queer art

October 1, 2010

I’ve seen a fair amount of queer art here in NYC and it’s been an interesting experience to think about it. At first I struggled with a lot of what I saw. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I was not impressed or a little bored with the pieces, mainly because I was seeing a lot of the same kinds of stuff that I’ve seen over the last 30 years, which are basically variations on the themes “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” and “look at our bodies and watch us fuck.” For instance, when we are at PS1 I saw this giant photo collage by A.L. Steiner where there was lots of nudity and some shots of people making out and having sex, which were mixed in with a handful of photos of buildings and parking lots. And I thought to myself how many times do we have to go through this, make this particular statement, perform our visibility!? We’ve been saying “we’re here” since at least Stonewall, and we’ve been documenting what we do with our queer bodies since the Greek amphoras, which isn’t really true as the idea of an actual queer identity came along much, much later than the Greeks. But even if I omit antiquities, there’s been a butt load of queer body based art produced in the three decades since I’ve been out, including work by Judy ChicagoRobert MapplethorpeBarbara HammerJill  Posener and Tom of Finland. And that’s just to name a few. I keep wanting to think we’ve made some kind of progress as queers or as a culture more accepting of queers, which could result in queer artists doing something other than exploring their queer identity. But this horrible bullying and these tragic suicides have made me realize that every generation that “comes out” reinvents “coming out” all over again. And when they do they are still coming out to the potential of shitty world, less shitty than it was for me, but still shitty enough to make things unbearable. So of course those creatively inclined pick up mantel of art to protest, to assert themselves, to be seen and heard and to flip off the shitty world. There continues to be a constant need to get our queer lives and our queer bodies out in front of the larger culture, if for no other reason than to assert that we messily alive and trying to figure out what that means, and that alone is enough to make our lives as valuables as anyone else’s.

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