Rustem Ertug Altinay, Department of Performance Studies, New York University
Digital BDSM Archives and Queer Political Critique in Turkey
How do digital BDSM archives facilitate queer sociality and political critique in Turkey? My presentation will explore this question by focusing on the photography work of a dominatrix.
The formative years of the Republic of Turkey (1923-1938), also known as “the Kemalist period” after the President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, were characterized by a centralized secular modernization and nation-building program. To facilitate women’s participation in this political project, the regime granted them certain civil rights and professional opportunities. Over the years, Kemalist women, whose subjectivities were defined by secular modernization and Turkish nationalism, became the major proponents of this ideology. Since 2002, under the successive governments of the Justice and Development Party, Kemalism has lost its power while a combination of economic neoliberalism, social conservatism, and Sunni Islamism emerged as the new hegemonic paradigm in Turkey. These developments have not only created a crisis for Kemalist women but also inspired new strategies for political critique.
In this presentation, I will focus on the photography work of a Kemalist dominatrix to discuss how the archives developed, maintained, and disseminated through BDSM networking websites serve queer political critique. I will investigate how sexual and aesthetic practices facilitate the affective reproduction of Kemalist citizenship by enabling new embodied historiographies, and proposing alternative forms of queer sociality. As I examine how BDSM creates a rupture in time, I will analyze how these sexual practices help subjects resist chrononormativity and the neoliberal fantasy of progress as they invest in new subject positions. Using the case of the Kemalist dominatrix as a vantage point, I will explore how digital archives allow queer subjects to remember the past and experience the present differently, and thus shape their desires for the future.
Rustem Ertug Altinay is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University. Ertug’s primary fields of research are the politics of gender and sexuality in Turkey, with a focus on feminist and queer performance and literature, queer historiography and archival practice, fashion and material culture, visual culture, and Islamic sexualities. His essays have been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Trans- and Fashion special issues of Women’s Studies Quarterly, Radical History Review, Transgender Studies Quarterly, the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, the Journal of Women’s History, and Feminist Media Studies, as well as various anthologies. Ertug is currently working on his first book manuscript, Dressing for Utopia: Fashion and the Performance of Citizenship in Turkey (1923-2015). He is also a playwright and theater professional with extensive international experience.
Jason Baumann, English, CUNY Graduate Center
Sex, Drugs, Rock-N-Roll and AIDS”: Iris de la Cruz Haunting the Media Archive
Recent films and exhibitions on the history of the AIDS crisis have been criticized for their lack of political analysis, historical accuracy, and missing perspectives of women and people of color. Many contemporary theoretical discussions of LGBT archives have questioned the silences in the archive due to the effects of censorship, archival practices, and state power. However, thanks to activist filmmakers, the media archives of the AIDS crisis also preserve counterhegemonic voices that challenge us with alternative strategies, but also haunt us with forgotten histories. Iris de la Cruz was an activist, writer and person living with HIV in New York City during the 1980s who was active with PONY (Prostitutes of New York), People with AIDS Coalition and ACT UP, as well as prevention outreach to injection drug users. In addition to her prominent role in many AIDS activist documentaries in the 1980s, she wrote for porn magazines like High Society and Stag in the 1970s, later wrote for PONY’s newsletter, and had a regular column in People with AIDS Coalition’s Newsline as “Iris with the Virus.” In this presentation we will consider the range of Iris de la Cruz’s media production including the online archive of her poetry, her journalism, and her self-presentation in activist documentaries and oral history videos. In contrast to accounts of AIDS activism that privilege white gay protest politics in the late 80s and early 90s, consideration of the archives of de la Cruz’s cultural production and her cinematic image will prove the contributions of activism by people of color, injection drug users, and sex workers; show the continuity of this activism with radical sex and Latina/o movements of the 1970s; highlight the use of humor and the essay as a form in the literature of HIV and AIDS; and demonstrate the importance of community creation as a form of activism.
Jason Baumann is currently completing his PhD in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, focusing on American prison literature. He is also Coordinator of Collection Assessment, Humanities, and LGBT Collections at the New York Public Library, where he has curated two exhibitions—1969: the Year of Gay Liberation and WHY WE FIGHT: Remembering AIDS Activism. He is also Visiting Associate Professor in the Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science, teaching courses on museum studies, cultural diversity, and archives.
Margaret Galvan, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Recuperating Queer Networks: Alison Bechdel & Grassroots Politics
Today, lesbian comics artist Alison Bechdel is widely celebrated, having been awarded Guggenheim (2012) and MacArthur (2014) Fellowships in addition to the five Tony Awards won this year by the musical based on her celebrated graphic memoir, Fun Home. This renown has been building since the runaway success of her 2006 publication of Fun Home rocketed her from a cartoonist beloved by lesbians to a more broadly known figure. While her meteoric rise has attracted ample academic attention to her work, critics focus on Fun Home and subsequent work, largely ignoring her early comics, including the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1983-2008). In this presentation that draws from a funded digital humanities project, I analyze this early work by creating network graphs through Gephi of the grassroots communities that financially support Bechdel’s comics.
Bechdel’s successful self-syndication of DTWOF in as many as 50 grassroots publications at any one time allows her, starting in 1990, to support herself solely through her artistic production. To study the moment before self-sufficiency, I create publication networks of the grassroots periodicals that Bechdel worked on—WomaNews (1983-1985) and Equal Time (1986-1990). Combining an assessment of these Gephi networks alongside the graphics that Bechdel produces for these publications, I examine the nodes of influence whose feminist and LGBT politics directly impact the early evolution of her strip. In recuperating this material through non-digital archival research and representing it through digital tools, I ask: what queer genealogies are unknown and what sort of tactics must we use to recover them? Moreover, by considering the prolific readership networks in the comments sections of Bechdel’s current website, I ask: what do the digital networks that surround Bechdel’s work today tell us about the state of the grassroots politics that germinate her early work?
