Tag: temporality

You and Us Make It Reverse: Itty Bitty Titty Committee’s Bad Drag, MEN’s Simultaneity, & Spahr and Young’s (Re)enactments

by on May.12, 2011

One more post on temporal drag and I’ll shut up about it maybe. This time I’ll approach it through counterexample.

The 2007 film Itty Bitty Titty Committee does some bad drag. That is, its temporal drag is flimsy and unclear about its relationship to feminist history. Directed by Jamie Babbitt (But I’m a Cheerleader!), IBTC chronicles the politicization of a young woman named Anna (Melanie Diaz) in present-day Los Angeles. Over the course of the film Anna moves from working as a receptionist at a plastic surgeon’s office to joining a group of radical queer feminists named the C(i)A (Clits in Action) who plot and enact feminist actions such as spraypainting slogans on offending businesses’ storefronts:

The C(i)A

The film is often charming and exhilarating, especially due to its raucous soundtrack and general exuberance for feminist theater; but it’s ultimately clouded by what I see as an embarrassing nostalgia for riot grrrl, ACT UP, the 90s generally — a nostalgia that doesn’t realize it’s nostalgia. There is no acknowledgment in the film that the 90s already happened, that that period of feminist/queer activism is over. (I’m not saying that feminist and queer activism’s dead, but that it looks much different now.) The datedness of the film is weird and confusing. When, in the film’s climax, the C(i)A manages to slip a papier-mache penis mold onto the top of the Washington Monument and blow it up, then infiltrate a news studio and invade American televisions with the footage, it comes across as a dead punchline to a tired joke.

Continue reading “You and Us Make It Reverse: Itty Bitty Titty Committee’s Bad Drag, MEN’s Simultaneity, & Spahr and Young’s (Re)enactments” »

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Salamandrine: Or, Genre’s Queer Occult Temporality

by on Oct.12, 2010

l7. I need to buy socks but which socks? What can the kid not kick off? And why won’t the kid sleep? I ask the mirror. It’s certainly nighttime you can tell just by looking in the mirror, the way it slumps and tries to shie away. The mirror is cracked from too many launchings and each launch is a foothold where my kid can lodge or sag but instead she’s fitful, insists on jerking in time to the jumps she makes in the quarter. In the quarter, in the quarter, just jitter and skitter on down. Catch a knife when it’s falling, drive the spittle into the ground. Find me a fateful woman if you can. Find me a fateful woman if you can. I’m clocked in junk, it’s a racket, it keeps the kid awake, I have to hack it, I have to hack it up. I have to empty out the junkdrawer of the grave.

In the quarter, in the quarter, in the nickel in the dime, in the cash drawer, honey, that’s where you find a real good time. Draw the ewer full of water draw the sewer full of lime, won’t you stay the same forever, won’t you ford that never twice.

My kid’s alive a live live wire like Lethe the nevermore. Skinny kid, for a baby, everybody says. How she jumps right out the window through the eye of the needle and into the eye of the grave.

8. The doctor says if the kid won’t start gaining soon we’re going to have to take measures. Since we measure her constantly I say like what. The doctor is half-coralled, half-wild, skinny in the face. She turns her back to me to write in a chart. Her little stool shrieks as she turns around. It’s freezing in here. That’s what my kid says to the sock it’s shoved in its mouth.

I’m in love with the doctor.

You should pay more attention to that kid. Continue reading “Salamandrine: Or, Genre’s Queer Occult Temporality” »

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Queer Utopianism & Edie Fake in Temporal Drag

by on Aug.06, 2010

Queer utopia, yknow: still pretty sexy, especially with the publication last year of José Esteban Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. I’ll touch briefly on Muñoz here, expecting to return to him in later posts; but here and now instead of the past/future I will take up the past/present. In the meantime, may I direct you to the Gay Utopia project, especially Bert Stabler’s “Bottomless Anus of Perfected Wisdom,” my contribution to recent discussions on the ole ass/hole.

