Toxic Representation and the Politics of Care for Antiracist Queer and Trans History

in Screen Bodies
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  • 1 University of California, Berkeley, USA
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Abstract

This article analyzes the film and installation Toxic (2012) by Berlin-based artists Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz in order to reflect upon the politics of racialized queer and trans subjects becoming images and to consider the ways we might care for these images in the archives of history. I revisit my original argument about Toxic, which positioned the artwork as an intersectional “archive of feelings” that was paradigmatic of a moment in the late 2000s and early 2010s when many Western antiracist queer/trans communities were focused on critiquing the violences of gay pride assimilationism and its politics of transparency. I then turn to Christina Sharpe's “ethics of care” and Eric Stanley's work on opacity to analyze how this reading may work toward the politics of transparency it seeks to critique. In response, I develop the concept of queer/trans messiness as a set of aesthetic, performative, affective, and historiographical strategies present in Toxic, which produce different grammars of seeing and being seen, different ways of navigating the incommensurability between struggles for social justice, and different modes of representing antiracist queer/trans history.

Contributor Notes

Jess Dorrance is a Writer, Curator, and PhD Candidate in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation examines contemporary art and activism in Canada and the United States to ask: what does whiteness need to become in order to abolish white supremacy? She is the coeditor of Bossing Images: The Power of Images, Queer Art, and Politics (NGBK, 2012), which grew out of an eponymous series of experimental events. Her writing has appeared in Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts, Circo Zero Performance, Baywatch, and Theory Boner Zine. She holds an MA in Art History from McGill University in Montreal, and lives and works on unceded Ohlone territory.

Screen Bodies

The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology

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