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“life don’t clickety clack down a straight line track It come together and it come apart” – Ferron (Ain’t Life a Brook)

Friday, July 20, 2012 8:50 pm 1 comment

Just because I give it three stars out of five does not mean I didn’t love it. It was the concepts I loved, not the writing. Because it’s an academic book, it was slow going and plodding. Like all works written by some academics, the sentences can be dense and full of meaning that require multiple reads of the same sentence or paragraph. I hate having to look up words like liminal, preliminal, hegemony, deconstructionism, and postmodernism. It makes my head hurt. But look them up I did, if only to try to get inside the mind of Judith Halberstam, the author.

Here is what I think she is saying and it’s wonderfully trailblazing and original. In no particular order: First, she suggests that the queer way of life establishes an entirely unique, reasonable and freeing alternative to the tyranny of the heteronormative (look that one up) timeline of the mandatory passages that the heterosexual lifestyle requires: birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, marriage, career, children, grandchildren, old age, and finally death with all the attendant obligations, constraints, and rituals. An alter-normative life imposes no such constraints. Adolescence can last as long as you want. The ushering in of the age of child rearing doesn’t have to happen until you are good and ready or never. That’s the queer time part.

Next, (well not quite next but I am going to talk about it next), she shows how the queer subculture, the ways we define ourselves in terms of music, dress, film, all forms of art and style, including the way we express ourselves in general, define the particular way that we construct the space and place, psychically and physically, around us. They are as real as the heteronormative popular culture that no one of us can escape. But the success of our art is not defined by conventional fame, celebrity, and money. She uses the world of transgenderism, genderqueerism, drag king shows, dyke slam poetry, and dyke rock to prove that point. These types of expression and lives could serve to represent an undefined and full of possibility midpoint between a threshold and the establishment of new rituals in our culture. A state where definition and space is undefined and being redefined.

Lastly she pays homage to the queers of the mid 20th century and lesbian folk artists of the 70s who paved the way for the freedoms of expressions and rights (at least in some states and Canada) that queers enjoy today. Using the musicians Cris Williamson and Ferron as examples, she engendered in me a new appreciation for their music that I already love so much.

The clod that I am,  I’m sure I have missed the finer subtleties of her arguments. But what I did get out of the book completely captivated and fascinated me.

Here are some choice quotes from the book that I particularly enjoyed:

“…we create longevity as the most desirable future, applaud the pursuit of long life (under any circumstances), and pathologize modes of living that show little or no concern for longevity.”

“…formulaic responses to time and temporal logics produce emotional and even physical responses to different kinds of time…people feel guilty about leisure, frustrated by waiting, satisfied by punctuality, and so on.”

“…time has become a perpetual present, and space has flattened out in the face of creeping globalization.”

“…the transgender body has emerged as futurity itself, a kind of heroic fulfillment of postmodern promises of gender flexibility.”

“…Brandon [Teena]’s death…[is]…evidence of a continuing campaign of violence against queers despite the increasing respectability of some portions of the gay and lesbian community.”

“…the brutality that visited Brandon [Teena]…[was]…also a violence linked to a bourgeois investment in the economy of authenticity.”

“Entertainment…is the name we give to the fantasies of difference that erupt on the screen only to give way to the reproduction of sameness.”

“…gender functions as a ‘copy with no original’.”

“…queer subcultures offer us an opportunity to redefine the binary of adolescence and adulthood…”

“Queer youth sets up younger gays and lesbians not as the inheritors and benefactors of several decades of queer activism but rather as victims of homophobia who need ‘outreach’ programs and support groups…[There is] an emphasis that arises out of an overreliance on the youth/adulthood binary…[that]…encourages young queers to think about the present and future while ignoring the past.”

“The radical styles crafted in queer punk bands, slam poetry events, and drag king boy bands…model other modes of being and becoming that scramble our understandings of place, time, development, action and transformation.”

“Ferron…understands herself to be engaged in a collective project that is rewarded not by capital or visibility…but by an affective connection with those people who will eventually be the vessels of memory for all she now forgets.”

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Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters 200 – A Trip to the Museum of Gender Archaeology

Saturday, November 26, 2011 10:22 pm Leave a comment

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Every year, Toronto participates in an all night festival of art known as Nuit Blanche, so named because it colloquilally means “all-nighter” in French,  but literally means “white night”. It’s a sunset to sunrise event on the first Saturday of October. There is so much to see all over the city, and it is by design impossible to see everything. The most popular events seem to be the ones that use lots of light shows and sound. For example, many exhibits feature projections against walls and buildings. One exhibit that was a hit was the tennis point played over and over all night long called The Tie-break. It was a re-enactment of the legendary fourth set tie-break from the 1980 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Finals between Björn Borg and John McEnroe. That would have been something to watch. But we limited ourselves to one area of only a few of many possible events that night.

