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Homosexuality in Visual Studies and Art History - A Post-Queer (South) Korean View

  • Journal of History of Modern Art
  • 2003, (15), pp.253-279
  • Publisher : 현대미술사학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Art > Arts in general > Art History
  • Received : November 30, 2003
  • Accepted : December 31, 2003
  • Published : December 31, 2003

Chung-woo Lee 1

1미술디자인 평론가

ABSTRACT

Part Ⅰ If you attempt to define identity of homosexual, and to examine its various ways of representation of desire, so-called "homosexuality", what are the consequences do you expect in result? Numerous recent writers have published lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender(LGBT) - related theses as a service of traditional scholarship in art history. Are they all following the fashion of the day? Michel Foucault's Stultifera Navis is anchoring in the pier of NY? (In fact "the fools" have dominated a certain cultural realm of the city.) What? Also a ship of idiots is soon arriving at Inchon to invade Seoul? Is that so? Virtually the entire tradition of homosexuality studies in art history has been centered around conservative premises: 1) the subject should be oriented to the LGBT movements, 2) homosexuality has been summoned to refresh heterosexuality as a mirror of the otherness. One thing I'd like to point out is that even today - we are living in the first decade of 21 st century - few heterosexual scholars manage to handle issues of homosexuality openly in his/her academic practices, as if heterosexuals are not supposed to talk about homosexuality. Whether this circumspection might lie in old taboo of homophobia or new radical homosexualism, I don't think political correctness does matter in the realm of philosophy. Personally, as an openly homosexual in the socio-political position of post-queer, I am fed up with I-will-be-your-mirror strategy of a Nan Goldin type. Thus I am posing the following question: what are the governing principles of studies of homosexuality in art history, and how are they employed? (Katherine Hayles, one of the prominent proponents of post-human theory, mentioned that gay subject played a significant role in her journey of theoretical studies. Her self-explanations might account for the chief raison detre of the issue.) What kind of epistemological scenery do you see in this symposium of KAHOMA? Why are we discussing homosexuality in art? Part Ⅱ When I participated in the very first formation of Korean LGBT movement as an activist in 1995, I was confronted with problem of understanding homosexuality in Korean language. Accordingly, to rationalize homosexuality and to jargonize it in Korean language became a challenging task. Like other LGBT activists, at this initial stage, I invented our own term based upon sub-alternative speech manner of the Western LGBT society, thereby I could avoid wasting energy on rime-consuming project of translation. (i.e., "e-bahn", the most wellknown on-line related term of sexual minorities' identity belongs to this category. In 1995 I redefine "e-bahn", a gay-male-only-slang, and disseminate the term in order to substitute such foreign words as gay, lesbian, queer. As a result, I am certain that spiel-raum for sexual minorities in Korea has been provided.) But comprehending every meaning and nuance of LGBT terms in Korean language is still no easy job. We can try to borrow numerous old ideas from some film critics who dared to deal with LGBT issues in the middle of 1990s. Therefore, this symposium can be considered a belated but inevitable challenge for us to resume seemingly endless translation project. (I do not insist that discourse of vernacular LGBT and its activities are entirely imported.) And I do believe this unwillingly constituted project will eventually affect on the future of LGBT related art practices in Korea for a long rime, even if no one expects it at the moment. And yet, one question remains; why did Korean artists and critics in general ignored LGBT upspring in the realm of Western art in 1990s, while film directors and critics were facing the whole new reality? Unfortunately the early phase of celebration is now over. We missed all of it. In my thesis, I devote to a rough retrospect on Korean society after the advent of vernacular LGBT movements in 1995; I recall my memories on LGBT-related works of Korean artists (mostly gay-male) including some works of openly gay artists. But I do not offer an extended analysis. What follows is a brief history of Western LGBT studies as a new branch of liberal art (from Jonathan Katz to Alan Sinfield) that lead to the advances of studies of homo-sexuality in Western - mostly American art history (from Cecile Beurdeley to Richard Meyer or David Higgs). Finally, I explicate my own socio-political poison as a post-queer Asian man, and propose a new theory of visual art. In this process I use allegory of gay melancholia to expose the uncanny relation between gay subjects and modern metropolis. (For the whole theoretical perspective see The Design/Text #2.) I hope my work is useful for understanding and evaluating other presenters' theses in the 4th Symposium of KAHOMA. Audience/readers might be able to use my text as an introduction to appreciate each presenter's theoretical position. The map/gird is yet pretty simple. With a bit of knowledge, you can easily participate in on-gong edgy (also maybe gay) games out there. Thank you very much.

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