of such political tensions, the quality and message of [his films] became practically irrelevant.”38 Tarkovsky also worked within the Soviet film system and was afforded the privileges of the cultural elite within the country; it is important to recognize that despite his refutation of allegiance to any particular ideology, “[he] was not just a victim of the ideological clash between two systems, but also its beneficiary.”39 Therefore, to conclude that Tarkovksy in general, and Stalker more specifically, can be read as apolitical would be to ignore the way that both director and work were intimately tied to the political system and geopolitical concerns from which they were working. Returning to dystopia in relation to these two films, it is clear the ways in which both articulate anxieties of their respective directors. While at first glance they appear quite dissimilar, their visual styles and invocations of post-industrial landscapes
point to larger concerns that bridged the East/West divide. While the inevitable question of politics comes into play, my own desire to compare these two films relies not so much on what they could be argued to say about their social and historical contexts, but in how dystopia can be approached by a diversity of viewers and relate to concerns that are more universal than specific. These concerns, rooted in the fear of totalitarian societies, the imperfections of utopian thinking, and the disintegration of social values reiterated themselves through a number of dystopian narratives during the period of the Cold War and continue to remain fodder for literature and cinema long after the fall of Communism.
Meme As Critique: On the Recent Practice of Metahaven Rebecca O’Dwyer
National College of Art and Design (Dublin, Ireland)
Introduction In this paper, I will look to the Dutch collective Metahaven as a contemporary example of the kind of art being made in response to the complicated discourse currently surrounding technology. Increasingly pessimistic and injected by themes of surveillance and power, this discourse is preoccupied with the growing privatization of both public and online space. Reneging on the utopian aspirations of net.art1, and the depoliticized ‘weak criticality’2 of so-called ‘post-internet’ art; Metahaven, I suggest, offers an immanent and often contradictory critique both of the naturalization of contemporary technological form – the internet in particular - and of its possibilities for democratization. Courting Contradiction Since its foundation in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, the world-wide-web3 has undoubtedly become a crucial intellectual framework for the contemporary moment. As a result of this, it is often described in emancipatory terms, indeed almost as an active agent of democratization. Google’s Egyptian executive Wael Ghonim echoes this ideology succinctly when he states: “If you want to liberate a society just give them the internet.”4 However, this hyperbole notwithstanding, a wealth of writing has recently emerged that foregrounds the problems of surveillance, automation, outsourcing, and the profoundly neoliberal corporations of Silicon Valley, which appear to wholly counteract the internet’s democratizing potential. Of course the internet and other information technologies are not immaterial, but instead exist as products of very real and material processes and decisions. Though appealing to a logic of freedom, contemporary technological form – the internet included - is never neutral.5 Instead, it “always/already perpetuates the relations that construct it.”6 And indeed, given the relations that construct contemporary technology – broadly speaking, neoliberal capitalism – it might be argued that it is only its conditions that the internet and its adjacent technologies are perpetuating. This of course presents a fundamental challenge to the democratic idealization of contemporary technological form. The likelihood of technology’s emancipatory promise is undermined by a surfeit of recent pessimistic accounts. As Andrew Keen argues in The Internet is Not the Answer (2015), the internet can in fact be seen as singularly responsible for a calcification and exacerbation of the most pernicious elements of late capitalism.7 In particular, according to Keen, this results in job insecurity and income inequality, alongside the capitalization of both private and public spheres. By this logic, the internet precipitates a steady commercialization of contemporary life: its democracy being simply that of the capitalist free market. As technology writers Joanne McNeil and Astra Taylor (2014) remind us: ‘Twitter was not designed to promote political change, nor was it conceived with concerns about trolls or stalkers in mind—like all other popular “free” online services, advertisers are its ultimate constituency’.8 This is the context into which Metahaven was formed in 2007, in Amsterdam.
Primarily involving graphic designers Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden, the group comprises a shifting roster of architects, graphic designers, theorists, and thinkers. Their work encompasses a wide panoply of forms: books, articles, lectures, merchandise, films, a Tumblr site, music videos, alongside more traditional installations in international galleries and biennales.9 One of Metahaven’s projects was the branding for the Principality for Sealand, a tiny island and micro-nation located off the South East coast of England which became notorious as a data-haven in the early 2000s.10 Another project was the creation of a visual identity and merchandise for WikiLeaks in response to PayPal, Visa, and other companies blocking its payments. In short, their output is heterogeneous, and is effectuated within a parodic attempt to insinuate itself within and mold reality, rather than just reflect or comment upon it. As such, it appears to follow the practical requirements of traditional design, but, oddly, outside of the monetary relation that typically causes it to exist. As Kruk says: We make anything between a conference, a publication, an interview, a product, a visual identity, a policy document, or a set of floating appearances on the Internet. We are not only interested in the development of hypothetical image, but also in its realization.11 Crucial to Metahaven’s practice is the absolute excess of material produced by them. Here, design is cut free from the economic relations and exchanges that typically define it, coagulating into a glut of data, able to traverse all media and uses. What we have here, in fact, is a kind of design gone ‘rogue,’ working to immanently critique the forms and structures that would traditionally provide its raison d’être. One baseline of Metahaven’s practice is their writings, which are typically political and polemical in tone. Of particular relevance here are their books: Uncorporate Identity (2010); Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design and Politics (2013); Black Transparency: The Right to Know in the Age of Mass Surveillance (2015), alongside their essays ‘Captives of the Cloud’ 1-3, which were published in the E-flux journal in 2012 and 2013. Consistent throughout Metahaven’s writing is an engagement with the theme of contemporary technological design and its possibilities; surveillance; data; and politics within a horizon of ‘capitalist realism,’12 which delimits a context marked by the inability to imagine a workable alternative to late capitalism. Importantly, technology is treated ambiguously throughout: firstly, it is often the means whereby their ideas and writings are disseminated (e-books, e-flux); secondly, the content of such works typically centers on the ineluctability of contemporary technology to statist or corporate power. There is thus a distinct tension to be sensed between the content of their work, and its mode of presentation. Quoting the French anarchist group The Invisible Committee, Metahaven affirms that: “Nowadays, sabotaging the social machine with any real effect involves reappropriating and reinventing the ways of interrupting its networks.”13 Reminiscent of the earlier, ‘net.art’ valorization of the ‘tactic’,14 they advocate the potential of the ‘hack-like’ intervention in technological public space, it being the only viable hand open to them. “Political action in the 21st century,” they claim, “has moved beyond the manifesto. To achieve scale, it is deploying new strategies with viral properties and Darwinian survival skills.”15 To this end, their preferred logic is one of viral parody,
of ceaseless and traceless differentiation, which works to undermine the dominant power structures of the late capitalist contemporary world. Tongue in cheek, the group alludes to Ethan Zuckermann’s ‘Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism’ (2008), which: …holds that a digital platform where many people exchange pictures of cute cats is also an excellent place for political activism: if the state were to shut it down, people would protest because they could no longer exchange pictures of cute cats…[it]…contends that it is inherently fruitful to embed messages of political activism within widely popular online platforms, so that subversive content can’t be easily isolated by authoritarians.16 This is an interesting thought, albeit possibly an overly optimistic one. As Metahaven admits, in such an event people would probably just go elsewhere for pictures of cute cats.17 And yet, it is in precisely these kinds of contexts in which radical movements have sometimes taken place. One such example is the nominally banal and anonymous message board 4chan, which was set up in 2003 primarily as a place to discuss Japanese anime and comics. Grounded first and foremost in its anonymity, 4chan is synonymous with incendiary remarks, vapid memes, and “LOLcats.” However, alongside this glut of internet content, 4chan has also facilitated the actions of prominent hacker group Anonymous, becoming - perhaps unwittingly – associated with their interventionist, swarm-like politics. Here the internet and the dominant power structures it can be seen to perpetuate almost seem to work against themselves. Such possibilities are of central interest to Metahaven. In particular, the meme – a term first coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene to describe the manner whereby tropes reiterate and gain prominence throughout a culture18 – is rehabilitated as a point of possibility for contemporary politics. Described by Dawkins as ‘living structures,’ memes for Metahaven are capacious as transformative points of possibility, revolutionary images that gain ascendancy through a kind of technological survival-of-the-fittest. For Metahaven, the meme works analogously to cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter’s treatment of the Epimenides Paradox in his seminal 1979 work Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. As Hofstadter writes: Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal statement: “All Cretans are liars.” A sharper version of the statement is simply “I am lying”; or, “This statement is false”… It is a statement which rudely violates the usually assumed dichotomy of statements into true and false, because if you tentatively think it is true, then it immediately backfires on you and makes you think it is false. But once you’ve decided it is false, a similar backfiring returns you to the idea that is must be true.19 Memes, Metahaven claims, are caught in a similarly self-referential bind, creating ‘some kind of strange loop or self reference; but they also involve tacit knowledge on the part of the viewer.’20 Through memes language and image coalesce efficiently, creating a shorthand effect in conversation
with the viewer’s knowledge. This contextual malleability means that they can fit almost any purpose or context. Thus, whilst holding the possibility for universality, their logic might be one adept at navigating an increasingly monitored online sphere. Under the radar, a successful meme proliferates ceaselessly – but only on the condition that it resonates, creating its own widespread appeal. With this in mind, the collective have produced pseudo-memes so as to infiltrate the structures of public space, both on and off-line. Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? offers a performative21 treatise on viral revolt in an era of technological malaise, “cute cats,” and capitalist realism. On other occasions, Metahaven’s texts fulfill a straightforwardly pedagogic - but no less valuable - role, as in the ‘Captives of the Cloud’ series (2012-13). Together, these three essays examine the very real and material consequences of dispersed information technologies, and the role of states and corporations within post 9/11 systems of control and surveillance. Of particular relevance here is the US Patriot Act of 2011, which allows the data of companies registered in the U.S. (e.g. Google) to be subpoenaed - even if that data is created outside U.S jurisdiction. For Metahaven, this Act is a worrying one inasmuch as it “results in a kind of ‘superjurisdiction’ enjoyed by its host country.”22 There are two upshots to such super-jurisdiction: firstly, the US can enjoy worldwide, technological dominance; and secondly, other countries are unable to legally circumnavigate this hegemony. However, Metahaven’s chosen platform for the essays is: a) online; and b) within the E-flux journal, which creates content for free through an emphasis on art-world advertising revenue. Metahaven’s decision to publish a series of critiques of the internet, on the internet, is of course dogged by contradiction. At the same time, the decision to publish in the E-flux journal makes sense, inasmuch that it appeals to the same kind of viral logic that underlines their valorization of the meme, as something that can “unsettle the ‘terms of service’ to which political exchange is bound by its ruling ideology.”23 Free and technologically adept, the journal similarly pre-empts its own online sharing through social media. Publishing through E-flux, aside from being a well-regarded source for contemporary writing in and around art practice, allows Metahaven’s writings to extend and permeate online space. Although the texts are indeed very similar to those expressed in academic books on the subject, they are differentiated on the basis of their performativity – as something that produces – which actualizes their content. Metahaven’s writing practice is one that is defined by equal parts polemics and research, one that seeks to extend itself through both online and offline space, affect these spaces, and produce new realities. In reality, the content of Metahaven’s work in E-flux contains very little that might be termed ‘artistic,’ but instead harkens back to a kind of strangely paternalistic, modernist design, in the absence of any publicly-granted consensus that would commission it. In short, its design is contradictory and (historically) avant-garde, albeit without recourse to the future anterior on which the avant-garde is oriented. Metahaven’s contradiction emerges from existing as a kind of pseudo-revolutionary design collective in the absence of state given consensus (e.g. as within socialism). More specifically, it exists as a collective entity within the perceived impossibility of collectivity more broadly - or anything else,
for that matter (‘capitalist realism’). No one publicly sanctioned or commissioned Metahaven’s existence: no one, in fact, could. But, the effectiveness and timeliness of their practice is bolstered through their embrace of such contradiction. WikiLeaks and Revolutionary Scarves One of the collective’s most baffling projects to date is its re-branding of WikiLeaks, along with the design of merchandise like scarves and t-shirts, for the organization. Importantly, Metahaven was not approached to create branding for WikiLeaks, but instead took it upon themselves. With the ‘nominal’ agreement of the group’s founder Julian Assange, the collective sought to rebrand the organization’s somewhat clunky imagery at their own expense. In reality, the project was one of necessity: as of 2010, a blockade had been placed on the whistleblowing site that prevented them from receiving direct donations – hitherto their only source of income. As as result, WikiLeaks was forced to rely on merchandise for income. Their branding was somewhat lackluster, but still direct and straightforwardly representational: the world was leaking. Furthermore the USA is not pictured on either of the two globes, suggesting some kind of deliberate political omission on the part of WikiLeaks. Nonetheless, the sense was that aesthetic concerns were not of primary importance for WikiLeaks. After two years of consultation with WikiLeaks, Metahaven released the new merchandise for sale at a pop-up shop as part of Art Berlin Contemporary in 2012. Perhaps crudely, the scarves play with notions of anonymity and visibility, whilst the t-shirts mime the standard rock band t-shirt, albeit ones that feature the dates of significant WikiLeaks data-dumps, rather than tour dates. To take one example (fig.1): ‘Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Manual for Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Released December 3, 2007.’ What is interesting about the merchandise - which must, I argue, be treated as a part of Metahaven’s larger, almost rudderless design mandate - is its wholehearted embrace of the commodity form. The scarves in particular (fig. 2), shot to the glossy standard of high fashion, would not be incongruous within the pages of Vogue. Neither is the abstract nature of the model’s styling - who is often fully obscured by the product - irreconcilable with high fashion, but instead only lends itself to more esoteric and exclusive branding. The t-shirts, too, function as a neat allusion to the commodified desperation common both to musicians and WikiLeaks within a context of ‘free’ information. Metahaven’s embrace of the commodity form here is of course startling considering their ‘nominal’ client in WikiLeaks. Stranger still is their decision to sell their products specifically in an art context, a context explicitly intertwined with corporate and political interests. Through this project, WikiLeaks is in fact rebranded as a wholly contradictory entity: secretive yet open, anti-corporate yet commercial. Information – the stock and trade of WikiLeaks – is the currency through which billions are contemporarily accrued. Though they may not be privy to such remuneration, Metahaven appears to suggest they should look as though they do in aping the lingua franca of commerce. The information that WikiLeaks trades – outside of a monetary relation, to be sure – nonetheless is a commodity. To compete within a market of other rival or antagonistic commodities, it too must compete on the level of appearances. Metahaven is realistic regarding the quixotic demands of capitalism –- fashion being its most perfectly representative form — even with regard to a directly antagonistic organization like WikiLeaks: either bend to it, or be bent in turn. This project, then, functions analogously to the meme. It seeks to infiltrate the language of high commerce – and of art – and in so doing, aid their client’s subversion of it. Metahaven’s branding of WikiLeaks points to a sobering, but pragmatic reality: that immaterial information eventually finds material form and consequence. For Metahaven, this results in the entrapment of that (technological) information – revolutionary though it might be - in the commodity form. In his 2015 book Bad New Days: Art Criticism, Emergency, art historian
(Fig. 1) Metahaven, Guantรกnamo Bay Manual t-shirt, 2011
(Fig. 2) Metahaven, WikiLeaks scarf, 2011 (Photography by Meinke Klein) 46
and critic Hal Foster writes that perhaps the job of art now is to offer a point of ‘immanent’ and ‘caustic’ critique, rather than break new ground.24 Similarly, Metahaven’s practice involves a playful technological pragmatism: it looks to negotiate the world as it is, to infiltrate its forms and structures through an operation of virality. It embraces contradiction as the only viable option open to them. As media artist and academic Norie Neumark writes, in At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet (2005): Technology embodies social relations, including cultural, aesthetic, economic, and political relations. These relations construct technology, affecting its shape and content and power. What is possible in technology depends on the particular cultural imagination and individual subjectivities, while in turn cultural imagination and individual subjectivity are produced by these technologies.25 For Metahaven, technology exists in a reciprocal relation to social relations – including artistic ones. Technology’s form has the capacity to immanently change the form of these relations. Importantly, however, these social relations have the capacity to shape technology in turn. This is crucial in thinking through the divergence of post-internet from net. art, and, more broadly, the shift in tone to be sensed in contemporary technological practice like Metahaven’s. While Net.art first sought to imagine and indeed shape a nascent technology, post-internet broke with this initial approach, striving to perpetuate it as it is. Metahaven, I argue, offers a third way in negotiating the contemporary technological landscape, which involves a series of interventions in discourse, creating its own myth and raison d’être in the absence of any public that would commission it. In such a way, I suggest, it works to build such a public. This third way presents a locus of possibility, one I argue that is integral to the renewed viability of art.
Performing Satire: (Re) Appropriating American Icons in Adel Abidin’s Jihad Jenna Ann Altomonte
Ohio University (Athen, OH, USA)
A male gazes at the camera, positioned in the center of the frame dressed in a white thawb with a checkered keffiyeh covering his face. At first glance, the figure embodies the post-9/11 trope of an AlQaeda or Taliban terrorist, proselytizing radical religious ideologies to an idle audience. Considering the types of videos released to the public in the months after 9/11 and during the Second Gulf War, the viewer expects an assault of hateful rhetoric, aimed at condemning certain geographical nations and ideologies.1 Instead, the figure picks up a guitar and begins singing the following in English for three minutes and twenty-two seconds: “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California, to the New York Island, from the Redwood forest, to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me” (Fig. 1).2 The figure is singing a rendition of This Land is Your Land, an American folk tune by Woody Guthrie from 1944.3 Not only do the lyrics subvert the anticipated diatribe, but also, the figure sings the song against the backdrop of a large American flag. Why utilize quintessential American icons, like the song and the flag, to subvert, even satirize terrorist videos? What does the performance reveal about the “terrorist trope” in the post-9/11 era?4 Titled Jihad, the singer performing is Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel Abidin. In the piece, he uses contradictory signs to problematize issues of representation regarding Arab/Arab- Muslim figures. Considering the performance of Abidin in Jihad, this paper seeks to evaluate current methods of depicting terrorism in the post9/11 era, using performance art as a catalyst for examining cultural stereotypes and fears. I first examine changes to trauma discourse after 9/11, analyzing the effect of virtual trauma on viewership. Videos of the Twin Towers falling and terrorist execution videos serve as types of virtualized trauma, atrocious acts of violence captured via the digital screen. Abidin’s work harnesses these types of virtualized traumas, using the terrorist recruitment/proselytizing video trope. I postulate that through his performance, Abidin attempts to subvert mediatized stereotypes of the post-9/11 Arab male by challenging viewers’ perceptions of identity.5 Coupled with the use of the term “Jihad” in the title of the performance, the piece challenges the viewer to examine the significance of the term and its application to the performance. How do traumatic experience and satire coalesce in the piece? Does the moniker “Jihad” problematize public response to the performance? How does he use satire to challenge mediatized distortions of the Arab male?
