Contexts and Relations: Mapping the Impact of Non-Normative Sexualities on Art

Wednesday, 8 December 2021, 12:00:00 am UTC

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Session Convenors

Jeremy Eaton, Centre of Visual Art, University of Melbourne

Session Moderators

Jeremy Eaton, Centre of Visual Art, University of Melbourne

Session Speakers

Francis E. Parker, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA
Melissa Ratliff, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA
Ayelen Pagnanelli, Centro de Investigaciones en Arte y Patrimonio (CIAP), Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)
Andrew Atchison, MADA, Monash University

This panel aims to explore the way contexts, visual cultures and social relations implicit to non-normative sexual histories have fed into, and radically altered artistic trajectories. The core proposition to be discussed, is that the non-normative sexuality of an artist or collective creates a network of subjective and communal relations that incorporates social context, activism, critique, alternative lifestyles, and a range of non-dominant ideological perspectives, which have, in turn, precipitated and impacted modes of creative practice throughout history. The panel includes three presentations that act to intervene into the discursive frameworks of collecting, Australian queer art curation and the non-normative social relations that underpin the development of localised art histories. Each presentation challenges the strictures of traditional art historical readings, creating new interpretive possibilities for our analysis of historically important artworks and institutions. The panel looks to cut through a critique that subordinates sexuality’s role in the formation of artistic practices and broader art history, by mapping art, cultural production, non-normative sexualities and by extension broader social contexts as intra-related in vital ways.

PAPER #1
Queer Readings of the Monash University Collection

PRESENTERS
Francis E. Parker and Melissa Ratliff, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA

Earlier this year, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA launched Queer Readings of the Monash University Collection: a project that invited writers and artists to contextualise a selection of works of art through the lenses of their experience and knowledge. Queer Readings sought to acknowledge that non-normative sexualities and gender identities have been a part of shared social experience for a long time, yet could not (or would not) be read as such—particularly in the professionalised zones of art writing and criticism. Reading works ‘queerly’ is a strategy for intervening in an art historical record that has participated in reproducing heterosexuality and its concomitant values as the societal norm. It is a strategy that draws on the corrective history practices of feminist and social justice movements while implicating itself in the conflicted domains of representational politics. This paper discusses the methodology and outcomes of the Queer Readings project in the context of museum and collection practices, drawing on works by such artists as Hoda Afshar, Archie Barry, Vivienne Binns, Juan Davila, Destiny Deacon, Mathew Jones, Tracey Moffatt and Charlie Sofo. It further considers shifts in collecting and interpretation practices in museum contexts, and associated challenges to curatorial authority.

PAPER #2
The Splendor of False Glitter: Male sexuality and Modern Art in Buenos Aires, 1944-1954

PRESENTER
Ayelen Pagnanelli, Centro de Investigaciones en Arte y Patrimonio (CIAP), Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)

Romantic relationships and sexuality in general have rarely been critically examined in regards to Latin American Modern Art histories. When it comes to non-normative sexualities this disregard has been conflated with the censorship of texts, estates and archival collections. This proposal explores how our understanding of non-normative male sexuality through the study of queer networks alters our understanding of modern art in Buenos Aires in the decades of 1940 and 1950. The paper focuses on the Institute of Modern Art (IAM). Marcelo De Ridder (1923-1973), its director, embodied the dandy stereotype of the upper classes: a man associated with the arts, with elegance, a demure man who was sometimes sexually involved with other men. De Ridder founded the IAM in 1949 and it was active until 1952. De Ridder left Argentina in exile and closed the IAM after, among other issues, it received a fierce critique from a Peronist leaning newspaper that condemned the display of queerness at its art openings. I argue that male sexuality is a crucial aspect in the history of that project. With the IAM, De Ridder set out to contribute to the local artistic scene but this remains an obscure episode in Argentine Modern Art.

PAPER #3
Suggestive blind spots: The role of connotation alongside explicit depiction in Australian queer art and curation

PRESENTER
Andrew Atchison, MADA, Monash University

This paper is presented from a self-reflexive curatorial position in relation to the exhibition …(illegible)…, that was shown in 2019 at MADA Gallery, Monash University, and curated by Andrew Atchison (the presenter). …(illegible)… was conceived as a response to the question ‘what kinds if work can an exhibition of queer art contain in 2019?’ and proposed that non-figurative, abstract and connotative artworks should occupy an equal position alongside explicitly sexual, didactic or political works in the canon of Australian queer art. Spanning thirty-five years, and including the work of Briony Galligan, Mathew Jones, Fiona Macdonald, Paul McKenzie, John Meade and Scott Redford, the exhibition provided a discursive opportunity, within an educational context, to crack open the art-historically established, somewhat calcified institutional identity of queer art. This paper explores the proposition that non-figurative, abstract and connotative expression need not be alienated from embodied experience, and perhaps always has been embedded within queer sexual and relational experiences and representations. At the crux of this reflection is the tension between whether the performance of queer sexuality need be visible to be understood, and the implications of identifying connotative content where perhaps there was no artistic intention to precipitate such a reading.

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Biographies

Jeremy Eaton, Centre of Visual Art, University of Melbourne

Jeremy Eaton is an artist, curator, writer and arts-based editor based in Melbourne. Eaton is the editorial coordinator of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, the co-editor (alongside Kelly Fliedner) of Currents an interdisciplinary graduate research journal hosted between the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia. Eaton is also on the Board of un Projects. Eaton has written for the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Gertrude Contemporary, un Magazine and Runway Journal. He has exhibited at Bundoora Homestead, LON Gallery, Sarah Scout Presents and Margaret Lawrence Gallery amongst others.


Francis E. Parker, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA

Francis E. Parker is Curator Exhibitions at Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA. He previously worked at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, initially as Curatorial Assistant, Australian Art to 1970, then as Curator, Contemporary Australian Art.


Melissa Ratliff, Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA

Melissa Ratliff is Curator Research at Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA. She was Curator, Programs and Learning at the Biennale of Sydney between 2015 and 2018 and previously worked on major international exhibitions including Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg, dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel and the 16th and 17th Biennale of Sydney.


Ayelen Pagnanelli, Centro de Investigaciones en Arte y Patrimonio (CIAP), Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)

Ayelen Pagnanelli is a Doctoral Fellow at Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and a Phd Candidate examining gender and sexuality in the abstract art scenes in Buenos Aires from 1937 to 1963 at the Centro de Investigaciones en Arte y Patrimonio, UNSAM. Pagnanelli holds an M.A in Argentine and Latin American Art History from Instituto de Altos Estudios Sociales, Universidad Nacional de San Martín and a B.A. in Gender Studies and Studio Art from Skidmore College. Pagnanelli has been awarded a Princeton University Libraries Grant for the year 2020-2021.


Andrew Atchison, MADA, Monash University

Andrew Atchison is an artist currently based in Melbourne/Naarm. He works across multiple forms and has ongoing critical interests in queer identity formation, public art practices, and the aesthetics of withholding. He is a current resident studio artist at Gertrude Contemporary.