Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Swimming in Queer Theory - Judith Halberstam@Warwick (Part 2)

Following the queer theory workshop and lunch (Part 1), Liz Morrish and Gary Needham attended a formal presentation by Judith Halberstam on the subject of the cut and collage in queer/feminist art.

This paper followed of from some of the issues and artists previously discussed in Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place (2005). Halberstam offered an analysis of several feminist/queer artists including Kara Walker and Yoko Ono. What interested Halberstam was the way in which collage, re-inscription and cutting are central devices in these artists’ practice. What drew Halberstam to cutting and collage is the way in which the practice re-organizes meaning through juxtapositions and absences which could be thought of as queer. Halberstam urged us to consider through various works the moments when subjects become illegible thus unreadable, unknowable, and resistant, subjects who refuse to cohere and subject who embrace passivity as a form of agency. Gary thinks some of this connects quite well with some earlier 1990s queer work in photography (namely Della Grace Volcano and Catherine Opie) in which the subject’s gender becomes illegible and unreadable and includes in the canon images of Judith/Jack Halberstam. The conclusion drawn from Halberstam’s presentation also returned us to the queer theory workshop from earlier that morning, in that, Halberstam asked the audience to consider the possibility of embracing negativity and passivity as viable political acts of resistance for queers. The larger framing of Halberstam’s new work in queer theory would seem to suggests that queerness is (and should be) “the problem of the subject itself”.
(photo credit: Arbitrary.Marks/Colleen Keating)

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