Amelia Jones – Visiting Scholar

Shayna Weingast

Visiting Scholar Review

Amelia Jones: Queer Feminist Durationality

The Trace of the Subject in Contemporary Art

The subject of Amelia Jones’ lecture was, in a nutshell, about identity, and the ways in which identity is constructed and received in art. Her most recent work, “Queen Feminist Durationality,” according to Jones, deals directly with the new emerging theories on how we might think of identity in relation to the visual arts. Jones presented new research on how to think about art after 1960, proposing a shift from object to process and how this shift relates to globalization, digital networking, and a sense of placelessness. She also favored a spatial approach, not a chronological one, and urged that the viewer consider art’s political and social aspects.

Jones gave the audience a quick background on feminist art, showing works from feminist artists like Valie Export and Judy Chicago. These work deal with the objectification of women, and the ways in which women form identity based on their relationship to men. In this section of the lecture, there were copious vaginal images (what she called “cunt art”), to which Jones discussed issues of male castration paranoia, fetishizing projections, and the gaze theory. Jones spoke about the binary relationship of the male gaze and female fetishism, and the ways in which women construct an identity based on their relationship to the male gaze, rather than independent of gender influence. Despite the often grotesque genitalia art she presented in her PowerPoint, this was the part of the lecture I enjoyed the most, and which I found I had the most background in, having read works by Laura Mulvey and Gloria Steinam for my thesis.

While elucidating her approach, she dipped into nearly incomprehensible jargon: phrases such as “logic of latency” and “activating a conceptual body via material traces expressing the work’s having been made” left me in a state of bewilderment. Once Jones went beyond the realm of feminist theory, I found myself lost amongst her esoteric vocabulary and obscure references. On more than one occasion, I had to stop listening to her lecture all together to re-group my thoughts and get back on track with what she was saying.

Jones then went through the three main words of her thesis, defining each as they related to her argument. Beginning with feminism, as I discussed above, she then shifted her lecture towards understanding “queer,” perhaps the most loaded word of her thesis. Jones defined queer as “the impossibility of the subject staying still…riding the line of indentified and identifiable.” That is to say, Jones seems to be arguing that what makes “queer” queer is its lack of a specific subject or identifier; queer always remains in the limbo between a fixed and fluctuating identity.

Jones ended the lecture by defining “durationality,” which was the part of the lecture I struggled the most with. Jones left the definition of “durationality” completely opaque—it’s not even a real word. I came away with no concrete definition for “durationality,” only that it implies a certain framework for which scholars can/should look at art, especially in light of technology, globalization and homosexuality.  Instead, she linked the world “intersectionality” to “durationality” (another made up word), which allows her to address the sexual aspect of all imagery.

Overall, I found Aemlia Jones’ lecture to be fascinating but extremely challenging. Her vocabulary alone had me lost and confounded, while the content of the lecture reinforced my feelings of confusion but addressed some very important and interesting topics. However, her lecture was extremely appropriate to attend and I truly feel I gained a great deal of knowledge from the hour I spent in her world of scholastic investigation.

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