(Fig. 1) Adel Abidin, film still from Jihad, 2006
Understanding Trauma in the Post-9/11 Frame After the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower on September 11, 2001, the method of experiencing trauma changed dramatically for viewers around the world. Footage of the burning towers immediately aired via news outlets and the Internet. Images of fire, smoke, and chaotic street scenes of victims running through plumes of debris appeared for weeks following the event, ingrained in the memories and experiences of witnesses. The media referred to the footage and documentation of the event as “like a movie” due to the surreal nature of the disaster in downtown New York City.6 Why was the event described as ‘movie-like?’ Slavoj Zizek referenced this issue with regard to the digital spectator, or an individual who witnesses events via the Internet, television, or other ‘screenic’ medium: When we watched the oft-repeated shot of frightened people running toward the camera ahead of the giant cloud of dust from the collapsing tower, was not the framing of the shot itself reminiscent of spectacular shots in a catastrophe movie, a special effect which outdid all others, since […] reality is the best appearance of itself?7 Like the images produced during the First Gulf War, the footage projected by the media on and after 9/11 was “overwhelming” for the spectator.8 The overflow of emotional output created a sense of incomprehensibility for the spectator. This incomprehension led to a failure to properly filter the events witnessed and adequately interpret the event. In “Virtual Trauma: The Idiom of 9/11,” Marc Redfield specifically defines this type of trauma experienced on and after 9/11. For Redfield, virtual trauma exists as a by-product of the mediatization of traumatic events, circulated in continuum via the Internet and online archive: I risk the term “virtual trauma” here to denote not a condition of psychological damage, but rather a making-legible, within the medium itself, of violence inherent to all media technologies, which record and remember the unique only by effacing and forgetting it. There is a risk to this usage, for such trauma is not entirely “real,” and, as noted, if anything works to ward off psychic trauma.9 Redfield explicitly separates what is defined as ‘psychic trauma,’ a type of trauma experienced at the moment of impact within the space of the real, from the virtual. In experiencing psychic trauma, the event repeats within the psyche, unlike virtual trauma, which relies on a constructed, mediatized experience filtered through digital networks. Redfield continues by stating: Consumer society understands the media representations that it ravenously consumes as fundamentally violent, voyeuristic, pornographic. The camera that records suffering provides a supplemental violation, an obscene repetition of injury.10 The desire to remember the event becomes problematized within digital space. In the
process of archiving the event, it replays through external, digital networks, becoming available for spectators to witness over and over. . Scholar Allan Meek presents a similar argument concerning the role of technology and trauma in Trauma and Media: Theories, Histories, and Media. Meek examines the issues produced from mediatized experiences.11 Through Jacques Derrida’s theory regarding the relationship between technology and mourning, Meek attempts to quantify how trauma performs within digital space. He states: The drive to localize through mourning can never saturate any social space, because – as contemporary forms of globalization and telecommunications persistently remind us – it is always already inhabited by another virtual space which includes all of those tele-presences that increasingly populate our private and public spaces.12 From a Derridean position, the “spectre” of the image, which inhabits digital space, continuously remerges within virtual networks.13 The issue with recycling the ghostly referents of 9/11 destabilizes the violence and chaos created at the actual site of trauma. A disjuncture occurs when the witness attempts to comprehend how the “wound of the event” remains open and maintained within digital space.14 Considering this mediatized experience, how can the disjuncture between real, psychic trauma and virtual trauma merge within the performance of Jihad by Abidin? Abidin’s Jihad Abidin’s performance of Jihad employs serious political themes, filtered through a satirical lens. He connects his personal memories and experiences with the current state of affairs in the Middle East, often referencing his hometown of Baghdad.15 With regards to his upbringing, Abidin recalls the Iraq of the 1970s and 1980’s as “ideal,” never explicitly referencing the effects of the First Gulf War or Saddam’s regime. Abidin’s decision to leave Baghdad originated out of personal reasons, and led to his eventual settlement in Helsinki, Finland. By 2005, he attempted to return to Baghdad; however, “the threat of Mr. Bush” kept Abidin in Finland for the duration of the war.16 His subsequent work produced in the mid-2000s, during the height of the Second Gulf War, focused on identity, technology, and media-obsession in the post-9/11 era. From 2006-2007, the most violent and turbulent years of the Second Gulf War and War in Afghanistan occurred, producing horrific images of death, destruction, and torture.17 Photos and film clips of terrorists in keffiyeh head wraps, wielding guns at American troops and executing Western journalists filled nightly news reports and newspaper covers.18 Common tropes included men with covered faces, outfitted in bulletproof vests, wielding scimitar swords and rifles, ranting about Western policies and religion. Since the execution of journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, and contractor Nick Berg in 2004, the Western perception of the Arab/Arab-Muslim male centered on the image of the terrorist.19 A basic Google search of Pearl and Berg’s names unleash a plethora of gruesome photos, many depicting anonymous terrorists in the center of a room, holding a severed head or pointing a weapon at a doomed journalist. These images became common in search engine images of Arab and Arab-Muslim males, incorporated as stock photo archives for the associated press. The preoccupation of the Arab/Arab-Muslim body turned into a fixation by Western media sources, often
to the detriment of the majority of civilians living in the Middle East and in diasporic spaces abroad.20 One of Abidin’s most controversial works, Jihad, seeks to subvert traditional codes associated with Western media perceptions of the Arab/Arab-Muslim male. In Jihad, Abidin seemingly performs the role of the terrorist. In the short video, Abidin stands in the center of a white-walled room. Draped on the white wall, an American flag counters the starkness of the space. Standing in front of the flag, Abidin poses in an erect stance, dressed in a white thawb with his face covered in a red and white keffiyeh. He holds a piece of paper in front of his face, reminiscent of the lists of demands read by terrorists in Al-Qaeda or Taliban sponsored videos.21 However, instead of presenting anti-American rhetoric or cursing Christian soldiers, Abidin starts with a line from the Quran, stops reading, picks up an acoustic guitar and sings Woody Guthrie’s 1944 satirical song, This Land is Your Land.22 The use of the song by Abidin serves twofold within the performance piece. The context of the song originated as a reaction against the saccharin, overtly patriotic lyrics of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America from 1918.23 Woody Guthrie’s version subverts Berlin’s song through the use of satirical, if not patronizing, lyrics. The song serves as a battle cry against oppression, economic depression, class separation, poverty, racism, and the plight of American laborers during the 1930s. Over the years, the song changed with lyrical intervention by Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. Both singers added antiwar elements to the song in the late 1960s, refocusing themes about class struggle and inequality to anti-war rhetoric.24 For Seeger, the song is not limited by a single moment in history, but serves as a tool to educate the public about current social and political issues. He states: The best thing that could happen to the song would be for it to end up with hundreds of different versions being sung by millions of people who do understand the basic message.25 For Abidin, his appropriation of the song harnesses both the satirical nature of the original performance by Woody Guthrie and furthers the anti-war, political agenda of his successors. Abidin references Jihad as a means to confront the problematic nature of the term used by Western media, using the classic American song as a form of satire. Scholar Edward Said argues, “we, meaning the Westerner, cannot be the terrorist committing the atrocity, only the redeemer against Muslim, Communist, and Arab perpetrators.”26 In the wake of the media spectacle created after the destruction of the Twin Towers, the role of the “Other” terrorist became an iconic referent, signifying anti-Western rhetoric. Using his body as a means of subversion, Abidin performs this stereotype to destabilize preconceived notions of what it means to be an Arab male via the lens of the media. Considering the spectacle created by the video, what does Abidin’s work convey to audiences confronting issues of terrorism and violence? Does he attempt to de-sensitize the audience by performing a stereotype associated with Jihad and the Arab/Arab-Muslim male? These questions affect the participatory engagement with piece, specifically how the performance disseminates via digital outlets.27 The piece also questions how individuals interpret Abidin’s attempt at satirizing issues of identity in the post-9/11 era.
Jihad = Terrorist? Participatory Reactions to Jihad In Abidin’s work, the focus on media and technology seeks to question the agenda of both terrorists and American troops. Cited by Redfield, he argues how the role of the media, specifically in the post-9/11 era, fetishizes violence into a consumable object.28 In Abidin’s Jihad, he plays on the media-obsession with the language and technology associated with violence during the Second Gulf War. Used in the title of the performance, the term “Jihad” emphasizes a certain coded reaction from Western audiences in the post-9/11 era. In the aftermath of the attacks in the US, the term “Jihad” equated violence and destruction with Islam. This misinterpretation of the term gravely influenced Western perceptions of Muslims and individuals from the Middle East. Historically, the original context of the term means a completely different definition than the common violent “holy war” translation espoused in the Western media.29 Jihad may be described as “an internal struggle to maintain faith, the struggle to improve the Muslim society or the struggle in a holy war.”30 The “holy war” component does not originally correlate with modern applications of Jihad. In the article, “Digital Images and Visions of Jihad: Virtual Orientalism and the Distorted Lens of Technology,” Raymond Pun examines the problems associated with the term in post-9/11 Western media sources.31 Pun focuses on the Google search engine and other online database sites. He chronicles the types of images that appear when users insert the term “Jihad” into the search bar.32 The results include a “collective look of “angry” and “armed” Muslims and/or Middle Eastern men ready to commit a jihad [war] against America.”33 When the images are easily accessed and disseminated online, it creates a disassociation between the actual Muslim and the media-constructed body of the Muslim. Thus, Abidin’s use of the term situates Western audiences in a position to view the pieces in relation to terrorist violence and anti-American rhetoric. Conclusion With the increase in media coverage by terrorists groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIS, violent videos of radicalized organizations saturate the Internet and television. Although Jihad may be viewed as a form of traumatic satire, the effects of real terrorist execution and recruitment videos result in detrimental acts of violence. Though Jihad served to explicate the atrocities committed during the Second Gulf War, the piece reinforces issues associated with Western hegemony by subverting tropes coded as Arab/Arab-Muslim. Pun defines these types of images used by Abidin as “technologicallyaccumulated visual representations of Islam [that] form harrowing structures of patriarchal, racial and religious hierarchies.”34 The original intent of the piece challenged viewers to rethink media stereotypes of the Arab male. In an attempt to reverse the lens of stereotyping the Arab Other, Abidin’s piece, Jihad, remains caught in a space of contradiction by perpetuating both violent symbols associated with execution videos and serving as a didactic tool for informing the public about issues regarding Arab identity in the post-9/11 era.
Who Are You:1 A Study of the Queer Author and Queering Authorship in the Work of Wynne Neilly Concordia University (Montréal, QC)
Perhaps the time has come to study not only the expressive value and formal transformations of discourse, but its mode of existence: the modifications and variations, within any culture, of modes of circulation, valorization, attribution, and appropriation… But the subject should not be entirely abandoned. It should be reconsidered, not to restore the theme of an originating subject, but to seize its functions, its interventions in discourse, and its system of dependencies.2 In 1969, Michel Foucault queried what the role of the modern author may be in his essay “What is an Author?” In this text Foucault called upon a new form of authorship, one that would challenge the current value placed on an author by society. Queer authorship could be seen as answering this call by producing an ‘author’ that never stands on solid ground, and thus challenges normative authorship. The role of the queer author consistently shifts and is not easily defined; both affirming and denying the author. Using Canadian Trans* artist Wynne Neilly’s photographic practice as an example, I will demonstrate that queering authorship partakes in Foucault’s desire for a transformation of the author’s discourse. 1. Down the Rabbit-Hole: The Act of Queering In order to understand the means by which authorship can be queered, a definition of queer must be established. Throughout this paper, ‘queer’ will be defined as: whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant… It is from the eccentric positionality occupied by the queer subject that it may become possible to envision a variety of possibilities for reordering the relations among sexual behaviours, erotic identities, constructions of gender, forms of knowledge, regimes of enunciation, logics of representation, modes of self-constitution, and practices of community – for restricting, that is, the relations among power, truth, and desire.3 Therefore, the activity of queering a work would entail “making them strange in order to destabilize our confidence in the relationship of representation to identity, authorship, and behavior.”4 Queer theory, in its origins, emerged as a challenge against normativity.5 Consequently, the act of queering authorship would involve a direct challenge to the authority of the concept of ‘author.’ The work and the persona must always be in flux, producing a string of inconsistences for the audience who themselves can become the owners, or the writers of the work. In addition, in order to avoid becoming normative, the queer author can never be fully defined. Dallas J Backer and Jay Daniel Thompson explained the ways in which queer theory draws upon several theorists to formulate itself:
Queer Theory employs a number of Poststructuralism’s key ideas, including the idea of a decentered, fluid identity (from Lacan), a deconstruction of binary conceptual and linguistic structures (from Derrida) and a more complex model of discourse, knowledge and power (from Foucault). Apart from these ideas, Poststructuralist theories concerning writing (text/discourse) connect Queer Theory and creative writing. Most significant of these Poststructuralist ideas are Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous’ conceptualisations of writing as Différance and Écriture Feminine respectively. Julia Kristeva’s (1982) notion of writing as a proscriptive discourse or scripture has also been influential.6 The act of authorship allows a person to communicate content about their selfidentity. At the same time, it produces a record, thus generating visibility. This record embedded in culture becomes central to the formation of a discourse. Neilly’s work can be used as an example of the challenges produced by a queer author. The work breaks from the singular genius, refusing to build a stable narrative for the character of the author and thus negating one’s ability to interpret the text through the developed normative discourse. For example, Neilly’s photographic series Of Center, consisting of sixteen portraits of individuals who identify with masculinity, challenges the gender of the author. For how does one understand the desires of the author when the author transitions from one gender to another? Does the transitioning process produce a different person? This transformation can challenge the established role of the author, for a singular narrative of the author’s life, desires, and works is broken, reconstructed, and challenged once more. The destabilization of the state of the author negates the ability to easily examine the works as representations of universality as is typically done with authorship. Traditionally, the author comes to stand for the whole, as their experiences and expressed desires are positioned as those of the reader, and thus those impacted by the formation of a discourse.7 A queer author calls attention to their unique experience, while at the same time, is also able to be universalized. As with any object, a queer one can indeed stand for the whole, however, it does not rest in this position. Quickly questions arise in regards to who is really reflected in the work. While it is the author, it is also the audience, the readers, and the subjects that are presented in the work itself. Queering authorship also challenges the position of the author as the ultimate locus of creation. Collections of objects and documents, for example, can become an authored work. Appropriation as a post-modern artistic strategy of decontextualization and recontextualization can therefore be seen as a signifier of queer, in that the act directly challenges the authority of the author. If everyone can produce the work, or the work has already been formulated by another, who is the author? How can one understand a work of art once it has been published? Who then is the author? Is it the artist who selects the publication to present their work in? Is it the graphic designer who arranged the page for publication? Is the author the editor who selected the works for publication? Finally, queer authorship can be produced by an author who identifies as queer. As Vince Aletti explains: “I realized I was queering the pictures. It didn’t matter who
made them or with what intention. Now that they were mine, they became expressions of my desire, my obsessions, my imagination.”8 Identifying as queer means positioning oneself on a spectrum of marginalized sexual practices that are not restricted to lesbians and gays but, “rather, it describes a horizon of possibility whose precise extent and heterogeneous scope cannot in principle be delimited in advance.”9 A queer author brings to our attention the needs, desires, and visualization or physicality to the queer experience. Unlike the act of queering, identifying as queer means that the person partakes in expansive sexual or cultural practices that are opposed to normative heterosexuality.10 Where ‘queering’ would require the person to challenge normative behaviors, the community of ‘queer’ is constructed through individuals who identify as such. As Neilly self-identifies as queer, his work should be read as partaking in queer production. 2. Through the Looking Glass: The Construction of an Author Authorship traditionally constructs discourse: “in this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society.”11 This can be seen in Neilly’s work as it is taken up as a tool of education in regards to the trans and queer community. The act of visualizing the community presents a history of identity politics, participating in the “queer semiotic discourse.”12 Here Neilly is positioned as a singular representative for a collective, metonymically signifying diverse, heterogeneous trans* identities. While he refuses to speak for the trans or queer community, he does believe his work should be used as a tool for education: “it is important to me that the viewer can walk away…feeling less ignorant, more educated, and can understand that this work is about MY trans experience, not all trans experiences.”13 Neilly is therefore partaking in queer discourse. An author’s name “group[s] together a number of texts and thus differentiates them from others. A name also establishes different forms of relationships among texts… a single name implies that relationships of homogeneity, filiation, reciprocal explanation, authentication, or of common utilization were established among them.”14 As a maker, Neilly produces, exhibits, and publishes his body of work under a name – confirming the traditional notion of the author as one linked to an identity vis-à-vis the author or artist’s signature. The challenge to ‘author’ however is quickly produced when we consider Neilly as auteur. For example, as part of Neilly’s transition he changed his name to the one that he currently uses. While a change in name traditionally breaks from the identification and association with the past, it is part of the remaking of the self that trans* individuals may undergo. This makes it difficult for the cult of the author to emerge, for a clear historical past cannot arise. The work produced by Neilly prior to transition under a different name does not, however, remain in the past. It is picked up, exhibited, and published under Neilly’s new name. Therefore, the author has not died – nor has a new author been born – the author simply is. Moreover, Neilly has broken from his original artist statement multiple times. This causes a challenge to the authority of his written work. Conventionally, once an artwork is produced and the artist statement is written it cannot be modified. It must remain the same, offering a stability through which the audience can enter the work. Neilly’s work refuses this stability. No references to prior
statements are made, the new ones are simply produced and presented as factual. Thus, the ‘truth’ of the narrative comes into question. The ease with which one interpretation is replaced with another raises the audiences’ attention to the false constructed power of the authored narrative. This is seen clearly in Neilly’s Of Center. In an artist statement published in 2013 he wrote the following: The purpose of this project is to explore the differences in gender expression or identities and to educate/ inform the viewer regarding the experience of these individuals who were assigned female at birth. These images are being used to challenge what we consider to be our common understanding of what it is to be female. Society as a whole has a difficulty understanding that gender is no longer expressed within the constructed binary that is male and female. The minimally aestheticized portraits and their personal nature are used to reflect the development of personal identity and the complexities of human gender expression.15 In 2015 however, Neilly wrote of the project: This project seeks to authenticate and legitimize the narratives of those portrayed in the project, as well as my own. Growing into my own masculinity as a young adult was never something that felt valid until I was introduced into a supporting community of like-minded people who gave me confidence. This series explores the minute but powerful differences in gender expression/identities and informs the viewer on experiences of these individuals who were assigned female at birth. I am committed to giving this community that surrounds me an empowering voice to share with the public.16 The ease with which Neilly shifted the work’s function is a symptom of queer authorship. The purpose of the work is identified first as a confrontation to society, and next as an actualization of the self. Moreover, the repositioning of the artist statement confronts the construction of the author’s universality. As the series morphs into a reflection of Neilly rather than society, the ‘other’ becomes the ‘self.’17 No longer is the project only an authentication of a community that questions the meaning of masculinity. Here it becomes clear the work is the author, therefore it is personal, not universal. The project stands for Neilly’s experience and the development of his self-understanding. The placement of the self in the statement calls attention to the production of the series. At the same time, those who access the series through its initial publication and artist statement will read the project as universal. Thus, the series lives in two states at once: the universal and the personal. The inconsistencies lie not in the work itself, but rather in the interpreter. However, the personal is queered as the reader must constantly question who constructs the person. Is Of Center a reflection of a female’s production practice, or that of a male? Can gender truly be seen in a practice methodology? If the project is personal, whose desire is presented? Is it a lesbian’s desire for female masculinity? Or is it an exploration of the construction of masculinity? In an interview with the artist, he explained that Of Center acted as a means of cataloguing different understandings of masculinity. The resulting catalogue of types ultimately became a tool for Neilly in his self-actualization of the desire to become
male. With this clarification, the work can be seen as constructing the author, where Neilly’s transition from one gender to another was informed by Of Center. Therefore, the authored object remains unstable, even when perceived through the guise of the personal: is it the work that produced the author, or the person who produced the work. The traditional authority of an author’s work is further obscured and queered through the injection of documents produced by people other than Neilly. For example, in Neilly’s series Female to ‘Male’ the artist included documents that would not typically be considered artistic material. These include medical documents, legal forms, and letters by family members that can be seen in the installation of Female to ‘Male’ exhibited at the Ryerson Image Center during the summer of 2014. Through their collection and organization on the gallery wall, Neilly claims ownership of these objects: he becomes the author. It is this act of performance that forms authorship, as Michael Camille explains: the history of collecting is not the account of how groups of already-finished, inert things are organized by individuals and institutions, so much as a process by which these objects are being constantly produced, reconfigured and redefined. Collecting is a performance.18 Furthermore, objects that traditionally hold no value are brought into the gallery space and presented as art. Used needles, empty vials of testosterone, and post-it notes all become key aspects of Neilly’s work. These scraps form the narrative of the author and desired experience erected for the audience. Here the author’s oeuvre is appropriated from others. Queering authorship in this case collapses all traces of the other authors into that of Neilly. For every item accessed by the author can become the author’s own. This is unlike classical authorship which struggles with the establishment of the beginning and end of the author. Foucault expressed such an issue when considering what should be amassed in Nietzsche’s collected works; Is everything he wrote and said, everything he left behind, to be included in his work? … Certainly, everything must be published, but can we agree on what “everything” means? We will, of course, include everything that Nietzsche himself published, along with drafts of his works, his plans for aphorisms, his marginal notations and corrections. But what if, in his notebook filled with aphorisms, we find a reference, a reminder of an appointment, an address, or a laundry bill, should this be included in his works? … These practical considerations are endless … Plainly, we lack a theory to encompass the question generated by a work
and the empirical activity of those who naively undertake the publication of the complete works of an author oven suffers from the absence of this framework.19 However, queering authorship is not concerned by these issues, as its ability to include the act of collection in its authorship is simply a characteristic of ‘queer.’ Through this action, queer is able to destabilize the author’s genius. Finally, a queer author denies the ease of valorizing a formed work, while repositioning it. In the case of Neilly’s production, this is achieved through his choice to break from the serial power of his work. The act of displaying a single image from a series, or stripping it from its audio components negates the authority of the work’s narrative.20 In cases such as this, a single image stands to represent the totality, becoming an independent work of art. Neilly’s artist statements frequently call attention to the physical existence of the work: “Female to ‘Male’ is a self-portrait project documenting the artist’s transition from female to ‘male’ through weekly photographs, recorded vocal changes, documents, and objects that represent a segment or moment in his gender exploration;”21 and “[w]ithin the physical installation of these images, there is an accompanying audio component that runs on a loop.”22 The inclusion of these statements would imply that the work should only be accessed or understood through the totality of these sources. Indeed, Neilly stated that he believed Female to ‘Male’ subsists only in its totality.23 The narrative therefore is formed through these multiple sources and items. Typically, a work secures value through its complete narrative. Accordingly, a work would require the sum of its narrative in order for it to be understood and valued. Yet, queer authorship denies an unchanging narrative. Therefore, a fragmented narrative cannot only become the whole – it can also become a new narrative. This is seen in Neilly’s work which is frequently exhibited and published without the audio tracks and as singular images, extracted from the series.24 Another example of a narrative queering can be seen in the publication of Neilly’s work in Original Plumbing’s fifteenth issue titled ‘The Selfie Issue.’ In ‘The Selfie Issue’ his work is featured on the cover of the magazine. A single self-portrait from Female to ‘Male’ is cropped to fit the portrait layout of the zine form. Here, the iconic white boarders of the Instax film are removed and the large green ‘OP’ logo is placed on the top left corner, while ‘theselfieissue’ is scrolled along the bottom in white typography meant to imitate handwriting. The connected words speak to hashtag culture, implying that related imagery would be captioned, and therefore united in their web presences under the title ‘theselfieissue.’ Indeed, cropped and stripped of its original context it is easy to view the way in which Neilly’s work partakes in selfie culture. In an interview for the magazine with an un-identified journalist, Neilly explained the difference between
the selfie and self-portrait as follows: A self-portrait for me has artistic intention and it’s [sic] aesthetic is planned and has a concept that functions within a body of work. A selfie is something that I take with my phone when I am feeling good about the way I look that day, an expression of self love I suppose. There can definitely be a crossover between the two for me but this is how I would categorize them.25 If the camera differentiates between ‘selfie’ and ‘portrait’ how is one to understand a photograph stripped of its traits. Moreover, how can the work be understood when Neilly admits to drawing inspiration from others’ selfies? “Seeing other trans or gender non-conforming people taking selfies or self-portraits gives me motivation to continue producing my work.”26 Here an additional queering of narrative occurs as each formulated object may be reconstructed to suite a new agenda. 3. It’s My Own Invention: The Community as Author If queer authorship allows for a collection to be a form of authorship production, how then can the subjects captured in a photograph be understood? Are the subjects themselves the original owners of the collected representation? Such a question is manifest in Of Center. For as each sitter performs for the camera, what becomes present is a documentation of the sitter’s agency, their selection of pose and dress. Moreover, each photograph is titled by the sitter, thus producing the narrative for the object. Finally, when installed with the audio, the sitter’s voice is heard, as they explain what masculinity means to them.27 Here, the sitter can be compared to the fragments scribbled on a paper, ones that inspire the artist, for indeed, the author is formed through the performances of others’ masculinity. Considered as authors themselves, the sitters can be understood as embodying different forms of gender performativity. As Judith Butler states: [p]erformative acts are forms of authoritative speech: most performatives, for instance, are statements which, in the uttering, also perform a certain action and exercise a binding power… The performative is thus one domain in which power acts as discourse.28 Therefore, every individual has the power of authorship especially in their construction of self. Here authorship is further muddled, for the author in Neilly’s work is formed through collaborations between the documented performances, the act of collecting, and that of being. Each author is presented in a single narrative, collapsed into a single queer author, that of Neilly. In cases such as this, members of the queer community partake in queer authorship. Queer looking has a long tradition of collecting “the ‘triangle’ of interactions between the photographer, the muse (subject), and the viewer.”29 What makes these interactions different than other forms of collection is in their awareness of their construction. Therefore, it is the people who hold the portions of the
narrative that dictate the way the material is understood. Queer authorship stemming from the queer community frequently combines aspects of camp,30 or draws upon shared memory; this is because “cultural identities depend crucially on memory, collective as well as personal.”31 Therefore, a queer author would mirror aspects of their identity that were formulated in a collected history in their produced work. This can be seen in Neilly’s photographs, most evidently through the tattoos and clothing selections of the sitter. In the photographs, the sitter’s selected performance of masculinity through clothing selections “give the lie to the notion that clothes really make the man, that clothes are in any sense natural or inevitable; they proclaim that the only things clothes are appropriate to is our fantasies of gender and sexuality.”32 In Female to ‘Male’ the addition of tattoos speak to the formation of a queer masculine identity. As the physical body transitions into ‘male,’ additional tattoos appear which speak to queer culture, such as the ‘BOY’ tattoo. In these cases of ‘identity markers’ captured by the photographs, “memory is less a register of an actual event or person than a projection of desire for connection, for kinship, for community.”33 Therefore, queer authorship can be seen as drawing from a long line of appropriation where the constructed narrative is affirmed, reflected, and continued within the discourse with each additional work.34 Finally, queer authorship raises attention to the flaws of considering any authored object as easily representing the truth. Moreover, the author of a queer work may not have to identify as such. As Weinberg explained, queer “is not a matter of specific sexual identities but of the world itself. The world is queer because it is known only through representations that are fragmentary and in themselves queer.”35 Therefore, the queer author comes to answer the questions posed by those such as Abigail Solomon-Godeau; who thus is speaking?36 The queer author is able to exist in multiple ways, always in flux; they may be the maker, the audience, the subject, and the archive all at once. Thus queering authorship indeed responds to Foucault’s challenge to the consideration of the author. As a theoretical approach, queer theory was born from the desire to produce a form of resistance to cultural homogenization.37 The queer-authored object resides precariously in the grey zone that challenges normative authorship, for queer resists the same valorization of narrative, formation of discourse, and attribution upon which authorship traditionally relies. Queer work allows others to lay claim to its ownership through its collection, embedding queer memory and desires deep into the nuances and details of the constructed self. The work of Wynne Neilly is a clear example of the challenges posed to the traditional author through the act of queering.
