Hello readers and welcome to another edition of “In Search of Our Queer Gardens,” my running column that examines various artists whose art that I have found to be compelling and speaks of Queer experiences. Two of my personal goals in writing this ongoing column is to a) come to my own, personal definition of what Queer Arts may look like and b) try to incorporate the inspiration I gain from these artists into my own production of art. This week, we have something a bit different. Instead of looking at a particular artist, as I have in the past, I wanted to examine an event we have on campus that is all about Queer Art.
Live Homosexual Acts is a series of monologues written and performed by JMU students as part of JMU’s annual week of LGBTQIQA pride, GayMU, hosted by Madison Equality. 2012′s LHA occurred last Friday night and was, I think, a pretty amazing show. (Full disclosure: This year, I was fortunate enough to join the wonderful student volunteers and participated in the show by performing a monologue that I had written.) I wanted to write a post not only giving details about this year’s show but also, I guess, explore the experience of what it was like to create and perform Queer art. If you happened to miss the show, here’s a great way to find out what it was all about!
Hello readers and welcome to another “In Search of Our Queer Gardens.” In this edition I’ll be examining the work of the the band the Knife. More music acts? I know! Music must appear to be the only art form I attend to, but there is a reason for why I incorporate so many musicians into this ongoing series, which will be looked into later. I also decided to look at the Knife because they are the first feminist identified band I’ve looked at, and, like with Karen Finley last week, I want to write posts on things I love. No hope for objectivity here, folks!
The Knife: sister and brother super duo Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer
I was looking at the Knife’s website a few months ago and came across this link in which they compose a playlist of various bands to fit the designated theme titled “Queer Sounds.” I found the idea of Queer Sounds intriguing, particularly in the context of the Knife’s work and one of their more signature aesthetics: the blurring of gender and sexuality in their music. After reviewing some videos and certain songs, I determined that their music incorporated a theme that I will tentatively call “Queering the Voice” — in which expected gender and sexuality norms are subverted and flipped, creating either a narrative (in song, hence the Voice) that is either ambiguous or queer.
Trigger/Content Warning: This post, and the media it contains, has references to sexual assault, violence, self-harm, suicide, strong language and nudity. NSFW.
Greetings readers! Time for something a little different today in this running series. First: I am excited to finally be writing a post about an artist who I find deeply influential in my life, has really helped form my feminist lens and has a completely unique aesthetic that I try to emulate in some of my own work. Second: The artist that I selected for today isn’t Queer-identified and as far as I know (which doesn’t mean much) she is heterosexual. Yet, I think she has produced work that has a distinctly queer-voice, is intended for a Queer audience and is, frankly, some of the most powerful Queer art I have experienced.
That would be the performance artist Karen Finley. Finley is (sadly) most recognized for being involved in the N.E.A. scandals in the early 1990s, in which four artists (Finley among them) were denied their National Endowment for the Arts grants because their art was considered too vulgar and the case became a center for debates about freedom of speech and censorship. Lynda Hart writes that “Finley received by far the most media attention as well as the greatest number of direct attacks on her art” (89) and she became known in the media as “The Chocolate-Smeared Woman”, her entire body of work reduced to a performance in which she douses her naked body in melted chocolate, an act that was symbolic of how society shits on women. Finley became embroiled in a lawsuit with the U.S. government which went all the way to the Supreme Court, a battle that she lost. Finley’s oeuvre is a diverse one: while her pieces focus mainly on the lives of women and utilize her explicit and often deranged depictions of human sexuality, she also takes an intersectional approach in her responses to oppression in our culture, one that directly pays tribute to the plight of the Queer community. It is through these pieces that Finley can be considered a Queer artist simply because her art embodies radical Queer politics.
Lastly, this post has an ulterior motive. I will be performing a monologue that I wrote as an homage to Finley and is to be performed by me in her style next week as part of Live Homosexual Acts, a series of student-written and performed monologues about Queer experiences. It will be the second-to-last event of GayMU (which is next week) and will be in Transitions from 7:00-8:30 on Friday, April 13th. The show is is looking like its going to be pretty great and the more, the merrier!
And now to Karen Finley.
Editor’s note: Two extra sources and a paragraph working them into the post were added a few hours after the post first went up.
