On reading Queer
Roland Barthes’s Preface to Queer: Documents of Contemporary Art reads like a poem that you can drown in. The Harmony Hammond excerpt is achingly familiar, almost like a journal entry that I wrote in my early twenties, or thoughts that I have heard in my own head. All throughout, I continue to find strings of letters that glow and vibrate among the rest, like “Show how paradoxes arrest the mind. Scare yourself along the way.” (38) Queer: Documents of Contemporary Art has consumed me in one way or another. Consumed me in that way that I can only handle a few times a year, at most—consumed and engulfed me, swallowed me, captivated, and squeezed me in that way that adolescence once squeezed me for what felt like two decades straight. It is blissful and uncomfortable all at once—and just too emotionally exhaustive. Experience has taught me that I can only wade these waters for so long. Then again, perhaps it is time to test that endurance. It used to be so easy to surrender to the things that wanted to consume me, or things that I wanted to consume me. This habit made me weak. I rarely even concerned myself with the question of whether the things that were consuming me were worthy of my nutrition, of my attention, my heart, my eyes, ears, mouth, nose, throat, and touch, down to the nerve endings on my fingertips. I used to buzz with the things that consumed me. Now, I must have my guard up or something because it just does not seem to happen as often. Sometimes, there is just nothing that wants my attention. But sometimes something does, and sometimes I have no choice but to succumb. Queer is presenting sentences that my subconscious is calling out for, laughing and screaming and whooping and crying with every revelation that the text gives me. There are excerpts of this book that are grabbing me the way that Janelle’s Monet’s Pynk grabbed me a few years ago, which is hard to put into words. To be less cryptic: I have very recently fully come to the realization/accepted the fact that I am queer. “You are…” “Yes, I am….” (p 41) This is the first time that I have typed this sentence. I have spoken it maybe once or twice in all my (almost) 30 years. It is all very new, and complicated, and I would not necessarily say that I have come out. But what I do know is that it was a non-issue until my oldest sister outted me, in a way, but sort of in a roundabout way in which I am not even sure is worth explaining. “Have you ever thought about dating a girl?” Really? Of fucking course I have. She thought she was handing me the key to solving all my problems. Perhaps she thought, “Oh, well if Alli would admit that she likes girls, she’ll start dating one and then she’ll be happy.” But I digress. This book is beautiful, and painful, and empathetic. I began learning about Queer Theory in a gender studies class last year, and, at the risk of sounding reductive, I believe that its pedagogy is art in and of itself. This is stuff that I should have been learning so, so long ago. This is stuff that makes me feel both like myself, and part of the greater good, at the exact same time (“Demanding group and self-identity in art is one means of resisting oppression”). This is stuff that I have always needed. Roland BarthesPreface to Renaud Camus, Tricks//1979 Homosexuality shocks less, but continues to be interesting: it is still at that stage of excitation where it provokes what might be called feats of discourse. Speaking of homosexuality permits those are ‘aren’t’ to show how open, liberal and modern they are; and those who ‘are’ to bear witness, to assume responsibility, to militate. Everyone gets busy, in different ways, whipping it up. A Yet to proclaim yourself something is always to speak at the behest of a vengeful Other, to enter into his discourse, to argue with him to seek from him a scrap of identity: “You are…” Yes, I am….” Ultimately, the attribute is of no importance; what society will not tolerate is that I should be….nothing, or to be more exact, that the something that I am should be openly expressed as provisional, revocable, insignificant, inessential, in a word: irrelevant. Just say “I am” and you will be social saved….(p 41) At this very moment, could it be that I am in between those who ‘aren’t’ and those who ‘are’? Clearly, I earned my “liberal and modern” badge long ago (har har). On the other hand, am I ready to “bear witness…assume responsibility, to militate?” Can anyone be ready for that? Yet to proclaim yourself something is always to speak at the behest of a vengeful Other, to enter into his discourse, to argue with him to seek from him a scrap of identity…. …just say ‘I am’, and you will be socially saved […] (p 41) I wonder: why is it that I struggle to identify myself as anything at all? Harmony Hammond brings up more questions of identity and its intersections: Coming out….forced me to realize what class privilege I did and did not have, and what I would now lose. Even the fact that I first came out to myself through my art and not in bed reflects my class position. (p 42) Perhaps the answer lies in my lower-to-solidly-middle class upbringing, one that was disguised as apolitical (we all know, now, there is no such thing). Afterall, I do believe that is how I sidestepped the very clearly queer inclinations that I had growing up. It was just easier not to rock the boat, at least not any more than I already was. I had such good, cooperative, apolitical role models all around me. So I kept the inclinations a secret, and I only dated boys. And now here I am, protected by my socioeconomic class and status, pondering about privileges gained, lost, stolen and given. Pondering about where this leaves me. Pondering about what there is to say about it, through my art, if anything at all…