Vilifying the Second Empire through Allegorical Satires: Honoré Daumier and the Politics of Imperial France Maxime Valsamas
Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO, USA)
The artist, caricaturist, and fervent republican Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) created more than 4,000 lithographs over the course of his career. Towards the last decade of his life, Daumier frequently juxtaposed allegory and satire in his prints, such as in the Actualités series that appeared in Le Charivari, a Republican organ, from 1867 to 1872. This paper explores prints that Honoré Daumier produced in 1867, at the time of the Universal Exposition and the Luxembourg Crisis, relating them to earlier conventions of allegory and identifying how satirical prints of this nature raise significant issues to their audiences about society and art in times of crisis.1 During this period, Napoléon III’s grasp on power in France was in decline, and beginning in January 1867, many of Daumier’s lithographs dealt with the diplomatic issues concerning France and the other major European powers in the run-up to the FrancoPrussian War. Daumier denigrated the political culture of France’s Second Empire, especially its hypocrisy and determination to aggrandize territorially. Through his work, it is evident that Daumier opposed the use of the military to resolve France’s disputes with Prussia, the German Confederation, and Italy. To express his views, rather than depicting political figures as he had done successfully in the past, Daumier used allegorical figures to personify abstract concepts, and entities such as Europe, France, Peace, War, and Liberty. In his lithographs, Daumier played with the conventions of allegory, many of which can be traced to Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia.2 Ripa’s Iconologia was an illustrated guide that provided examples of ways to personify abstract ideas, and was a foundational source for early modern European allegories, remaining in use through the nineteenth century. During the Second Republic – which directly preceded Bonaparte’s monarchical Second Empire in France – it is well documented that Daumier, and other participants of the Republic’s contest for the Figure of the Republic in 1848, used Ripa’s Iconologia as a model for their entries.3 In his prints, Daumier followed some of Ripa’s conventions of allegories, but overturned others. He did not use attributes consistently, and contrary to more familiar uses of allegory, he used supplemental symbols sparsely. Daumier particularized his allegorical figures by portraying them with individualized, rather than idealized, features. He gave his allegorical figures mundane qualities, and depicted them with familiarity: they are not endowed with the moral grandeur most often associated with academic allegories, and they do not project the idea that they are emblems of force.4 This combination of elements led to the creation of allegories that were distinctly modern, and suitable for the targeted middle-class (not elitist) audience of Daumier’s satirical images. Daumier produced most of his lithographs for Le Charivari, providing prints for the newspaper from the first year of its existence. Le Charivari was founded in 1832 and was considered one of the leading satirical newspapers in France at the time. The Actualités series consisted of satirical images by various artists and aimed to represent the news of the day visually. Censorship laws in France had restrained caricaturists from critically commenting on social and political issues for much of Napoléon III’s reign.
However, in 1866, following growing demand from the population to learn more about France’s various military engagements, censorship laws were loosened by Napoléon.5 At this precise moment, Daumier turned towards allegorical representations and began commenting on international affairs. The 1867 Universal Exposition, held in Paris, acted as a focal point for diplomatic relations among European powers. During the liberal years (1860-1870) of the Second Empire, the Bonaparte regime sought to project the image of France as a pacifist country. This, and the subsequent acts of Napoléon III’s regime, became the main targets of Daumier’s allegorical satires. Daumier refused to be beguiled by the French Emperor, communicating visually France’s involvement in an arms race, and the devastations and losses endured by individuals at the hands of the Bonaparte regime.6 Accordingly, Daumier’s allegorical satires are often somber. Allegory acted as a means through which Daumier could shed light on the political and diplomatic instability of France within Europe that he saw as having cataclysmic consequences. The Universal Exposition was held from April 1 to October 31, 1867, at considerable cost and lengthy preparation. The media extensively covered the event, as French newspapers recorded the ongoing developments related to the exhibition before, during, and after the highly attended exposition. Le Charivari, for instance, created a column titled, “Promenades d’un Humoriste à l’Exposition Universelle,” which appeared in the journal on a weekly basis during the months of the exposition. In addition, on the front page of the newspaper, Pierre Véron, Le Charivari’s Editorin-Chief, weighed in on some of the more significant political matters that emerged from the exhibition. A substantial number of caricatures and satirical images from this newspaper dealt with the exhibition, such as Daumier’s Un baiser de circonstance (Fig. 1), which appeared on the day the exhibition opened. Although neither of the two figures in this print personifies the Universal Exposition, it is a lithograph that comments on the intentions of this grandiose event. Europe throws herself into the arms of Peace, who holds an olive branch in her left hand and a cornucopia in the right. At first glance, Un baiser de circonstance looks like a positive depiction (Peace even has a smile on her face); however, several factors imply the opposite. As the caption suggests, this friendly embrace between Peace and Europe (a ceremonial kiss) is only a temporary diversion from the turbulent state of affairs that existed in Europe prior to the Universal Exposition. The embrace is merely a ceremonial formality on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition. In 1866, Prussia expanded its realm of power as it defeated Austria in the Seven Weeks’ War. At the same time, Italy was trying to free itself from papal rule, and France and Prussia had begun to quarrel over the annexation of Luxembourg.7 In Daumier’s print, the figure of Europe stands on her tiptoes, drapery fluttering, seemingly in a rush of excitement to see Peace. Europe’s drapery gives her a sense of movement, and this is further emphasized by Daumier’s use of repeated lines to trace the contour of the clothing. Europe, sensing distress, appears to seek protection from the personification of Peace who, in contrast, seems immobile. Europe also has a shield at her feet, an object that Daumier employed in this particular print to signal that the European continent was in disharmony. Shields are not a symbol by which personifications of Europe are regularly identified.8 Daumier could have written the word Europe over the head of the figure, as he did for Peace, for the purposes of identification, but by placing it on
(Fig. 1)HonorĂŠ Daumier, Un baiser de circonstance, ActualitĂŠs, April 1, 1867, lithograph.
the shield, Daumier emphasizes its presence. The supplies coming out of the cornucopia in Peace’s hand: though, the fruit, meant to represent abundance, are falling on the ground, indicating that they are being wasted. Thus, the message that Daumier conveys in Un baiser de circonstance is that the coming together of peoples from various nations at the Universal Exposition only brought, if anything, temporary peace. The primary goal of the Universal Exposition was to encourage industry and intercontinental trade.9 While individual exhibitors from different countries sought to trade and sell their inventions and ideas, government officials tried to influence public opinions by way of the exhibition. European diplomats formed relations and brushed shoulders with important figures from various countries, as hinted at by Le Charivari even before the Universal Exposition began.10 As leader of France, Napoléon tried to disguise the nation’s intentions as pacifist. The image that the Bonaparte regime conveyed was progressive and peaceful, an outlook that was supposedly opposed to the expansionist and highly competitive spirit of militarism that preoccupied some of the other European forces, such as Prussia and Britain. This, however, was false advertisement; in reality, the concerns of the Bonaparte regime were chauvinistic and expansionist.11 Capitalist and militarist demonstrations supplanted a perception that Second Empire France cultivated a hedonistic lifestyle, full of luxury, leisure, entertainment, and fashion, at the Universal Exposition. French newspapers made the general public aware of this, and accordingly, French citizens attempted to voice their disfavour with the Emperor. Much of the French population was also displeased with the government’s admission policies for the exhibition. Many French citizens did not appreciate that the military were freely admitted to the exposition, while exhibitors who contributed to the event had to pay an entrance fee. Disgruntled members of the public expressed their irritation at what was seen as the Bonaparte regime’s monopolization of the exhibition for the purpose of making money. Le Charivari recorded this resentment on 26 April 1867: Nous avons parlé plusieurs fois ici contre le monopole et le mercantilisme de l’Exposition universelle, monopole d’affichage, monopole du guide, de la photographie, des buffets, des
chaises, etc. Il semble que cette immense manifestation des arts et des sciences n’ait pour suprême pensée que de faire tomber de la monnaie dans une caisse.12 Clearly, Le Charivari could see through what was undoubtedly Napoléon’s scheming, and it sought to vilify him as much as possible before inspection by censorship officers. Daumier always put his talent in the service of the republican fight for the right of liberty and its opposition to monarchic rule. His long collaboration with Le Charivari originated, in large part, from the firm moderate Republican values that he supported and shared with the journal. Part of the success of Daumier’s collaboration with Le Charivari was due to the technological advancements made in printmaking and the popular press in the nineteenth century. No longer issued as individual prints or self-contained series, like the works by William Hogarth and Francisco de Goya, caricatures now had a broader audience. Now that the popular press was mechanized, and lithographs were increasingly being used in newspapers, Daumier’s prints from the Actualités series could be integrated with journalism. By juxtaposing images with written articles, it was easier for the reading public to follow the political developments. With regards to the Universal Exposition, satirical newspapers provided people who could not afford to visit the exposition with a means to stay up to date using both text and image. Arms were a focal point at the exposition, and they repeatedly appeared in the prints that Daumier and Amédée de Noé (known as Cham) produced in relation to the Universal Exposition. Similarly, Le Charivari’s textual columns made sure to emphasize the great interest in cannons and the overabundance of armaments at the 1867 exposition. The belief in strengthening the army through innovative arms and the production of tremendously powerful cannons increased during the months in which the Universal Exposition was held, as participating nations willingly displayed their new armaments. In the days leading up to the opening, Pierre Véron noted how France and many other European countries were participating in an arms race: Partout les forges mugissent, les marteaux battent le fer, partout fusils et canons sont sous presse. Et pendant ce temps-là en l’honneur de l’Exposition (pauvre Exposition!) on invite les poètes en disponibilité à rimer des cantates à la paix. On aura voulu dire des oraisons funèbres.13 The passage reveals the hypocrisy of the publicity for the Universal Exposition against the background of international events. The exhibition was publicized as a gathering of peace, with cantatas of peace being sung by poets in honour of the event, and in which peace was supposed to reign as an anthem: “l’hymne de la paix mais c’est là le sujet que le gouvernement lui-même a imposé pour le grand festival de l’Exposition.”14 Meanwhile, the competitive spirit of the European nations was clear. The exhibition of all the armaments from different countries displayed objects produced for the sole purpose of destroying populations. Given this situation, it is not surprising that Pierre Véron felt sorry for the reputation the Universal Exposition would earn and mockingly wrote that the cantatas of peace should be replaced by funeral orations. The arms, which many recognized as dangerous weapons of destruction, were
proudly looked upon by the Bonaparte regime as tools that could bolster the army and lead France to military victories. Republicans protested against the Bonaparte regime, because they disagreed with the theory that the country could become greater by beating other nations in an arms race, and did not believe that using military force was an effective way of solving issues with their adversaries. The whole situation was summed up in a satirical image Daumier made after the exhibition was over, titled Le Déménagement de L’Exposition, in which two large cannons are the only objects left on the grounds of the exposition. The caption has the bourgeois man in the foreground saying: “Les peuples sont pour nous des frères!” asserting that other nations were just like France, since they were also involved in the arms race, taking the opportunity to exhibit their own armaments at the Universal Exposition. The production of cannons became a priority for many nations. All the major European powers brought them to the exhibition: they were simply different models with different sizes. Daumier gave this lithograph a satirical element by depicting a melancholic bourgeois couple in the foreground. Having become so accustomed to seeing large numbers of armaments at the exposition, the couple is unhappy to see the event over and the objects being taken away. While the Universal Exposition was taking place, Imperial politics maintained their course. Daumier created several prints that engaged with some of the larger European questions affecting France and its neighboring countries.15 The majority of these concentrated on the idea that war could break out in Europe at any moment in the late 1860s. One of these concerns was the Luxembourg question, or as it was later called, the Luxembourg Crisis: “l’affaire du Luxembourg (on n’ose pas encore écrire question) tient en suspens l’Europe entière.”16 The two main forces involved in the Luxembourg Crisis were France and Prussia. Luxembourg had been divided into two parts, since the Belgian Revolution in the early 1830s. In the 1860s, Prussia controlled one half under the German Confederation, while the other was in the possession of the King of the Netherlands, William III. Though the Luxembourg territory held by William III was not a large piece of land, it occupied strong fortifications, which could help defend against attacks. Accordingly, both France and Prussia sought to annex this part of Luxembourg to their territories. Republican members of French society wanted to see peace between the two nations, and were skeptical about making a push for Luxembourg, as Alfred Assollant noted: “est-ce le moment d’acquérir le Luxembourg malgré l’Allemagne et d’allumer pour un si mince intérêt une guerre implacable?”17 Honoré Daumier’s Équilibre Européen (Fig. 2), from April 3, 1867, specifically engages the uncertainty over Luxembourg and its consequences for Europe. In this lithograph, Daumier depicts a female allegory of Europe. The figure is trying to maintain her balance on a lit bomb by tiptoeing along the sphere. This work compellingly captures the notion that peace in Europe is at risk. The figure of Europe appears in a state of shock, one could even say fear, as she has large bulging eyes, her eyebrows are raised, and her mouth is wide open. Instability in world politics is captured in dramatic fashion through an allegory. Although the figure of Europe has her feet on the middle of the bomb, her right foot is considerably ahead of her left one, suggesting that her next movement will be hazardous. The unbalanced posture of Daumier’s figure resembles Cesare Ripa’s Haughty Beggar, a figure also positioned over a spherical object. The description Ripa
Figure 2. Honoré Daumier, Équilibre Européen, Actualités, April 3, 1867, lithograph.
provides along with the image of the Haughty Beggar emphasizes that imbalance will lead to misery, an outcome that is suggested by Daumier’s Équilibre Européen.18 Daumier’s print also shares a similarity with traditional allegorical representations of the figure of Fortune (for example, Albrecht Dürer’s Nemesis), wherein Fortune’s placement on a sphere signifies the power she holds over the world. However, in Daumier’s print, the figure of Europe exercises no control or power over the situation – once again, she balances on a bomb that is about to explode. Europe’s acrobatic stance conveys neither balance nor permanence, concepts that were often associated with Fortune. The tongue-in-cheek use of the word “équilibre” in the title of Daumier’s lithograph directly refers to a lack of balance, the inability of European countries to be confined to fair boundaries or to exist in a state of parity. By having Europe’s arms stretched out and on a diagonal, Daumier is able to convey a sense of tragic instability. The fact that a shadow appears over her body conveys the fragile state of European peace around the time of the Luxembourg Crisis. There is no doubt that something unpleasant is about to happen in Équilibre Européen, and Daumier suggests that this misfortune can be directly projected onto the European continent. In a similar vein, the bomb itself is a direct reference to war. The wick has already been lit; thus, it is only a matter of time before Europe the figure explodes, and Europe the continent erupts into war. Pierre Véron had alluded to the fragility of European relations in a previous publication of Le Charivari: “il s’évertue en vain à replâtrer l’ancien équilibre européen, qui n’est plus aujourd’hui que l’équilibre des bouteilles cassées.”19 Daumier concentrated on presenting this idea of a threatened equilibrium, lending his print strong visual impact. Part of the allure of the words “European equilibrium” is that they were used as a political cliché during this time period. Politicians had used the term frequently, and it had regularly appeared in Le Charivari in months prior to the Luxembourg Crisis up until the end of the Second Empire in September 1870. This term also appeared personified in text: “pour le moment la jambe cassée de l’Équilibre Européen est encore entourée d’éclisses et de bandages.”20 Many similar examples appear in the pages of Le Charivari, often negatively as in Daumier’s allegorical satire. Caricatures benefit from developing a communicative vocabulary that is provocative and inclined to lead
to associations, a goal which Daumier and Le Charivari collaboratively attained with a print such as Équilibre Européen.21 Moreover, Europe itself was referred to in the third person singular in Le Charivari on some occasions, and as the following passage indicates more specifically, as a mother figure: “le devoir de l’Europe est, devant tout, de ne pas sacrifier pour rien ses enfants.”22 Hence, the events that were taking place in France and Europe during the last years of the Second Empire, as well as the everyday political language, lent themselves to be represented as allegorical satire. Personifying a figure like Europe, to depict the struggle between nations was an effective way of provoking political critique and to make people question the values of the empire. With an economy of means, Daumier was able to interpret an event of great magnitude. Furthermore, he conveyed how the illogical reasoning of populations and their xenophobia can result in a topsy-turvy world. Daumier dealt with diplomatic relations that occurred on the world stage, yet he was able to distill the meaning of these events in his prints by placing all the action in either one or two allegorical figures. The figures were most often female allegories, and the themes Daumier covered generally were not touched upon by high art. The wit of Daumier’s comparisons depended less on explaining situations and more on summing them up. Daumier rarely made use of attributes by which to identify the figures and he almost never added the familiar allegorical symbols – key aspects of Daumier’s strategy to unmask his allegories as coarse in complexion. For instance, in Équilibre Européen, the figure of Europe is depicted not nearly as richly as it had been in Ripa’s Iconologia. Ripa describes the allegory of Europe as “a Lady in a very rich Habit, of several Colours, sitting between two cross Cornucopias.” Surrounding her are sceptres, crowns, arms, musical instruments, a horse, and a book, all of which show Europe “to be the principal Part of the World.”23 Daumier’s figure wears a crown, however it is puny and undignified, and none of the other objects from Ripa’s description appear in Daumier’s lithograph. During the late stages of his career, Daumier was able to illustrate explicitly his views and objections with regards to diplomatic relations and the political state of France through allegorical satires. Even after censorship control in France was loosened in the second
half of the 1860s, Daumier conscientiously continued to depict allegories. Elle en a usé du papier la diplomatie en 1867 (1867), La Pénélope Moderne (1868), and Comme Sisyphe (1869) are but a few examples of lithographs of this nature, which could form the basis for a separate scholarly paper. By producing allegories that were emotionally charged and direct in imparting their messages, Daumier provided his prints with a distinct irony meant to have a lasting effect on people’s memories. The break out of the FrancoPrussian War in July 1870 underlined the worsening power relations Daumier was alluding to in his lithographs. It was exactly this type of calamity that Daumier profoundly resented, and ultimately, reinforces the overtly social function of his images as powerful means of visual communication.
