Amelia Jones Queer Feminist Durationality by Danielle Mulein

Amelia Jones, professor and Grierson Chair of the Visual Culture at McGill University, brought me back to my days of Feminist Theory. As a women and gender studies minor, Jones’ lecture on Queer Feminist Durationality: The Trace of the Subject in Contemporary Art, was right up my alley.

She began her lecture with the raw and brazen depiction of female strength portrayed in Valie Export’s Genital Panic, a photograph from 1969. The image depicts a woman in chap-like cut outs exposing her genital area in a hostile offering of her sex. It is through this image that Jones begins the discussion of traditional feminism versus Export’s radical relationality or Queer Feminist Durationality and the vast gap in subjectivity.

The 1970s cunt art reveals the binary of the male gaze and feminist artists playing with the idea of fetishism. The female body is frozen at one time, in one view, to deal with the direct eroticism of fetishism, while only showing you a fragment of the body not the whole. This plays with the notion of subjectivity in art and how it can be represented differently based on the viewer. It is more than exploiting the power of the female sex, which is passive to a heterosexual gaze, but showing that the image of the female sex will not disappear.

In case the audience was unaware or uncertain of certain feminist or queer vocabulary, Jones’ divulges her understanding. She breaks apart the title of her lecture. Duration, she concludes is taking away from the classical to place in the openness of interpretation that is attached or detached from the piece. She is interested in the viewer having an anamorphic view of the Queer/Feminist art. See it in a distorted light in order to really view all aspects of it, the intersectionality that art can maintain. She goes into some detailed and well-versed definition of feminism and then moves on to queer. Queer, morphs our understanding and it implies that we know what we see, the open mesh of possibilities to paraphrase Jones. The next word, which I have already mentioned, is intersectionality, the identification of self, others, bodies and images. Picture if you will a woven quilt with many pieces and threads incorporated into the whole. Intersectionality is exactly this quilt. There are so many aspects that make us who we are and ones sexuality or gender can only be perceived within other identities.

Jones’ then displayed Mira Schor’s “Slit of Paint”, a powerful canvas painting with building folds in the fleshy center that part to expose a semicolon with the statement, “A sentence; is finished on the other side”. The aspect of this painting and Jones’ comments that stuck with me was when she began discussing the piece from a female perspective. You are viewing your own anatomy both literally in the flesh and figuratively with the unanswered semicolon. The painterly expression and interpretive meaning opens art to individual memory and perception. This is where the duration of it all comes together. How art can trigger memories, perceptions and thoughts that can both relate to the past, present and future.

The next segment of Jones’ lecture is titled “Feeling Wood, Feeling Dick”. It is during this time she brings the audience into the sphere of the male genitals by showing images and exhibits all of which show sticks, flesh and the body’s tool. She argues man cannot aim at being whole as his genitals signify his relation and singular perspective.

Finally, Jones’ gets in a bit further with her “pervert” section. The title comes from Cathy Opie’s series of self-portraits. First, Jones’ displays Opie’s “Self Portrait/ Nursing” a 2004 photograph. There is no passage of time, no narrative of duration but a relationship of durationality forms between viewing the piece and the experience of memory. The idea of Madonna and Child is brought up and although I understand the resemblance I think this piece has more depth to it. It is the simple image of a mother breastfeeding her child, an act mothers around the world have continued for centuries, and when mothers view this piece the act will resonate with them. A dim inscription on her chest still reads pervert, from her 1994 portrait. Jones’ also shows the audience Opie’s “Dyke” a 1993 photograph. The combination of Opie’s photographs embody the mentality of durationality within the queer and feminist subject.

Amelia Jones is by far an expert in her field of study and demonstrated her skill throughout her lecture on Queer Feminist Durationality: A Trace of Subject in Contemporary Art. The perspective of art from an intersectional subjective view is clearly necessary when viewing and critiquing feminist art. 

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