On reading Queer
Roland Barthes’s Preface to Queer: Documents of Contemporary Art reads like a poem that you can drown in. The Harmony Hammond excerpt is achingly familiar, almost like a journal entry that I wrote in my early twenties, or thoughts that I have heard in my own head. All throughout, I continue to find strings of letters that glow and vibrate among the rest, like “Show how paradoxes arrest the mind. Scare yourself along the way.” (38) Queer: Documents of Contemporary Art has consumed me in one way or another. Consumed me in that way that I can only handle a few times a year, at most—consumed and engulfed me, swallowed me, captivated, and squeezed me in that way that adolescence once squeezed me for what felt like two decades straight. It is blissful and uncomfortable all at once—and just too emotionally exhaustive. Experience has taught me that I can only wade these waters for so long. Then again, perhaps it is time to test that endurance. It used to be so easy to surrender to the things that wanted to consume me, or things that I wanted to consume me. This habit made me weak. I rarely even concerned myself with the question of whether the things that were consuming me were worthy of my nutrition, of my attention, my heart, my eyes, ears, mouth, nose, throat, and touch, down to the nerve endings on my fingertips. I used to buzz with the things that consumed me. Now, I must have my guard up or something because it just does not seem to happen as often. Sometimes, there is just nothing that wants my attention. But sometimes something does, and sometimes I have no choice but to succumb. Queer is presenting sentences that my subconscious is calling out for, laughing and screaming and whooping and crying with every revelation that the text gives me. There are excerpts of this book that are grabbing me the way that Janelle’s Monet’s Pynk grabbed me a few years ago, which is hard to put into words. To be less cryptic: I have very recently fully come to the realization/accepted the fact that I am queer. “You are…” “Yes, I am….” (p 41) This is the first time that I have typed this sentence. I have spoken it maybe once or twice in all my (almost) 30 years. It is all very new, and complicated, and I would not necessarily say that I have come out. But what I do know is that it was a non-issue until my oldest sister outted me, in a way, but sort of in a roundabout way in which I am not even sure is worth explaining. “Have you ever thought about dating a girl?” Really? Of fucking course I have. She thought she was handing me the key to solving all my problems. Perhaps she thought, “Oh, well if Alli would admit that she likes girls, she’ll start dating one and then she’ll be happy.” But I digress. This book is beautiful, and painful, and empathetic. I began learning about Queer Theory in a gender studies class last year, and, at the risk of sounding reductive, I believe that its pedagogy is art in and of itself. This is stuff that I should have been learning so, so long ago. This is stuff that makes me feel both like myself, and part of the greater good, at the exact same time (“Demanding group and self-identity in art is one means of resisting oppression”). This is stuff that I have always needed. Roland BarthesPreface to Renaud Camus, Tricks//1979 Homosexuality shocks less, but continues to be interesting: it is still at that stage of excitation where it provokes what might be called feats of discourse. Speaking of homosexuality permits those are ‘aren’t’ to show how open, liberal and modern they are; and those who ‘are’ to bear witness, to assume responsibility, to militate. Everyone gets busy, in different ways, whipping it up. A Yet to proclaim yourself something is always to speak at the behest of a vengeful Other, to enter into his discourse, to argue with him to seek from him a scrap of identity: “You are…” Yes, I am….” Ultimately, the attribute is of no importance; what society will not tolerate is that I should be….nothing, or to be more exact, that the something that I am should be openly expressed as provisional, revocable, insignificant, inessential, in a word: irrelevant. Just say “I am” and you will be social saved….(p 41) At this very moment, could it be that I am in between those who ‘aren’t’ and those who ‘are’? Clearly, I earned my “liberal and modern” badge long ago (har har). On the other hand, am I ready to “bear witness…assume responsibility, to militate?” Can anyone be ready for that? Yet to proclaim yourself something is always to speak at the behest of a vengeful Other, to enter into his discourse, to argue with him to seek from him a scrap of identity…. …just say ‘I am’, and you will be socially saved […] (p 41) I wonder: why is it that I struggle to identify myself as anything at all? Harmony Hammond brings up more questions of identity and its intersections: Coming out….forced me to realize what class privilege I did and did not have, and what I would now lose. Even the fact that I first came out to myself through my art and not in bed reflects my class position. (p 42) Perhaps the answer lies in my lower-to-solidly-middle class upbringing, one that was disguised as apolitical (we all know, now, there is no such thing). Afterall, I do believe that is how I sidestepped the very clearly queer inclinations that I had growing up. It was just easier not to rock the boat, at least not any more than I already was. I had such good, cooperative, apolitical role models all around me. So I kept the inclinations a secret, and I only dated boys. And now here I am, protected by my socioeconomic class and status, pondering about privileges gained, lost, stolen and given. Pondering about where this leaves me. Pondering about what there is to say about it, through my art, if anything at all…