In Between Dolls and Blocks: Building Bodies of Resistance with MyFamilyBuildersTM and BILU Clan Concordia University (Montréal, QC)
On August 7th, 2015, Target Corporation announced that they would be phasing out gender-based signage from their Toys department.1 Although this indicates an encouraging step away from harmful gender stereotyping in the toy industry, exclusionary ideals continue to materialize in objects of childhood, thus creating powerful early agents of shame. In light of this, new toys are emerging that point to an ongoing misrepresentation of diverse identities, attempting to address the issues of race, sexuality, family, and gender identities head on. When the American toy MyFamilyBuilders™ (Fig. 1) first appeared on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter in August 2015, it garnered much attention, lauded as the first toy that truly celebrated diversity.2 Using the example of new toys MyFamilyBuilders™ and Uruguayan toy Clan by BILU (Fig. 2), my paper asks how toys can challenge heteronormativity.3 These crowdfunded toys, for children aged 3 years and up — drawing from Bauhaus pedagogy, and co-design initiatives by childhood educators, product designers, and parents — aim to introduce children to diverse genders and sexualities through play. Utopian in their ambition, they are conceived as agents for “a better tomorrow,” with their main goals to educate children about diversity, open up a world in which all children feel represented, and make the world a more tolerant place.4 Putting MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan in dialogue with queer theory leads to numerous questions, a few of which I will address in this paper. What is the discursive potential of queering early childhood play? What are the implications of invoking the human form in building blocks? To be clear, my aim is not to present one toy as more effective or queerer, but rather, to discuss how these toys, made available to me through promotional materials and interviews with the designers, lend to discussions of gender and queerness.5 I also acknowledge that self-described “queer” toys are not the only objects that can queer early childhood play — far from it. To argue this would be to dismiss the complexity of play and to deny children’s agency. In the paper that follows, I will introduce the fraught status of the child relative to utopia and adult desires, to discuss how play has the potential to be transgressive and elicit “queer moments.” Next, I will explain how the toys in question parody modernist forms, and demonstrate how these toys encourage sideways growth and speak to new discursive horizons in the playroom. Part of the challenge in writing about these toys is how to problematize the utopian discourse upon which they rely. This difficulty arises from the fact that a discussion of the child and the future lends so well to one of utopia. MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan are conceptualized as agents for a better future. In this way, adults are projecting their ideas for an ideal future onto these objects. As Kathryn Bond Stockton writes in her introduction to The Queer Child, Or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century, “the child is precisely who we are not, and in fact, never were. It is the act of adults looking back. It is a ghostly, unreachable fancy.”6 The child is, then, best described
as a category imposed by adults onto children, charged with ideology. The child is also intricately tied to political discourse. As Lee Edelman writes in his introduction to No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, the child is “the perpetual horizon of every acknowledged politics,” and “the telos of the social order.”7 Edelman capitalizes “Child,” calling attention to its power and preeminence.8 Furthermore, he describes how the Child is used to justify policies on all shades of the political spectrum. More than this, we are not even capable of conceiving of a future without the figure of the Child: “That figural Child alone embodies the citizen as an ideal, entitled to claim full rights to its future share in the nation’s good, though always at the cost of limiting the rights ‘real’ citizens are allowed.”9 Edelman is extremely critical of this reification of the Child, expressing how it is fundamentally at odds with queerness. The Child is a fixation on heteronormativity, “an erotically charged investment in the rigid sameness of identity that is central to the compulsory narrative of reproductive futurism.”10 For Edelman, then, queerness is on the side of opposition to the fight for children, undoing the symbolic identities constructed by the heteropatriarchy.11 If, as Edelman argues, queerness can be defined as a structural position, then perhaps we can use this position to challenge the very notion of the child itself.12 Speaking of queerness at the level of the child can help us identify one’s earliest encounters with normalized behaviour, and can therefore help us better understand the roles that toys play in this early formation of self. Moreover, using queer theory to look at children not only shows us how queer children do not fit the mould of the child, but how all children ultimately defy the imagined child. Child psychology has confirmed that children are aware very early on that the world is divided into two genders. As Early Childhood Education scholar Marianna Papadopoulou writes, play is where children construct their gendered identities: “In order to ‘fit in’ their society [children] need to adopt a gendered personality and behave in gender-appropriate ways. Play, thus, becomes the context where they explore meanings, construct their gendered identities, and rehearse their future, adult, roles.”13 Although gender stereotyped toys are not neutral objects, Judy Attfield warns against conceiving of them as directly related to children’s behaviour: “the critique that macho soldier dolls simply instill sexist attitudes or that jointless dolls only encourage passivity in girls is naive and misinformed. Toys cannot fully determine actions or thoughts, they are themselves the focus of play — a dynamic activity used to rehearse, interpret and try out new meanings as well as products of complex social relations.”14 Child’s play often takes the form of heteronormative reenactments; such actions are prescribed and within reach. However, I maintain that play is also queer, in the sense that all children perform identities and occupy spaces in unexpected ways, often undermining or challenging what is expected of them. Courtney Lee Weida echoes this argument, asserting that in spite of mass media’s prescriptions for appropriate or expected behaviour, “play enables children to reconfigure meanings and iconography different from those intended by marketers and/or feared by parents, demonstrating that what is intended may not ultimately designate those messages and images ultimately constructed by young people.”15 If we take the dynamism of play into consideration, we can conceive of the playroom as a space wherein queer moments may emerge.16 A queer moment, according to Sara Ahmed, is what happens when one resists the “field of heterosexual
(Fig.1) The complete set of the MyFamilyBuilders™ toy, as seen on www.myfamilybuilders.com (2015) objects” and deviates from the straight, heterosexual line.17 It is a moment of “disorientation,” wherein one feels at odds with the world that is already in place around them.18 Play, through its very unpredictability and exploration of desires, is a dynamic disorienting activity, wherein meanings and identities are stretched and reconfigured. As real children will never match the ideal imagined by adults, they threaten the heterosexual line through their actions. Yet, through familial and social love, children are faced with certain objects and not others, and are thus made to follow a straight path. Play nevertheless has the potential to threaten this line and to give space for children to perform identities in a way that deviates from the grid of heteronormativity. It is for this transgressive nature that I maintain play has discursive potential akin to parody. Linda Hutcheon defines parody as “repetition with difference,” arguing that it is a critical, multivocal, hybrid instrument that “can call into question the temptation toward the monolithic in modern theory.”19 If, as an experiment, we take the monolithic to be the heteronormative grid, play could have the potential to elicit queer moments of which Ahmed speaks. Children repeat and subvert the forms they see around them, effectively parodying and undermining not only the ideal of the child, but all imposed ideals and ideological constructions. I also maintain that parody exists within contemporary toy designers’ process itself, something to which I will speak later in this paper. Still, conceiving of child’s play as subversive and lending to discussions of queerness is challenging and faces some resistance. As Mindy Blaise and Affrica Taylor point out, queer theory is challenging for early childhood educators because it requires them “to think not only about children’s behaviours as gendered but also as sexual.”20 Since children are not permitted to be sexual, these necessary conversations are hard to have. All the while, Blaise and Taylor stress that for children
(Fig. 2)The “BILU Clan.” BILU TOYS, as seen on www.bilutoys.com (2015) photo by the photographer Pablo Albarenga (lupa.uy) and the full rights belong to BILU Toys. to develop an awareness of heteronormativity, they must learn it from somewhere, and educators therefore play a crucial role. If queering the text involves revealing the signs of heteronormativity, as Jonathan Weinberg argues, then it seems fair to suggest that queering the playroom is also about more than being open to lesbian and gay identities—it is about calling attention to how heterosexuality is enforced, even upon young children.21 This is especially important for making certain that queer children feel welcome in the world. The inclusive language of both toys centers on representation and identity of humans, thereby emphasizing the body as a site of instruction and acceptance. Constructing bodies in play is significant, not the least of which because this is a relatively unique idea in the North American toy landscape. I chose MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan as my objects of study not only because they are both contemporary to one another, but also because they are remarkable in their conception. As I have previously mentioned, they are somewhere in between building blocks and dolls. Typically, building blocks are uniform in colour and represent simple geometric forms with little allusion to the figural. Magnetic blocks emphasizing the figural are a contemporary response to modernist toys, asserting the preeminence of the human form in their ideologies. MyFamilyBuilders™ explicitly expresses their aims on their website: “to create a world where parents and kids celebrate love and the values shared by all families, regardless of colour, creed, sexual orientation or culture.”22 It is an educational toy that consists of forty-eight cylindrical magnetic blocks that can be mixed and matched together. There are thirty-two heads, eight torsos, and eight bottom halves. The toy also includes a card game, depicting twenty-five different family compositions, including families with same-sex parents, single parents, and mixed-race families. In this way, children are encouraged to encounter different family models, to recreate them, and to engage in meaningful conversations regarding what constitutes a family. Actively constructing and deconstructing bodies and families, children have agency in creating characters. Still, in relying on the family, this toy is
heteronormative. BILU Clan is also a toy of constructing characters, in such a way that challenges stereotypes and that is inclusive to various identities.23 It also consists of wooden magnetic blocks, but of different shapes alluding to different aspects in the human form, such as a large belly that could be interpreted as a pregnant woman’s stomach, for example. Other forms are also open to interpretation, such as a protrusion at the chest that could stand in for a bosom or an elbow. It is worth noting that the toy is greatly inspired by the work of Uruguayan artist Joaquìn Torres Garcia, who also made toys with reduced forms. Rather than emphasizing the family unit, Clan is centered on building dynamic characters. Moreover, the natural wood toy comes with washable paint, allowing for many combinations in dress and appearance. Through its abstract anthropomorphic forms, Clan challenges what specific body parts ought to look like, which, for BILU, introduces an “inclusive formal language related to disability.”24 Both toys doubtlessly draw from historical, formal sources as well as contemporary pedagogical theory; as a result, MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan highlight tensions between past, present, and future. Since both toys aim to contribute to a more tolerant future in response to a hostile present, they look forward. This demonstrates a profound optimism in the future, a trust in the power of objects to transform attitudes and behaviours. Insofar as the toys are made of wood and draw from modernist ideas, however, they also look to the past. The very use of natural materials counters the predominantly plastic contemporary toy closet, pointing to a “simpler time” and very possibly engendering a deep sense of nostalgia in the parents and teachers who purchase them. As Dwight MacDonald expressed, “We are backward-looking explorers and parody is the central expression of our times.”25 I would argue, then, that in looking backward and altering traditional forms, MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan parody toy conventions, appropriating the modernist building block ideal to more figurative ends. Considering the discursive potential of these toys necessitates a deeper engagement with queer theory. Can these toys really challenge heteronormativity? I remain hopeful that they can, although perhaps not as fully as these toys claim. Ahmed writes that the field of heterosexual objects is produced when we repeat a certain direction, which in turn creates a “background.”26 If we understand play with specific toys as repeating a direction, then play with toys
forms a meaningful background for the child. This background, as Ahmed admits, is ultimately that which “allows [one] to arrive and to do things.”27 Because these toys are like nothing else in the toy market today, they have great potential for forging new paths of desire. They engender hope, and this hope is paramount in providing support to queer children. Ahmed writes: “We have hope because what is behind is us also what allows other ways of gathering in time and space, of making lines that do not reproduce what we follow, but instead create new textures on the ground.”28 Insofar as MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan encourage constructivist play and experimentation with bodies and dress, they have potential to form a ground wherein queer children and adults feel support. The implications of queering early childhood play, beyond giving adults a sense of purpose and making all children feel supported, is also the improved relationality between adults and children. In her introduction to The Queer Child, Kathryn Bond Stockton writes that growth in children predominantly refers to upwards growth: we grow “up.”29 However, she maintains that growth also occurs sideways, especially in children, because they cannot advance to adulthood until adults say so.30 She goes back to the etymology of the word “growth,” explaining that it only refers to stature with regards to humans. Stockton concludes: “growth is a matter of extension, visor, and volume as well as verticality.”31 Sideways growth is of interest because it pertains to any age, and is thus a means of encouraging lateral interactions between adults and children.32 To learn and grow sideways is to step outside of oneself, or perhaps more specifically, to step beside oneself.33 This is also interesting when considered alongside the etymology of parody. The prefix para, although meaning “counter” and “against,” can also refer to “beside.”34 That is, the parody, although differentiated from what it is referencing, remains nevertheless beside it. This underscores the intimacy of children’s enactment and parodying of adult forms and ideas through play. It also relates to Ahmed’s discussion of the slanted individual, of the queer body, deviating from the grid of heteronormativity.35 Queer play can challenge heteronormativity, because it gives space to these lateral interactions and deviations, and in fact celebrates them. Since MyFamilyBuilders™ and Clan are constructivist toys, encouraging children to engage with different possibilities, they open up a world in which identities beyond the heteronormative grid are possible. Children become aware how identities are constructed and are encouraged to accept a multiplicity of identities. In so doing, they are made to see fragments of a world wherein they might be accepted. However, to say that these toys are the future or that they are capable of forging a more tolerant world is an unfair burden. It is also important to acknowledge the problem of prescribing “inclusive” toys to all children. If toys are indeed to play a part in challenging hegemony, they cannot be universalized. In closing, by calling attention to the double movement of the toys, of looking forward and backward, I identified some tensions existing within the toys themselves. These tensions more importantly shed light on the fraught relationship between the child and the adult. Looking at childhood through a queer lens reveals a multiplicity of conflicts and constructions, demonstrating the harm in idealizing the child. Since we have come to see that the figure of the child is a construction, it is due time that we consider queerness when we discuss children, as this can help pave the way for a more supportive and inclusive future. Furthermore, conceiving of play as queer and parodic illuminates the myriad of constructions and performances that manifest in childhood.
