Chosen Family, Chosen Name, Separatist, Safe Space, Expat, Invert, Homophile, Homestead

This work’s title is an assemblage of diverse strategies and terms that LGBT and other marginalized people have used over generations to mark the labor of making and naming home. Scaffolding operates here as a material metaphor for social constructions broadly. Cordial glasses further call to mind shared spaces where people come together to socialize. Ribboned text from the laser-cut marquetry bar top pronounces “We Must Take Ecstasy,” citing the conclusion of queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz’s nal book Cruising Utopia, in which the operative word is “Take” and the obligation of the communal “We” is to actively construct for ourselves a commitment to ecstatic experience as a tool to work towards a utopic future.

laser marquetry, poplar bar rail, plywood, lumber, scaffold, cordial glasses, velvet dress, velvet stanchions, 54”h x 42”w x 120”l

Our response to the colonizer who makes us live on the periphery or not at all

Five pairs of index and middle fingers point to the activism and penetrating analysis of archival structures by women who built and sustain the Lesbian Herstory Archives.  Cast in iron from their fingers, these proxy library ladder brackets slide salaciously along a rail whose dimensions are unfixed.  A quote from archives co-founder Joan Nestle is recast as the work’s title, further describing the archives politics around preserving access to lesbian history as a survival tactic, while drawing attention to the way that the work’s occupation of peripheral space in the gallery also encircles and frames the purportedly neutral white cube.  Our response echoes the ladder and my permanent installation Archivist Fingers sited at the LHA in Brooklyn.

cast iron, steel, 2x4s

“You know it pisses you off, because like today, everything is so open and accepted and equal.  Women, everyone goes to where they wear slacks, and I could just kick myself in the ass, because of all the opportunities I had that I had to let go because of my way.  That if I was able to dress the way I wanted and everything like that I, Christ, I’d have it made, really.  Makes you sick.  And you look at the young people today that are gay and they’re financially well-off, they got tremendous jobs, something that we couldn’t take advantage of, couldn’t have it.  It leaves you with a lot of bitterness too.  I don’t go around to the gay bars much any more.  It’s not jealousy, it’s bitterness.  And I see these young people, doesn’t matter which way they go, whatever the mood suits them, got tremendous jobs, and you just look at them, you know, they’re happy kids, no problems.  You say ‘God damn it, why couldn’t I have that?’ And you actually get bitter, you don’t even want to know them.  I don’t anyway. ‘Cause I don’t want to hear about it, don’t tell me your success.  Like we were talking about archives, you know where mine is, scratched on a shit-house wall, that’s where it is.  And all the dives in Buffalo that are still standing with my name.  That’s it, that’s all I got to show.” Kennedy, Elizabeth L., and Madeline D. Davis. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community. Penguin Books, New York, 1994.

Ribboned text excerpted from an English translation of Monique Wittig’s The Lesbian Body scrolls across a series of panels whose scale and installation follow the conventions of urinal dividers.  Reading Wittig’s text requires an enmeshed viewer to adopt a sidewards-glancing stare, condensing gender imperatives associated with cruising, and conjuring desirous looking.  Laser-marquetry operates as a variation of wood-carving common to dive bathrooms, paying homage to Sandy, the title’s narrator, whose concept of a rhizomatic archive is generated out of resilience and refusal.

laser marquetry, fir rail, plywood, hardware

“I have nothing to declare except my genius,” said Oscar Wilde to the customs agent: Safety Edition

Fig leaves, designed to cover, but always accentuating, reference not just the monumentality of the sculptures to which they were meant to conform, but also the power made visible in the occupation of space and the expenditure of resources to render such gestures. Phallic associations with power and genius are not easily critiqued without provoking essentialist accusations of envy. This rhetorical camouflage does not obscure that the nature of what is objectionably lacking is rooted elsewhere, namely in the representation of certain bodies and cultures, which are instead obscured entirely from public veneration. Concurrently, the complex politics of exposure prompt recognition of the violence in defoliation. This is especially so at a moment in which “biological sex” is perverted to mean not the range of biological diversity in regards to a spectrum of sexual characteristics, but rather an immutable, “true,” and binary classification that has the effect of an invasive cis-sexist kudzu. In such a moment, armor that is both affective and made of metal may be necessary.
bronze, articulated safety zone

“I have nothing to declare except my genius,” said Oscar Wilde to the customs agent.

The affective shield of the title’s camp pomposity romanticizes material lack while asserting what Wilde claimed as his natural intellectual primacy. That the anecdote that contextualizes this quote is sited at a policed border resonates as much conceptually as it does bureaucratically. This series of bronze leaves are, in the tradition of the boy band, exhibited in groups varying in number, and occasionally singularly in a breakout role. Consider the work a dick joke in the style of Margaret Atwood’s classic zinger: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”