Margaret Galvan is a PhD candidate in English with a film studies certificate at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her recently-defended dissertation, Archiving the ’80s: Feminism, Queer Theory, & Visual Culture, traces a genealogy of queer theory in 1980s feminism through representations of sexuality in visual culture. This work was funded by six archival research grants over four years, including a fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin. Her publications include essays on underground comics artists in the Fall 2015 issues of WSQ and Archive Journal.
Shyamolie Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Rebuilding the Queer ‘Movement’: Ambedkarite Archives on the Internet
Over the last year, net neutrality and Free Basics became a major talking point in India. Simultaneously, there has been a great deal of work being done about the usage of online spaces – still inaccessible to a great deal of the population, but also unmarked and more open to new entrants than traditional offline circles of academia or social organisations – in the contexts of social movements and activism, such as the recent student movements in JNU and HCU. The queer movement in India has also found a great deal of space to work with online, and archives such as Orinam, Gaysi and Gaylaxy, or queer Facebook groups discussing both personal (cruising, for example, has seen a shift online as well, from unspoken of but well defined cruising spots in cities to apps and online groups) desires, and political questions (Sec 377, events, trans rights, the NALSA judgement, conferences, censorship of films with queer contents etc.) Questions of the co-option and indeed, the active participation of the queer movement in the profits of neoliberalism, Hindutva politics, and casteism have also been raised time and time again by theorists and queer individuals who find themselves uneasy and excluded by the movement itself. This paper will attempt to examine the contradictions and relationships between queer desire and the radical edges of Dalit-bahujan and Ambedkarite movements in India, and the spaces these movements occupy on new online platforms, social media and other ways of consolidating virtual communities. It attempts to undertake this reading by examining some of the major Dalit-bahujan archives online such as RoundtableIndia, and writings that examine the relationship between the queer movement and the anti-caste movement. Even as the queer movement has sought visibility and has gained some of it (the Koushal v Naz case, pride, queer collectives in universities) it has failed on several accounts, whether it is transphobia or casteism within its own circles. Critiques of neoliberal queerness – being deeply intertwined in the massive frameworks of data capitalism – can then, be further posited by examining the rich legacy of the Ambedkarite movement, one that has opposed both Brahminism and capitalism historically and today. The queer movement has literally been archived and inscribed by the massive frameworks of data capitalism, and these virtual community spaces – Facebook, Twitter, and the digitisation of traditional media formats such as the daily newspaper – capture both the gains, and losses of a queer movement that has been rightly dubbed as exclusionary, upper-caste, and English speaking. Yet, to condemn the entire queer movement is to ignore the the fact that there has been considerable work that is being recorded by Dalit-bahujan individuals both within and outside the queer community, in a way that queers the linear, teleological ideas of queer progress thoroughly. Dalit-bahujan archiving – whether of casteist experiences within the queer community, or of experiences that are not necessarily ‘queer’, such as the collection by the Ambedkar Age Collective, Hatred in the Belly – has fissured and changed the way we must see queerness. Casteism is an oppressive structure that has excluded and continues to exclude Dalit-bahujan individuals from traditional modes of “speaking out” – financially, socially, economically. Universities, publishing houses, traditional media, corporate structures, and the queer movement itself, all practice and are seeped in caste practices. What do online Ambedkarite archives – speaking of queerness, caste, love, politics, capitalism, exclusion, movements – tell us about the queer movement in India today? The Ambedkarite and queer movements on new platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become arenas for exploration of a multitude of queer voices who do not accept a queer fight that ends with legalisation of same sex desire, presently criminalised in India. Instead, there is a deliberate push towards an intersectional politics of archiving, speaking, and consistently writing into presence the queer movement in India today. How do we understand this movement? Is there a possibility to queer a space such as Facebook or Twitter? Can this queer desire, politics and radicalism be preserved and intensified by way of statuses, discussions, comment threads, and retweets, even as sections of the queer movement participate in the celebration of neoliberal visibility and capitalism, and in the exclusion of those who do not fit into the ideals of the appropriate ‘queer’ subject?
Shyamolie Singh is currently pursuing her masters in Political Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her current research interests include casteism in queer politics, political and protest poetry, and contemporary movements that question the frameworks of the modern-nation state in India.
Respondent: Jaime Shearn Coan is a PhD student in English at The Graduate Center focusing on the politics of identity in contemporary performance and literature. He is the recent recipient of an ERI Knickerbocker Award for Archival Research in American Studies, teaches at Hunter College and currently serves as the Curatorial Fellow at Danspace Project.
Harris Kornstein, Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU
Real Names, Digital Drag: Queer Strategies of Realness and Obfuscation
In the fall of 2014, several San Francisco drag queens found themselves locked out of their Facebook accounts after being reported for using so-called “fake names.” Without warning, their online identities, message histories, and digital performance archives simply vanished. The #MyNameIs campaign quickly formed to protest the policy and represent users affected by it, including queer and transgender people, domestic violence survivors, Native Americans, and members of other marginalized communities. Within a few weeks, calls for protest were publicized in international media, forcing an apology from the company and promises to fix the policy. More than one year later, the policy remains in effect with only minimal changes.