Youtube and Parodic Disidentifications: The Re-Insertion of Marginalized Voices into Film History Through the Viral Videos of Todrick Hall Amanda Greer
University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)
In the summer of 2013, a video appeared on YouTube, along with millions of other daily uploads all vying for viral status. This video, however, stood out, with its comedic takedown of stereotypes in popular culture. It was soon shared across different social media platforms, raking in viewers and garnering quite a fan base. Clearly, this video was saying something that people wanted to hear. The video in question is Todrick Hall’s “Beauty and the Beat.” The short film has a simple concept: re-set the opening number of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, entitled “Belle,” not in a provincial French village, but in a predominantly African-American, urban space. This parody, combining a nostalgic, generation Y-targeted song with cutting observational humour and over-the-top performances, now has over seven million views. In the video’s short running time, Hall manages to parody everything from racial stereotypes to gender to sexuality. The video’s success, and Hall’s subsequent productions, demonstrate a need for art that interrogates and questions the past while celebrating the present and future—in short, a need for parody. More specifically, Hall’s videos question the elision of LGBTQ community members and African-Americans from film history, while reintegrating them into the present. This is made possible through the process of disidentification. As a homosexual African-American man, Hall occupies a subject position outside the normative model of on-screen leading men. Through this position, Hall has managed to disidentify with the musical film, finding it both uplifting and restrictive. This process of disidentification, combined with the specificity of the YouTube video as a medium, has in turn provided Hall with the tools to produce parody, while reclaiming the filmic presence of three distinct yet overlapping groups of people: women, homosexuals, and African-Americans. In his essay, “Disidentifications,” scholar Jose Esteban Munoz writes that there are more than two possible reactions to popular culture; there is more than a reactionary (or assimilatory) impulse and a resistant impulse. For him, there is a third reaction, which he terms disidentification, a process of counter-identification with regard to dominant modes of representation. Munoz writes that, Disidentification is meant to be descriptive of the survival strategies the minority subject practices in order to negotiate a phobic majoritarian public sphere that continuously elides or punishes the existence of subjects who do not conform to the phantasm of normative citizenship.1 This realm of “normative citizenship” to which Munoz refers is the realm of the white, heterosexual, cis-identifying male. Those belonging to the minority can be anyone who does not fit into this model, including people of colour, homosexual or queer individuals, women and non-gender binary subjects. Members of these groups
experience differing forms of oppression, causing varied and complex processes of disidentification with popular culture. Munoz refers to these minority individuals as “identities-in-difference,” writing that they result from “a failed interpellation within the dominant public sphere.”2 Munoz argues here that, when viewers cannot identify themselves on-screen, they are not indoctrinated with dominant ideologies, as they remain cognizant of their absence or misrepresentation in dominant culture. This provokes a reaction against popular culture without rejecting it outright. “Disidentification,” Munoz continues, “neither opts to assimilate within such a structure [of dominant ideology] nor strictly opposes it; rather, disidentification is a strategy that works on and against dominant ideology.”3 For this reason, disidentification lends itself well to the development of parody. Both processes evaluate popular culture from a distance, holding works like films at arm’s length so as to both hyperbolize and draw attention to their problematic elements, while avoiding deep, affective engagement. As Munoz puts it, Disidentification is about recycling and rethinking encoded meaning[…]it both exposes the encoded message’s universalizing and exclusionary machinations and recircuits its workings to account for, include, and empower minority identities and identifications.4 In other words, disidentification uncovers the insidious, restrictive ideologies of a text, before transforming and re-structuring these textual meanings so that the text no longer excludes minority groups, but includes and celebrates them. Similarly, parody has been defined by Margaret Rose as “the comic refunctioning of performed linguistic or artistic material.”5 This “parodic artistry” crafts “a productive articulation of public identity and agency.”6 Through this, I argue, it is evident that disidentification can lead to parody. The viewer finds themself distanced from the material by failing to be indoctrinated with dominant ideology. They see the codes of this ideology laid bare, while continuing to cognitively acknowledge its entertaining features. To negotiate this simultaneous appreciation and distaste, the viewer creates parody, which formalizes and makes explicit the encoded ideologies of the original work. From this place of disidentification is born parody, and from parody is born social criticism and an outflow of voices previously silenced (whether consciously or unconsciously) by dominant modes of film production. Todrick Hall’s brand of parody does just this: it holds up as worthy of attention and power the groups that have traditionally been either ignored and/or exploited throughout the history of the musical film. His choice of the musical film as subject for parody in all of his videos is also of no surprise—the word “parody” literally means “beside the song.”7 In using popular songs, Hall’s viewers can find comfort in the familiarity of the original work, while finding themselves thrown off by the song’s new context and meaning. The familiarity of Hall’s songs, coupled with this short digital film format provides a structure ripe for cross-cultural popularity, community-building, and continuing discourses surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. His videos’ popularity is due in part to his decision to turn to YouTube, rather than more traditional aspects of filmmaking, as YouTube provides spaces and digital discursive features, such as comment boards and “Share” buttons, to encourage dialogue and visibility. Without
this format— without this medium of the digital age— Hall would not have been able to critique popular culture in such a pervasive way. Much of Hall’s parodying of popular culture revolves around the role of women in movies, and, more specifically, of the treatment of gender itself in the musical film. In The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity, Raymond Knapp writes that, “Gender roles and sexuality are, above all, performed attributes of personal identity.”8 The exaggerated performance techniques seen in musical films in particular have “tended to remove women performers from the accepted boundaries of respectability, often tainting them with associations of sexual license and promiscuity.”9 In other words, any woman who travels beyond patriarchically-defined boundaries is portrayed as sexually promiscuous and thus devoid of moral worth. Conversely, women who stay within boundaries of taste and virtue are more valuable. Knapp cites several female characters from musical films who occupy this role of the tainted woman, and who are ultimately punished for their transgressions. Hall, through his videos, takes issue with this feeling of retribution aimed at “promiscuous” women. His parodies skewer the treatment of meek, submissive women as the ideal feminine, while gesturing to a need for women to exert control over their own bodies and how these bodies are treated in popular culture. One such video, entitled “Grown Woman,” effectively demonstrates Hall’s use of parody to critique traditional representations of women. It begins with several actress-dancers dressed as Disney princesses, including Tiana, Belle, Snow White, and Cinderella. However, instead of a fairytale-esque soundtrack reminiscent of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” the video features Beyonce’s hit, “Grown Woman.” As the song’s hook and beat pick up speed, the women on-screen begin to transform from their family-friendly, storybook princess appearance to proudly sexual women. At one point, the women all strut towards the camera as if walking down a runway, wearing only lingerie. From out of nowhere fly several cartoon birds carrying towels, trying to hurriedly cover up the women’s exposed bodies. Of course, Hall’s use of this Disney animation highlights the company’s constant attempt to desexualize its female characters while making their physical appearances vastly unattainable. Disney itself becomes a gag, a style that has no place in present day. As such, Hall becomes a parodic artist critiquing the social restrictions surrounding women’s sexuality—but, in true parodic and disidentifying fashion, he does so in a light-hearted, rather than a bitter way. “Grown Woman” becomes even more explicit in its celebration of female autonomy when Snow White is shown dancing a hip-hop combination in front of a mirror while wearing typical modern clothing: tight yellow leggings and a loose-fitting purple shirt. In the mirror, her reflection shows a tamer version of herself, wearing a conservative yellow skirt and white blouse. This sequence demonstrates the complex process of identity-formation experienced by all women—there is no singular “feminine.” Hall’s Snow White, however, counters this reflection by donning a leotard and tights reminiscent of Wonder Woman. Her constant costume changes also gesture to the multiple identities contained within a single person, subtly criticizing the two-dimensionality prevalent in most Disney princess characters, who simply hope to find a prince and live happily ever after. This sentiment is echoed through the song’s lyrics: “I’m a grown woman/ I do whatever I want.” Through his video’s celebration of body
positivity and its acknowledgment of the plurality of female identities, Hall manages to contribute to the discourse surrounding female sexuality in popular culture by subverting and critiquing popular culture itself. Hall’s deconstruction of preconceived and established notions of gender is also perpetuated through his use of drag performance. As theorists like Judith Butler and Moya Lloyd have argued, gender is a constructed phenomenon that can be viewed as a mode of containment, a restrictive force.10 “Gender,” Butler has said, “is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time—an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts.”11 In other words, gender is a constantly evolving and shifting set of performances, constituted and approved by social constructions of gendered bodies. Drag, as an overt and reflexive act of gender performance, argues that gender is a complex, multilayered act with political leanings. Indeed, the gay community has used drag as a political act for decades. As Miller and Taylor write, “Drag performers can disrupt heteronormative notions of sexuality. When drag queens perform sexualized femininity for straight audiences, the desire elicited from straight men can destabilize heteronormativity.”12 As such, drag performances have become both a mode of artistic expression, and a political tool within the gay community. Hall himself performs in drag in many of his videos, including “Grown Woman” and “Beauty and the Beat.” In the former, Hall appears at the end, dressed as Tinkerbell the fairy, and asks his YouTube viewers to follow his channel. In “Beauty and the Beat,” Hall dresses as a stereotypical character he refers to as a “hoodrat” woman. This is done in an effort to parody the culture of African-American neighbourhoods and, simultaneously, of white audiences’ tendency to stereotype and pigeonhole black people. These two performances are employed to produce two very different meanings. The first, it can be said, more directly attacks the gender binary itself, especially when viewed in the context of the rest of “Grown Woman,” a highly gender-conscious work. Hall clearly disidentifies with the naturalization of heteronormativity in popular culturewhere the division between man and woman is incredibly clear, and, through constant heterosexual couplings, is continually reinforced in the musical film. Disney musicals are particularly intent on establishing heteronormative, opposite-sex romance storylines. In almost all of these films, from Cinderella (1950) to The Little Mermaid (1989), the female protagonist must find her prince to achieve her happy ending. Hall aims to dissolve this divide by demonstrating that, through drag performance, through a parodying of gender, he can adopt a comic, brand of “femininity.” As Lloyd writes, “By disclosing that there is no original to imitate, drag denaturalizes, divulging the culturally fabricated nature of gender. It reveals gender as only ever parody.”13 This parody stems, of course, from the imitative, performative quality inherent to gender. By demonstrating that he is able to adequately “perform” femininity, Hall exposes the gender binary as artificial. His roles in “Beauty and the Beat” function differently, but just as effectively. Hall is shown at one point wearing a long weave and women’s clothing. He criticizes Belle’s appearance (she looks just like her cartoon counterpart), calling her a “bougie ho” while adopting “feminine” mannerisms. Later in the video, Hall dresses as “Lil’ Foo,” a character based from the original Disney production, Le Fou. As
this character, Hall is more “masculine,” dressed in typical men’s clothing. However, it becomes just as performative as his drag ensemble. He alters his voice and physical mannerisms, and disguises his true appearance through wigs and costumes, just as he had done with his female character. By juxtaposing these two roles in “Beauty and the Beat,” it is clear that, whether consciously or not, Hall fights against the gender binary, demonstrating that gender is more fluid than is generally acknowledged by popular culture. On his comment boards, many people write supportive comments, while others criticize Hall’s work or his identification as a homosexual man. YouTube provides a space for arguments and debates that did not so readily exist with traditional media, such as filmmaking. Hall’s use of older subject material, such as Disney films, a parodic approach, and digital media make his productions earnestly and particularly part of the present age. His works are a palimpsest; gesturing to new art forms as requiring a conversation with the old before they can possibly resonate in the present. The second musical convention with which Hall disidentifies is that of heterosexual couplings. Looking at some quintessential films of the genre, such as Singin’ in the Rain, Top Hat, and Summer Stock, the musical clearly employs heterosexual romance narratives as its primary plot device. Through his parodies, Hall complicates the normativity of heterosexual unions, exposing this convention as constructed and normalized through the mechanisms of Hollywood cinema. His main tactic in exposing this construction is the use of camp humour, which has traditionally been associated with the homosexual community.14 Chuck Kleinhans describes camp as, “an ironic and parodic appreciation of an extravagant form that is out of proportion to its content, especially when that content is banal or trivial.”15 In other words, camp is larger than life; it aims for emotional polarities and obviously constructed performances. It is not, in short, a form of realism. This style of humour is well-suited to parody as it, through exaggeration, exposes its subject matter’s ridiculous or, contrarily, its banal qualities. Hall’s use of drag performance, as previously discussed, is an example of his use of camp. “Camp,” Kleinhans writes, “originates in a gay male perception that gender is, if not quite arbitrary, certainly not biologically determined or natural, but rather that gender is socially constructed, artificial, and performed.”16 When Hall dresses as Tinkerbell, he is employing camp to expose gender as a performative act, or rather, multiple performances converging in a complex process of identity construction. Campiness does, unsurprisingly, have political implications. “It draws on and transforms mass culture,” Kleinhans describes. “In this it critiques the dominant culture, but in the dominant culture’s own terms…Camp always uses parody, but, more importantly, it embodies parody as a general mode of discourse.”17 Hall’s campy performances – in and out of drag – further this discourse of parody as a form of resistance. His most explicit instance of parodic resistance is his video, “CinderFella,” which he has said was his way of coming out as gay to his fans. The video alters the traditional story of Cinderella, ending in a same-sex couple made up of Hall (as Cinderella) and Lance Bass, the former N*SYNC member, as Prince Charming. In an interview, Hall explains, “I was like, I want to do something artistic. I love Disney, I love the story of Cinderella… and I was like, I want to do something that shows what I do but then directly pertains to this topic [of same-sex marriage].”18 Hall’s statement makes it clear that he does not dislike Disney films in any way.. However, he clearly still finds in Disney films the absence of non-dominant identities. Through disidentifying with Cinderella, Hall has created a parody that both celebrates the original material and encourages difference. Hall, dressed as Cinderella, attends the ball, which is attended by many fitting the dominant cultures stereotypes of gay men. One actor, dressed as Pinocchio, experiences a moment when his nose begins to grow upon seeing Tarzan, with obviously phallic implications. This moment is a further example of camp humour, of using exaggeration to render comedic a traditionally romantic moment. At the ball, Hall/Cinderella meets the prince. The two immediately fall in love and couple up, subverting traditional heterosexual couplings. Same-sex relationships are further celebrated when a group
of female attendees perform Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” replacing the problematic lyrics, “Hope my boyfriend don’t mind it,” with the lyrics to Disney’s hit song, “Kiss the Girl.” In doing so, Hall replaces male fetishization of female same-sex couples with a celebration of female autonomy and of fluid sexuality. This mashup of pop culture and explicit references to homosexuality and bisexuality results in a celebration of otherness that maintains, through camp humour, a lighthearted touch. As he does not resent Disney’s portrayal of solely heterosexual couples, Hall is able to approach his parody of Cinderella with both a critical, parodic eye, and a genuine love for the source material. Again, Hall’s use of the YouTube format is crucial here. The video ends with the message, “Legalize Love,” flashing across the screen. YouTube’s ability to reach millions of people at the touch of a button is highly important to Hall’s social commentary. The virality of his YouTube videos makes his social commentary, through parody, that much more effective. Of course, this platform, like all blogs and interactive social media websites, also provides capacity for backlash and hate-speech. These platforms, then, are a double-edged sword; they offer possibilities for fans to meet each other and perpetuate discourses surrounding social issues, but also offer a door through which many hateful individuals can enter. Ultimately, however, it is the digital community-building that Hall’s videos have provided that truly demonstrates the power of YouTube as a socially transformative platform. Finally, Hall’s parody videos take issue with the musical genre’s treatment of race on the silver screen. The jazz- and swing-influenced music featured in so many early musicals, including The Jazz Singer (1927), all stems from African-American gospel music, which in turn is rooted in a history of slavery and cultural trauma. The Jazz Singer stars Al Jolson as a vaudeville performer, and prides itself on its glitzy, fun song-and-dance numbers. One such number is “Mammy,” during which Jolson performs in heavy blackface. The entire number is not an appreciation of AfricanAmericanness, but a caricature of true black Americans and their cultures through the insidious tradition of minstrelsy. Popular on the American vaudeville circuit in particular, minstrelsy featured white performers in blackface. As Nowatzki writes, “[T] hese performances of blackness were actually performances of whiteness. Burnt cork [used as face paint] emphasized the whiteness of skin underneath and allowed white performers to distinguish themselves from the people they mimicked and mocked.”19 These white performers, through the appropriation of African-American culture (especially music), belittled these traditions through such performances—a tradition in itself that persists in various permutations today. Though the music many films use is often rooted in blackness and black culture, the actors are most commonly white, leading to a problematic constructions of black identity that are completely beyond the black community’s control. For instance, a slightly later feature, Swing Time (1936), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, features a blackface number called, “Bojangles of Harlem.” While Astaire proudly wears blackface, the only actual black actors shown throughout the film are people in a position of servitude. While the white actors are permitted complex identities and affective processes, blackness is reduced to a single performance by a white man. As such, control over black identity by African-Americans is completely negated. Todrick Hall’s videos take issue with the Hollywood musical’s attempts to simultaneously employ African-American musical traditions in their films while preventing black actors to assume roles as featured performers. Once again, through the medium of YouTube and digital video, Hall manages to expose Hollywood’s historical embrace of blackface and rejection of black faces. “Beauty and the Beat,” for instance, parodies the whiteness of Disney’s original film. The actress portraying Belle truly looks like her original cartoon counterpart. However, in this video, Belle naively wanders through the town, unaware of its far-from-fairytale-like appearance and atmosphere. The constant joke throughout the video is that Belle does not belong in this “hoodrat town”—she is too white, too Disneyfied, too unreal. As one
woman sings with disdain, “She thinks she’s in a fairytale.” Hall, through this video, emphasizes that people who do not identify with the whiteness of a Disney film, and find themselves misrepresented or under represented by these popular musical cartoons, cannot take an idealized fairy tale world at face value. Once again, an act of disidentification occurs, providing an atmosphere ripe for parody. Hall’s juxtaposition of fairytale naivety and a caricatured “ghetto” town, like his videos focusing on gender and sexuality, both celebrates the original work while pointing out its limited scope, its elision of an entire group of people from its narrative. Beauty and the Beast provides an excellent basis for this dialogue, using a familiar text to both expose and counter institutionalized racism. These separate discussions on race, sexuality, and gender do not in any way attempt to say that Hall’s videos cannot critique all three subjects at once. Rather than separate categories, these three form something of a Venn Triagram—intersecting elements of a single identity. This overlapping of categories occurs most prominently in Hall’s sendup of Hollywood’s Golden Age: “Twerkin’ in the Rain.” The video features Todrick himself as the star, re-enacting the famous titular number from Singin’ in the Rain. Hall wanders along a soundstage that looks remarkably like that used in the original film. However, the song’s lyrics have been changed from “singin’ in the rain” to “twerkin’.” When Hall reaches the chorus, he begins to twerk, synchronizing his gyrations to a heavy drumbeat. He is soon joined by a group of backup dancers, who are scantily clad men and women. Hall’s video once again parodies gender norms through his female backup dancers. Their dancing is over-the-top, parodying mainstream (re: white) culture’s appropriation and caricaturization of the “twerking” phenomenon along with Singin’ in the Rain. However, unlike in traditional music videos and musical films, these female dancers adopt a strong sense of agency, controlling their own sexuality and their own bodies in no uncertain terms. Firstly, Hall dances along with them, subverting the traditional male/viewer, female/viewed power hierarchy. While the women do dance sexually, they are soon joined by several men. Their dancing, though superficially sexual, is nearly desexualized by the excessiveness of their movements, by the campiness of the video’s lyrics and aesthetics. As a result, we get the sense that they’re dancing to contribute to an argument rather than to satisfy a masculine gaze. The use of sexuality in this video is more apparent than in many of Hall’s videos. In his dancing, Hall is joined by a male dancer dressed in a brightly-coloured boxer-briefs as one of his central dance partners, along with another man dressed in a bright red tracksuit. He joins them in dancing as readily as he joins his female backup dancers, expressing his own non-dominant sexuality and celebrating non-heteronormative desire through this parody. Finally, Hall simply
lampoons racial divides throughout American history, using the history of the musical film as the recurring example. About midway through “Twerkin’ in the Rain,” Hall begins to rap. One sequence of lyrics goes: “We even gave you Fred Astaire in this mothaf****/ We even gave you Ginger Rogers in this mothaf****/1927!” These lyrics are incredibly meaning-laden. By using we, Hall refers to a collective or community. Coupled with the recurring theme of twerking, widely known as having been appropriated by white culture, Hall’s gestures to the collective “we” of the African-American community. In “giving” the white community Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, along with many other iconic performers and musical styles, the black community is essentially responsible for much of white culture. Hall’s reference to 1927 also most likely refers to The Jazz Singer, as 1927 is widely known and remembered as the year of the first talking picture. By referring to The Jazz Singer, Hall, by extension, refers to white America’s history of blackface and its appropriation of jazz music. For Hall, American culture would not be the same without black influences, from jazz music to hip-hop dancing to rap. This is emphasized strongly and obliquely through the video’s final frame, which states: “Twerking 1993-2013.” Hall eulogizes twerking while pointing out that the phenomenon existed long before it was incorporated into and appropriated by mainstream culture and pop stars like Miley Cyrus. In his video, Hall absorbs past formats, such as Golden Age song-and-dance numbers and the much later phenomenon of twerking, and reinvents them, transforming them through disidentification and parody. In numbers like “Twerkin’ in the Rain,” Hall exposes the cultural codes underlying past iconic productions, like Singin’ in the Rain. By doing so, Hall creates a space for future change. Out of the dialectic of past and present comes the future, or rather, the potential for a future of inclusion. YouTube has become a democratized space for younger generations’ self-directed media—much of which is put forth by youth from marginalized communities seeking to reclaim their voices. Hall’s voice, in particular, is fresh and exciting, and speaks to a generation that is incredibly difficult to reach. These videos strongly prove that popular culture should not be considered “less than” or unworthy of close analysis, but should be held up as indicators of larger cultural movements, of potential social change. Though they are rooted in specific cultural references and built off of cultural texts, making them comprehensible in this respect to a certain audience familiar with the original works, their messages remain clear. Hall preaches acceptance and celebrates difference in a way that not only exposes the problems inherent in many cultural texts, but also points to possible and practical means of changing representations of nondominant groups throughout culture. Though they might seem like innocuous sketches, Todrick Hall’s videos provide a five minute education on community and togetherness for all who are willing to listen.
