Lecture Review 2: Amelia Jones

Visiting Scholar Lecture Review : Amelia Jones

                Amelia Jones is an Art Historian and critic residing amongst the faculty of McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. Jones is an accomplished member of the Art History community, and works diligently to make progress therein. This can be seen in her robust resume when one reviews its twenty-nine pages in its entirety.  Her experience as a historian is rich with residency, publication in journal and literature, reviews, grants fellowships, participation on panels and in exhibitions.

The focus of her talk was ‘Queer, Feminist, Durrationality’. Jones broke this title down and used each word as a lens to examine art work of interest.  Feminism was more of a visual theory. She spoke to how she treats it as a process of viewing the world and making displays in response to it. She explained that it plays a role in any interpretation. Queer was described as a mechanism in which we may question what we see in the world. It was related to experience of reality, in that everyone’s experience of the universe is different. Queer changes with durrationality. Durrationality takes away an object from judgmental, specialist gaze. This is to say that whatever an object or idea may be, it is examined in a new light be it through the ever changing temporal lens, or reallocation to a new environment. Either way the object experiences a paradigm shift of sorts and perhaps takes on new meanings. Jones is interested in revision, seeing the world differently, theories of identity, and its relationship to art.

The first artist she referenced was VALIE EXPORT, a Venetian feminist artists. She interpreted Action Pants: Genital Panic (Aktionshose:Genitalpanik); a performance where she walks around a cinema with crotch less pants, vagina at face level confronting the audience. The purpose of this was to confront the audience with the passiveness feminine role in film. It also addresses the private role sexuality plays in life. She believed that women were not captured by directors and cinematographers, but rather gave themselves freely. Jones says this toys with female visual theory and the vulnerability of the hole (theory of the hole). What she means by this is associating women purely with the vagina, submission in sexual situations and the work environment, exposed to the public, weakness, etc.

Jones then went on to discuss Holbein’s The Ambassadors of 1533, specifically focusing on the Anamorphic Scull. She argues that it invokes durrationality, forcing the viewer to reassess their position and relationship to the painting. This can also be seen in the work of Mira Schor, specifically in  her Slit of Paint series (1994). The series of painting depicts a vagina with a semicolon contained in its depths. According to Jones the semicolon provides us with an emergence of language in the visceral body in a direct and abstract sense. She defines abstract as shapes at the edge of recognition that do not cease to carry meaning. I feel that the Slit of Paint series is rich in this, and deeply tied to Schor’s writings as well, and can also be tied to pieces like Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, subtly hinting at the roles women have played historically, perhaps encompased in a quote by Schor: “There is in matter, someting more than, but not something different from, that which is actually given”.

Another artist discusses was Cathy Opie. She is mainly concerned with Identity and how it is shaped by the architecture of the realities around us. We can see how Opie changes through the invocation of durrationality says Jones. We see that Opie’s body heals from her performances like cutting in 1993, and other masochistic art. We also see her tattoo regimes change, as time goes on. This provides us with a sort of Feminist duality through identification, repetition, and substitution – the durational performative subject. This is of course subject to interpretation through the themes provided to us by Jones, ‘Queer Feminist, Durrationality’, and the implications each bring with them.

I think that Jones is brilliant. I enjoyed her lecture, and was exposed to new art, which I think is the purpose of the visiting scholar series. From an outside perspective, the lecture was hard to follow, as I have little expertise in Queer, Feminist art, but I will say this; I feel the concept of ‘Durrationality’ is in escapable, especially in the art world. Pieces are as temporal as the events they display. I will never feel the true passion of a David painting because I am not living in France, in the early 1800’s witnessing the people overthrow the government. I simply have a sense of the power of the work from that time, and what I can gain from it through my contemporary lens. Amelia Jones I feel understands this, and she gives us license to reinterpret art in new context of time and place, and for this I am grateful.

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