This presentation will offer a brief history of this ad-hoc campaign, from the perspective of one of its organizers. However, rather than focusing on an analysis of the arguments for or against the policy, it will instead explore competing concepts of “realness” in the tension between the company’s attempts to regulate users’ identities through reference to a “real life” presumed to exist independently of Facebook itself, and the ways in which users construct and understand their own identities. The talk also suggests that drag queens’ profiles provide a uniquely queer example of digital obfuscation: by using non-legal names, posting heavily made up photos (which confound facial recognition software), and creating user profiles with semi-fictional histories and personal data, drag queens complicate the “realness” of the data collected by platforms like Facebook while still building authentic relationships with their fans and communities.
Harris Kornstein is a PhD student in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU, and is also a media and performance artist who holds an MFA in Digital Arts & New Media from UC Santa Cruz. He has exhibited work in galleries and festivals in New York, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Bergen, Norway; performed in venues ranging from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to OccupySF; and is an organizer with the MyNameIs campaign.
T Clutch Fleischmann, Creative Writing, Columbia College Chicago
Benjamin Haber, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
Gheez this is Uncomfortable: Performing the Impotence of Masculinity
Starting in 2015, the presenters have run a collaborative twitter project that aggregates online user reviews of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, also prescribed for pulmonary arterial hypertension. A documentation of the performance of wounded masculinity in the context of digitized communities and medical interventions, The Cialis Review reveals the contours, textures, and inconsistencies of aging masculinities as they turn to online forums (often unfamiliar venues to Cialis users) to form communities, share compassion, perform virility, and generate information. “I feel like I can cut diamonds again,” one review reads. “My wife accused me of trying to hurt her LOL,” reads another. “Before this medicine I felt lost.”
What happens when a community of older, cisgender, primarily straight men experience the cyborg body of pleasure-based, non-reproductive sexuality, resisting heteronormative narratives of aging and sexuality while also generating their own discourse and language through the feminized platforms of online sexual health communities? How does masculinity resist the diminishment of its power while also articulating flaccidity as a component of virile impulses and turning to non-familial, non-professional sources for comfort and information? What even is the pursuit of masculinity when its ultimate performance is an inward turn, an undoing, or an identification away from the masculine that gave birth to it. “Gheez this is uncomfortable,” as one man has it, “I think I know how woman feel when menstruating.”
T Clutch Fleischmann is the author of Syzygy, Beauty and the curator of Body Forms: Queerness and the Essay. A Nonfiction Editor at DIAGRAM and Contributing Editor to EssayDaily, their recent work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kenyon Review Online, Brooklyn Rail, PEN Poetry Series, and Fanzine. A Visiting Writer at Columbia College Chicago, they are currently finishing a book-length essay on ice and the visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
Benjamin Haber is a PhD candidate in Sociology at CUNY Graduate Center and a Digital Fellow at The Center for the Humanities. His dissertation “The Queer Allure of Data: Digital Anxieties of the Networked Body” is a cultural and material exploration of emergent infrastructures of corporeal data through a queer theoretical framework. His article “The Queer Ontology of Digital Method” will appear in the WSQ special issue on Queer Method this fall.
Mikhel Proulx, Concordia University
Protocol and Performativity: Queer Selfies and the Coding of Networked Identities
Despite the formative myth that digital networks would yield liberatory spaces—outside the confines of race, gender, and body—contemporary networked cultures carry forward offline ideologies that proscribe certain forms of restrictive self-presentation. A study in contemporary digital visual cultures, this paper addresses Queer, feminist and trans* performance in digital networks to recognize how the performance of self online is pre- structured by technical systems, and thus how digital self-imagery is coded by both technical and social structures. To this end, the paper will pull from examples in visual art, as well as from vernaculars of everyday imagery in dating and sex networks. Together, these case studies elaborate the modes by which identity is coded by protocols of computational systems, and work to upset how these codes structure networked self- imagery. In these Queer selfies, we can see counterpoints to regulatory codes of identity and visibility in the digital age.
Mikhel Proulx is a cultural researcher and PhD student in the department of Art History at Concordia University, Montreal, where he teaches media art histories and Queer visual cultures. His research considers Queer and Indigenous artists working on the early Web, and he has curated exhibitions across Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. He currently is a recipient of a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship and is the Jarislowsky Foundation Doctoral Fellow in Canadian Art History.
Patrick Sweeney, Psychology, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Ways of Seeing Sexuality: Resisting the ontological primacy of biology and challenging the oculocentric imperative.
A growing number of social psychological studies purport to find that participants can accurately differentiate between the faces of homosexual and heterosexual people. These studies are situated within not only from the larger psychological literature on relationships between facial attributes and perceptions of social phenomena, but also from the long line of research on bodily manifestations of sexual orientation – in clusters of brain cells, hair whorls, fingers, the inner ear, genitals, and so on. They contribute to a conceptualization of sexual subjectivity thought to be rooted in biological “reality,” responding to a cultural context in which ideas about the malleability or fluidity of sexual desire as well as more psychodynamic or social constructionist etiologies of homosexuality are used to support reparative therapy or argue that homosexual orientations should be changed. However, these images of human faces (along with associated descriptive metadata such as the presumed gender, sexual orientation, and location of the uploader) taken from social networking and online dating websites are used to artificially fix the multiplicity and fluidity of sexual desire into legible classifications of sexual subjects. The images that ostensibly reveal a physiognomic sexual truth only do so through the lens of sex/gender binaries reinforced by the technologies of contemporary social scientific research and socially mediated representation. These ways of seeing make certain bodies visible and often function to strip sexuality of its social aspects, portraying it as a property of an individual body and occluding its historicity and relational nature. In addition, assumptions about race and gender play a large part in how these faces are perceived, raising critical questions about validity, as well as the ways in which prototypical whiteness is built into research methods.
