Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures

Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures

Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures

Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures

Synopsis

Outlooks explores the relationship of lesbian and gay sexualities to visual representation. It reflects the richness of lesbian and gay ways of producing and reading visual cultures, at the same time as it tackles such burning issues as the advantage of adopting a queer perspective on past art, the responses of lesbian and gay artists to the AIDS crisis, and society's attempts to censor homosexual art.This volume provides a space for lesbian and gay artists to exhibit their work and discuss its relationship to sexuality. It allows for a wide ranging theoretical and historical discussion of the place of lesbian and gay men within visual cultures and shows how much has been missed by a heterosexist approach to art history and the study of culture.

Excerpt

Re-framed—inscribing lesbian, gay and queer presences in visual culture

Peter Horne and Reina Lewis

This book is an exploration on the part of artists, art historians, critics and theorists of how we might inscribe lesbian and gay sexualities, identities and desires into accounts of past and current artistic production and its reception. It takes the reader into accounts of the past (Part I), into statements by practising artists of the present day (Part II), and into discussions of a broad range of contemporary visual cultures that includes photography and the consumption of popular culture, as well as the traditional categories of fine art (Part III). These interconnecting parts share a concern with the relationship between visual theory and our understanding of sexual categories. This is characterized in various ways: art historians insert a queer perspective into the consumption and historiography of past art; contemporary artists refer to, quote and adapt the codes and styles of past artists; lesbians read same-sex pleasures into fashion magazines in a way that is both with and against the grain of ostensibly heterosexual imagery. in these and other ways, contributors to this book remove the presumption of a heterosexual viewer, construct alternative traditions and find means of inscribing a queer presence in the play of spectatorship to be accessed within the product, whatever the sexual identity of the artist/producer who created the work or the heterosexual postulations of the text.

In recent years, the term queer has re-emerged as some people’s preferred description of themselves and/or their work. Queer has sometimes been defined by its transgressive difference from what are perceived as heterosexist norms. It has also been taken to encompass a variety of desires and hybrid identities, countenancing elements of play and sexual practice, which also transgress the norms of what some have seen as more ostensibly ‘politically correct’ forms of gay and lesbian identity. in the construction of what has come to be known as queer theory, the work of Judith Butler has been influential in articulating a sense of lesbianism as a contingent category. She argues that lesbianism does not express an inner essence but is rather a meaning produced in opposition to dominant forms of gender, forms which are given the effect of being natural by virtue of the repetition of their performance (Butler 1991). Butler opposes the idea that the lesbian can be defined in relation to prior regulatory notions; rather, she understands herself as someone who is eligible for the category of lesbian because of an attraction to the dissolution of the boundaries that identify what is masculine, feminine or even heterosexual. Moreover, Butler argues that what is signified by the terms heterosexual, lesbian or queer will change over time. Once all gendered identities are seen as performative and transitory, the heterosexual is not uniquely separated from the lesbian or gay. the adoption of lesbian or gay or queer identities throws up the kinds of contradictions and instabilities that the regulatory definition of gender as natural tries to suppress.

This book, while retaining lesbian and gay in its title, is aligned to queer in that we would also see all sexual identities as contingent and transitory, in the sense of being formed in active (though not necessarily conscious) response to dominant identificatory norms which themselves need to

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