First we dropped by the Museum of Gender Archaeology that eventually led us into the GendRPhone booths. I’ll admit, apart from the gender changer, commonly used for electronic connections, and the display of so-called ancient bathroom signs for male and female, most of the meaning of the items in the small collection were lost on me. And Ninja is all about exploring the nuances of gender. I get that it was meant to represent a future bygone world of gender dualilty and it was a great start, but it simply wasn’t enough for me. I love shock factor in art (I just revelled in the outrage caused by the kissing of the pope and the imam), and I wasn’t shocked, merely amused. If that is what the artist was after, then it that sense, it did succeed. The installation invites us however to re-imagine our gender. On the gendRphone, you can select the sex and gender of a potential lover and hear their words of love. In the words of Marshall McLuhan, “When you are on the phone, you have no body”.  Just a disembodied voice. I love that concept. It’s full of possibility. Not sure that the installation piqued my imagination though. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

My favourite installation was the sound and poetry presented by a local group called New Adventures in Sound Art.  Go figure. I loved the beat and words that went with it. You’ll hear some of that. The last two installations we went to were light and sound shows. The first was called Night Light Travels and the second was another installation by the NAISA (New Adventures in Sound Art), called Sonic Spaces (The Kinetics of Sound). Both used feedback mechanisms and other triggers to change sound and in some cases light in real time. A Markov chain is a mathematical system that undergoes transitions from one state to another, between a finite or countable number of possible states. The next state depends only on the current state and not on the sequence of events that preceded it. This kind of “memorylessness” is called the Markov property. Markov chains have many applications as statistical models of real-world processes and Shawn Pinchbeck uses them to evolve the sound in Sonic Spaces. He also used Vocoder (Voice encoder) technology and theory to change what we hear in the installation.

Have a listen and see if any of this art is your cup of tea.   

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Hot Fossils and Rebel Matters 196 – Pride 2011 – An Interview…or Two

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 11:34 pm Leave a comment

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Dina Paige explains SIS (Photo by Ninja)

At 1:20am on the morning of Saturday June 28, 1969, police entered a Mafia run gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. It is still located at 51 and 53 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village New York. The police had raided the establishment countless times before to take their payoffs. It appears that the combination of delays getting patrol wagons to the site, police mis-communications, and undoubtedly, a growing sense of frustration with the constant raids, a riot broke out on the street, amid crys of “Gay Power”, against the police. Michael Fader, quoted by David Carter in the book Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, explained:

We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.   (source: Wikipedia)

This period in American history also coincided with other civil and social movements of the time, including the African-American civil rights movement, the counterculture of the 1960s and the anti-war movement. The riots lasted for the next six days. It stands as a marker and pivotal moment when the gay liberation movement in North America came of age. Since that year, the last weekend of June has been a weekend of choice for Gay Pride parades, the world over. During the 1970s, Toronto had over the years various events to mark gay pride, but in 1981, after the Toronto bathhouse raids by police where 306 men were arrested, Lesbian and Gay Pride day was incorporated and Toronto’s first official celebration occurred on Sunday June 28.

This year the parade – known simply in Toronto now as “Pride” or the “Pride Parade” was held on July 3 during the Canada Day and American July 4th long weekend. The first year since 1981 that Pride Day wasn’t held on the last Sunday of June was in 2010 when the G20 summit literally closed down the Toronto core during the last week of June. Now it seems that between the city and the Pride Committee, the decision stands to hold it on the long weekend in July, a move that barely conceals the money making, tourism, and commercial nature of the week long Pride festivities.

I am not alone in feeling this way among Toronto queers, but we all don’t feel that way either as CP tells me in today’s show recorded during the pride weekend this year. I should apologize to CP because she might actually wished I referred to her as SP. So…sorry about that SP. D’oh. In today’s show I also talk to Dina Paige, a woman who has created the S.I.S. or the Sexuality Identification System. Using different categories, I can chart my level of femaleness, maleness or gender ambiguity that show where on the gender spectrum I define myself. I spend a few minutes talking to her about that. Enjoy the show.   
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