I have one problem with both of the texts used this week, and that problem is AUDIENCE.
Okay, we all know Tyra ain't great. The Gay Kingdom episode is mainly a way for Tyr to shock its straight viewership and (as always) choose herself to be THE voice for any type of minority. It fails in nearly all realms, (except usually when Heda Lettuce chooses herself to be the spokesperson for the queer community (still problematic, but less so than Tyra choosing herself). So, in this text as explanation of queerness, Tyra fails mainly because she chooses to essentialize the queer community into an absurd system of categories (admittedly still used by the queer communities, but this self-identification is VERY different) and then hierarchizes them. Not only are groups so narrowly prescribed, but they are then further categorized based on who has the most societal power. I mean, really? This sounded like a good idea?
Dykes to Watch Out For is pretty wonderful. I mean it just is. It provides vignettes of deep and complex relationships (that sometimes get a little heteronormative, but hey sometimes our lives get a little heteronormative). My problem with using this as a text for educating the masses about queerness also lies with audience. I'm assuming a lot here, mainly that Patricia chose this text as an alternative performance of queerness for a large group of people to "understand." My main point is that this text speaks mostly (if not, solely) to those that already identify with queer culture, thereby "reaching" few people that are not already aware of queerness. I'm glad there is no "how to be queer" or "how to understand queer people" subtext, but i think eliminating any connection to a straight world can undermine the authenticity of the text from time to time and washes out several issues the queer community still faces.
For this post, I'll reflect mainly on the first part of Karen Eng's "The Princess and the Prankster: Two Performers Take on Art, Ethnicity, and Sexuality."
I'll admit I was quite amused by the theory behind Hirano's Asianprincess Ranch. As with many many forms of performance art, I understand where she is coming from, but I always wonder what sort of action she would like her audience to take, if any. I know that most art is set mainly to invoke thought and not action, but it seems like this project was mainly a mild spectacle masquerading as an intelligent process.
As I said in class, I'm concerned that the only people that will hear the message of an Asian woman prancing around in a blonde wig and sexy clothing are those that aren't in need of the message (or those that aren't too far gone). Even while taking her audience into account (at a conference for Asian youth artists), I find it hard to believe that the people who are "getting" her work are not young asian women (though an important group to reach, it lacks the shock-factor that would turn the heads of those who mainly need this rescue from ideology).
As I've tried to make clear, my qualms with the piece are not that I think being overly sexy is a good way to make a point, or that Hirano lacks some sort of innate self-respect or decency (things that I'm not sure exist anyway). Rather, my problem is perhaps that she does not make it big enough. it doesn't sound like the grotesque spectacle that would please me. I would like it to be shocking. I would like the performance to include some ironic interactions with her own body. Excuse my vulgarity when I say that using a plastic gun to stimulate herself while she yells "What's he got that I ain't got" to be a more effective use of everyone's time. I think the most effective performance art turns something sexy into something disgusting.
I'd like to use this post to respond to Rachel's film on women in hip hop, because it was an entrancing, interesting and deep work and even though no one else go to respond to it, I'll use this moment to react fully.
The most interesting character in the film was Medusa. She created these two binaries that I thought were interesting. First, she separated herself from her stage persona (though both had the same name). The alternation between aggression and joviality is stunning.
Her other binary was the difference between women deserving respect and those who were "asking" to be harassed on the street. She briefly gloseed over this point during the beginning of the film, but it struck a chord with me, albeit a dissonant one. I am often torn about the status of "women in hip hop" at the mainstream. Clearly, there is spiral in representations. Video vixens breed this sort of objectification which is enforced by men and women alike. I think that pinning the blame on women is a slippery slope that can rarely end well. Perhaps it would be better to say that dressing like a video vixen might not HELP the objectifiction of women, but this neglects the real problem that women should be able to dress however they want, free from any sort of physical or psychological molestation (that's my own breed of feminism in a simple, visual sense).
The young DJ (whose name I've lost at the moment) was an interesting character as well. The main point she kept coming back to was that she didn't want to be referred to as a female DJ, just a DJ. I always find this stance interesting. For the same reasons that I find the work of Georgia O'Keefe interesting. I always struggle with artists that wish to erase their social position from their work. It isn't that I think that women or people of color should feel the need to stand as exceptions to the rule of upper-class white brooding male artists. Rather, I feel like taking their positionalities out of their work is negative and I can't put my finger on why.