Vito Acconci’s Body: Performing Gender & the Feminist Perspective Mallory A. Ruymann
Tufts University (Medford, MA, USA)
Vito Acconci’s work from the early 1970s foregrounded the artist’s body as both subject and object. Second-wave feminism particularly influenced Acconci’s investigations into embodiment, and he produced several works in dialogue with the movement. Modifying his body to emulate female attributes, Acconci’s Openings (1970) and Conversions (1970, 1971) explores the potential of multiple gender identities inherent to the singular body. Influenced by his readings of Kurt Lewin and Erving Goffman, Acconci’s performances in Openings and Conversions engage his body in repetitive actions mimicking the biology ascribed to the female gender. Ultimately failing to prolong the sought after “sex-change,” Acconci nevertheless initiates a transformation that demonstrates the fluidity of gender and the constructedness of its categories.1 The gender performativity espoused by Acconci portends the writings of Judith Butler, who advocated for everyday practices that disrupt normative gender identities. Acconci’s negation of hegemonic definitions, however, carried implications for political coalitions formed around stable identities. As outlined by Juliette Mitchell, the second-wave feminist movement attended to the oppression of women stemming from well-defined gender classifications. Acconci’s discourse on the malleability of gender disregarded the immediate objectives of the feminist movement. This paper offers a counter-point in Martha Wilson’s Chauvinistic Piece, which proposed an alternative morphology of the sexed body. By imagining men in the role of motherhood and thereby disrupting traditional familial arrangements, Wilson visualizes the greater social implications of the interchange of labor roles between gender categories. The black-and-white film, Openings, made in December 1970, establishes Acconci’s contention that a singular body potentially carries the meanings of other bodies. In 1972, Acconci identified the primary activity of Openings as “pulling out the hairs around my navel (clearing a space, clearing the film frame, extending the opening of my navel, opening myself up).”2 Indeed, the lens centers on the navel at the beginning of the film. Soon after, a hand appears and begins to pull at the body hair around the navel. The shifting border between the areas of skin with and without hair soon dominates the visual field. Three-quarters through the fourteen-minute film, the remaining visible hair edges the camera frame; the bare circle of flesh around the navel noticeably expands and contracts with the breath of the body. The film ends when the skin framed by the camera appears free of hair. In the 1972 edition of the artist journal Avalanche, Acconci explains that the repetitive action of hair removal produces a new body: […] I’ve deprived my body of hair—my deprived body can be used as a new body—so the exhaustion is reversible—the exhausted performer can pass, without serious resistance, to another pattern—my drive against my body results in a drift into another form.3 In Acconci’s description, we see how Openings investigates the plasticity of the
body’s morphology. However superficial, the subtraction of elements from his person initiates a re-signification of the body’s meaning. Acconci thus directs and controls the meaning of the body through the medium of performance. Acconci’s argument for the dynamic properties of the body suggests a close reading of the work of psychologist Kurt Lewin. In Principles of Topological Psychology (1936), Lewin maps the relationship between a person, environment, and their behaviour within a topological formation termed the “life space.”4 Impenetrable or more permeable boundaries separate regions of the life space and—depending upon the fluidity of the environment—any event may initiate movement across boundaries between regions. Lewin describes an event as “[…] the result of the interaction of several facts.”5 Through the performance of Openings, Acconci enacts a Lewinian event in which the facts of that event include the body and repetitive action. Buttressing the function of performance as Lewinian event, Acconci explains that he regards the performed body in Openings as a Lewinian structure. Evoking terms related to Lewin’s explanation of the life space, Acconci wrote in Avalanche: “I can think of this as a kind of cleansing, opening up new ground: a way to get through to some hidden region…”6 In a 1971 interview with Cindy Nemser, Acconci explicitly identified the vagina as the “hidden region” he sought to accesses in Openings.7 Transposing Lewin’s “life space” onto his physical body, Acconci locates the vagina on his navel. In doing so, he signifies the adaptability of sex organs. Acconci’s investigations into gender potentialities reflect his engagement with the second-wave feminist movement. In a 2003 interview with Christophe Wavelet, Acconci summarized the deconstructive objectives of his work from the early 1970s: “…the point was that anything that allowed for authority figures had to be dismantled or destroyed.”8 Feminism allowed Acconci to insert a relevant social dimension into his work. In particular, the coalescent second-wave feminist movement forced Acconci to confront the destabilization of privileges accorded to his male social position: Still, I remember when I was reading those feminist texts thinking, “I’m a man. What can I do?” I felt unfairly attacked [laughter]. So I had to find a way out, a way to elaborate my own version of what had touched me, what had raised questions for me. I couldn’t just act victimized in other words. The point was to figure out what I was going to do next, meaning using those texts and the impact they’d had on me as a starting point.9 Feminist texts in hand, Acconci directed his attention towards confronting the surety of gender defining second-wave feminism’s identity-based political formation. In the interview with Nemser from 1971, Acconci confirmed his preoccupation with negating gender categories as such: “I’m using art as a means of changing myself, as a means of breaking out of a category. I am categorized as male. Now I’m trying to change that category, open up the possibility of being female.”10 Conversions (1970 and 1971) represents Acconci’s total attempt to occupy the body of a woman. Acconci first presented Conversions in the fall of 1970, and the fall 1972 edition of Avalanche records this initial performance.11 The first series chronicles what Acconci describes as: “Putting a match to my breasts; burning off the hair.”12 The photographs display a nude Acconci burning the hair around his nipples with a match
and then pulling at his chest. The second set of actions involves Acconci persisting in the “sex-change” by concealing his penis between his legs.13 Standing, crouching, and even running in place, Acconci engages in a series of everyday movements with his altered body. Despite making visible changes to his body, Acconci’s body nevertheless retains masculine traits: when Acconci stands with his back to the camera, his male genitalia are visible through his legs. Thus tailing to accomplish a genuine “sex change,” his performance notes impart a desire to (temporarily) inhabit the feminine. Echoing Lewin’s vision of the life space as a series of regions separated by boundaries, Acconci transcribes: “Pulling—performance as shifting a boundary (going from one region into another).”14 Acconci uses the physicality of performance to dissolve the Lewinian regions separating the masculine from the feminine at the site of the body. The film adaptation of Conversions produced between August and September of 1971 expands upon the 1970 performance. The film version consists of three sections. Part I (Light, Reflection, SelfControl) repeats the act of removing hair from the chest. The video begins in a dark space gradually illuminated by a candle. In a setting described by Acconci in his later writings as an “isolation chamber” or “withdrawal chamber,” Acconci moves the candle across his body and then uses the candle to burn the hair off his chest. Acconci then pulls at the skin of his chest “in a futile attempt to develop a women’s breast.”15 Although acknowledging the unattainability of breasts, Acconci nevertheless insists on the validity of the process—the “will to change”—as enacting a transformation in its own right.16 Part II (Insistence, Adaptation, Groundwork, Display) exhibits Acconci’s continued efforts towards transforming his body. Now standing, Acconci confines his penis between his legs, writing of his altered genitalia: “my body looks as if it has a vagina…”17 Acconci engages the converted body in a series of six exercises to familiarize the body with the condition of the vagina. Throughout the process of this adaptation, his penis occasionally slips out from between his legs. Acconci concedes that the performance of the vagina depends upon concealment of his penis, the success of the maneuver resting on his ability to “handle, control, personal information.”18 Like the 1970 iteration of Conversions, Acconci exposes male genitalia when he turns his back to the camera. Part III (Association, Assistance, Dependence) imposes further restrictions on the display of Acconci’s personal information/penis. A woman kneels behind Acconci and assists with concealing his penis by inserting it into her mouth. Acconci commences the exercises performed in Part II, although the awkwardness of Acconci’s position renders a full range of movement impossible. Despite Acconci’s protracted movements, the woman’s participation doubly functions to imply the performance’s public setting. The interaction thus becomes a form of social activity, which Acconci believes to aid in his attempts to become a woman.19 Acconci’s emphasis on social interaction as a conduit to “sex-change” refers to his readings of sociologist Erving Goffman. In the books Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life and Interaction Ritual, Goffman theorizes on the socially constructed nature of identity.20 Describing human interaction in theatrical terms, Goffman differentiates between the selves performed in public and private. As an entity subject to scrutiny by others, the public self becomes an important site for the formation of identity around behavior. Acceptable verbal and non-verbal activities—or “rules”—undergird behavior,
and adherence to such “rules” determines how others perceive one’s social status.21 Success in any social situation thus demands the presentation of a façade or “mask” derived from more broadly circulating codes of behavior.22 As Goffman writes: “Universal human nature is not a very human thing. By acquiring it, the person becomes a kind of construction, built up not from inner psychic propensities but from moral rules that are impressed upon him from without.”23 Art historian Kate Linker contends that the significance of Goffman for Acconci resides in awareness of human behaviour as a function of “semiotic performance in which challenges, acceptances, signs of gratitude and other overtures made to others organize the ceremonious occupation of social space.”24 Conversions characterizes one such “semiotic performance” that transgresses normative behaviour to confront the viewer with evidence of the conformism regulating social interaction. Acconci’s relationship with feminism in the early 1970s anticipates Goffman’s later writings on the movement. Although the early works of Goffman read by Acconci failed to expound upon the systems determining the social environment, by 1977 Goffman authored “The Arrangement Between the Sexes.”25 In this article Goffman explicitly identifies “sex class” as the defining factor of socialization and theorizes that gender identity deriving from sex class “comes to function as a characterization, symbol, and overall image of the class…”26 For Goffman, the women’s movement instigated a type of “institutional reflexivity” that increased the range of socially acceptable behaviour available to women.27 Acconci’s response to feminism portends Goffman’s later clarification of the movement’s aftereffects. From the 1971 interview with Nemser, Acconci isolates the purpose of his work at that moment: “I want to build up an idea of life—the idea that people can change from one role to another. People don’t have to be limited by roles, they don’t have to be rigidly enclosed in categories.”28 For Acconci, feminism opened up the possibility of engaging in behaviour categorized as male or female. Acconci thus transposed the newfound plasticity of “categories” and “roles” onto gender itself. Accordingly, Openings and Conversions upend deeply held beliefs about the intractability of gender and the body’s materiality. Acconci’s meditations on gender forecast the work of gender theorist Judith Butler. Active since the 1990s, Butler responds to Goffman by disagreeing with his views on the naturalness of the sex class category.29 Butler argues for the contrived nature of Goffman’s sex class as a “publicly regulated and sanctioned form of essence fabrication.”30 Butler further repudiates the seeming coherence of gender and sex class by outlining gender as a performance that merely represents a set of “constitutive acts” complying (or not) with “models of truth and falsity.”31 Acconci’s works, in particular Openings and Conversions, seemingly follow Butler’s maxim. In Gender Trouble, Butler writes: “The effect of gender is produced through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane ways in which bodily gestures, movements, and styles of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.”32 In both performances, Acconci engages in repetitive—even mundane—actions that fashion the body within the dominant practices of securely defined genders. However, Acconci’s biological interferences reveal the malleability of that body outside the male/female categories. Acconci’s practice aligns with Butler’s advocacy for gender performances that discontinue the ideals of the binary. Butler suggests that such gender performances “expose the phantasmatic effect of
Vito Acconci, Conversions II: Insistence, Adaptation, Groundwork, Display, 1971. Gelatin silver prints and chalk on board, 30 1/2 × 40 inches (77.5 × 101.6 cm), Collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director's Council and Executive Committee Members: Eli Broad, Elaine Terner Cooper, Ronnie Heyman, J. Tomilson Hill, Dakis Joannou, Barbara Lane, Robert Mnuchin, Peter Norton, Thomas Walther, and Ginny Williams, 1997. Photo Courtesy of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource, NY. © 2016 Vito Acconci / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
abiding identity as a politically tenuous construction.”33 Although Acconci performs gender for the camera, while Butler advocates for that performance to occur within the context of everyday life, Acconci nevertheless mimes the impossible-to-attain corporeality of homogenous gender categories. Although forward-looking, Acconci evaded second-wave feminism’s greater concern with the ideologies undergirding the mimetic practices of gender. Butler agrees with second-wave feminism’s excavation of political interests that conceive of gender as a mechanism of control.34 Butler otherwise remains critical of the concept of patriarchy and even the validity of the category of “woman.”35 Openings and Conversions denote Acconci’s immediate response to the feminist movement and predicate Butler’s conclusions around the insecurity of gender categories. Reading feminist texts contemporaneous to the production of Openings and Conversions, Acconci acknowledged the unequal distribution of power within the dominant gender binary. 36 Acconci simultaneously recognized that feminism targeted the privileges accorded by his masculinity. Stating that he “couldn’t just act victimized,” Openings and Conversions argue for the tenuousness of gender categories.37 In doing so, Acconci disrupts the coherence required to correct the very real consequences of gender inequality. The second-wave feminist movement actively sought correctives to social and economic inequality caused by gender. In Women’s Estate, Juliette Mitchell traces the origins of the 1960’s feminist social revolution to the Civil Rights movement, which compelled oppressed peoples to organize into distinct political alliances.38 Protesting groups borrowed strategies from Marxism to lie bare the inequities experienced by those on the margins. In tandem with the deconstructive movements of the first half of the twentieth-century, women reevaluated their (re)productive capacities. This manifested in rethinking the ways in which this affected their public and private lives. Mitchell summarizes the totalizing oppression of women that begins with biological function: “maternity, family, absence from production and public life, sexual inequality.”39 The paradigm of the family confining women to motherhood binds women to “maintenance work” of private property, which consists of children, the home, and its contents.40 Mitchell estimates that by 1971, women made up 42% of America’s labour force and represented the most underpaid group of workers.41 The categorization of women as ‘inferior’ in both the public and private spheres became the uniting concern of the second-wave feminist movement. The collective goals of the movement pointed to a prescription of total Cultural Revolution and involved advocacy for reproductive freedoms and economic equality. Martha Wilson’s 1971 Chauvinistic Pieces epitomizes artistic production allied with the project of second-wave feminism. Consisting of ten, one to two sentence
proposals, the structure of the piece derives from language-based strategies dominating contemporaneous conceptual art practice.42 Rather than contemplating aesthetic concerns or art-world institutional critiques, which preoccupied her fellow conceptual artists, Wilson describes Chauvinistic Pieces as “marvelling at the position of women in society.”43 The final proposal, entitled Chauvinistic Piece, imagines a man in the role of motherhood: “A man is injected with the hormone that produces symptoms of motherhood.”44 Similar to Acconci, Wilson accords sex attributes a certain degree of transferability; Chauvinistic Piece allows an implied female hormone to cause the male to acquire a supposedly feminine characteristic. A male assuming the role of the mother upends the traditional division of labor limiting women to the sphere of the home and impeding her participation in the workforce. As explained by Juliette Mitchell in Women’s Estate, second-wave feminism addressed the oppression of women stemming from motherhood.45 Thus, Chauvinistic Piece envisions a reconsideration of women’s labor capacities. In the role of provider, Chauvinistic Piece accords women the economic independence advocated for by the feminist movement. Against the backdrop of 1960s social upheaval, feminism advocated for socio-economic equality in both the domestic and public spheres. Artistic production often carried socially pragmatic agendas that reinforced the greater goals of second-wave feminism. Although excavating the negotiability of gender characteristics in a manner similar to Acconci, Martha Wilson’s Chauvinistic Piece aligns with second-wave feminism by proposing a solution for broadening women’s labour capacities. In Openings and Conversions, Acconci disrupts the stability of gender categories necessary to address the everyday oppression enacted on women’s bodies. Acconci, focused on probing the limitations imposed on the body’s materiality, diffuses the impact of gender categorization in scenarios that reassert his otherwise diminishing social use value.
Endnotes Détruire le patriarcat à coup de perruque, d’irrévérence, de psychédélisme et de godemiché. 1. Dot Tuer, « Gesture in the Looking Glass Performance Art and the Body (1987), » dans Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. Mars, T. et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2004), 64. 2. Tanya Mars, « Pure Virtue: A Cabaret Performance in 4 Acts, » n.paradoxa, no.5 (2000): 16. 3. Paul Couillard, « Pure Form: Scanning the Surface(s) of Mars, » dans Ironic to Iconic: The Performance Works of Tanya Mars, ed. Paul Couillard (Toronto : Fado, 2008), 35. 4. Andrew James Paterson, « Spectacular Intimacies » (92-109), dans Ironic to Iconic: The Performance Works of Tanya Mars, ed. Paul Couillard (Toronto : Fado, 2008), 100. 5. Dot Tuer, « The Women Men Love to Hate or Anatomy Is Not Quite Destiny in Pure Hell », dans Tanya Mars Pure Hell: An Exhibition of Performance, Dot Tuer (Toronto : Power Plant, 1990), 31. 6. Ibid., 14. 7. Theresa de Lauretis, « Technology of Gender », dans Technologies of Gender. Essays on Theory, Film and Fiction, ed. Theresa de Laurentis (Bloomington et Indianapolis : Indiana University Press, 1987), 3. 8. Dot Tuer, « The Women Men Love to Hate or Anatomy Is Not Quite Destiny in Pure Hell », dans Tanya Mars Pure Hell: An Exhibition of Performance, Dot Tuer (Toronto : Power Plant, 1990), 9. Citation reprise par Tuer de John Knox en Roger Pringle, «The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, » dans A Portrait of Elizabeth: In the Words of the Queen and her Contemporaries (New Jersey : Barnes & Noble Books, 1980), 19. 9. Ibid. Citation que Tuer fait de Tanya Mars en Reine Élisabeth I, tirée de la performance Pure Virtue, 1984. 10. Kim Sawchuk, « Tanya Mars. Enthusiasm, Unbridled, » Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. T. Mars et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2005), 325. 11. Ibid., 334. 12. Paul Couillard (« Pure Form: Scanning the Surface(s) of Mars, » dans Ironic to Iconic: The Performance Works of Tanya Mars, ed. Paul Couillard (Toronto : Fado, 2008), 43. 13. Dot Tuer, « The Women Men Love to Hate or Anatomy Is Not Quite Destiny in Pure Hell », dans Tanya Mars Pure Hell: An Exhibition of Performance, Dot Tuer (Toronto : Power Plant, 1990), 10. Citation reprise par Tuer de J. Derrida, Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, (Chicago : Presses de l’Université de Chicago, 1978), 63. 14. Ibid. Citation que Tuer fait de Tanya Mars en Mae West, tirée de la performance Pure Sin, 1986. 15. Ibid., 22. 16. Andrew James Paterson, « Spectacular Intimacies » (92-109), dans Ironic to Iconic: The Performance Works of Tanya Mars, ed. Paul Couillard (Toronto : Fado, 2008), 101. 17. Dot Tuer, « The Women Men Love to Hate or Anatomy Is Not Quite Destiny in Pure Hell », dans Tanya Mars Pure Hell: An Exhibition of Performance, Dot Tuer (Toronto : Power Plant, 1990), 22. 18. Kim Sawchuk, « Tanya Mars. Enthusiasm, Unbridled » Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. Mars, T. et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2004), 328. 19. Dot Tuer, « The Women Men Love to Hate or Anatomy Is Not Quite Destiny in Pure Hell », dans Tanya Mars Pure Hell: An Exhibition of Performance, Dot Tuer (Toronto : Power Plant, 1990), 12. Citation reprise par Tuer de Sigmund Freud, « The Dissolution of the Œdipus Complex », dans S. Freud, On Sexuality: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Other Works, (Londres : Penguin Books, 1977), 320. 20. Elke Town, « The Three Sisters of Tanya Mars », dans The
94 Hysterical Male: New Feminist Theory, eds. A. Kroker et M. Kroker (CTheory Books : The Digital Publisher, 2011), 10. 21. Kim Sawchuk, « Tanya Mars. Enthusiasm, Unbridled » an Women, eds. Mars, T. et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2004), 325-326. 22. Elke Town, « The Three Sisters of Tanya Mars », dans The Hysterical Male: New Feminist Theory, eds. A. Kroker et M. Kroker (CTheory Books : The Digital Publisher, 2011), 4. 23. En effet, Doane comprend la position de la spectatrice au regard de son objectification à l’écran. Narcissisme, car le regard féminin demande un devenir, donc l’envie de devenir l’objet du désir; et masochisme, car une femme spectatrice qui voudrait s’identifier à la femme qu’elle regarde n’aurait d’autres choix que d’accepter sa propre passivité face aux regards. Pour une réflexion plus en profondeur, lire Mary Ann Doane, « Film and the Masquerade. Theorizing the Female Spectator » dans A. Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, 2nd ed., ed. A. Jones (New York : Routledge, 2010), 73-84. 24. Mary Ann Doane, « Film and the Masquerade. Theorizing the Female Spectator » dans A. Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, 2nd ed., ed. A. Jones (New York : Routledge, 2010). 76. 25. Ibid., 79. 26. Sue-Elle Case, « Toward a Butch-Femme Aesthetic », Discourse 11, no.1 (1988): p. 301. 27. Ibid. 28. Jayne Wark, « Dressed to Thrill. Costume, Body, and Dress in Canadian Performative Art » dans Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. Mars, T. et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2004), 87. 29. Tanya Mars, « Not Just For Laugh: Women, Performance and Humour » dans Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. Mars, T. et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2004), 23. 30. Jayne Wark, Radical Gestures: Feminism and Performance Art in North America (Montréal : McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006), 76. 31. Paul Couillard, « Pure Form: Scanning the Surface(s) of Mars, » dans Ironic to Iconic: The Performance Works of Tanya Mars, ed. Paul Couillard (Toronto : Fado, 2008), 46. 32. Jayne Wark, « Dressed to Thrill. Costume, Body, and Dress in Canadian Performative Art » dans Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. Mars, T. et J. Householder (Toronto : YYZ Books, 2004), 100.
Décoloniser le territoire: Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven et l’espace queer 1. Paul Hjartarson et Tracy Kulba (dir.), The Politics of Cultural Mediation: Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Felix Paul Greve (Edmonton : University of Alberta Press, 2003), 6. 2. Anne Tomiche, La Naissance des Avant-gardes Occidentales 19091922 (Paris: Armand Colin, 2015), 34. 3. Richard Martel (dir.), Arts d’Attitudes (Québec : Inter éditions, 2002), 6. L’auteur parle ici du conditionnement de la forme l’œuvre d’art par l’institution artistique de manière générale. Martel fait ici référence aux travaux de Giordano Bruno (OEuvres Complètes VI, 1994) en évoquant le pouvoir réparateur et actif de l’artiste face au maintient d’un art multidisciplinaire en dehors de toute institutionnalisation. 4. Michel Foucault, « Une esthétique de l’existence », dans Dits et Écrits, (Paris : Gallimard, 1994 [1984a]), 730-735. 5. Michel Foucault, (1994 [1984a]), « À propos de la généalogie de l’éthique : un aperçu du travail en cours », dans Dits et Écrits, (Paris : Gallimard, 1994 [1984a]), 610. 6. Ibid., 615. 7. « […] le sujet se constitue à travers des pratiques d’assujettissement, ou, d’une façon autonome, à travers des pratiques de libération, de liberté, comme dans l’Antiquité, à partir, bien entendu, d’un certain nombre de règles, styles,
Endnotes conventions, qu’on retrouve dans le milieu culturel […] ». Voir Michel Foucault « Une esthétique de l’existence », dans Dits et Écrits, (Paris : Gallimard, 1994 [1984a]), 733. 8. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 259. 9. Halperin, David M., Saint Foucault : Towards a Queer Hagiography (New York, Londres : Oxford University Press, 1990), 17. 10. Ibid., 60. 11. Ibid., 62. 12. Selon Halperin, l’identité queer n’est pas de nature positive, mais elle relève davantage d’un positionnement. De plus, elle n’est pas un état, mais une résistance à la norme. Ibid., 66. 13. Les auteurs se réfèrent aux propos de l’auteur Rob Cover : “The performativity of lesbian/gay subjectivity is by no means necessarily determinant of all or any lesbian/gay articulations. While the stereotype is a discursive element cited in performativity, it does not foreclose on performances that are outside of the body-movement/desire dynamic – otherwise no such stereotype would be identifiable tobe dismissed”. Voir Rob Cove, “Bodies, Movements and Desires: Lesbian/Gay Subjectivity and Stereotype”, dans Continuum 18, no. 1 (2004): 5, cité dans Adam Geczy et Vicki Karaminas, “Introduction”, Queer Style (Londres/NewYork: Bloomsbury, 2013), 3. 14. Ibid., 4. 15. Susan Keller, “Compact Resistance: Public Powdering and Flânerie in the Modern City”, dans Women’s Studies 40, no. 3 (Mars 2011): 328. 16. Ibid., 329. 17. Linda Lappin, “Dada Queen in the Bad Boy’s Club. Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven”, dans Southwest Review 83 no. 2-3 (2004): 316. 18. Patricia Calafato (1997), “Fashion and Worldliness: Language and the Imagery of the Clothed Body”, Fashion Theory 1 no.1 (1997): 72, cité dans Adam Geczy et Vicki Karaminas, “Introduction”, Queer Style (Londres/NewYork: Bloomsbury, 2013), 3. 19. Ibid.
