Architectural grotesque: Impersonal affects and the new queer cinematic
Siu, Chi Ming Anthony
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Criticism on queer cinema, with its emphasis on irreverence, pastiche, and gender construction, has lost its political efficacy because the aesthetic criteria and cultural conditions in which it is received are becoming increasingly contradictory. For the mainstream film industry, capitalism encourages perversions so that what used to be queer ceases to be subversive. For filmmakers with an activist agenda, straightforward narrations are privileged in order to gain a wider audience. For the spectators, the tolerance of experimental film forms and philosophical critiques dwindles as conservative ideology prevails. Reacting to these conditions, i is an attempt to examine whether the initial challenge to identity politics posed by queer cinema can be rebuilt otherwise. Borrowing from literary studies the notion of the grotesque, which theorizes the truthfulness and beauty of peculiarities, it rethinks the aspects in culture and visual representations that allow for political investments. The introduction re-examines the murder of Matthew Shepard, laying out what the grotesque and the impersonal affects are. Chapter 1 examines Gus Van Sant's films. Recategorizing them as neo-noir, it argues that the different levels of suspense short-circuit those attempts to criminalize the homoeroticism between the two male characters in Gerry and Elephant. Chapter 2 studies Jonathan Caouette's film, Tarnation. Proposing that the film can be read more productively as a melodrama rather than a documentary, it argues that love and shame can give a positive twist to the relationship between the mother and her gay son. Chapter 3 analyzes Todd Solondz's film, Happiness. Treating it as a kind of family romance, this chapter suggests that the numerous perversions in the film should be understood as acts of masochistic humor that expose the moral law's need for deviance to assert its potency. The conclusion takes the argument of the grotesque from cinema to the visual arts of Matthew Barney. Connecting his photography with the films discussed earlier, it investigates how the visual rhetoric of Barney's Cremaster (Figures in JPEP) creates not only jouissance, but also calls for a creative conjunction of discourses to make the grotesque a lively principle for aesthetic appreciation and artistic productions.