Patrick Sweeney is a doctoral candidate in the Critical Social / Personality Psychology program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY); and a Digital Fellow at the Graduate Center Digital Scholarship Lab. His dissertation explores how scientific theories about the etiology of homosexuality have become part of public discourse and used in arguments to expand or contract the scope of justice. His research interests include citizenship, queer theory, qualitative methods, digital media, and critical psychology.
respondent: Edward D. Miller is Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island. He received his PhD in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He is the author of Emergency Broadcasting and 1930s American Radio (2003) and Tomboys, Pretty Boys, and Outspoken Women: 1973 Media Revolution (2012). Recent publications include contributions to Cinema Journal and American Historical Review as well as chapters in Media Authorship (2013) and Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography (2014). His creative work appears in Hinchas de Poesia, Red Fez, Boston Literary Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Counterexample Poetics.
Shaka McGlotten, media | society | & the arts, Purchase College, SUNY
The world is becoming data. Ubiquitous, location-aware computing gathers our biographical and spatial information; it records our choices, and uses algorithms to predict what we will choose or want next. Meanwhile, biometric technologies digitize the body, attempting to capture it on behalf of an array of actors, from states in their ever-expanding search for terrorists, and the private sector, which both works in tandem with the state and seeks to monetize these data. State agencies and corporations collaborate in unprecedented ways in order to obtain and operationalize this data. If you’re connected, you’re captured.
This talk/performance uses an eclectic handful of online artifacts to explore the notion of “black data,” a heuristic I suggest offers analytical and political traction for black queer studies. Black data refers to the historical and contemporary ways black people are interpolated by big data, which here include both the technés of race and racism and the various efforts of states and corporations to capture, predict, and control political and consumer behavior. I also use black data to refer to the informatics of black queer life, to expressive practices, emergent epistemologies, and everyday ways of maneuvering through the world. Drawing on some anarchist and cryptographic perspectives, I figure black data as “black ops,” secret or encrypted forms of counter-knowledge that challenge or refuse some of the demands of contemporary imperial power, especially the demand to be seen. In so doing, “Black Data” seeks to bring black queer studies into dialogue with critical studies of new technologies and network cultures.
Shaka McGlotten is Associate Professor of media | society | & the arts at Purchase College-SUNY, where he teaches courses on ethnography, screen media, and queer studies. He is the author of Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (SUNY Press 2013) and co-editor of Black Genders and Sexualities (21012) and Zombie Sexuality (McFarland 2014).
R Joshua Scannell, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Inhumanist Archiving and Smart City Surveillance
Debates over the rise of the Smart City as an emerging paradigm of contemporary governance have tended to frame the model’s potentialities and shortcomings in terms of future-oriented surveillance. Increasingly functional large-scale data analytics systems promise to be able to “know” future events before they occur, whether potential clients or crimes, and to orient institutions towards most effectively exploiting future contingencies. Often understood through of Gilles Deleuze’s theory of “control,” critics have highlighted the creepy ways in which such digital technologies enable fine-grained, “modular” means of guiding people and things towards outcomes most desired by capital or the state. Without disagreeing with this basic analysis, this paper will contend that the “futural” narrative of modulation and soft control papers over the critical way in which these technological systems intervene in, and reformulate, digital archives. By producing urban banality as potential value, urban informatics transforms the city and its processes into a datamine – an accumulation of digital traces that promises nothing, but generates value for economy and security precisely because of this uncertainty. The possible future development of an algorithm or app that might retroactively make sense of a city that was is a form of inhumanist archiving, or archiving from the future. The curatorial processes of imprinting and solidifying the meaning of the digital traces of life are retrofitted to purpose-obscure data sets. Rather than draw on an archive to make sense of a history or point to a future, analytics retroactively generate an archive that never was. In this weird archiving from the future, the “real” city becomes meaningful through the authorization of the datamine. This produces an ontoepistemological blurring in which the city of concrete and flesh oscillates back and forth between the speculative place of a predicted future yet to come and the retroactive authorization of its own reality in the app or algorithm Meat space becomes a haunting, a trace of a trail of a digital accumulation and calculative techniques.
R Joshua Scannell is a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. His current research looks into “Big Data” driven predictive policing practices and urban informatics studies in New York City. His work focuses on the intersection of theories of the body, carceral racial capitalism and contemporary political economy.
Scott W. Schwartz, CUNY Graduate Center, Dept. of Anthropology
Uncontrollable Knowledge: Vulnerability in the Age of Algorithms
This paper posits that control and domination are enacted through the privileging of predictive utility as the premier attribute of knowledge production. Through an excavation of vulnerability, I illustrate that contemporary power is built upon the naturalization of vulnerability as a malignancy to be suppressed. This problematic perception is based on hypothetical realities constructed out of probabilities derived from the quantification of reality. Quantified information is more amenable to projection, trendcasting, control and domination. Privileging quantifiable phenomena as the basis of knowledge production has led to a socially constructed schism between mutually exclusive categories known as real and unreal. That is, predictable, quantifiable phenomena is normalized as categorically more real than non-‐ patterned, non-‐reproducible, queer phenomena. My work traces the manifestation of this epistemology from the development of quarantine in response to plague in Europe and the cultivation of ‘contagious identities’ to the deferral of responsibility attendant with algorithmic decision-‐making today. Drawing heavily from the queer ecology of Karen Barad and feminist scholar Ewa Ziarek, I discuss means of subverting the control at the heart of predictive knowledge production. Uncontrollable Knowledge, a revolt against the accumulation of data, observes non-‐quantifiable, non-‐predictive metrics – scrambling the data with information that cannot be employed towards enhancing predictive capacity (how many years per hour a tree grows, how many kilograms per meter a car weighs, the angle of a protest, the temperature of a law, the momentum of a commercial transaction, how many times I don’t fall down per day) – and injecting such metrics into the datastream algorithmically culled from social media. As Arendt asserts vulnerability is the price of mundane freedom. Freedom is the capacity for unpredictable action. Systems that suppress vulnerability suppress freedom. More gravely, only the dead are invulnerable.
