Sarah Tye Amelia Jones


Sarah Tye


ARTH 3539




Amelia Jones is the head of Art History and Communication Studies departments at McGill University. She is highly influential in the analysis of Dada art, as well as the relationship between contemporary art and the feminine self. In her presentation Queer Feminist Durationality: The trace of the subject in Contemporary Art, she explores her begging question of the feminine identity in the art world, as well as arts impact on the feminine self. Her presentation was stomach-churning and nonetheless shocking, yet moving. SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/sarah/Downloads/Amelia%20Jones.doc

She begins by explaining her conclusion that incessant pressure based on our impressions of identification constructs sexual binaries that cannot be ignored in the art world. In other words, our expectations of femininity have resulted in a general view of what a woman should be. And these expectations are—for the most part—wrong, or at least skewed. Binaries have blinded us (mainly men) from seeing women as who they really are, instead of just seeing sex and a place to put their penis. She then examines the binary structures of fetishism throughout history and the feminist visual theory and theories of fetishism that resulted from it.The beginning part of her presentation was fundamentally a series of conclusions she reached based on examining the history of women and sex, and of feminine binaries. And, this is where she introduced her main idea of queer feminist durationality.

Queer feminist durationality is a potential idea for doing something with artworks through interpretation linking the interpretive bodies of the present with those of the past. It counters post WWI theories of identity that consisted of women as pin-ups dolls and sexy housewives. She illustrates this part of her argument with examples of “cunt art.” The artistic movement that is basically paintings of women’s vaginas. She claims that it took away from classic or conventional forms to expose the viewer in his or her own objections or identifications. Meaning, the audience’s interpretations are put to a test, the way in which they view “cunt art” can reveal their belief in the restricting binaries that society has given to women. She continues to say feminism has highlighted the process through which images are made and value placed within our culture. Feminism, she claims, introduced an alternative way to view women, and therefore slowed down criticism. Durationality is the beat of time, and “queer” implicated with the durational troubles the idea that we can know what we see and whether or not sexuality and gender are always already articulated. Also, it questions whether or not the restrictions of the binary view can really be avoided. “The cunt can expose or fuck with the frames of art.” She says.

The beginning part of her presentation was very clear and well articulated. However, as she continued on, she seemed to be relying more on passages from her book, which made her whole lecture a little more wordy and harder to follow. Her next example of artwork was actually the work of her husband, Donal. She uses his works such as Feeling Wood and Feeling Dick and Gatling Gun, to introduce a phallic perspective to her argument. The work is blunt and blatantly refers to a penis. His work seems to be symbolic of the inherent presence of sex in art, culture and in general contemporary societal outlook.

Her final part of her argument is centered on the idea of a pervert. She uses works of art that coherently address the perversion of modern society, and again this ever-present allusion to sex. Cathy Opie’s work was a perfect example to illustrate this conclusion. Her self-portrait of her nursing with the word pervert inscribed on her chest barely visible to the viewer, reiterates the consistently existing thoughts of sex. In her other works, the word pervert is very visibly in attendance, to more frankly affirm her point.

Ultimately, Amelia Jone’s lecture was very unique and clearly she has spent a lot of time analyzing the subject of feminine identification in art. Her first part of her presentation was very affective and well articulated, the following sections were slightly too wordy and a little more confusing. I had a harder time concentrating on what she was saying when she was just reading exerts from her book. But, her examination of binaries was the most effective in affirming her argument that there is a feminine identity expected by society, and that it is hard to avoid. But, feminist movements and queer feminist durationality can work against conventional art and aesthetics while linking interpretive approaches of the present with those of the past.

2 Responses

  1. I did not see Amelia Jones’s presentation, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it in your paper. Even today, women seem to face issues of binary standards, and not only women but men as well. The topic of “cunt art,” is particularly interesting because I would say there was definitely a trend towards this during the 1960s and 1970s in Western art, but the whole issue of a woman’s genitalia still today is relevant. Queer feminism is a rather important movement for society today and hearing about some of her view points was quite interesting.

  2. I saw Jone’s lecture as well and I agree that she relied far too much on her presentation notes. It was very difficult to understand her, but reading your essay really helped me gain more perspective into what she was saying. Your essay was very clear and organized well. The lecture was pretty shocking itself but you outlined the overall themes and specific points well.

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