Gender and Language, Vol 10, No 3 (2016)

Visual silence and non-normative sexualities: art, transduction and performance

Adam Jaworski
Issued Date: 20 Dec 2016


Marginalization of people in non-hegemonic / non-normative gender roles and sexualities is often discussed in terms of their ‘silencing’. Besides, as silence tends to occupy liminal stages of communication and interaction, it is well suited to indexing marginalized subjectivities. This paper argues that in the context of artistic performance, that is when silence is displayed rather than imposed, silence can be re-valued as affirming and liberating. Art, which thrives on equivocality and understatement, tends to be silence-friendly due to its affordances of relative indeterminacy and ambiguity. Thus, the examples of transduction of silence in modern and contemporary art illustrate how art embraces, rather than obscures or disavows, male and female homosexual identities and non-heroic masculinities. The works examined include: Robert Rauschenberg’s and Agnes Martin’s monochromes, New York Dada drawings and photographs, and activist HIV/AIDS installations and photographs.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v10i3.32038


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