Scott W. Schwartz is an archaeologist focusing on the material culture of knowledge production. Specifically, I engage in the excavation of measuring instruments devised to construct and naturalize the quantifiable reality that has aided and enabled the prevailing contemporary epistemology of insidious growth. Drawing on Karen Barad’s assertion that meaning and matter cannot be separated, my aim is not to translate traces of material culture into discursive narratives, but rather to investigate the material strata of discursive concepts, such as vulnerability. I have conducted fieldwork in the North Atlantic, and am finishing my Ph.D. at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Jake Silver, Duke University, Department of Cultural Anthropology
Deathly energies in the wake of the digital
Queer theory has long contemplated how the limits of life and death subscribe to heteronormative futurity (Edelman 2004; Muñoz 2009). Queers face violence, challenge reproductive projects, and die; straights live. To embrace death, then, is and has always been a queer orientation, one that challenges the legacy of homo oeconomicus, of the reproduction of both the human and of the (national) economy to which it is tethered (Berlant 2011). In the digital age, however, death is no longer a state that we can relegate to a radically separate ontology, one that Levinas once called essentially “ungraspable” (1987). The digital not only networks the living, but the digitized and growing archive of the dead (their images, thoughts, musings, writings) co-penetrates the social. While we still cannot understand what “being” dead is, in this paper I question how death unravels in this queer sociality, how and when it becomes lively, energetic, and political in a digital age that increasingly archives any and all deaths. To pair queerness and death alongside one another I find especially productive in an age of networked archival, as the many faces of queer and trans persons (particularly of color) that have encountered disproportionate violence, and in many cases have been murdered, stare back at us through our screens, meeting us, intimately communicating with us in otherworldly ways.
If queer (as well as black, indigenous, and female) states are always already prefigured as “deathly” or “deadened,” as Sharon Holland has argued (2000), then what does unraveling death do to a queer politics that is itself deathly? To unravel death as a process or a concept, in the first place, is necessarily queer, upsetting naturalized distinctions of the human, the other, and the virtual. In this paper, I drive forward Levinas’ notion that death is ungraspable—and thus, like queerness, I argue, unable to be fixed—to theorize what a queer sociality of the living and the dead may be. That we come in contact with the faces of the dead more than ever forces us to think seriously about how the dead act within and on politics. In opening up a space for this sociality, not only do I hope to queer the ontological and biological distinctions between life and death, but I also hope to question how queer, trans, black, female, and indigenous ontologies can, like death, similarly become lively, can penetrate and upset politics. To penetrate politics in this framework is not only theoretical, but it also has political, aesthetic, and everyday implications: how can queer collectives or individuals use new media to upset politics, how can the (queer) dead participate in this conversation, and how can the queer and the dead perhaps work together? This paper gives both death and queerness effectual rather than a wavering voices, voices that can confront biologisms, prejudices, and assimilations.
Jake Silver is a PhD Student in the Department of Cultural Anthropology whose research focuses on the intimate ways that we feel we come to know social and political worlds through various forms of mediation, particularly through new media and the interface.
Respondent: Daniel J Sander holds a BA in studio art from Reed College, MAs in Arts Politics and Performance Studies from NYU, and a PhD in Performance Studies from NYU. His transdisciplinary creative and academic work concerns the philosophy of desire, the psychopathology of deviance, libidinal materialism, and queer nihilism, and has been exhibited, published, and performed internationally.
Marika Cifor, Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
Quantified Sex: Queer Archival Practices of Sexuality and Self
“‘McDonald, Bob.’ Chicago. 28-III-50. Mysterious past, the Lincoln Blackfoot Club. Actually, a plain-clothes cop and as queer as they make ‘em. That is, if his sucking my cock makes a man queer. He did—twice.”
“M__, Eddie. Chicago, 24-XI-49. Botticelli beauty. Thighs of Michelangelo’s David. Torso of a young boy. 17 years old.”
“A__, Marie. New York-Columbus, 1930. 3 x. lezz.”
“__, Augustus (Gus). 2016, Brk. June 9, 1966. A9. Ami de Milt H__. Aging queen. (Ain’t we all ?)”
The entries above are to be found among the hundreds of index cards that make up Samuel Steward’s “Stud File,” a card catalogue in which he chronicled his sexual activities from the 1930s through the 1960s. The Stud File, now at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, was but one medium for Steward’s larger project of documenting, classifying and quantifying his queer sexual existence. Steward carefully tracked the partners, locations, dates, acts, accessories, and releases. He also offered gendered, racialized and racy remarks on the bodies and personalities of those with whom he was engaged and the activities and pleasures they shared. In another archival practice David Louis Bowie in his diaries, held by New York Public Library’s Archives and Manuscript’s Division, chronicles his queer sexual life and world from 1978 to 1993 in text, numbers, photographs and graphic illustrations of genitalia and sex acts. The diaries are both documentation and themselves a documented sexual object of arousal for their creator. Both of these queer men engaged in an analog archival process of quantifying and classifying their queer sexual lives and beings for posterity and pleasure that was personal and public. In our contemporary moment the quantified self movement has brought new digital possibility for tracking and rating sexual life through apps and wearable devices. This movement opens the potentiality for queerly reorganized relations between bodies, technology and archival documentation practices. However, in practice the quantifying of sexual activity through such technologies serves to represent only a limited scope of sexual behaviors thereby reinforcing constraining normative conceptions of sexual activity and desire. The intimate nature of the collected data and the capitalistic nature of its ownership also raises a series of privacy concerns for users and those with whom they engage. I argue that looking to underexamined queer histories and practices in archives can offer a promising alternative possibility for documenting and analyzing sexual practices in a digital world in ways that are queerly idiosyncratic. Archives thus hold the potential for critiquing gendered, raced, classed sexual norms to form a more vibrant and just social and sexual world.
