Queer Expression, Context and Performativity: Not Talking and Saying Too Much

Sarma 5 Nov 2002English

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Contextual note
Lecture given by Martin Hargreaves in the framework of B-Visible.

The Divine David Masterclass video clip

Taking my cue from The Divine David I'm going to suggest that queer performance strategies deconstruct notions of universal communication and expression under suspicion. The Masterclass purports to teach us how to read the international language of dance, simply by learning the codes. This concept, that emotions can be codified into an expressive movement language which transcends cultural and historical contexts is familiar to those who have ever looked Mary Wigman's writing. The Divine David seems to echo Wigman who wrote in 1933 that �the dance is a language which all human beings understand,� and she argued that the purpose of performance is �to convey the meaning and force of the inner experiences which have forced [the dancer] to conceive the dance.� Wigman goes on to list something like the vocabulary of poses in the video: �Shock, ecstasy, joy, melancholy, grief, gaiety, the dance can express all of these emotions through movement. But the expression without the inner experience in the dance is valueless.�

Of course in postmodern times this universalist metanarrative whereby an audience simply decodes the message of the movement to discover a human experience shared by all is no longer tenable. In postmodern art the universal is disrupted by specificities and repetition and blankness rupture emotional expressivity. However I want to look at some of the key figures in the shift from modern to postmodern � primarily John Cage and Andy Warhol to suggest that �expression can be placed under erasure in order to articulate a queerness which both invites reading and refuses the demand for inner meaning. Codified languages do not disappear but they become localised in scenes and subcultures. At the end of the lecture I want to look at some examples of contemporary dance to suggest that, like the Divine David, they employ a queer strategy which both figures desire and yet refuse to communicate an expressive subject position. Either through hyperbolic overperformances which repeat conventions to the point of exhaustion or through a silence which refuses to participate in a heterosexual dialectic, queerness is very much about performative conversations rather than communicative expressions.

In suggesting that queerness is performative I am of course drawing on Judith Butler's work. Gender Trouble is read by many as one of the initial moments at the inauguration of Queer Theory and the notion of gender as performative has radically altered the landscape of poststructuralist feminism. I want to consider how Drag performance becomes a key tool in Butler's analysis of sex, gender and sexuality but first I will very briefly trace the theory of performativity. In How to do things with Words, a collection of lectures originally delivered in 1955 by the English philosopher J. L. Austin, the term �performative� is first introduced. Austin suggests that it �is derived, of course, from �perform�, the usual verb with the noun �action��(Austin 1962: 6) and that he has coined it to describe a particular kind of spoken utterance which is, itself, the performing of an action, a �speech act� (ibid.: 40). A performative is initially set in opposition to a �constantive�, which is a statement that describes or refers to a prior or external action or reality. The performative on the other hand enacts as it is spoken, and Austin establishes two primary conditions for the performative:

A) they do not �describe� or �report� or constate anything at all, are not �true or false�; and
B) the uttering of the sentence is, or is a part of, the doing of an action.
(1962: 5)

Austin rejects the notion of �true� and �false� when considering performatives - since they do not refer to an outside set of actions or reality, they cannot be judged upon their accuracy in depicting or describing it. Instead he suggests that they are either happy/felicitous or unhappy/infelicitous. The success or felicity of a performative lies for Austin, in the context of its utterance. Thus the example he gives of the wedding ceremony requires the authority of the priest, the location of the church, and the witness of the other participants in the ritual, in order for the performative �I do� to be felicitous. If the performative is separated from this context then it misfires. Austin claims however that even if �I do� is uttered in the wrong context then some action will have taken place, something will have happened even if it is not the action of marriage. Similarly he suggests that although the performative �I promise�, needs the intention of the speaker to carry out that promise, the performative does not describe this intention � we can have �false� or �broken� promises which are still performative and which act in ways that exceed the consciousness of the speaker and which cannot circumscribe in advance the happiness of the utterance. Therefore, Austin argues, unhappiness or infelicity is necessarily part of all performatives and he extends the notion to include non-verbal acts � �infelicity is an ill to which all acts are heir which have the general character of ritual or ceremonial, all conventional acts� (ibid.: 18-19 emphasis in original). Although performatives require a convention, or ritual context, it seems that it is precisely this convention which marks them out for failure.

