Call for papers


Send your text (1,000 - 2,000 words, footnotes included) in US letter format (doc, docx, or rtf) to before April 1, 2017. Please include a short biography (30-50 words), an abstract of the text (80-100 words), as well as postal and e-mail addresses. We also welcome submissions (reviews, essays, analyses of contemporary art issues) not related to a particular theme (annual deadlines: September 1, January 10, and April 1).

Esse No 91: LGBT+
Before April 1, 2017

With the goal of uncoupling genders and sexualities, the queer movement was formed in the early 1990s from the intersectional approach of Black Feminism, which critiqued the “white solipsism” of American feminism. Queer Nation activists, who wanted to create solidarity among movements fighting for the rights of marginalized people, also played a catalyzing role in the emergence of the movement. The simultaneous publication of major books on feminism and postmodernity – with Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble as the cornerstone – made it possible to position the emergence of a new feminist theorization, which was designated under the trope of “queer theory.” Although there has been no consensus over what it should be called – post-feminism, postmodern feminism – the queer movement has developed mainly around the notions of gender, identity, and sexuality, and tends to undermine the heteronormative discourse based on universal and transhistorical categories. So, the “queer” banner flies above those with the primordial desire to escape all forms of the normalization that is implicit to all gendered and sexual categorizations. The conceptual apparatus developed by queer thought also makes it possible to explore the notion of “difference,” swapping it for that of “social construction.” It also highlights ontological and naturalist presuppositions by questioning the discourses of scientific and medical “truths” that legitimize the binary man–woman regime, and opens the door to other identities.

Although recognition of the rights of sexual and gender minorities is increasingly subject to legal and social action, the LGBTQIA1 community, and especially racialized people in that community, are still highly marginalized and more at risk to undergo physical and psychological violence then are their heterosexual counterparts. The persistence of LGBTQIA-phobic hate crimes, in the West and elsewhere in the world (for example, the Orlando massacre, the overrepresentation of trans people among murder victims), proves that the struggles of the LGBTQIA community for better social justice remain crucial. These political considerations are embodied in the contemporary aesthetic and have a considerable effect on our relationship with the image and with art history in general.

Using strategies of circumventing or offsetting from dominant discourses on gender identities and sexual orientation, a number of artists from the LGBTQIA community transcend binary thinking through their practices in order to provide a glimpse of the possibilities outside of the heteronormative and cisnormative patriarchal universe. Some artists point specifically to the consubstantiality of social relations or are interested in the convergence of movements – anti-capitalist, feminist, ecologist, anti-globalist, post-colonialist, and so on – but LGBTQIA art intrinsically resists unanimity. At the same time, the question of ethics and solidarity underlies a number of collaborative art practices and motivates a number of curators, who are increasingly producing exhibitions jointly with institutions or artists.

In light of the perspectives opened up by these artistic and political concerns, through this thematic section we wish to explore the strategies deployed by artists to make LGTBQIA communities visible and make the multiplicity of voices on the margin of the patriarchal regime of knowledge production heard. The diversification of alternative sites for the dissemination of art, combined with the institutionalization of “marginalized” practices, also provides fertile ground for reflecting on the making of contemporary art history in light of these issues. What is the role of the artist or the intellectual in the context of an activist or allied stance and what means are proposed to avoid the trap of reification of queer thought as a hegemonic discourse? How are trans struggles negotiated in relation to feminist and queer struggles and art practices, and how do artists contribute to this debate? Similarly, how do LGBTQIA artists negotiate these identity issues in their work and, conversely, how does art stimulate empowerment of the queer community? All of these questions and a number of others will be addressed in this thematic section.

1 An abbreviaton signifying all people who are not strictly heterosexual: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersexual, asexual.

Before September 1, 2017

The word “democracy” suggests an open, modern society based on equality, yet as a concept and as mode of government, it is marked by many inconsistencies. Far from being stable, democracy requires an ongoing process of negotiation and, in its radical form, of "agonism”, to use Chantal Mouffe’s term. Notions of the individual, his or her rights and responsibilities towards others, community, freedom and participation need to be constantly interrogated and reasserted. Democracy is thus a very complex and conflicted concept that has been subject to many changes in its relatively short history. Yet the four forms - classical, republican, liberal and direct - share two basic principles: first, that power represents a majority and second, that minorities are protected, supported and encouraged to reach power. In principle, the seat of power is "empty" in a democracy and the majority constantly prepares for its own abdication. As soon as politicians fail to protect minorities, democracy breaks down.

But in reality, there are many mechanisms in place to keep the most destitute in a weakened position and reduce their opportunities for civic participation. For this reason, and given the current imbrication of democracy with neo-liberal and neo-national policies, the viability of democracy is on everyone's minds. With the growing success of populist politicians and the return of authoritarian regimes in Europe and elsewhere, human rights are being compromised and it has been suggested that democracy is on the retreat. But democracy is not only associated with utopian political visions; it is also associated with neo-liberal incursions and military interventions that are launched in its name. In light of these contradictions, it is imperative to ask, what is at stake in the global glorification of democracy as the only legitimate model of politics? Especially considering that the current model of democracy reduces the participation of individuals to infrequent elections? According to the political scientist David Held, none of the four democratic forms even stand a chance of survival in a globalized world, precisely because of the inequalities they continue to foster.

This issue of esse proposes a critical reflection on the concept of democracy in order to explore its inherent contradictions and its real lived fallout, as well as the role that art can play within it. Can art help radicalize democracy and make it resilient? Can art experiment with and help establish alternative democratic forms that are fit for both the local and the global? Its seems widely accepted that culture is now run by a market rationality and the odd voice of protest is dismissed as being naive or unrealistic. But can contemporary art adopt a different stance, one that strikes at the heart of politics? Can it mobilize "dismeasures" and avant-garde "transgressions" in order to motivate civil involvement and create possibilities for political opposition?

Esse calls for papers about contemporary art practices that investigate these concerns, as well as others, including but not limited to: the role of the media - the 4th pillar of democracy - and the free press; the clash between the individual and the community; the growing gap between the layman and the politician; the influence of economic lobby groups and NGOs; the refugee crisis and problem of immigration; public surveillance on a massive scale and the invasion of individual privacy; political identity, representation and constitutional protection; and the urgency of consensus as well as its risks. Artists and cultural institutions can function as catalysts, mediators, facilitators and designers of a world that is more equitable and just - can't they?

PDF icon esse91_lgbtqia_en.pdf209.15 KB
PDF icon esse92_democracy_en.pdf198.27 KB

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