Marika Cifor is a doctoral student in Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is also pursuing certificates in Gender Studies and the Digital Humanities. Her research interests include affect, community archives, queer and feminist theories, bodies and embodiment, and collective memory. She is beginning work on her critical archival studies dissertation, a qualitative examination of nostalgia, representation and the records of HIV/AIDS activism. Together with Anne J. Gilliland Cifor is guest editor of a special issue of Archival Science on “Affect and the Archive, Archives and their Affects” and is an editor of InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies. Her work has been published in TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, Archival Science, Archivaria, and InterActions.
Melissa Rogers, Women’s Studies, University of Maryland, College Park
“Soft Circuitry: Queer Craft as Social Media”
How might artistic research methods offer new ways of approaching the questions of queer, feminist, and new media theories? This multimedia presentation explores how feminized crafting techniques such as embroidery and knitting function as forms of erotic archiving with the capacity to shape queer sociality. As a habitual and everyday form of cultural production, craft is a kind of “digital” media in which the fingers (digits) manipulate the material data of thread, yarn, and fabric, constructing projects that can cohere social worlds. Using embroidered assemblages composed of thrifted and found craft ephemera as well as the open-source LilyPad Arduino platform, I contextualize my own experiments with making, demonstrating how a speculative feminist materialism informed by bricolage can attend to crafting’s affective and material implications. I argue that queer crafting offers us tactile modes of knowing and relating centered in failure, “making do,” and the labor of care. Such ameliorative practices can reorient and reorganize our lives in ways that are not hetero- and homonormative. When combined with new physical computing technologies for the creation of electronic textiles, queer craft can productively unravel “big data,” the quantification of LGBT life, and the surveillance and monetization of digital networks while troubling the binary between resistance and complicity. We could think of queer feminist craft praxis as a soft circuit: a technological pathway or schematic for feeling our way toward newly habitable worlds and ways of being.
Melissa Rogers is a doctoral candidate in Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her dissertation explores DIY cultural production across queer feminist contemporary art worlds and “maker” movements. She uses fiber craft practices to think about the relationships between materiality, technology, and knowledge.
Noah Tsika, Queens College, CUNY
CompuQueer: Machine Reading, Memetic Mutation, and the Search for Queer Cinema Online
“Queer,” writes Annamarie Jagose, “is always an identity under construction, a site of permanent becoming” (1996, 131). To extend Jagose’s reasoning, queer cinema—a corpus of films by or about sexual and gender minorities, or marked by diversely counterhegemonic aesthetics—might profitably be seen as similarly unfinished, its boundaries vague, its taxonomic “place” profoundly portable. But what becomes of queer cinema online? What are some of the methods through which it achieves intelligibility on the internet? Writing online, critics tend to promote, and position as emphatically queer, a number of methods unique to digital networked technologies, from the creation of dedicated YouTube channels where clips of queer cinema may be curated to collaboration on shared Facebook pages where the genre may be parsed in startling, perhaps even paradigm-shifting ways. But what, exactly, are queer about these methods, and how has the very concept of a queer method achieved coherence and popularity online, without becoming synonymous with an ethos of extreme, indiscriminate inclusivity—with a sense that “anything goes,” especially on the internet, and especially under the banner of “queer”? How do digital networked technologies both manufacture and undermine the intelligibility of specifically queer methods? I consider these questions through analyses of two conspicuous, readily accessible frameworks for identifying queer cinema online: machine reading, which here involves specialty search engines that seek to circumvent human interpretation—especially the kinds of methods that would limit or otherwise distort “queer” to suit any number of established paradigms—for the sake of discovering the expansively queer; and the creation and modification of memes, whether GIFs, image macros, or hashtags. While both of these approaches to making queer cinema more visible and interpretable online might convincingly be described—and certainly describe themselves—as queer methods, their results often favor the subjectivities of white, gay, normatively bodied cis men, reflecting both the inescapable representational limitations of most commercial films and, more broadly, what Lisa Duggan refers to as “the sexual politics of neoliberalism,” whereby the radically queer is occluded for the sake of the salability and “spreadability” of homonormativity (2002, 179).
Noah A. Tsika is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. He is the author of the books Gods and Monsters: A Queer Film Classic (2009), Nollywood Stars: Media and Migration in West Africa and the Diaspora (2015), and Pink 2.0: Encoding Queer Cinema on the Internet (2016). His essays have appeared in African Studies Review, Black Camera, Cineaste, Porn Studies, and The Velvet Light Trap, as well as in numerous anthologies, including LGBT Identity and Online New Media, The Brokeback Book, Reading Brokeback Mountain, and Queer Youth and Media Cultures.
RESPONDENT: Amy Herzog is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Queens College and Coordinator of the Film Studies Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she is a faculty member in Theatre, Music, Film, and Women’s Studies. She is the author of Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and co-editor, with Carol Vernallis and John Richardson, of The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media (Oxford, 2013). She has published essays on film and popular music, philosophy, pornography, gentrification, parasites, and dioramas [FOR SELECTED WORK]. Her most recent research project centers on a history of peep show arcades in Times Square, New York.
