Taking Faux Pas: Selected Writings and Drawings of Amy Sillman and Johnson’s The Law of Large Numbers: Black Sonic Abyss, or I do not walk a line that is thin, straight, or secure as its starting points, this conversation will deal with both artists’ writing practices and the central question of form in rethinking art history and aesthetic categories.*
I saw these men as being in their domain, depraved and sketchy, whereas I was just passing through. Then again, I understood I’m the company I keep: a man over forty with a Friday night hard-on, passing as desirable in the dark. I didn’t end up here out of loneliness. I’d arrived with my companion, the Famous Blue Raincoat. We’ve been domestic for years. “It may seem difficult to understand why two men who are happy with each other will take the risk of going to these places where the whole atmosphere of the group will tend to drive them apart,” wrote GordonWestwood—a pseudonym—in his 1952 book Society and the Homosexual. It was the author’s hunch there was no other spot for these coupled men to rendezvous. To the homosexuals, “in a pathetic kind of way this place is their home.”
But that was another era. I hadn’t been driven to The Bar by society’s lack of understanding. Throughout the twentieth century, London pubs, cafés and clubs would be taken over—“selected” as Westwood put it—by a homosexual clientele. The unofficial meeting places could be so discreet most other customers wouldn’t notice, and occasionally so brazen an orchestra would strike up a tribute when an attractive male entered the room. Proto-gays were segregated by class as much as anything else, sticking to the exclusive cellar bar at the Ritz on the one hand or an East End boozer on the other—or, in the case of privileged men in pursuit of a bit of rough, moving from the former to the latter. In this diffuse network of commercial spaces, the clientele might be tolerated to various degrees because it brought business. (MattHoulbrook, an authority on London queer history, figures: “The pink shilling was a potentially lucrative market, and men’s demand for a ‘home’ always ripe for exploitation.”) Now we were being elaborately catered to: The Bar was designed for a demographic of masc-presenting homo satyrs. — Jeremy Atherton Lin,Gay Bar: Why We Went Out
This week, Atherton Lin and Isabel Waidner will be on Instagram Live to discuss the new book Gay Bar.
I saw a call for the “Best American Experimental Writing,” and it said something like, “Bring us your weirdest, your wildest writing.” And I thought, Is that it? What creates the experimental, the innovative, the hybrid that has to be weird or wild? There’s always grace, there’s always stealth, there’s always nuance, there’s always structural intervention. And, depending on readers, one might not always notice what literary forms are being manipulated until you get uncomfortable with your expectations not being met. The tag on the book says one thing, but your experience of what you’re reading is doing something else. — Tisa Bryant*
Join Bryant—author of Unexplained Presence and a forthcoming book from Semiotext(e)—and Cauleen Smith in conversation as part of LACMA’s Confabulations series.
TRINH T. MINH-HA—FILMS, the artist’s first institutional exhibition in Asia and the final presentation at NTU CCA Singapore’s current space, is on view through the end of the month.
Featuring six of her films—Forgetting Vietnam (2015), Night Passage (2004), The FourthDimension (2001), A Tale of Love(1995), Shoot for the Contents (1991), and the new work What about China?(Part I of II, 2020–21)—the show is complemented by the adjoining exhibition Trinh T. Minh-ha—Writings.
TRINH T. MINH-HA—FILMS is curated by Ute Meta Bauer. See link below for details.