I recently interviewed Edie Fake, a Chicago-based artist:

art by edie fake

and we talked some about his developing queer cartography project. He’s mapping Chicago’s queer heritage in some rad Edie Fake way, and the project has spilled over into other smaller projects, including an installation on display Wednesday at Archie’s bar in Chicago for a joint event co-sponsored by the Swimming Pool Project Space and Queer Social Club. Regrettably, I took no pictures. There were a number of box structures decorated and labeled with the names of Chicago gay bars no longer in existence, spread out on small tables sharing space with empty beer cans and hot pink cards inviting viewers to “celebrate the phenomena of intuitive queer space.”

The night brought a turnout — lots of folks. It was like any other queer night at a normally non-queer bar, only the adjacency of this night to its historical context of under-the-radar gay venues and illicit queer sociality was announced through Fake’s structures. I’d describe the juxtaposition as a kind of temporal drag, borrowing the concept from Elizabeth Freeman, who uses it to describe a crossing of time, a temporal transitivity that carries “all of the associations that the word ‘drag’ has with retrogression, delay, and the pull of the past upon the present,” alongside its associations with crossing and performativity.

Freeman uses this idea of temporal drag to read Elisabeth Subrin’s Shulie, a 1997 experimental film that, shot by shot, remakes an unreleased 1967 documentary of the same title which feature a young Shulamith Firestone, then unknown, a student at the Art Institute of Chicago who would soon jump ship to New York to found the New York Radical Women, the Redstockings, and the New York Radical Feminists; and write the radical feminist classic The Dialectic of Sex. The 1997 film restages the original, duplicating its camerawork and adding only a beginning montage and an ending text explaining that it’s an adaptation.

Bringing in Samuel Delany’s ideas on markers from an essay in About Writing, we might say the 1997 Shulie functions as art-and-its-marker, performing temporal drag to map out space, assign value and legacy to the original (and its subject). Delany pulls from Dean McCannell’s tourist (which Delany connects to Benajmin’s flaneur) in explaining markers as those signs scattered about the landscape from brochures to signboards, conferring importance:

There is a whole set of sites–often the spots where historical events took place–that are sites only because a marker sits on them, telling of the fact… Without markers, even the most beautiful spot on the map becomes one with the baseline of unmarked social reality.

And until something thinks to emit, erect, and/or stabilize a marker indicating it, no tourist site comes into being. (341)

As a marker and as a site in itself, Subrin’s Shulie, as Freeman puts it, “engage[s] with prior time as genuinely elsewhere” (735). It re-maps Firestone’s pre-history as history. In so doing the film implicitly critiques what’s been left out of history/herstory’s charting of the past and links the past and present in complicated and dynamic ways.

Similarly, Fake’s installation on Wednesday exposed the fuzzy boundaries between the then and the now, simultaneously undermining and reinforcing divisions between what we see as distinct “generations” of queers and queer activists. Instead of lopping off the issues of old generations as anachronistic to the goal of a narrative of progress, Fake’s models of long gone venues and their attendant histories united the then and there with the here and now, implying that those issues, those moments, “are not yet past and yet are not entirely present either” (Freeman 742). His other work being so interested in alternate realities, I’m interested to see where Fake further takes his queer cartography, how he interprets and charts the ‘reality’ of the ‘past’ (with apologies for gratuitous scare quotes).

Muñoz’s critical engagement with queer utopianism shares many ideas with Freeman; interested in collectivity and the past, Muñoz employs “a backward glance that enacts a future vision” (4). With regard to Fake’s installation and the scene that surrounded it, Muñoz seems applicable especially given the leaking through of one particular future onto the present – as only hours before, Prop 8 had been ruled unconstitutional, and the implications hung in the air. Muñoz seeing marriage as an antiutopian wish, a desire that “automatically rein[s] [itself] in, never daring to see or imagine the not-yet-conscious” (21), I wonder what he’d say about this messy confrontation between past, present, and future in this moment. In a certain sense, Fake’s temporal drag worked to bring what Muñoz would call “the no-longer-conscious” to bear on the present as well as on the future society, the “not yet conscious” – here, this is our past, just how anachronistic is it, and what do we want our future to look like?

I’ll return to Muñoz in a future post, maybe connected to Acker; and considering temporal drag as temporal push.

References

Delany, Samuel R. “A Para*doxa Interview: Inside and Outside the Canon.” About Writing. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2006.

Freeman, Elizabeth. “Packing History, Count(er)ing Generations.” New Literary History 31.4 (2000): 727-744.

Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: NYU Press, 2009.

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