As I’m sure most of you already know, last Wednesday the world lost feminist poet and gay rights activist Adrienne Rich. She was 82. I had planned to write this post on Rich last week before receiving the news that she had passed; and this, plus something else that has come to light to me since her death has caused this post to be delayed and almost not written at all.
I had fully intended to write a post about my personal (and limited) experience with Rich’s work: the poetry I had read, her essays on feminist thought and action and her classic work on the institution of motherhood, Of Woman Born. This was complicated by the sad news of her passing: I by no way could write a memorandum appropriate for Rich’s breadth of work and activism. It was further complicated when I was informed, that very Wednesday night, of accusations of transphobia lodged against Rich and her participation in the creation of Janice Raymond’s nefarious and hateful 1979 text, The Transexual Empire. This woman, whose achievements are beyond comparison in both the realms of poetry and activism, had just died. Why drudge up a part of her history that can make it appear that I’m speaking ill of the dead, or being disrespectful? At this very moment I’m still wavering on even publishing this piece, but I know, as well as we all do, that ignoring something does not wish it away and that includes the painful and exclusionary parts of our collective feminist history. Also, ignorance is a matter of privilege: there are numerous women and transfolk who cannot ignore this, whose lives have been impacted by this.
This is not an easy post to write by any means, but let’s dive into the wreck.
Content Warning: Material linked to in this post may contain partial nudity and radical queerness. More than likely NSFW.
Greetings readers and welcome to another edition of “In Search of Our Queer Gardens” in which I explore the work of yet another Queer artist in my continuing efforts to define what, exactly, the Queer arts are. This week there will be Queer sock hops! A Cadillac full of menacing lesbians that look like they escaped from some Queer version of an S.E. Hinton novel! Glitter! Sparkly gold cloaks! Men in leopard print g-strings! Meet punk-queer rockabilly Seth Bogart and his band Hunx and his Punx!
Hunx and his Punx
For this week’s edition, I picked Seth Bogart for numerous reasons. Not only are the subversions contained in his music absolutely delightful, I also thought that he was a fun contrast to last week’s caustic and melancholy Jamie Stewart, but also for shameless advertising! Hunx and his Punx will be performing in Harrisonburg on April 7th this year as part of Macrock! That means that if you are around, dear readers, you can come hear some raucous Queer jams!
Content/Trigger Warning: This post may link/refer to material that contains graphic references to self-harm, bodily harm, sexual assault, domestic abuse and other forms of violence. Also, probably NSFW.
Current Xiu Xiu members Jamie Stewart and Angela Seo
Greetings readers! As you may recall, a few weeks ago I wrote some of my brief thoughts about my search for Queer Artists and what Queer Art may even look like. As I have been mulling over this topic in the time since then, one artist in particular keeps coming to mind as an artist who helps satisfy my request to find:
“a visceral, unapologetic expression of queerness that forsake[s] any notions of a heterosexual audience and plunge[s] fully into our experiences as a marginalized group that defies hegemony with our resistance to be pinned down by gender [and I should have included "hetero" here] normativity and/or socially constructed wants and desires”
This artist would be Jamie Stewart, better known as the man behind the despondently noise-filled indie band Xiu Xiu. While his brand of music is certainly an acquired taste, I think that his work is certainly worth looking into in order to begin to showcase the qualities that I am looking for when I am trying to define Queer Art.
Hello readers! I’m thrilled to be returning to write regularly for you after a slightly longer than I intended hiatus from the blog. Before I get into the meat of the post (Queer Arts and what that means) I’d like to foreground it with where I and my mind have been for the past six months. Last semester I was taking numerous classes that centered on women’s writing: Feminist Literary Theory, a course focusing exclusively on Toni Morrison and an Independent Study examining the (entirely unrelated) selected works of Edith Wharton and Margaret Atwood. Invariably, a recurring theme in each course was that of authorship and creation: what are the conditions that women create under (be they positive or negative) and how do these conditions vary by time, nation, class, race, culture, sexuality, etc? In discussing how art is created by any marginalized group this question is of central importance because it not only helps us interpret the artifact but it may also help us frame the impetus behind the creation. Alice Walker once wrote: ”I write not only what I want to read…I write all the things I should have been able to read” and this is an attitude that I try to embody everyday as a writer and is also a mission to uncover my own literary ancestors. Where are my Queer Ancestors, my Queer Creators? What Queer Art can I look back to, refer to and use as a starting point for how my voice fits into a dialogue that I can never seem to find.