queerfragments

Particulate arising from study

Month: June, 2013

A non-exhaustive list of objects from Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology

nuclear stockpiles, picnics, buckshot, Roswell aliens, SETI, space shuttles, chile peppers, harmonicas, tacos, plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, sandstone, atoms, alpacas, bits, blinis, kudzu, grizzly bears, plastic, lumber, steel, dogs, pigs, birds, apples, potatoes, gypsum, video games, redwoods, lichen, salamanders, computers, microprocessors, ribbon cable, Erlenmeyer flasks, rubber-tired Metro rolling stocks, wild boars, black truffles, limestone deposits, kittens, humans, unicorns, combine harvesters, the color red, methyl alcohol, quarks and corrugated iron, Amelia Earhart, dyspepsia, Harry Potter, keynote speeches, single-malt scotch, Land Rovers, lychee fruits, love affairs, dereferenced pointers, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, bozons, horiculturists, Mozambique, Super Mario Bros., asphalt sealcoat, appletinis, the world, culture, language, capsaicin pepper, the culinary history of the enchilada, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, structure, characterization, events of a narrative, the code that produces it, assemblages of cartridge-machine-player-market, cultural mores, regulations for a particularly well-scheduled orgy to be held on glossy birch flooring, volcanoes, black holes, yogurt, tonsils, Winnie the Pooh, being itself, shipping containers, cinderblocks, bendy straws, iron filings, Slurpees, rotating roasters, red pickup trucks, drums, handles, tailgates, asphalt, metal, propane, Levi’s 501s, tea, skin, sugar, fuel, grapefruit, cells, organs, blood, limbs, bodies, burritos, cereal, the fictional Languages of Arda, integrated circuits, udon noodles, soup bowls, noodle houses, the social conventions according to which the eater slurps, the loosey-goosey abstractions of scruffy-bearded sandal wearing philosophy, brains, combustion engines, unleavened dough, ROM chips, King Aethelberht II, the ruler of East Anglia, twelfth-century vitas…

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The Glitch Moment(um)

This looks to be most promising…

Glitch Moment(um)

Failure- A Review

Failure (2010) is Lisa Le Feuvre’s addition to the Whitechaple Gallery’s Documents of Contemporary Art series. A sleekly designed collection of short essays, interviews, and quotations, it like the other books in the set attempt to touch on an important current in the art in recent decades, while setting art out as an increasingly pluralistic and wide-reaching sphere of influence for society at large.Having had the opportunity to peak at drafts of Amelia Jones’ forthcoming Sexuality, however, I can attest that not all the books in this series are of the same quality.

Le Feuvre’s collection is underwhelming, and focused predominantly on process and pedagogy. The field of new media and mediality in the general are omitted from this survey, leaving only Le Feuvre’s banal assertion that “it is worth considering that the deepest failures are in fact no failures at all,” (19). As with Halberstam’s work on the subject, the material conditions of failure and its consequences are underplayed in an effort to salvage its heroic potential to inspire new possibilities and artistic means. Such efforts are trite to the ears of those who are failing and risk re-enforcing success as the ultimate goal of any endeavor, particularly if we are, as Le Feuvre suggests in her introductory essay, to “strive to fail,” (12). Cynically, I would dismiss this book as useless to any media-focused scholar, save for the rare student with a fascination in Baldessari.

The Queer Art of Failure- A Review

Judith Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure (2011) is a foray into what she, borrowing from Stuart Hall, calls “low theory” (15). The resulting mixture of anecdotes, pop culture, and cultural studies is a peculiar one- at times it is easy to connect with her musing, at other times these examples run into the inane.

The thesis of the book is a important interrogation of the neoliberal demand for success and happiness by way of cultural artifacts that include and celebrate failures. Looking at examples as diverse as Dude Where’s My Car?March of the Penguins, and Chicken Run, she examines alternate forms of family, politics, and knowing that turn to failure as a site of queer possibility and refuge in the face of Sisyphean task of succeeding in life, love, and money. Intersecting with the project of so-called “shadow feminists” and radical queer sex, the book is a celebration of refusals, screw-ups, and non-participation.

Missing from this account, however, is a material examination of failure and its consequences. While Halberstam can extol her own academic ineptitudes, this does little to assuage the anxieties of a PhD student in her attendant precarity. Likewise, the real physical violence, poverty, and depression that are the consequences of failure, particularly the failure of queers, takes a back seat to the comparatively banal plight of the furry protagonists of the so-called “Pixarvolt” films (itself a puzzlingly impotent neologism). Indeed, the argumentative reader might accuse Halberstam of cherry-picking these examples – particularly given the current direction of Disney-owned Pixar and the overwhelming majority of heteronormative success stories that abound in children’s media. So, while Lucy in 50 Dates can be heroized in her state of forgetfulness, her ultimate heterosexual marriage and alarming lack of agency at the end of the film is under-emphasized. Similarly, Dory of Finding Nemo‘s amnesia is lifted up as a model for anti-Oedipal anarchy, yet her concomitant confusion, solitude, and disability are not recognized in this endorsement. This lends itself to an air of academic tourism. The reader visits fictional characters, learns inspirational lessons, but doesn’t stick around for their shock, pain or abuse.

Then there is the curious chapter on homosexual erotic imagery and its relation to fascism. A somewhat incongruous departure from the PG movie screen, this component of the book appears to be a means by which to settle an argument borne of a conference dinner. The contribution Halberstam makes is a valuable, is somewhat wandering, review of “traitorous” figures in gay historiography, yet I wonder to what extent the revisionism that provokes this study (“there were no gay nazis”) is actually reflective of the concerns of contemporary historians of sexuality (171).

Finally, as is often the case in works of such interdisciplinary looseness, the rigor of cultural analysis leaves the art historian or film theorist somewhat aghast. I confess to skipping through all her visual analysis of artworks, and found the book more pleasant for it.

All in all? It was an engaging, if somewhat interrupted read. The general sentiment is useful, and lends itself well to citation, though the specifics are perhaps best left behind.