Queer Aesthetics: Our Time Capsule

In a time when queerness seems to be increasingly watered down by commercialism and assimilation, it’s easy to feel like we’re losing ourselves in the world. It’s like a tribe is dying off or a building is being renovated to look like everything else: the memory is there although the truth isn’t. It’s distressing.

How do we define ourselves — creatively and independently — into the future? Through our art.

In a fabulous piece published by Artsy, the website surveys how queerness — a subject and group known for independence, an autonomous happening in parallel to so many other identities — can be tracked through time in the approach to aesthetics, either by making their own or offering a unique imprint on movements.

A great example of this can be found in abstraction. The story explains:

Still, one doesn’t have to rewrite history in order to convey queerness. Abstraction, for one, can be a subtle mask that gestures to the queer identity hiding beneath it. “Abstraction is a form of drag in which the personal and the contextual, the histrionic, the psycho-sexual, and the socio-historical wear a disguise to pass as Minimalism,” offers artist Lucas Michael. Consider Michael’s Redress (2015), a neon work originally placed next to a gallery door in Los Angeles, mirroring its same dimensions, but offering hypothetical entrance to another world altogether. What appears to be a simple geometry—a glowing, red minimalism—performs a subtle double duty, alluding to gay nightclubs, cruising grounds, and other places where desire is enacted.

Interesting. Very interesting.

This suggests something fundamental in queer aesthetics that the author (Zachary Small) eventually lands with an illuminating click: “some queer artists indeed find bliss in self-erasure.” Like the queering of the Babadook, there is a love of being on the outside, of being different, of not being the same. This can be achieved by eliminating oneself in so many words. There is an adoration of quirkiness, in deviating from the norm, that defines queer art. It’s a wonderful thing.

Yes, the story is brief and wanders around contemporary, likely white and male “queer” (i.e., gay) art but it presents a thought that I’ve not thought about and find deeply fascinating. This surely is an ongoing thing to think about — and it’s an excuse to look at the exquisite photo The Village People by Matthew Morrocco.

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