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Art Journal Explores “Queer Affect and Queer Archives”

posted by Christopher Howard — Nov 12, 2013

In its new issue, the quarterly Art Journal features an eighty-page forum, “Conversations on Queer Affect and Queer Archives.” The forum, which includes works of art, conversations, and explorations by artists, art historians, curators, and other scholars, promises to be a milestone in the art and art history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. It will serve as a critical resource for artists, activists, and scholars alike.

“Conversations on Queer Affect and Queer Archives” is organized by Art Journal’s editor-in-chief, Lane Relyea, in collaboration with Tirza True Latimer, chair of the graduate program in Visual and Critical Studies at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. “Artists, scholars, and activists have been rethinking the politics of what archives preserve, demonstrating that the piecing together of cultural memory is not a neutral pursuit,” Latimer writes in her introduction. “These questions resonate with particular poignancy in outlaw cultures and communities…. Queer archival practices are not only propelled by strong feelings, they may also reanimate suppressed histories of sentiment.”

The forum documents the preservation of the material effects of LGBT people in archives as diverse as the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles, the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections, and the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, among many other archives. The issue includes a list of thirty-seven archives worldwide, with detailed contract information. It also explores the innovative ways in which artists, curators, and scholars are drawing on and showcasing these legacy materials.

Astonishing stories emerge from these archives:

  • The artist Tina Takemoto becomes obsessed with the archival legacy of a gay male Japanese immigrant who arrived in San Francisco in the 1920s and spent WWII in an internment camp in Utah. Takemoto then creates artworks based on the man and the eighty-year span of his life in the United States
  • Barbara McBane discovers the papers of a father of two who transitions to become Veronica Marie Friedman. McBane, a professional film editor and scholar, pieces together Friedman’s frame of mind during the metamorphosis, through casual writings such as journal entries, datebook pages, a timeline, and poems written on napkins
  • E. G. Crichton, artist-in-residence at San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society, plays matchmaker with artists such as Takemoto and McBane on the one hand, and the archival materials of specific individuals on the other. From the artworks that result, Crichton organizes exhibitions that travel the world. In her text, she details the amazingly widespread network of international archives she has discovered
  • Ann Cvetkovich, the author of the book An Archive of Feelings, converses with the artist Tammy Rae Carland, who has photographed ephemeral aspects of lesbian life and dozens of hand-decorated mix tapes given her over the years, as well as behind-the-scenes events at the legendary Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
  • Zackary Drucker contributes “Bring Your Own Body,” the script and images from a 2012 performance work that recounts the transformation of Lynn Edward Harris from Miss Costa Mesa 1968 to a bearded guest on a 1983 television talk show.
  • The artist Henrik Olesen uses an intuitive system of classification close to the one elaborated by the art historian Aby Warburg in his unfinished “Mnemosyne Atlas” to organize archival images and artworks into a homoaffirmative historical counternarrative called Some Faggy Gestures (2007)

This issue of Art Journal also includes an essay by Alexandra Kokoli on the British artist Susan Hiller and an exploration by Kirsten Olds of the visual culture of 1970s glam rock in Los Angeles, as exemplified in the work of Les Petites Bonbons.

About Art Journal

Art Journal is published four times a year by CAA for its membership of fourteen thousand. A peer-reviewed journal devoted to twentieth- and twenty-first-century art, it is one of the most vital, intellectually compelling, and visually engaging periodicals in the field. Art Journal features scholarly articles, conversations, portfolios, and other contributions by leading art historians, artists, curators, and critics.

Nonmembers may purchase single copies by writing to or by calling 212-392-4404.

Filed under: Art Journal, Publications