Art performance et culture du spectacle: « Pastiche » de l’œuvre de Marina Abramović par Shawn C. Carter 1. Marina Abramovic, [Sans titre], 2015, http://www. marinaabramovic.com/solo.html. 2. Zack O’Malley Greenburg, Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office (États-Unis: Penguin Group USA, 2012). 3. Gérard Genette, Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré (Paris : Seuil, 1982), 11. 4. Ibid., 10-11. 5. Ibid., 37. 6. Fredric Jameson, « La logique culturelle du capitalisme tardif » dans Le postmodernisme ou la logique culturelle du capitalisme tardif (Paris : ENSBA, 2011), 57. 7. Ibid, 58. 8. Propos provenant de l’ouvrage de Nicolas Bourriaud, Esthétique relationnelle, (Dijon : les presses du réel, 1998). 9. Shawn C. Carter (2013), Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film, Réal. Mark Romanek, (New York: HBO, 2013), vidéo couleur numérique et sonore. 10. Indra K. Lacis, “Fame, Celebrity and Performance : Marina Abramovic – Contemporary Art Star,” (thèse de doctorat, Case Western Reserve University, 2014), 245. 11. Ibid., 230. 12. Johnny Adams, “Marina Abramovic : ‘I’ve always been a solder,’” The Talks, 13 June, 2012, http://the-talks.com/interviews/ marina-abramovic/. 13. IIndra K. Lacis, “Fame, Celebrity and Performance : Marina Abramovic – Contemporary Art Star,” (thèse de doctorat, Case Western Reserve University, 2014), 230. 14. Lanre Bakare, (2015), “Marina Abramović Institute apologises to Jay Z,” The Guardian, 20 May 2015, http://www.theguardian. com/artanddesign/2015/may/20/jay-z-substantial-donation-
95 maria-abramovic. 15. Jerry Saltz,“‘Picasso-Baby’ Live: Jerry Saltz Goes Face-to-Face with Jay-Z,” The Vulture, 11 July 2013, http://www.vulture. com/2013/07/jerry-saltz-face-to-face-with-jay-z.html. 16. Bettina Funcke, Pop or Populus : Art between High and Low, traduction de Warren Niesluchowski with Bettina Funcke ( Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2009), 77. 17. Raymonde Moulin, L’artiste, l’institution et le marché, (Paris, Flammarion, 1992), 76. 18. Andrea Fraser, “L’1%, C’EST MOI,” the 2012 Whitney Biennial, 2012, http://whitney.org/file_columns/0002/9848/ andreafraser_1_2012whitneybiennial.pdf, 2. 19. Ibid. 20. Marcel Fournier et Myrtille Roy-Valex, « Art contemporain et internationalisation : les galeries québécoises et les foires », Sociologie et sociétés 34, no. 2 (2002): 43. 21. Alain Quemin, Les stars de l’art contemporain. Notoriété et consécration artistiques dans les arts visuels (Paris : CNRS Éditions, 2013), 7. 22. Ibid, 20. 23. Raymonde Moulin L’artiste, l’institution et le marché, (Paris, Flammarion, 1992), 74.
“As long as the music is loud enough, we won’t hear the world falling apart”: Dystopia as Metaphor in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) 1. This line spoken by the character of Borgia Ginz reflects on the role that music and popular culture played in the lives of British youth in dystopian London. Jubilee, directed by Derek Jarman (1979; New York: Criterion Collection, 2003), DVD. 2. Eric S. Rabkin, “Atavism and Utopia,” in No Place Else: Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction, ed. Rabkin, Marin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983), 1. 3. Chad Walsh, From Utopia to Nightmare (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972), 24. 4. Michael D. Gordin, Helen Tilley, and Gyan Prakash, “Introduction: Utopia and Dystopia Beyond Space and Time,” in Utopia/Dystopia: Conditions of Historical Possibility, ed. Gordin, Tilley, and Prakash (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010),1. 5. Walsh, From Utopia to Nightmare, 27. 6. M. Keith Booker, “On Dystopia,” in Critical Insights: Dystopia, ed. Booker (Ipswich, MA: Salem Press, 2013), 4. 7. bid., 2. 8. Erica Gottlieb, Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011), 17. 9. Ibid 10. Ibid., 18-21. 11. Ibid., 9. 12. Jarman’s own production notes reinforce this link between fantasy and documentary. As he states, “Jubilee is a fantasy documentary. The film is fabricated so that documentary and fictional form are confused. Art and life become synonymous.” Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall, Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 79. 13. Jarman describes the circumstances of the production of Jubilee as being heavily linked to a lack of financial support. The crew would create sets out of materials they found in the garbage and used locations near Jarman’s studio. See: Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge, ed. Shaun Allen (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1993), 59-62. 14. Evgeny Tsymbal, “Sculpting the Stalker: Towards a New Language of Cinema,” in Tarkovsky, ed. Nathan Dunne (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2008), 340. 15. William Pencak, The Films of Derek Jarman (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2002), 14. 16. Ibid., 132. 17. Jon Savage, “Derek Jarman as Filmmaker,” in Derek Jarman’s
Sketchbooks, ed. Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 21-22. 18. Ibid., 21. 19. Robert Bird, Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), 68. 20. Tsymbal, “Sculpting the Stalker,” 342-346. 21. Savage,”Derek Jarman as Filmmaker,” 22. 22. As the director noted, it was his intent to create this tension: “[The film’s] amazons make men uncomfortable, ridicule their male pursuits. Men are its victims.” Jarman, Dancing Ledge, 170. 23. Aldo Tassone, “Interview with Andrei Tarkovsky (on Stalker)” in Andrei Tarkovsky Interviews, ed. John Gianvito (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 59. 24. Tsymbal, “Sculpting the Stalker,” 350. 25. Tassone, “Interview with Andrei Tarkovsky (on Stalker),” 56. 26. Ibid., 58. 27. Ibid., 61-62. 28. Bird, Andrei Tarkovsky, 162-163 29. Pencak, The Films of Derek Jarman, 12. 30. Ibid., 135. 31. Michael Charlesworth, Derek Jarman (London: Reaktion Books, 2011), 67-68. 32. Willcox, “Commentary,” in Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks, ed. Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 75. 33. Jarman, Dancing Ledge, 179. 34. Tassone, “Interview with Andrei Tarkovsky,” 57-58. 35. Bird, Andrei Tarkovsky, 13. 36. Jarman, quoted in Vladimir Golstein, “The Energy of Anxiety,” in Tarkovsky, ed. Nathan Dunne (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2008), 180. 37. Ibid., 178. 38. Ibid., 179. 39. Ibid., 180.
Meme as Critique: On the Recent Practice of Metahaven 1. The art critic Rachel Greene describes net.art as standing for ‘communication and graphics, email, texts and images, referring to and merging into one another; it was artists, enthusiasts and technoculture critics trading ideas, sustaining each another’s interest through ongoing dialogue. Net.Art meant online detournements, discourse instead of singular texts or images, defined more by links, emails, and exchanges than by any “optical” aesthetic. (“Web Work: A History of Internet Art,” Artforum 38, no. 9 (May 2000): 162). Broadly speaking, we can use the term to describe a particular kind of nineties, technologically informed art, indissociable from the advent of home internet use. 2. Morgan Quaintance, “Right Shift,” Art Monthly no. 387 (June 2015), accessed March 27 2016, http://www.artmonthly.co.uk/ magazine/site/article/right-shift-by-morgan-quaintancejune-2015. 3. I will use the term ‘internet’ henceforth, but with the important caveat that what we call “the internet” is in fact the worldwide-web - itself only one small component supported by the Internet. 4. Metahaven, “Captives of the Cloud: Part I” E-flux journal no. 37 (September 2012), accessed 27 March 2016, http://www.e-flux. com/journal/captives-of-the-cloud-part-i/. 5. Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964). 6. Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark, eds, At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet (Cambridge, Mass & London: MIT Press, 2005), 10. 7. Andrew Keen, The Internet is not the Answer (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015). 8. Joanne McNeil and Astra Taylor (2014) “The Dads of Tech,” The Baffler no. 26 (2014), accessed 30 March 2016, http://thebaffler. com/salvos/dads-tech . 9. I first encountered their work at the 2014 edition of the Irish
96 biennale EV+A, in Limerick, where their installation Black Transparency (2013-14) was a highlight. 10. Located 12km off the Suffolk coast of England, the Principality of Sealand is a decommissioned gun battery HM Fort Roughs. Occupied by the family of Paddy Roy Bates, who claimed its independent status in 1967 with the view of setting up his own pirate radio station, it was couched as a data-haven in 2000, with the establishment of HavenCo. However, this venture was to come to an abrupt end in 2008. Perhaps most famously, illegal downloading website The Pirate Bay looked to purchase the principality in 2007, even promising citizenship for donors that helped them to buy it. The idea of Sealand is inextricably linked to techno-utopianism, and with a material basis for John. P. Barlow’s call for ‘a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace’ (1996). See also: Metahaven “Captives of the Cloud: Part II” E-flux journal no. 38 (October 2012), accessed 23 March 2016, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/captives-ofthe-cloud-part-ii/ . 11. Giampaolo Bianconi, “An Interview with Metahaven,” Rhizome, 2 Feb 2013, accessed 27 March 2016, http://rhizome.org/ editorial/2013/feb/20/metahaven-interview/ . 12. Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Winchester, UK & Washington, USA: Zero Books, 2009). 13. Metahaven, Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design and Politics, (Moscow: Strelka Press, 2013), 25. 14. David Garcia and Geert Lovink, “The ABC of Tactical Media,” 16 May 1997, accessed 27 March 2016, http://www.nettime.org/ Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9705/msg00096.html . 15. Metahaven, Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design and Politics, 25. 16. Ibid., 7. 17. Ibid. 18. As Dawkins says: ‘Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catchphrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation...memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell’ (The Selfish Gene ( Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 192). 19. Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 17. 20. Metahaven, Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design and Politics, 30-31. 21. Here I use the word performative to denote something that produces; or what Derrida referred to as something that “does not describe something that exists outside of language and prior to it. It produces or transforms a situation, it effects” (Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1988), 13). 22. Metahaven, “Captives of the Cloud: Part I”. 23. Metahaven, Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design and Politics, 68. 24. Hal Foster, Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency (New York & London: Verso, 2015). 25. Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark, eds, At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet, 10.
Performing Satire: (Re) Appropriating American Icons in Adel Abidin’s Jihad 1. For this article, the Second Gulf War refers to the Iraq War(s) of the 2000-2010s. 2. Adel Abidin, Jihad, 2006, accessed 24 February, 2016. http://www. adelabidin.com/selected-works/jihad. 3. There are numerous versions of the song, beginning in 1940. Over the years, portions of the lyrics have changed, omitting
Endnotes components of the original. 4. Raymond Pun, “Digital Images and Visions of Jihad: Virtual Orientalism and the Distorted Lens of Technology,” CyberOrient 7, no 1(2013): 203, accessed 5 April 2014, www. cyberorient.net/article.do?articleId=8391. 4. William Pym, “A Protest Song: Adel Abidin,” ArtAsiaPacific 73 (May/June 2011): accessed 10 April 2014, http://artasiapacific. com/Magazine/73/AProtestSong. 6. Marc Redfield, The Rhetoric of Terror: Reflections on 9/11 and the War on Terror (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009), 33. 7. Marc Redfield, “Virtual Trauma: The Idiom of 9/11,” Diacritics 37, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 66. 8. Ibid., 67. 9. Ibid., 68. 10. Ibid., 69. 11. Allan Meek, Trauma and Media: Theories, Histories, and Images (New York: Routledge, 2010), 187. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid., 189 15. Adel Abidin, interview by Erin Joyce, “The Beauty of Conflict: Adel Abidin,” UltraUltra, last modified December 7, 2012, http://www.ultraextra.org/interviews/2012/12/7/the-beauty-ofconflicts-adel-abidin. 16. Ibid. 17. Borgna Brunner, “Iraq Timeline: 2006,” Infoplease, last modified 2014, http://www.infoplease.com/ spot/iraqtimeline5.html. 18. Pun, “Digital Images,” 4. 19. Ibid., 3-4. 20. Prior to 9/11, images of the Arab/Arab-Muslim male consisted of similar, stereotypes perpetuated by the Western media during the First Gulf War. 21. Adel Abidin, “Jihad, 2006,” http://www.adelabidin.com/selectedworks/jihad. 22. Mark Allan Jackson, “Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie” (dissertation, Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, 2002), 15. 23. Jackson, “Prophet Singer,”15. 24. Ibid., 33-34. 25. Pete Seeger, “Portrait of a Song as a Bird in Flight,” Village Voice (New York, NY), Jul. 1, 1971, quoted in Mark Allan Jackson, “Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie” (dissertation, Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, 2002), 34. 26. Stephen Morton, “Terrorism, Orientalism and Imperialism,” Wasafiri 22, no. 2 (June 2007): 2, accessed April 2 2104, http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/02690050701336774. 27. The performance may be viewed via Adel Abidin’s webpage, www.adelabidin.com or via public share sites like youtube.com, dailymotion.com, or vimeo.com. 28. Redfield, “Virtual Trauma,” 69. 29. Pun, “Digital Images,” 1-2. 30. Ibid. 31. Ibid. 32. Ibid. 33. Ibid., 3. Note: webpages like www.Jihadwatch.com and the Terrorism Awareness Project have promoted anti-Muslim, anti-Arab rhetoric in the post-9/11 era through cultural stereotyping and the demonizing of non-Christian persons. 34. Ibid.
Who Are You: A Study of the Queer Author and Queering Authorship in the Work of Wynne Neilly 1. Section titles in this paper reference Lewis Carroll’s children’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. These books, having been interpreted as queer narratives by writers such as Nat Hurley, formulate a playful and detailed account of the questioning of identity much like those present in Neilly’s work. and mirror the manipulation and appropriation of authorship which occurs in queer
97 authorship. 2. Michel Foucault, “What Is an Author?” in Language, CounterMemory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault, ed. Donald F. Bouchard (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1980), 137. 3. David M. Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 62. 4. Jonathan Weinberg, “Things Are Queer,” Art Journal 55, no. 4 (1996):12. 5. ‘Queer’ as a theoretical approach was coined by Teresa de Laurentis in 1991 as a means of uniting the gay and lesbian community. At the time, the community was divided as many did not feel that they could identify with ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian.’ Queer was envisioned as a means by which anyone who existed on the spectrum of sexual practices that went against the heteronormative behavior could belong to a community. De Laurentis theory was quickly picked up by other theoreticians such as Judith Butler, Michael Warner, and David M. Halperin. In addition, the theories of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in relation to the closet, shame, and differentiation became key to understanding the formation of queer identity. Teresa de Lauretis, “Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities: An Introduction,” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 3, no. 2 (1991): iii-vii. 6. Dallas J Backer and Jay Daniel Thompson, “Introduction: Queer Writing – Setting the Scene,” Text 31 (October 2015): 6. 7. Foucault, “What Is an Author?” 124. 8. Vince Alletti, “Queer Photography?” Aperture 218 (2015): 27. 9. Halperin, Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, 62. 10. Richard Meyer, “Queer Photography?” Aperture 218 (2015): 28. 11. Foucault, “What Is an Author?” 124. 12. Catherine Opie, “Queer Photography?” Aperture 218 (2015): 30. 13. Wynne Neilly, cited in: James Michael Nichols, “‘Wynne Neilly: Female to ‘Male,’ Self-Portrait Project, Documents Artist’s Transition,” The Huffington Post, 19 July 2014, accessed 13 December 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/19/ wynne-neilly-female-to-ma_n_5596724.html. 14. Foucault, “What Is an Author?” 123. 15. Wynne Neilly, “Portfolio: Erika Neilly,” Function Magazine 13 (2013): 58. 16. Wynne Neilly, “Of Center,” accessed 13 December 2015, http:// www.wynneneilly.com/ofcenter. 17. While the artist is in the series, this is not stressed in the first statement where it is in the second. At the time, ‘Wynne’ was not the name being used by Neilly therefore, despite the publication of this photograph he would have still remained in the closet. Between his name change as well as the shifts in the artist statement, Neilly could be seen partaking in the comingout process. 18. Michael Camille, ‘Editor’s Introduction,’ Art History 24, no. 2 (2001): 163. 19. Foucault, “What Is an Author?” 118-119. 20. The ‘genius’ was traditionally conceived as relating only to white, hetero-male authors. This is made most evident in the means by which people of colour, women, and queers must ‘break’ the canon in order to be placed within it. Christine Battersby, Gender and Genius: Towards A Femininist Aesthetics, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). 21. “Female to ‘Male,’” Wynne Neilly, accessed 13 December 2015, http://www.wynneneilly.com/femaletomale. 22. Neilly, “Portfolio: Erika Neilly,” 58. 23. Wynne Neilly, interview with the author, Nov. 2015. 24. Examples of Neilly displaying his work in selective elements can be seen most clearly in the publications of Flash Forward (2013), Function Magazine, and Flash Forward (2015); and in exhibitions such as Photorama, TPW, Toronto (2015). 25. Wynne Neilly, “Wynne Neilly,” Original Plumbing: Trans Male Quarterly Magazine 15 (2015): 46. 26. Ibid., 46. 27. Neilly, interview with the author. 28. Judith Butler, “Critically Queer,” GLQ 1 (1993): 22. 29. Sophie Hackett, “Queer Looking,” Aperture 218 (2015): 42. 30. For a deeper explanation of camp see Fabio Clento, Camp: Queer
Endnotes Aesthetics and Performing Subject (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999). 31. Christopher Reed and Christopher Castiglia, “‘Ah Yes, I Remember It Well:’ Memory and Queer Culture in Will and Grace,” Culture Critique 56 (2004): 158. 32. Richard Dyer, “Dressing the Part,” in The Culture of Queers, ed. Dyer (New York: Routledge, 2002): 68. 33. Reed and Castiglia, “‘Ah Yes, I Remember It Well:’”181-182. 34. An example of the means by which community memory is formed and offered through art can be seen in Hal Fischer’s 1977 photographic project Gay Semiotics in which he gathered a visual representation of “Gay Semiotics.” In these photographs, he documented gay men’s dress and then using white ink, explained the means by which these items were used as signifiers of sexual orientation for those in the know. 35. Weinberg, “Things Are Queer,” 11. 36. Abigail Solomon-Godeau,“Who Is Speaking Thus? Some Questions About Documentary Photography,” in The Events Horizon: Essays on Hope, Sexuality, Social Space & Media(tion) in Art, ed. Lorne Falk and Barbara Fischer (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1987): 193-214. 37. de Lauretis, “Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities: An Introduction,” iii.