Later in his lectures Austin notes that the term �expressing� is an �odious word� (p75). He suggests that although many performatives seem to �express� the internal state of the speaker to an audience, he questions whether that is necessarily a property of the performative itself or of the social context;

There are numerous cases in human life where the feeling of a certain �emotion� or �wish� or the adoption of an attitude is conventionally considered an appropriate or fitting response or reaction to a certain state of affairs� In such cases it is, of course, possible and usual actually to feel the emotions or wish in question; and since our emotions or wishes are not readily detectable by others, it is common to wish to inform others that we have them. Understandably�it becomes de rigeur to �express� these feelings if we have them, and further even to express them when they are felt fitting, regardless of whether we feel anything at all which we are reporting. (1962: 78-79)

To put this another way, in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, there�s a story where Warhol witnesses a suicide and a tramp said to him �did you see the comedy across the street?� Warhol says � I�m not saying you should be happy when a person dies, but just that it�s curious to see cases that prove you don�t have to be sad about it, depending on what you think it means, and what you think about what you think it means,� (Warhol 1975:112). Warhol finds pleasure therefore in not expressing a correct response to those contexts that demand an emotion, thereby revealing that the context or convention doesn�t merely provide an opportunity for the communication of an emotion but in fact it demands these �expressions� and thereby creates the interiority of the subject. This also suggests that expressions are not as tied to their context as it at first seems � if the tramp expresses an incorrect emotion then the context is radically altered by his misuse of comedy. �Expression� becomes therefore a troubling performative which cannot fully deliver the intention or the self-presence of the subject �expressing�; the convention or the ritual requires that the expression �fits� the context and indeed it attempts to prescribe in advance what �expressions� are admissible and which will receive social ratification. Furthermore, however, inappropriate emotions can shift a scene and force a reflection upon the conventions and rituals through which the interiority of the subject is produced. �Expressing� is perhaps such an odious word for Austin precisely because it makes a false promise of communicating a prior interiority when actually it is this interior which is enacted by the performative.

Jacques Derrida takes up Austin�s notion of performativity in his paper Signature Event Context from 1972 and in particular he focuses on this notion of convention or context. Whereas Austin suggests that a performative requires a fixed conventional context in order to work, Derrida suggests that the very force of any speech act is its break with a context and its iteration beyond the intention or authority of the speaker;

Every sign, linguistic or non-linguistic, spoken or written (in the usual sense of this opposition), as a small or large unity, can be cited, put between quotation marks; thereby it can break with every given context, and engender infinitely new contexts in an absolutely nonsaturable fashion. This does not suppose that the mark is valid outside its context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring. (Derrida 1972/1999: 97)

Along with this notion of the recontextualizing force of performativity, Derrida offers several criticisms of Austin�s theory that are useful - Austin dismisses theatricality and self-evident citation as somehow outside of performativity or as impure but Derrida suggests that citationality is part of every performative and that this repetition makes every utterance vulnerable to failure precisely through recontextualizing, improper citations.

So to Judith Butler�s notion of gender as performative. Although in her early books Butler does not engage directly with either Austin or Derrida, their notion of performativity as non-referential, as enacting what it names, as both relying on a context and performing a break with it are clearly taken up in Butler�s use of the performative. Butler argues against the notion that gender is a cultural expression of a precultural sexed identity � she suggests instead that �gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to pre-exist the deed. (�) There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very �expressions� that are said to be its results.� (1990: 25) Butler suggests that an expressive model of gender disguises the discursive production of the interiority of the subject � instead she concentrates upon the surface politics of the body and inquires how acts, gestures and desire, �produce the effect of an internal core or substance, but produce this on the surface of the body,� (Butler 1990: 136). Butler suggests that we conventionally read gender across an �inner/outer distinction� by which outer surfaces as seen as evidence of inner truth but, she argues, our attention should be on how these surfaces are regulated, how gender is a constant process of repeating normative bodily actions rather than the cultural expression of an natural sexed identity. As a result, Butler suggests that we need to enquire both into the performance of the body and into the process whereby it is read as evidence of some internal identity � she asks:

What performance where will invert the inner/outer distinction and compel a radical rethinking of the psychological presuppositions of gender identity and sexuality? What performance where will compel a reconsideration of the place and stability of the masculine and the feminine? And what kind of gender performance will enact and reveal the performativity of gender itself in a way that destabilizes the naturalized categories of identity and desire? (Butler 1990: 139)

One of Butler�s responses to this �what performance where� is drag performance which �fully subverts the distinction between inner and outer psychic space and effectively mocks both the expressive model of gender and the notion of a true gender identity.� (137) Reading against the notion of drag as a bad copy of heterosexual authenticity, Butler argues that the imitation made explicit in drag reveals (or has the potential to reveal) �the imitative structure of gender itself � as well as its contingency,� (ibid.) Drag can therefore recite the conventions of gender in order to force a break with the context of their emergence and create new possibilities for thinking about bodies and desires. Drag is read as a form of parody which not only mocks genders norms but also denies their claim to originality � �As imitations which effectively displace the meaning of the original, they imitate the myth of originality itself.�(138)

This exploration of drag as a way of thinking through gender performativity is further taken up in Butler�s subsequent book Bodies That Matter (1993) which dedicates a chapter to an analysis of Jennie Livingston film �Paris Is Burning� (1991) which documents the drag balls in Harlem from 1985-1989. Here Butler suggests that drag is a complex process of citation of gendered and racial conventions that can destabilise a white heterosexual claim to �realness.�

Show Paris is Burning clip

In the drag ball productions of realness, we witness and produce the phantasmatic constitution of a subject, a subject who repeats and mimes the legitimating norms by which it itself has been degraded, a subject founded in the project of mastery that compels and disrupts its own repetitions. This is not a subject who stands back from its identifications and decides instrumentally how or whether to work each of them today; on the contrary, the subject is the incoherent and mobilized imbrication of identifications; it is constituted in and through the iterability of its performance, a repetition which works at once to legitimate and deligitimate the realness norms by which it is produced. (Butler 1993: 131)

In other words there is a repetition of �realness� outside the context which authorises heterosexual whiteness, a performative break of context which highlights that the acts, gestures and styles which are repeated in the balls in order to become �real� do not express realness but enact it performatively. The walkers in the balls radically reuse the terms of their own subjection in order to signify queered identities and desires.

I�ll come back to Butler and to a notion of camp reappropriation later but here I want to take what might seem like a big jump from Harlem in the late �eighties to Greenwich Village in the late fifties and early sixties. In my turn to consider John Cage and Andy Warhol, as I will now do, I move from a black and Latino subculture to a largely white avant-garde subculture. This is partly to move beyond the paradigmatic status of drag which dominates many accounts of queer performance to consider other strategies which can relate to Butler�s question of �what performance where�. Drag is not after all always subversive in every situation. However this is not to place these canonical artistic figures above the drag artists but to enquire into the complex ways in which queer performance practice can enact disrupting resignifications of expression and communication. Although the white middle-class artists of Greenwich village were far more privileged in many ways than the poor Latino and black ball participants, they nevertheless explored how the effects of homophobia restricted a supposedly universal notion of expression to heterosexuals and how this prejudice could be recontextualised to effect change.

