54 The Repoliticisation of Sexual Space in Contemporary Artistic Practises

Zehar #54

54 The Repoliticisation of Sexual Space in Contemporary Artistic Practises

The central theme of this edition of Zehar is to trace the journey through contemporary art, analysing the impact that queer theory and practice has had on feminist policies on identity, gender and sexual difference. How have the theoretical positions and approaches of previous generations been adopted and transformed by later artists? How is that genealogy established in our most immediate context?

Laura Mulvey in her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, called on a first generation of feminist video artists to fight the pleasure provided by cinema: the pleasure of looking. Negating and annihilating this pleasure was used as a political tactic to address the question of where the male gaze (and not only the male gaze but the gaze as a complex network of power) places women. In her piece, Woman’s Transgression, Laura Kipnis analyses other later video works, in dialogue with queer theory, which reformulate these policies on pleasure and gender, the gaze and sexuality, and by using tactics involving the re-appropriation of narrative, humour and visual pleasure, seek to attract rather than distance and to steer the public through pleasure, allowing an escape route from some of the more restrictive aspects of former feminist policies on representation, without losing sight of their indebtedness to them.

Since the late 1980s a series of performances have been developed on the theme of what Judith Halberstam calls female masculinities, questioning the sex/gender categories and the masculinity/man binomial as something natural. These performances of masculinity stand as representations of queer desire, as a way of negating the visual pleasure for the androcentric and heterocentric gaze. They generate forms of identification and recognition by the audience who have a shared experience on costume, gestures, gaze, body, creating new codes of representation and denaturalising the masculinity. To Simone de Beauvoir’s declaration that “one is not born a woman” they add, “one is not born a man either”.

From the borders of the hegemonic discourses a series of works are now being developed which highlight the construction of the different gender; which appropriate, subvert and produce gender conventions from these fringe positions. These works undermine representation of gender as something authentic, normal and natural and occupy themselves with the creation of fluid non-binary identities, as a form of deconstructing identity, and of destabilising it, and also of offering spaces of identification for a broader range of corporeal possibilities. 


Erreakzioa/ Reacción & María José Belbel

zehar54.pdf — PDF document, 1580Kb


The Earth is pregnant with Art. A trans-... world. Hans Scheirl

This paper was presented at the seminar, “The repoliticisation of sexual space in contemporary artistic practices” held at Arteleku from 8 to 15 September. Here, the author examines the influence of social organisation in language, of partial and agreed identity and of his performance-related and creative work.

Hanseng.pdf — PDF document, 100Kb



enred.pdf — PDF document, 221Kb
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