April 18, 2009
Heterosexuals: who are they? How do they live? What do they look like? Let’s explore!
Actually, this started off as a multiple-sided goof when I was clearancing Harlequin romances where I work. The cover art involved a great deal of semi-clad men either clutching or being clutched, and I wondered what it would mean to take all that clutching and put it together modernist grid style:
What does it add up to? Not much, besides a kind of pastiche of the stock in trade of about 8 name-brand contemporary artists. But the glance between one of the couples pictures above caught my eye, and I decided to enlarge it to 20×30″ and give it a helpful label.
There’s nothing textually funnier than the blatantly obvious.
This did get me to thinking, though, that while we’re all cool postmodern kids and we know that heterosexuality is the exnominate state of visual depictions of both men and women alone or together, actually naming the obvious might lead somewhere interesting. Queer images (or images of queers) often get heavily coded and tagged as such, both by artists and by far-right wingnuts, because representation’s fickle relationship to ontology is at stake: everybody wants to be reassured that they know queer when they see it.
But besides being the status quo, do people see “heterosexuality” when they see it, or is it always just assumed? What happens when, in trading with visual imagery of heterosexuals, you stop making that assumption? I don’t have any clear answers to that, but I think it bears thinking about as a strategy for representational queer art that isn’t simply shoring up the fragments of the public/private queer self. Not that I have an issue with making “queer” visible and visual, it’s just that, as with everything, people fall into habits like making sub-Mapplethorpe underwear model photos and calling it queer ’cause the dude pictured is a nude dude or otherwise it’s somebody visually queer (this is sort of Catherine Opie’s stock in trade though she has a light touch about it that makes you sort of forgive her).
So, to sum up: old habits = bad, heterosexuality = quizzical. Thoughts?