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II The Discovery of Queerness. Intricate Trails of a Travelling Concept

Conceived and conducted by: Melanie Klein (FOR 1703 "Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art", Research Unit C3 "Fictions of the original. Exploring practices and discourses of the arts of Africa", Freie Universität Berlin) (Workshop with Milumbe Haimbe and Ato Malinda)

In 2013 New York based drag artists Colin Self twittered, “If you’re not queer you’re not paying attention”. The statement - referring to the idleness of benefitting from naturalised social structures instead of constantly questioning them - addresses two recent phenomena: the persistence and sometimes consolidation of discriminating mindsets and their daily subtle as well as openly aggressive occurrences worldwide; and, albeit indirectly, the ambivalent “tolerance of homosexuality [...] as a marker of civilised sexual values” (Hoad 2005). In the African context, for example, queer visibilities are often subject to the exploitation of a supposed ‘Africanness’ that condemns homosexuality as a “curse” (Human Rights Watch 2008), a “white issue” (Campbell 2011), an “anathema to Africans” (Pflanz 2011) or “unAfrican” (The Economist 2011). At the same time, they seem to authenticate liberal values of Western democracies which are subsequently constructed as vanguards of gay rights. Here, queerness is associated with the front position in human rights movements, with being modern, up-to-date, with an enlightened political stance and indeed contemporaneity. As projection of historical unity (Osborne 2010) contemporaneity and the concept of queerness seem to share structural similarities. Carolyn Dinshaw, for instance, argues that a queer temporality would enable marginalised people of past and present to connect and “that with such queer historical touches we could form communities across time” (Dinshaw 2007). Yet, the lacking attention in current practices and discourses Colin Self was bewailing ignores the dynamics between the phenomena mentioned above and the consequential reciprocal constitution of according norms. It disregards historical specificities, forms of activist self-assertion and solidarities as well as social concretions.

Within this amalgam of conflicting ascriptions and self-positioning artists often find themselves trapped between the implementations of cultural and political othering in the construction of contemporaneities. For this workshop, we invite participants with an expertise in visual arts and culture who will fathom the different strategies of queering and of visualising queer issues in contemporary art. We will debate the question of how the concepts of queerness and contemporaneity are linked as well as how they are negotiated and exploited in global contexts by media, scholars, curators and artists themselves.

Contact: melanie.klein@fu-berlin.de 

The selected participants are:

Jean-Ulrick Désert

Lisa Gaupp

Giulia Lamoni

Kuang Vivian Sheng

Margareta Wallin Wictorin