Allucquére Rosanne (Sandy) Stone is professor emerita of communication at the University of Texas, Austin; founding core faculty and Wolfgang Kohler professor of media and performance studies at the European Graduate School; senior artist at the Banff Centre; University of California Humanities Research Institute Fellow; and occasional hell-raiser at the University of California, Santa Cruz and other institutions of higher learning. She was a Sundance Institute invitee, a member of the Bell Laboratories Special Systems Exploratory Group, conducted research on the neurological basis of vision for NIH, and was the director for ten years of the International Conferences on Cyberspace. She is a recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the State of California, City of Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz Diversity Center; and is the author of numerous publications in the fields of science fiction, neurology, vision, architecture, new media, and anthropology, including “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto”, a founding text for the academic discipline of Transgender Studies.
Breaking Into History: AIDS, the archive, and the fight against the canonization of an ongoing epidemic
Video, visual art, storytelling, printed material, literature, medical records, performance, gossip, online registries and other queer sources for sharing history have played a pivotal role in recent years in exploring the early days of the ongoing AIDS crisis in the us. But too little attention has been paid to how even with these queer sources similar and narrow versions of the past are repeatedly being told. This canonization stemming from the archive and networked ways of knowing are limiting not only how we understand the past, but how we act the present and imagine the future.
In this dynamic interactive presentation a filmmaker and artist, a public health scholar, and a media focused community historian will share their work, all of which can be read as a break away from the calcifying history of the early responses to AIDS and working towards a queer way of knowing, remembering and moving forward.
Using oral history, personal connections, and online innovation Tiona McClodden used her skills as an artist, and filmmaker to create an interactive website honoring the poet Essex Hemphill, those he inspired, and the communities he was a part of. Doing the work, she began by finding permission to tell stories untold and in the end has created a site that she hopes gives black queer and trans folks the permission they may need to be themselves online and IRL.
Born from a desire to connect with the AIDS activism that has being lauded in films like “How to Survive a Plague,” Julian de Mayo searched for and found communities of Latino AIDS activists whose footsteps he literally walked in, which he digitalization and used as a jumping off point to showcase the limits of the current AIDS crisis revisitation. Through websites and presentations and community dinners, he has created new communities, and reunited pre- existing networks.
As the progenitor of the phrase, “Your Nostalgia is Killing Me,” Ian Bradley Perrin has a visceral reaction to the limited and un-nuanced ways in which the history of ACT UP and many of its most prominent members goes unexplored. Trained as a public health historian, Bradley Perrin makes powerful use of the ACT UP Oral History Project and other resources to uncover and question what it means when ” drugs into bodies” is heralded as the major win of ACT UP. What are the implications of this on how we understand the past, the movement now, and those currently living with HIV and those made most at risk by the state.
Each will present using various media, after which they will engage in conversation with writer and organizer Theodore (Ted) Kerr where they will discuss the possibilities and limits of the archive as it related to access, canonization, and liberation.
This workshop consists of creating an algorithm or score to generate poses and movement. Once the system is created, how does one find a way to work within that system while maintaining individuality? How can one attain personal success within a system that seems rigid and impossible to navigate? Bring something to write on either notebook, smartphone or tablet.
Alex Rodabaugh is a dancer, performer and dance maker. He has shown work at This ‘N That, Palisades, The Invisible Dog, Metropolitan Bar, Secret Works Loft, Don Pedro, The Ho_se, Dixon Place, BGSQD and Movement Research at Judson Church. In 2014, He was commissioned for DoublePlus, a split-bill program at Gibney Dance Studio, curated by Miguel Gutierrez. He recently performed with Miguel in Part 3 of his Age & Beauty series.
Under neoliberalism, intimate encounters and exchanges increasingly take place on corporate digital space. On Facebook, a culture of emoting and sharing has fostered a new poetics of confession, particularly for queer and trans people navigating trauma and isolation. Writing across rage, shame, desire, humiliation, heartbreak, grief, belief, and addiction, queer and trans people are navigating the complicated terrain of Facebook as a medium for political confession and self-expression. In this discussion, we read some of this raw work and discuss the new communicative forms and foreclosures of social media in the twenty-first century.
Stephen Boyer lives in Brooklyn and writes a lot.
Reina De Aztlan is a drag queen of color (dqoc) and organizer formerly based in oakland, now in nyc, always on facebook. reina is organizing to end prisons, detention centers, and the united states. find reina on facebook @ reina de aztlan.
Grace Dunham is a writer and activist from New York City. Grace has written about art, gender justice, and prison abolition for publications including The New Yorker and The Village Voice. Grace’s first chapbook of poetry is available at thefool.us.
Carolyn lazard is an artist and writer working in media and performance. Her work engages ideas of collective practice, intimacy, care, and technology. She has shown work at UnionDocs, Maysles Cinema, the Arnolfini, and Cleopatra’s. She occasionally programs screenings at Light Industry in Greenpoint. Lazard is a founding member of the art collective Canaries and is a 2015 recipient of the Wynn Newhouse Award. Her writing will appear in the forthcoming New Museum publication, “THIS COULD BE US.” She spends her time between Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
Jamal T. Lewis is a multidisciplinary artist, cultural worker and writer living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. Their work interrogates and explores identity formation, loneliness, ugliness, desire(ability), race, class, gender, and sexuality. Their work has been featured in The LA Times, BuzzFeed, TriBeCa, AFROPUNK, and various other media publications. They are currently in pre-production for their debut documentary film, No Fats, No Femmes. In their free time, Jamal enjoys sleeping, dancing, and laughing with friends.
Mitchyll Mora organizes against the criminalization of queer and trans people of color who are street based, homeless, and/or involved in criminalized economies like the sex trade. mitchyll wants to use their bio time to share a tip for people with stable housing on how they can redistribute housing: first get out your keys, go make copies of each key, then give them to someone without housing. if you don’t know anyone struggling with housing then let mitchyll know and they will connect you with someone! stable housing is a privilege!
