(project under Jason Wee's open studio at NTU CCA)
This writing proposes the concept of off queer as a means of mapping out a possible scenario of the future. Influenced by writings of Svetlana Boym and Karen Barad, this writing positions itself not as a paper of important trajectory but as a passive suggestion in the multitude of queer possibilities. It seeks not to define off-queer but to unpack ideas and propose methods of visualisation to which eventually could arrive at nothing.
In his latest tirade after his election as the president of the United States, Donald Trump goes off about how Time magazine named him “Person of the Year 2016”. Although a supposed tribute, Trump calls it out as an issue as he believes he should have been named “Man of the Year 2016” accusing Time of being politically correct. While it is interesting to note that Trump is very sure of his own gender, it sheds light on how going gender neutral poses a problem. It has also been part of the conservative’s problem that there is less space for freedom of speech as a result of a growing list of ‘politically incorrect’ things to say. A debatable issue, this example highlights the ‘cracks’ in the understanding of the foundation of meanings and representations in discourses surrounding sexuality and gender.
For the purpose of this writing, I will very loosely use the term ‘sexual identity’ instead of ‘sexuality’ to highlight and perhaps bring about a hopefully more complex idea of sexuality by continually bringing attention to the importance of sexuality to be tied in to identity. With the inclusion of the word identity, I hope to also encompass race, privilege and culture within the mix.
To attempt to deconstruct and expand on ideas of sexuality, I will attempt to use mathematical and scientific metaphors to first illustrate ideas of understanding before suggesting the ‘concept’ of off-queer as a future.
The Off-Modern Mirror x Posthumanist Performativity: Metaphorical Understanding
In the off modern mirror, Boym suggests the prefix ‘off’ instead of the prefix ‘post’ as:
“… a detour into the unexplored potentials of the modern project. It recovers unforeseen pasts and ventures into the side alleys of modern history at the margins of error…”
Boym continues to suggest and correct ideas of adaptation, with errors as spaces of exaptation and technology as an extension of the self. Boym also surveys the relationship of past and the future before concluding with ideas of the black mirror, a ‘reflection of sensation’. She emphasises understanding multitudes of past points where parts of history have been overlooked in favour of streamlined maps of futuristic solutions. There is also a problem with our understanding of dichotomies.
Karen Barad details the notion of diffraction (in reference to Donna Haraway) as a suggestion to rethink “the geometry and optics of relationality”. Diffraction itself is a result of the interference of wave patterns producing overlaps where “effects of differences” appear. Barad also highlights the problems with apparatus and measurement where, because of human construct, limits and errors are present in scientific surveys. She also goes on to discuss ideas of body as constructed through discourse and uses ideas of diffraction to gain further understanding of performativity, suggesting:
“rethinking of notions of discursive practices and material phenomena and the relationship between them.”
If we were to then apply ideas of diffraction to ideas of adaptation, could overlooked ideas of the past resonate with spaces of the interference of overlaps? How can then we survey ideas revolving queer theory through the lenses of diffraction and adaptation of the current criticisms? Could we perhaps foresee or suggest a future for understanding sexual identity? What is the use of this writing then in the mix of the many papers that discuss queer futures?
2. ‘cracks’ because there is a need to identify this ‘error’ as perhaps a viable source for adaptation.
3. ‘concept’ because there is a need to be careful about not setting solid parameters and not define ‘off-queer’.
4. Off Modern Mirror - Svetlana Boym
5. Posthumanist Performativity - Karen Barad