It was very difficult in New York in the fifties and early sixties, what has now become retrojected as �pre-Stonewall�, to be visibly �gay� not least because of McCarthy�s persecution of gay people as Un-American, lumping Commies and Queers together as the abject other of America. Although many in the artistic community of that period were exploring an expressive approach to art making in which their gender and desires were figured as key elements, homosexual artists had to keep their desires invisible and unspoken. The queer art historian Jonathon Katz suggests that John Cage, Robert Rauschenburg, Merce Cunningham and Jasper Johns together formed a silent quartet of homosexual men who did not, indeed could not, assume the expressive dramatic masculine personalities of the Abstract but instead disrupted and queered notions of identity and expression. Katz argues that the work of that period articulated a new kind of political art that was not in direct visible opposition to the mainstream but disruptive of it with silence, blankness, collage and chance. Some gay historians argue that in the silence which characterises much of this work was simply a pernicious symptom of the Cold War closet, and when Cage famously said of his relationship with Merce Cunningham, �I cook and Merce does the dishes� it could be taken to be the result of an internalised paranoia from the widespread fear of persecution. Katz however suggests that this resistance to communicate emotion and identity in any direct way was an appropriation of the enforced silencing of gay desire in order to disturb the doctrine of emotional expressivity. Their taciturn play with the gaps of language and the blanks of visual representation were a new kind of strategy that was a counter movement to the macho posturing of Jackson Pollock and the other Abstract Expressionists. Silence doesn�t articulate an oppositional politics but works at denaturalising the notion that expression offers a universal mode of communication. Silence forces an audience to confront their own noise and thereby realise their complicity in the production of a supposedly expressive form of �music�.

Silent music inaugurated a process of reading that at least potentially moved the listener from an unselfconscious complicity with dominant forms of expression (forms wherein the expressive is passively registered as inherent in the music) towards a degree of self-consciousness about one�s role as a listener or maker of meaning. In so doing, silence, paradoxically, contributed to the destructuring of music�s discursive norms. Negating heretofore �naturally� expressive musical forms through silence, Cage denaturalized them, fostering the awareness that music is the result of a reading. . . Music�s seemingly automatic or transparent claim to �meaning� is thus replaced by an awareness of the conditions in which or through which that particular subset of sound known as �music� comes into being. (http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/KatzPages/KatzWorse.html).

Moira Roth has suggested that the Cage quartet were following several leads from Marcel Duchamp in order to adopt an ironic �aesthetic of indifference� which, she suggests, made their work apolitical and disengaged. Jackson Pollock used to verbally attack Cage for being less-than-masculine and Cage did not fight back but crossed the street to avoid him. This removal of oneself from the scene of insult may seem like a tacit acceptance of homophobia, even complicity with it, but Cage was not interested in providing an oppositional force for Pollock to fight against. His work instead undermined both the machismo and the communication of internal subjectivity inherent in the drip paintings. As Katz argues:

this embrace of silence cannot be conceived of as itself a politics, position or statement: rather it exists in perpetual alterity, always appended to its host - music - in a parasitic relationship. And, like any parasite, it will eventually weaken its host. But also like a parasite, it works invisibly, never declaring its aims, its purpose or project. (http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/KatzPages/KatzWorse.html).

Silence and blankness therefore refuse to directly express or communicate anything but parasitically they exploit the weaknesses, gaps and spaces in conventional notions of masculinity. Whereas the Expressionists projected a hard-drinking and womanising attitude as central to their art, the indifference of the Cage quartet left their lifestyle invisible to the prosecuting eye. Any gender and or sexual identity they may have communicated would have been criminal and their reticence is contextualised by the necessary closeting of gay desire in this period. Nevertheless I would argue that their invisibility should be thought beyond that of a stifled or enforced secrecy as simultaneously recontextualising the subjection of queer desire to silence and invisibility. Paradoxically, for those participants within the avant-garde scene of that time queer identity could be read, but not a universal code or language, as a form of passive resistance.

If Cage was silent, Cunningham inexpressive, Johns and Rauschenberg erased or collaged then Warhol was a mirrored, recording machine. Warhol acknowledges in particular a debt to Johns and Rauschenberg but in POPism he suggests that he upset both the Abstract Expressionists and the Cage quartet with his �swishness�. Warhol�s silence and blankness was perhaps more self-evidently performative and ironic and certainly more recognisable as camp.