Bradford Nordeen, founder of the bi-coastal film, video and performance collective Dirty Looks, assembles a video and new media program that envisions the queer future by way of bygone technologies, posing questions as to the “global” geographies of the internet and the intersection of technologies and the body in contemporary queer performance practices.
Michael Robinson, Mad Ladders, 10min., HD video, 2015
A modern prophet’s visions of mythical destruction and transformation are recounted across a turbulent geometric ceremony of rising curtains, swirling setpieces, and unveiled idols from music television’s past. Together, these parallel cults of revelation unlock a pathway to the far side of the sun.
Chris E. Vargas, Extraordinary Pregnancies, 10min. digital video, 2010
Extraordinary Pregnancies revisits the “First” Pregnant Man, Thomas Beatie and his wife Nancy, rescripting their vulnerable yet guarded interviews with the big shots of tabloid media.
Benjamin Pearson, Former Models, 20min., digital video, 2013
In his mind-blowing biopic of Milli Vanilli’s Robert Pilatus, Pearson combines music-video footage and robotic, theoretical voiceovers detailing cultural production and simulacra to weave a tapestry of anxiety and the capriciousness of the pop music landscape.
Tabita Rezaire, Afro Cyber Resistance, 18min., 2014
A visual essay from Johannesburg-based new media and performance artist, charting the Western ring to the world wide web and the potential for culture jamming inherent therein.
A.L. Steiner + Narcissistser, Winter/Spring Collection, 13min., HD video, 2013
This playful collaboration, made for MOCA TV, is an effervescent deployment of limbs – naked and synthetic, fleshy and fallible – a free-form dance of objects, and SoCal settings to the tune of Narcissister’s noise project, Earthmasters.
Triggers explores the nature of the body as the quintessential circuit, where our ideas, experiences and desires to manifest into a somewhat arbitrary digital world are neither valorized nor able to fully be seen, especially when concerning the feminized colored body, and even more when concerning the expression of trauma and struggle. Triggers references digital and analog triggers, side chains, CV units, toggles, and the transition from 1 – 0 as well as a reference to the triggers that send marginalized bodies into moments of panic, lust, rage, etc. Triggers in our digital world refers to a command, while in our queer bodies refers to a lack there of. Triggers is about the contradiction between what we create and what we take in and how it manifests in our digital world versus our analog body. It is paired with live movement by Alexander Brown and a video piece that uses live processing in order to create an abstract experimental narrative on the body and dimensionality.
SHARMI BASU is an Oakland born and based queer South Asian woman of color creating experimental music as a means of decolonizing musical language. She attempts to catalyze a political, yet ethereal aesthetic by combining her anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics with a commitment to spirituality within the arts. She is an MFA graduate from the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in Electronic Music and Recording Media and has worked with Fred Frith, Roscoe Mitchell, John Bischoff, Pauline Oliveros, Chris Brown, George Lewis, Nicholas Collins, Laetitia Sonami, Jesse Drew, Bob Ostertag, Dr. Nalini Ghuman, Maggi Payne, and more. Her workshops on “Decolonizing Sound” have been featured at the International Society for Improvised Music, the Empowering Women of Color Conference, and have reached international audiences. She performs almost 100 times a year and has toured through the US and Canada as well as internationally in Europe. She specializes in new media controllers, improvisation in electronic music, and intersectionality within music and social justice. She currently teaches Sound Art and Interactive Art at Ex’pression College in the Bay Area. She also founded and hosts an all people-of-color improvisation and performance group called the MARA Performance Collective in Oakland, CA.
Alexander Brown is a Black experimental hip hop artist and choreographer who has had the opportunity to work with artists such as Waterstrider, Desiree Holman, Aiden Lewis, Black Spirituals, Sarah Burden, Beast Nest and Lila Rose as their personal choreographer/soloist. Brown has worked with Jikelele Dance Theatre for many years and has performed at such venues as the Palace of Fine Arts, Oakland Museum of the Arts, Berkeley Art Museum, and was featured in last years Matatu festival.
For the past 2 years Alexander has collaborated with Sharmi Basu of Beast Nest developing a unique take on decolonial aesthetics within the Bay area Electronic music scene.
Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Nica Ross transduce analog audio signals, dressing them up, sending them out, revealing colors, stripping down, picking up drag droppings and flaunting multitudinous waves/digits/frequencies in the form of video beams. Special thanks to Lauryn Siegel for custom queer motion graphics! Followed by a DJ set.
Ginger Brooks Takahashi’s collaborative project-based practice is an extension of feminist spaces and queer inquiry, actively building community and nurturing alternative forms of information distribution. She is co-founder of LTTR, projet MOBILIVRE BOOKMOBILE project, and touring musical act MEN.
Nica Ross is a New York based visual artist whose work challenges the notions of reality using performance and light. Nica co-hosts a monthly audio and visual event, WOAHMONE, for which they create original live video performances and curates work from a wide-variety of visual artists. In addition Nica has worked with 3-Legged Dog Media & Theater group in immersive media design and production and also joins The Joshua Light Show in creating light and video installations.
5 3/4 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock, divided
6 pound large shrimp, shelled (shells reserved)
3/4 pound mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, and oyster, stemmed and thinly sliced (stems reserved)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup grits, preferably stoneground (see note above)
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper
13 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), diced
Vegetable oil (if needed)
1 medium shallot, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons mixed minced fresh herbs, such as Purple haze , chives, and Northern Light herbs , Amnesia haze plus more as garnish
DIRECTIONS – organic digital porn stalker by day and double-mitzvah party clown for hire by night the superhero that never leaves the comfort of the darkness beneath your bed will feed and woo you while baking