i was recently lucky to see my friend and ex-roommate ariel goldberg read, at the berkeley art museum, excerpts from a long-form essay they wrote titled 'the estrangement principle.' the reading was exciting for a few reasons: one, it was incredibly engaging, which readings often are not. two, the subject of the essay- very simplified, queer identity politics, outness in the literary world, and an ambivalence about the sectioning off of othered artists- was one which i haven't heard broached in the quite the way ariel has done it. ariel gave us handouts with a few paragraphs pulled from the text, which i'll share with you below:
"what happens when wall texts, press releases, and artist statements are littered with the word queer is i start to grow suspicious of what the word is trying to say, as if temporarily i was fooled into it actually being a measuring tool. the balance feels tipped in one extreme direction or the other. the reality of queerness, in a life, i find difficult to track or represent. just as the irreducibility of lived experience plagues any artist...
we are arriving at a time, in the united states, perhaps in the big cities, when it is not possible to decide not to address publicly your identity- if in fact your identity is partially tied up in making people less invisible. i am hopeful the fear outness will overtake or discredit your work is subsiding...
of course out lives are mundane in their living so how can we know what mythologies will be? of course out lives are completely urgent and bewildering so how can we know what the mythologies will be? what is crucial is the evasion, the embrace, the ambivalence, and whatever shakes out inbetween." (emphasis mine)
the essay brings up so many questions that are important to me, particularly in running a DIY press that identifies itself as feminist and, i hope, is also explicitly queer. to call for work produced by women and queers. to be explicit, in one's bio, about your identity, whether it's your sexuality or class or race. what do these actions mean, how do they encourage or discourage. to label/out oneself, if you have the option to even choose it, because some don't. levels of in/visibility.
what i especially love about ariel's essay is its determination to ask questions and provoke thought. the way ariel works through these questions, with examples and quotes from many different queer artists with varying levels of funding/recognition, is exciting and new. it addresses the issue of identity politics in this country right now, where there is so much false visibility. hearing ariel read from it, i felt i was sitting at the beginning of a new discourse. i hope i'm right.
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