By Christopher Hutchinson
“In the late 80s, a new theorist emerged on the scene. She was called Judith Butler, and she was to revolutionise gender theory so fundamentally, that to write a paper on gender in the 21st century that does not at least reference Butler, is to almost place yourself outside of theoretical intelligibility.”-Caroline Criado-Perez
Sex & Agency
Both Butler and Foucault, leading theorists in queer theory, outline the automatic problems with identifying sex as a morally structured construct. Sex merely wants to “get off”. Sex has no interest in the organization of like sexual beings to engage in politics. Both theorists see the engaging of politics and origination as an agency that is separate from sex. Foucault suggests that the politicizing of homosexuality, for those agencies that are concerned with morality, should be more accurately discussed under birth control and reproduction. Butler goes further to analyze the gender role performed by all. She suggests that once one assumes an identity, then one has to perform the corresponding acts to fulfill that identity. That performance becomes just as binary as the patriarchal structure present. Both theorists see the binary gender roles as problematic. Butler attempts to identify and dismiss the performance in her discussion of performativity.
Judith Butler believed we were all performing gender-Caroline Criado-Perezhttp://www.newstatesman.com/voices/2014/05/caroline-criado-perez-judith-butler-whats-phallus-got-do-it
Butler’s performativity is a complicated proposal that ends up being a place of ambiguity. The goal is to operate completely outside of the binary, to become oneself. No labels, no boxes, no campaign, no identity, no agency that can be used as propaganda. Performance functions within those paradigms. Butler’s argument is applicable to all gender roles and stereotypes generated in this culture, and subcultures. Should one assume and wave the flag of the stereotype/gender/ethnicity for an agency? Proving to be authentically a gender/stereotype/ethnicity is merely advocating the spectacle as it relates to patriarchal normalcy. Identity by itself is a lazy excuse to create art.
Shade Compositions 2012 SFMOMA (27min. version)
“Realism is an approach to art in which subjects are depicted in as straightforward a manner as possible, without idealizing them and without following rules of formal artistic theory. The earliest Realist work began to appear in the 18th century, in a reaction to the excesses of Romanticism and Neoclassicism. This is evident in John Singleton Copley’s paintings, and some of the works of Goya. But the great Realist era was the middle of the 19th century, as artists became disillusioned with the artifice of the Salons and the influence of the Academies. Realism came closest to being an organized movement in France, inspiring artists such as Camille Corot, Jean-Francois Millet and the Barbizon School of landscape painters. Besides Copley, American Realists included the painters Thomas Eakins, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, both of whom studied in France. http://www.artcyclopedia.com/history/realism.html
The thoughts developed in realism seem most to encompass both Butler’s and Foucault’s queer theory, which would more accurately be described as queer realism. Butler’s ambiguity attempts to find this realism. Tanner’s Banjo Lesson is not about pity, sympathy, or idealism. It is simply a grandfather teaching his grandson the banjo. Contemporary Black art is today filled with sympathy, pity, and idealism the complete opposite of the Tanner’s realism, now belittled in a romanticized spectacle. So too have many under the banner of queer theory, moved so far away from queer realism to pure spectacle, engaging in the very same binary gender archetypes perfected in patriarchal society. Many have manipulated and abused Butler’s theory to advance their own agency of indulgence, politics, and morality.
Christopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga, and Smoke School of Art Founder. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008.
Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.