Queer Preposterousness; or, How to Do Temporally Disoriented History

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 3:30 PM
Murray Hill Suite B (New York Hilton)
Mathias Danbolt, University of Copenhagen
“Feminism is a spent force”; “racism is no longer a relevant topic of concern.” Statements on how political critiques and theoretical perspectives with roots in social movements have outlived their times and are no longer needed proliferate in public debates in the Global North. But how do we know when something is over and done with? And who decides? This paper turns to artistic engagements with unfinished histories of injustice, in order to suggest that there is historical knowledge to be gleaned from experiences of being temporally disoriented.

Through a discussion of Mary Coble’s performance Aversion (2007) – a work that puts pressure on the unfinished business of institutionalized homophobia – the paper makes a case for the benefit of not being able to assert the proper difference between the past and the present. Claiming a political and historical value of temporal disorientation could come across as preposterous in all senses of the word: unreasonable, absurd, perverse, ridiculous, against all rational orders. But this paper argues that there is a certain queer force in preposterousness of this kind, as it can propel us to find better ways of dealing with the messy concurrencies of times and politics in the worlds that we live in.

Coble’s Aversion stages an encounter with a painful past that is not passť. Disturbing what historians call the “separation principle” that safely distinguishes the past from the present, the performance baffles the sense of security in both retrospective evaluations of the past as well as in attempts to use the past as an anchor to consolidate the present order. By thinking alongside artworks in discussing historiographical and chronopolitical question, this paper suggests that the aesthetic can provide a set of alternative entrance points to consider how we sense and make sense of politico-historical arrangements.

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