This was a talk for the Stranger Genius Awards, August 7, 2013 at The Frye Art Museum, Seattle.

Talk for the Stranger Genius Award Showcase

I’ll be flipping through some slides that show work by a bunch of different artists. Unfortunately I don’t have time to talk much about each of these, but if anyone wants we can go back and look at any of them during the Q & A.

Some of these artists would definitely identify themselves as queer, many of them would not. What brings them together is my appreciation of their work (and there could have been many more), and also my hope that they’ll help illustrate some of the ideas I’m about to share with you. I have three ideas today. The first of which is: Enthusiasmism.

Enthusiasm is the opposite of coolness. An enthusiast is someone who is both over-committed and under-skilled. An enthusiast is someone who puts themselves into positions of potential embarrassment, who reaches out with a fervor which they have no particular reason to believe will be returned.

However, I think it’s this very excess of energy ... this desire to connect .... and court disaster which can be so effective at generating new forms, new ways of knowing each other, and new kinds of spaces for seeing and being with each other’s particularities.

A community of difference works by affinity and inclusion, by celebrating and bringing together peculiarities, kinks, inclinations. In a community of difference we have to pay attention to what we know about each other, and how we know these things.

One way to build these kinds of communities, the simplest way, is to work within the logic of “and”: this and this and this and this. This is how enthusiasm works. I think it can be a powerful place from which to make art – especially art which seeks to imagine new forms of cooperation.

Friction and Resistance: Traditionally, resistance means being against something, and joining with others who are also against it to make social change. The way I’ve been thinking about resistance is a little different. It’s more like how resistors work in electronics: by slowing, channeling, and processing power.

This is a way of being “against” something that produces knowledge – knowledge that comes from proximity and engagement – from the feeling, the texture and friction between adjacent bodies.

Pleasure should be a goal, as well as empathy and connection. I think this is a realistic idea of how art can make social change happen.

Perverse-Centricity: What would a queer world look like? I think it would be somewhere where perversity is especially appreciated. Somewhere where the margins switch places with the center. Or even better, somewhere where we can imagine the world without centers and margins.

Also taste and status would become disconnected from each other, as would the link between making mistakes and humiliation.

Moments of not-knowing what was going on would be great moments, rather than disruptive or disturbing moments. Shame might no longer exist, and what would that look like?

There would be a loosening of meaning from authority. Meanings would clump and gather, merge and separating across transformational spaces, throwing off new meanings and ways of knowing.