Vilifying the Second Empire through Allegorical Satires: Honoré Daumier and the Politics of Imperial France 1. This paper stems, in large part, from archival research completed while writing my M.A. thesis at Queen’s University (Ontario, Canada) in 2012. Several days were spent consulting a number of original copies of Le Charivari housed at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. 2. The Iconologia was first published without illustrations in Italy in 1593. An updated version with images was published in 1603. 3. For a more detailed analysis of the use of Ripa’s Iconologia in the contest, see Marie-Claude Chaudonneret, La figure de la République: le concours de 1848 (Paris: Ministère de la culture et de la communication, 1987), 35-58. 4. The provocative nature of Daumier’s allegories, by mixing universalizing symbolism with contemporary visual idiom, is addressed by Elizabeth C. Childs. See Elizabeth C. Childs, “Women in the Modern Allegory” in Femmes d’esprit: Women in Daumier’s Caricature, eds. Kirsten Powell and E. C. Childs (Middlebury: Middlebury College, 1990), 127-128. 5. For a thorough overview of censorship laws in France during the Second Empire and the nineteenth century as a whole, see Robert J. Goldstein, Censorship of Political Caricature in Nineteenth-Century France (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1989). 6. Judith Wechsler demonstrates how Napoléon III had turned France into a military power, entering into wars with several European countries. Daumier subverted censorship by commenting on France’s military engagement through allegories. Judith Wechsler, “Daumier and Censorship, 18661872,” Yale French Studies 122 (2012): 56-60. 7. To learn more on European affairs during this time period, refer to W. E. Mosse, The European Powers and The German Question 1848-1871, (Cambridge, 1958). 8. Shields are more commonly associated with allegories of War and Suspicion as noted by Cesare Ripa. See, Cesare Ripa, Iconologia; or Moral Emblems, translated by P. Tempest, (London: B. Motte, 1709). 9. Patricia Mainardi offers insightful information about the structure of the 1867 Universal Exposition in her Art and Politics of the Second Empire: The Universal Expositions of 1855 and 1867 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). 10. “C’est là que le roi de Prusse ira fumer sa pipe et coller au billard son frère d’Autriche. Qui sait, c’est peut-être dans ce sanctuaire, entre deux verres d’absinthe, que l’interminable question d’Orient sera rayée de l’affiche définitevement.” Louis Leroy, “À L’Exposition,” Le Charivari, February 27, 1867. 11. As an extension of the festivities accompanying the Universal
98 Exposition, Empress Eugénie accompanied the Prince of Prussia and the King and Queen of Belgium to the Musée chinois at Fontainebleau in May 1867. Large collections of Chinese artifacts were held in the Musée chinois, yet they underlined above all, France’s military prowess and reinforced its imperial status. For more on the Musée chinois as a stage for diplomatic relations, see Alison McQueen, Empress Eugénie and the Arts: Politics and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 228-235. 12. “Chronique du Jour,” Le Charivari, April 26, 1867. 13. Pierre Véron, “Bulletin Politique,” Le Charivari, March 28, 1867. 14. Hippolyte Philibert, “Les Muscades Politique,” Le Charivari, April 6, 1867. 15. See, for instance, Daumier’s Comme quoi la contrainte par corps n’est pas abolie partout (1867), Premier prix de croissance – la Prusse (1867), and Embrassons nous (1867). 16. Véron, “Bulletin Politique.” 17. Alfred Assollant, “Ma Tribune – Le Luxembourg,” Le Charivari, April 7, 1867. 18. For Ripa’s image and description of a Haughty Beggar, refer to Ripa, Iconologia; or Moral Emblems, 3. 19. Véron, “Bulletin Politique.” The ‘il’ in this passage refers to Adolphe Thiers, a politician who became the first president of the Third Republic. 20. Ibid. 21. “Équilibre Européen” is a concept Daumier also used in Renouvelé des Japonais (1867) and Pauvre vieux! (1869). 22. Véron, “Bulletin Politique.” 23. Ripa, Iconologia; or Moral Emblems, 47.
In Between Dolls and Blocks: Building Bodies of Resistance with MyFamilyBuilders™ and BILU Clan 1. Target Corporation, “What’s in Store: Moving Away from Genderbased Signs,” August 7 2015, https://corporate.target.com/ article/2015/08/gender-based-signs-corporate. 2. For example, an article on MyFamilyBuilders™ entitled “Finally, Toys that Truly Reflect the Diversity of Families” was published on The Huffington Post online on August 30th, 2015. CNN Wire also published an article on the set on August 25th, 2015, entitled “Toy Set teaches kids about diversity.” Other articles appeared in The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, and on websites such as Gay Star Family, RAGAP España, Upworthy, Toy News, Hello Wonderful, and ToyNews, to name a few. 3. Both toys are only available for order through their respective websites. As of yet, there are no plans for either toy to be distributed via toy stores or online retailers. 4. “MyFamilyBuilders™ : About,” MyFamilyBuilders™ , accessed October 14, 2015, http://www.MyFamilyBuilders™ .com/ About/. 5. My knowledge of both toys is limited to promotional materials such as photographs, videos, and press. MyFamilyBuilders™ was still in production at the time I was writing this but is now available online. Meanwhile, BILU is currently shipping out orders as batches of their toy become available. 6. Kathryn Bond Stockton, “Growing Sideways, or Why Children Appear to Get Queerer in the Twentieth Century,” in The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009), 5. 7. Lee Edelman, “The Future is Kid Stuff,” in No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004), 2-3; 10-11. 8. Here I am also capitalizing ‘Child,’ and do so only when discussing Edelman’s theorization. Elsewhere I am clear to refer to the ideal of the child without capitalization, as I do not wholly align my arguments with Edelman’s framework. 9. Edelman, “The Future is Kid Stuff,” 11. 10. Ibid., 21. 11. Ibid., 25. 12. Ibid., 24. 13. Marianna Papadopoulou, “Gender and Play: The Development
Endnotes of gendered identities and their expression in play,” in Foundations of Playwork, eds. Fraser Brown and Chris Taylor (Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press, 2008), 250. 14. Judy Attfield, “Barbie and Action Man: adult toys for girls and boys, 1959-93,” in The Gendered Object, ed. Pat Kirkham (New York: Manchester University Press, 1996), 88. 15. Courtney Lee Weida, “Gender, Aesthetics, and Sexuality in Play: Uneasy Lessons from Girls’ Dolls, Action Figures, and Television Programs,” The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education 31 (2011): n.pag, accessed November 30 2015. 16. I conceive of the playroom not as a specific space but rather as a general category for any space wherein play takes place, including domestic and public spaces. 17. Sara Ahmed, “Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 12, no. 4 (2006): 558, accessed 14 October 2015; Ibid., 565. 18. Ibid., 565. 19. Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentiethcentury Art Forms (New York: Methuen, 1985), 32; Ibid., 116. 20. Mindy Blaise and Affrica Taylor, “Using Queer Theory to Rethink Gender Equity in Early Childhood Education” Young Children 67, no. 1 (2012): 91, accessed November 15 2015. 21. Jonathan Weinberg, “Things Are Queer” Art Journal 55.4 (1996): 12. 22. “MyFamilyBuilders™ : About,” MyFamilyBuilders™, accessed 14 October 2015, http://www.myfamilybuilders.com/About/. 23. “BILU Toys: About,” BILU Toys, accessed 14 October 2015, http://bilutoys.com. 24. BILU Toys, Press Kit, 2015. 25. As cited by Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody, 1. 26. Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (Durham: Duke UP, 2006), 88. 27. Ibid. 28. Sara Ahmed, “Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology,” 570. 29. Kathryn Bond Stockton, “Growing Sideways, or Why Children Appear to Get Queerer in the Twentieth Century,” 11. 30. Ibid., 6. 31. Ibid., 11. 32. Ibid. 33. Ibid., 15. 34. Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody, 32. 35. Ahmed, “Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology,”560.
YouTube and Parodic Disidentifications: the Re-Insertion of Marginalized Voices into Film History Through the Viral Videos of Todrick Hall 1. Jose Esteban Munoz, “Disidentifications,” Cultural Studies of the Americas 2 (1999): 4. 2. Ibid., 7. 3. Ibid., 11. 4. Ibid., 31. 5. Robert Hariman, “Political Parody and Public Culture,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 94, no. 3 (2008): 250. 6. Ibid., 253. 7. Ibid., 249. 8. Raymond Knapp, The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 205. 9. Ibid., 206. 10. Moya Lloyd, “Performativity, Parody, Politics,” Theory, Culture & Society 16, no.2 (1999): 197. 11. Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution,” Theatre Journal 40, no. 4 (1988): 519. 12. Shae D. Miller and Verta Taylor. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-sexual Drag Culture,” in The International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, ed. James D. Wright (Philadelphia: Elsevier, 2015), 877. 13. Moya Lloyd, “Performativity, Parody, Politics,” Theory, Culture & Society 16, no.2 (1999): 197. 14. Chuck Kleinhans, “Taking Out the Trash: Camp and the politics
99 of parody,” in Politics and Poetics of Camp, ed. Morris Meyer (London: Routledge, 1994), 160. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid., 162. 17. Ibid., 160. 18. New Media Rockstars, “Todrick Hall: On Being an Out Creator and Finding His Australian ‘Cinderfella’ [#ProudToLove YouTube Series],” NewMediaRockstars, 28 June 2013. http:// newmediarockstars.com/2013/06/todrick-hall-on-beingan-out-creator-and-finding-his-australian-cinderfellaproudtolove-youtube-creator-profile/. 19. Robert Nowatzki, “’Blackin’ up is us Doin’ White Folks Doin’ Us”: Blackface Minstrelsy and Racial Performance in Contemporary American Fiction and Film,” Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 18, no. 2 (2007): 116.
Vitto Acconci’s Body: Performing Gender & The Feminist Perspective
1. Acconci termed the actions performed in Openings and Conversions as instigating a “sex change.” Vito Acconci, Sarina Basta, and Garrett Ricciardi, Vito Acconci: Diary of a Body, 1969-1973 (Milan; New York City: Charta, 2006), 211. 2. Vito Acconci, Avalanche: Fall 1972 (New York: Kineticism Press, 1972), 22. This edition of the artist journal Avalanche was dedicated to Acconci’s work. 3. Acconci, Avalanche: Fall 1972, 22. 4. Kurt Lewin, Principles of Topological Psychology, trans. Fritz Heider and Grace M. Heider (New York; London: McGrawHill, 1936). 5. Lewin, Principles of Topological Psychology, 46. 6. Acconci, Avalanche: Fall 1972, 22. 7. Cindy Nemser, “An Interview with Vito Acconci,” Arts Magazine 45, no. 5 (March 1971): 21. Also cited in: Amelia Jones, Body Art/Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 108. 8. Christophe Wavelet, “Interview Vito Acconci and Yvonne Rainer,” in Vito Hannibal Acconci Studio (Nantes; Barcelona: Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2004), 27. 9. Wavelet, “Interview Vito Acconci and Yvonne Rainer,” 28; Those feminist texts circulating in the early 1970s Acconci had contact with included work authored by Shulamith Firestone and Kate Millet. 10. Nemser, “An Interview with Vito Acconci,” 21. 11. Avalanche records the execution of the piece in November 1970 while Diary of a Body dates the piece to October 1970. See: Acconci, Avalanche: Fall 1972, 26; Acconci, Basta, and Ricciardi, Vito Acconci: Diary of a Body, 1969-1973, 210. 12. Acconci, Basta, and Ricciardi, Vito Acconci: Diary of a Body, 1969-1973, 210. 13. Ibid., 211. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid., 275. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid., 277. 18. Acconci, Avalanche: Fall 1972, 28. 19. Ibid. 20. Erving Goffman, Interaction Ritual; Essays in Face-to-Face Behavior (Chicago: Aldine Publising Company, 1967); Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City: Doubleday, 1959). 21. Ibid., 5-45. 22. Ibid., 18. 23. Ibid., 45; also cited in: Kate Linker, Vito Acconci (New York: Rizzoli, 1994), 47. 24. Linker, Vito Acconci, 47. 25. Erving Goffman, “The Arrangement Between the Sexes,” Theory and Society 4, no. 3 (Autumn 1977): 301–31. For a full review of Goffman’s thoughts on sex class, see: Erving Goffman, Gender Advertisements (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979). 26. Ibid., 305. 27. Ibid., 305, 325-330.
28. Nemser, “An Interview with Vito Acconci,” 23. 29. Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and feminist Theory,” Theatre Journal 40, no. 4 (December 1988): 528. 30. Ibid. 31. Ibid., 519, 528. 32. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 2nd ed. (1990; repr., New York: Routledge, 2006), 191. 33. Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 192. 34. Ibid., 2-8. 35. Ibid 4. 36. Wavelet, “Interview Vito Acconci and Yvonne Rainer,” 28. 37. Ibid. 38. Juliette Mitchell, Women’s Estate (New York: Pantheon Books, 1971), 20. 39. Mitchell, Women’s Estate, 103–104. 40. Ibid., 99. 41. Ibid 37. 42. Jayne Wark expands upon this point in: “Martha Wilson: Not Taking It at Face Value,” Camera Obscura 15, no. 3 (2001): 7; and: “Conceptual Art and Feminism: Martha Rosler, Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, and Martha Wilson,” Woman’s Art Journal, 12, no. 1 (Spring−Summer 2001): 48. 43. Lynn Hershman Leeson, “!Women Art Revolution: Interview with Martha Wilson,” Stanford Univeristy Library, March 12, 2006, https://lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution/transcript-interviewmartha-wilson-2006 (accessed December 28, 2015). 44. This proposal is reproduced in: Wark, “Martha Wilson: Not Taking It at Face Value,” 7; and: Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object From 1966 to 1972 (Berkeley: University of California Press, reprint edition, 1997), 227. 45. Mitchell, Women’s Estate, 103–104.
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Jade Boivin Je suis une étudiante à la maîtrise en histoire de l’art avec concentration en etudes féministes à l’UQAM. Mon mémoire porte sur les liens entre représentation et pouvoirs au sein de la performance féministe des années 1980 et 1990 au Canada, et ma proposition se veut être un pan de ma réflexion actuelle à propos de la pertinence des stratégies dérivées de l’humour en tant que critique féministe en performance. Ayant terminé mon baccalauréat en histoire de l’art à l’Université Laval en 2014, j’ai par la suite travaillé en tant qu’assistante de recherche pour le projet Une bibliographie commentée en temps réel: l’art de la performance au Québec et au Canada, première phase d’un projet de recherche à long terme mené par ma directrice Barbara Clausen, qui s’est clos avec une exposition en deux temps présentée à Artexte du 29 avril au 24 octobre 2015. J’ai aussi eu l’opportunité de présenter une conférence dans le cadre du colloque étudiant SVR -Sexualité et genre: vulnérabilité, résilience - organisé par la Chaire de recherche contre l’homophobie et qui a eu lieu en mars 2014. Julie Richard Julie Richard est candidate au doctorat interuniversitaire en histoire de l’art (UQAM) et ses recherches procèdent à une relecture des avant-gardes historiques d’après une approche féministe. Elle s’intéresse aux actes de résistance artistiques mis en œuvre par les femmes européennes et américaines de l’entre-deux-guerres, tels que la production de poupées, l’art d’infiltration, la performance, ainsi que les pratiques furtives ou performatives. Grandement influencée par les théories sur le genre, les recherches actuelles de l’auteure portent sur les relations entre le corps, l’espace et l’architecture d’après une posture de décolonisation des sites genrés avec comme objectif la création d’un espace « autre » ou d’un espace queer. Émilie Poirier Titulaire d’un baccalauréat en science politique de l’Université du Québec à Montréal avec une concentration en relations internationales, Émilie Poirier prépare un mémoire de maitrise à l’Université de Montréal en histoire de l’art sur la relation complexe et pernicieuse entre l’art actuel et la culture populaire dans le marché de l’art et l’économie de la culture. Elle s’intéresse particulièrement aux inégalités sociales entre « l(es) élite(s) » et la population dans les arts visuels, au phénomène de la démocratisation de l’art et à la sociologie de l’art. Elle est aussi fascinée par les pratiques artistiques actuelles dites sociales qui questionnent les concepts de genre, d’identité et de classe. Clinton Glenn Clinton Glenn is a 2nd year Master’s student at Concordia University, completing a degree in Art History. Their current research looks at the intersection of queer identity, nationalism, and contemporary photographic practices with a specific focus on Canada and Denmark. Other research interests include the social and photographic history of the early German homophile movement, anarchism and camp aesthetics, art-making practices during the HIV/AIDS Pandemic, and queer photographic archives. Clinton’s writings have been published in the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History, Interfold Magazine, and the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, and has acted as the Exhibition and Special Events Coordinator of the 2013 Art Matters Festival as well as the Co-Director for the VAV Gallery in Montreal. Clinton’s MA research is supported through the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Bourse de maîtrise en recherché (Master’s Research Scholarship) from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture, and the 2015-2016 Faculty of Fine Arts Fellowship at Concordia.
Rebecca O’Dwyer Rebecca O’ Dwyer is an art writer and PhD candidate at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, writing on the conditions of contemporary art criticism. Her writing has been featured in a variety of journals including Frieze (UK), Paper Visual Art Journal (IRE), Visual Artists News Sheet (IRE), Enclave Review (IRE); this is tomorrow (UK), Apollo (UK), and Art and Australia (AUS). She has also written catalogue texts for exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, the Lab, Temple Bar Gallery, and mother’s tankstation. She is the 2014 recipient of the Lab/DCC Critical Writing Award, and an occasional lecturer at the National College of Art and Design. Further examples of her writing and projects can be found at http://www.rebeccaodwyer.wordpress.com. Jenna Ann Altomonte Jenna Ann Altomonte is a doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Arts program at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Cum laude) in 2006 with concentrations in Contemporary Art History and Post-War History. She completed her Master of Arts in Contemporary Art History from Ohio University in 2009, focusing on PostWar French artist Christian Boltanski and the role of secondary trauma. She is currently working on her dissertation project titled Witnessing Violence, Performing Trauma: Digital Performance from the First Gulf War to the Present. The project focuses on the work of Iraqi and American artists affected by the First and Second Gulf Wars. She has current appointments in the Art History Department at the Columbus College of Art and Design and Interdisciplinary Arts Department at Ohio University. Tal-Or Ben-Choreen Tal-Or Ben-Choreen is an artist and a PhD Candidate at Concordia University in the department of Art History specializing in photography. She is interested in the way photography and film have been utilized by artists to form a document of their social conditions. She conducts her research through the fields of fine art and preservation. Ben-Choreen has been awarded several grants to conduct research including a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, and a Roloff Beny Foundation scholarship. She has conducted research for George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, the New York Public Library, and the National Gallery of Canada. Ben-Choreen has published articles in Function, Matsart Auction Catalogue, and Afterimage Online. Maxime Valsamas Max is a third year Ph.D. student in Art History at Washington University in St. Louis. His doctorial research focuses on nineteenth-century French art and print culture. He received his M. A. from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, with a thesis on Honoré Daumier’s allegorical satires from the late Second Empire. After completing his first year at Washington University, Max interned at the Saint Louis Art Museum in the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs department. In Summer 2015, Max was the Marvin Gelber Prints and Drawings Intern at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, where he worked on the gallery’s holdings of nineteenth-century French caricatures. While at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Max delivered a lecture for the Master Prints and Drawings Society of Ontario. Max’s recent article “Bathing in the Heart of Paris: “L’enseignement mutuel” from Daumier’s Series Les baigneurs” was published in MUSE 48 (2014). In addition, he gave a Spotlight Series talk on Daumier’s 1867 lithograph La nuée des canards obscurcissant tellement l’air que la pauvre Europe ne sait plus quel chemin prendre at the Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, in March 2016, with an accompanying online publication of his essay. Max is also co-curating an exhibition titled “Battle of the Ideal vs. Real: The Figure in Nineteenth-Century Art” set to
open in May 2016 at the Kemper Art Museum. Gabrielle Doiron Gabrielle Doiron is an art educator and MA student in Art History at Concordia University. Her research interests include twentieth-century art and architecture, Bauhaus pedagogy, gender and space, and the material culture of childhood. Her SSHRC-funded thesis project, entitled “Children of the Bauhaus: Putting Play on Display in Postwar North American Playgrounds,” looks at architectures of childhood and the relationship of these spaces to nationalism and utopia. Amanda Greer Amanda is currently completing her M.A. in Film Studies at the University of British Columbia after recently finishing an Hon. B.A. in Cinema Studies and English Literature at the University of Toronto. Her research, funded by a Canada Council Social Sciences & Humanities grant, focuses on gendered representations of mental illness in screen media. She recently presented this paper at San Francisco State University’s graduate conference, where it was well-received. She will also be presenting a paper on aural manifestations of trauma in film at the Popular Culture Association’s national conference in 2016. She was recently published in the University of Toronto’s film journal, Camera Stylo, and currently serves as editor of UBC’s journal, Cinephile. Passionate about gender in arts-based industries, Amanda has worked as a Special Events & Communications Assistant with Women in Film & Television-Toronto, and served as Co-Editor of three volumes of Women Writing Letters, an anthology series supporting female writes from around the globe. In her spare time, Amanda volunteers with My Sister’s Closet, supporting the Battered Women’s Support Shelter, and acts in theatrical productions as one of the Green College Players at UBC. Mallory A. Ruymann Mallory A. Ruymann is a student in the M.A. Art History program at Tufts University. She is currently the Graduate Curatorial Assistant at the Tufts University Art Gallery and serves as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Department of Art and Art History. Mallory has held professional appointments at art institutions across the United States, including the MIT List Visual Arts Center, The Chinati Foundation, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Acadia Summer Arts Program, and the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Mallory graduated with a B.A. from Washington & Lee University.