The warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. Recent Tendencies in "Queer" Art and Theory

Dr. Christian Liclair
The warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. Recent Tendencies in “Queer” Art and Theory

Seminar, English/Deutsch, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Thursdays, 18-20 h, weekly, starts 28.4., Hardenbergstr. 33, room 004

„Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exits for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain.“ (José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia)

What is queer about art and art history? What are the scholarly methods of queer art history, what constitutes the subjects or topics of queer art? Is queerness merely confined to considerations of sexuality and gender? Merely to human bodies? If queerness, as Muñoz suggests, cannot be seized in the present, what is the point of speaking about queer art, about queer subjects? Queer, thus, would not be so much a characteristic we ascribe to certain existences because of their (self-)identification. And it would be an inadequate adjective for artworks that, for instance, try to visualize marginalized desires or bodies.

To address these questions, we will consider recent developments within the field of Queer Theory, discuss how these ideas can be applied to contemporary art, and evaluate the extent to which visual culture itself has been involved in the articulation of such critical approaches. The course will be less concerned with works of art that affirmatively represent marginalized subject positions and rather try to identify artistic strategies that emphasize the impermanence and historical contingency of normative categories. Accordingly, queerness serves less as an umbrella term for fixed, coherent identities: it is the designation of a potentiality that celebrates deviance and indeterminacy in order to reveal the power structures behind culturally conditioned taxonomies such as sexuality, gender, class, or race. Above all, queering is a practice of constant questioning, a critical and creative perversion of seemingly self-evident narratives. To ask about the queer potential of art, then, is to identify specific moments through which artistic works challenge normative patterns of thought in order to imagine an alternative future.

The focus of this survey course is, among other things, on questions of corporeality as formulated in Trans and Crip Studies, on demands for the necessity of subcultural networks of belonging (“queer-worldmaking”), and on theories of the symbiotic-technical conditionality of all existence as discussed in Queer Ecology and Posthumanism. Each week consists of a discussion of the selected literature as well as certain works of art. Therefore, critical reading of the literature is mandatory for each session. All texts will be available online.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credits: regular participation and reading, presentation of an artistic work/group of works by the artists proposed for the week (approx. 15 minutes). Important is the engagement with concrete works of art (no pure artist biography) and a reference to concrete questions of the seminar or to the theses articulated in the literature.

Christian Liclair is an art historian and critic. He received his Ph.D. from Freie Universität Berlin in 2021. After being a Visiting Fellow at the Graduate School for Art and Sciences at Harvard University in 2016, he worked on the DFG-funded research project ‘Aesthetic of Desire: Counter-hegemonic Visualizations of Bodies, Sexuality, and Gender.’ Recently, he co-organized the international workshop ‘Ambivalent Work*s: Queer Perspectives and Art History’ at the University of Zurich alongside Dr. Susanne Huber, Dr. Daniel Berndt, and Prof. Fiona McGovern. Together, they are currently working on an anthology of the same name. His monograph “Sexually Explicit Art, Feminist Theory, and Gender in the 1970s” will be published by Routledge in April of 2022.