The pleasure of Warhol�s reticence is, like the story of suicide I mentioned earlier, derived from the inappropriateness of his reactions to the interviewer and his humorous rejection of communicative expression. Unlike the Cage quartet, Warhol�s sexual orientation was fairly difficult to ignore, and his self-confessed �swishness� was in opposition to the careful demeanour of Johns and Rauschenberg who could pass as straight. Warhol moved into the Factory in 1963 and it quickly became populated by speed freaks, drag queens, hustlers and many others from the gay subculture of New York. Nevertheless, until fairly recently, as Michael Moon has observed, very little has been made of the queer context of Warhol�s work and his status as perhaps the most important artists of the twentieth century, and certainly the most famous, has largely been credited to his formal repetition of popular culture and commodities and his celebration of celebrity. Matthew Tinkcom, in an essay entitled �Warhol�s Camp� suggests that the avant-garde has often been associated falsely with an uncomplicated heterosexuality and elements of campness are often figured as antithetical to radical art with the consequence that Warhol�s campness is often sidelined. In a similar vein Ramsay Burt has argued that most histories of Judson Dance Theater, which had many overlaps with the Factory, stress the formal minimalist qualities of Yvonne Rainer�s later work, and ignore for example the camp excesses of Freddie Herko who was both a Judson choreographer and a Warhol film star before he danced out of the window on amphetamines. Several studies recently have set about reintroducing queerness into the perception of Warhol, some more convincingly than others. What interests me is how Camp, which is often figured as excessive, emotional, effusive and expressive can nevertheless as disruptive of gender expression as silence � indeed Warhol�s particular use of camp is a complex combination of not talking and saying too much in order to disturb the concept of a communicative body.

Camp has become a favourite of Queer Theorists as a particularly visible form of queer performativity. Moe Meyer, in The Politics and Poetics of Camp, an anthology of essays on the subject suggests that Camp cannot be degayed and he makes a polemical claim for the exclusive queerness of camp;

Because the process of Camp has for its purpose the production of queer social visibility, the same performative gestures executed independently of queer self-reflexivity are unavoidably transformed and no longer qualify as Camp�Thus there are not different kinds of Camp. There is only one. And it is queer. (Meyer 1994:5)

Fabio Cleto, in a reader of writings on Camp, argues against the idea that Camp can be restricted simply to one definition;

Representational excess, heterogeneity, and gratuitousness of reference, in constituting a major raison d��tre of camp�s fun and exclusiveness, both signal and contribute to an overall resistance to definition, (�) the identification of its precise origins and developments, sooner or later ends up being frustrating, challenging the critic as such, as it challenges the cultural imperatives that rely on the manageability of discrete (distinct and docile) historical and aesthetic categories. (Cleto 1993:3)

One of the key texts that Cleto collects in his reader is Susan Sontag�s �Notes on Camp� written in 1963. Hal Foster has suggested that Sontag was writing partly in response to the arrival of Warholian Pop Art and, as such much of what she says can be applied to Warhol�s work, not least her first two notes;

1. To start very generally: Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylisation.
2. To emphasize style is to slight content, or to introduce an attitude which is neutral with respect to content. It goes without saying that the Camp sensibility is disengaged, depoliticized � or at least apolitical.
(Sontag 1967:277)

Although Sontag therefore sees nothing political in a Camp attention to surfaces and to reproduction and artifice I would argue that this is a different kind of politics, one which, like Katz noted of silence, is parasitic and which acts without necessarily announcing its intention. The emptying out of content can be a political act which reveals that the heterosexual content of gender stylisation is neither necessary nor natural and can therefore be recited in ways which radically shift the performativity of gender. Camp is based in a theatricalisation of repeats and repetition is of course a central feature of all of Warhol�s output. Images of disasters, beauty and glamour, of the consumer durables at the heart of America are all repeated across Warhol�s silkscreens and given a lurid colour change that only emphasises the obviousness of the repetition. Rather than emphasise or foreground an emotion or meaning behind an image however the effect of Pop is basically of emptying � as Warhol said �the more you look at the same thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.� Warhol�s camp therefore uses excess in order to arrive at non-communication. Graham Gussin suggests that repetition causes slippage and ungrounding, a loss of original meaning and context:

To repeat something once is one thing, to do it over and over is another thing again. Through repetition we can be led to a place where it may be difficult to differentiate, where there may be no telling where we are. If all is the same, over and over, then nothing is distinguishable; deprived of the means to measure, of the ability to tell one moment from another, or one point from the next, we slip, merge into an enveloping sameness and lose our place. (Gussin 2001: 11)

Although Warhol seems to deploy this formal use of repetition in his silkscreens and in such films as Empire or Sleep where both time and place are stretched, displaced and lost he nevertheless plays with difference rather than subsumes it to an enveloping sameness. He repeats gender endlessly, unfaithfully and inappropriately in order to empty out the heterosexual meanings and to pull the ground out from underneath the notion that gender is simply expressive of sex. In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Warhol is asked, �Is that a Female Impersonator?� to which he replies �Of What?� � a witty remark that runs counter the logic that drag is simply imitating an original. He later suggest that gender is a difficult business that needs a lot of work;

Along with having sex, being sexed is also hard work. I wonder whether it�s harder for (1) a man to be a man, (2) a man to be a woman, (3) a woman to be a woman, or (4) a woman to be a man. I don�t really know the answer, but from watching all the different types, I know that people who think they�re working the hardest are the men who are trying to be women. They do double-time. They do all the double things: they think about shaving and not shaving, of primping and not primping, of buying men�s clothes and women�s clothes. I guess it�s interesting to try to be another sex, but it can be exciting to just be your own sex. (Warhol 1975: 98)

Drag is therefore, as Butler was to argue fifteen years later, an imitation only in the sense that all gender is imitative � being either a �man� or a �woman� requires work. It is also intricately linked up with pleasure � and Warhol suggests that being �your own sex� is as exciting and therefore as unfamiliar as the doubling of drag. Impersonation was a strategy Warhol often employed, sending out doubles of himself, including Edie Sedgwick, and effectively becoming his own double; Warhol performed an unheimliche repeat of normative notions of authentic artistic expression. His book of philosophy is subtitled From A to B and Back Again and there are various conversations between Andy, A, and various B�s. The book is prologued with a section entitled B and I: How Andy Puts His Warhol On:

�I wake up and call B.
B is anybody who helps me kill time.
B is anybody and I�m nobody. B and I.
I need B because I can�t be alone. Except when I sleep. Then I can�t be with anybody.
I wake up and call B.�

The reflective mirrored surfaces of Warhol�s A therefore show explicitly that B is part of any A. For our purposes B-visible could be the unseen frame of the seen, or the mirror which reflects A back to itself. The other in the self and the othering of the self. A deployment of both camp repetition and a silent refusal to communicate in order to displace the heterosexuality of expressive performances with reflexive queer reappropriations.


�Queer� as a term of abuse seeks to produce an abject outside to heterosexual subjectivity and to delineate what emotions and expressions are admissible within representational politics. �Queerness� as a performance strategy recontextualises the performativity of the term �queer� and in some ways returns to its original usage in English to mean strange, odd, inappropriate. Queerness takes up the abjection of homosexuality and hyperbolic repeats them until an apparent naturalness becomes emptied out which therefore results in a demand for a reflexive reading of gender identity. It makes �natural expressions� seem strange and it forces a consideration of the context through which identities can or cannot appear. In Excitable Speech, Judith Butler suggests that �the body� is brought to being through the sedimentation of the history of performatives and in doing so it becomes naturalised, but this can be interrupted and disrupted, allowing for an articulation of subjectivity that acknowledges failures and repeats norms in order to reveal their naturalisation.

In�bodily productions resides the sedimented history of the performative, the ways in which sedimented usage comes to compose, without determining, the cultural sense of the body, and how the body comes to disorient that cultural sense in the moment of expropriating the discursive means of its own production. The appropriation of such norms to oppose their historically sedimented effect constitutes the insurrectionary moment of that history, the moment that founds a future through a break with the past. (Butler 1997:159).

Instead of having the final word, and as a lead into discussion, I want to show some video extracts of British contemporary dance which in my view take up some of the sediments of male homosexuality in order to articulate a queer politics between silence and camp, between invisibility and showing too much.


