Deviancy and its Discontents

December 15, 2008

This is again responding to a bit on Michael’s blog that raises the issue of whether the gay community is receptive to “deviant” people, but this touches on queer abstraction so here we go.

The primary problem facing the gay community right now isn’t gay marriage or other equal rights; it’s the complete collapse of homosexuality into heteronormativity.  By which I mean that rather than being accepting of deviancy, these days, white, upper-class gay men are circling the wagons in terms of defining what it is and means to be gay in the contemporary US.   Being gay in America is slowly turning into belonging to a country club: you have to have a certain pedigree, which means you have to know the right people and conduct yourself in the “right” way.  I’m naturally disinclined to have people tell me how to act and what to think, so you can see how this rankles.

So it’s important now more than ever to emphasize QUEER over gay or lesbian.   Hence queer abstraction and not just abstract art made by artists who happen to be gay; there’s plenty of that and most of it is snoresville.  The root question is how do deviancy (sexual and otherwise) and representation (absent or present) interact, and how might they productively interact?  What can one say about the other that traditional methods don’t allow for?  You could easily, in 2008, call abstraction a traditional method in the noun sense of the word; it has become as toothless as the gay and lesbian “community.”  

More and more, I’m thinking that in order to keep this cluster of ideas afloat, it’s key to think of both queering and abstraction as activities, not states.  It’s not a question at arriving at some sort of finished work of abstract art that somehow references queerness; maybe there’s nothing queer (or abstract) about the end results at all.

A nonexistent image to shore all this up would be a lifesize aluminum print of Mapplethorpe’s bullwhip photo with a hole where his face is so you could stand behind it and put your face into the hole (heh) and get photographed as a deviant.

Also, I’ll be in LA in two weeks and I need to rent a car.  Anybody have any money?  Or want to drive me around?  🙂  Kidding.  Sort of.

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2 Responses to “Deviancy and its Discontents”


  1. No job as of right now, so chauffeuring is a possibility. Let me know your arrival/departure dates and times and where you’ll be staying.

    This might be a convoluted stretch, but indulge me the attempt to relate your Deviancy and its Discontents back to my Deviant Art post.

    What I was seeing in an essentialist defense of sexuality (that it’s not a choice) and a similar argument made about art-making (that it’s a talent or drive one is born with) is that they both work to remove responsibility for one’s actions. And thereby remove one’s actions from the subject of discourse.

    In politics, Republicans love to trot out African-American politicians at their conventions to show that their not racist; they only dislike the 95% of blacks that vote for Democrats. In a similar way folks like Andrew Sullivan amputate the sex from the homosexual to gain acceptance.

    But getting back to art (and your post), I like the idea that the queerness resides in the action, not the outcome. Action requires agency (and dare I say it) is empowering. I need to think about this a bit more, and will (temporarily) set aside abstraction in my next ‘queer’ post.

    I thought about your face-in-the-hole Mapplethorpe idea, which let me to think of glory holes in sex clubs. For some reason I keep going back to the site of action.

  2. geoff tuck Says:

    I can understand that being queer requires activity – I’m not sure what you mean by abstraction as an activity – or what a queer abstraction might be. Maybe I’m not familiar enough with what’s being talked about here. (by the way the comfortable and acceptable nature of queerness has disappointed me since I first started trying to “act” like a queer in the world in 1978. Even then many “gays” were annoyingly stamped from the same mold and cloyingly eager to group identify)I am looking forward to seeing you work.


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