  • Michael Clark �No Fire Escape in Hell� (1986)
  • Javier de Frutos �Grass� (1997)
  • Lea Anderson �The Lost Dances of Egon Schiele� (2001).


  • Austin, J. L. (1962), How To Do Things With Words, Oxford: OUP
  • Butler, Judith (1990), Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge
  • Butler, Judith (1993), Bodies That Matter: On the discursive limits of �sex�, London: Routledge
  • Butler, Judith (1997), Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, London: Routledge
  • Cleto, Fabio (1999), Camp, Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject: A Reader, Edinburgh: EUP
  • Derrida, Jacques (1972), �Signature Event Context� in A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, ed. Peggy Kamuf (1991), New York: Columbia
  • Gussin, Graham (2001), Nothing, London: August
  • Katz, Jonathan, Passive Resistance: On the Success of Queer Artists in Cold War American Art
  • Katz, Jonathan, The Silent Camp: Queer Resistance and the Rise of Pop Art
  • Katz, Jonathan, John Cage�s Queer Silence or How to Avoid Making Matters Worse
  • Meyer, Moe (1994), The Politics and Poetics of Camp, London: Routledge
  • Sontag, Susan (1967), Against Interpretation, London: Eyre and Spottiswoode
  • Warhol, Andy (1975), The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, London: Harcourt Brace
  • Warhol, Andy (1980), POPism: The Warhol Sixties (with Pat Hackett), London: Pimlico

    Discussion afterwards

    Transcribed by Marie Schoovaerts

    Myriam Van Imschoot: "I'm familiar with the early work of Judith Butler but not with her recent work. In her early work she's really developing this concept of performativity and as her books appear subsequently she refines it. She sort of integrates criticism and clarifies her concept. I was just wondering if she keeps reworking the concept of performativity in her latest work."

    Martin Hargreaves: "Yeah, in Excitable Speech�"

    Van Imschoot: "No, after that."

    Hargreaves: "There's only one book after that where she doesn't look again at performance but she's looking - she's using Antigone - she doesn't really consider it as a theatrical event so it's all about speech. She says in Bodies that Matter that it really bothers her that people think that performativity and performance is the same thing. That's obviously something that she's worried about. She's moved quite away from that. The last thing I saw was that she gave a public lecture about kinship. Kinship seems to be something that she's looking up more. And that's what she talks about in Paris is burning. This offers different kinds of modeling. People move their houses, they organise themselves and there's a mother who takes care of people. In Antigone's Claim she's saying this is the queering of kinship because Antigone becomes her own aunt."

    Van Imschoot: "But does she change anything about her initial concept of performativity?"

    Hargreaves: "Only she stops using the word 'act' because people think it's about acting and I really think she moves away from that. It's actually in Excitable Speech that she really clarifies what she means, because in Gender Trouble she doesn't really say what performance is. I think that that was the problem; she assumes we know what performativity is."

    Van Imschoot: "Another question I have relates to the conclusion of your lecture. I did not really get it."

    Hargreaves: "I didn't really want to offer a conclusion. I just wanted to show the video. I pulled that quote out about sedimentation because I thought it was quite a nice idea that although we believe that things are tight, it takes a particular context to understand them. It's sediment. It hasn't gone stone yet; it's still mud that can shift. She says you can only open the future by turning to the past.
    That's why I chose those 3 videos. I believe they deal with a kind of policing of homosexuality. But I think it also shows in an excessive way the formalism of the ballet. Most people don't like these videos, either because of the ballet people who don't like the dildo's and the drugs on stage or the people who go to see those elements but don't like the ballet. Javier de Frutos really occupies the site of this vile and destructive overemotional polluted polluting. He's got the blood and it's infecting people. It's this kind of sight of male homosexuality, but he does it so much - like Warhol - so much that it kind if empties it out. You see it as a repetition."
    And then for Anderson I think they're taking expressive movement. But they do it in quite a blank way, again it's this attention to surfaces. They're not naked but it's painted, excessive surfaces again like with Divine David as well and there's this excess but there's also silence. Not talking and saying too much.