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Reconstructing Gender: An Embrace of Queer Negativity

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posted on 2023-05-10, 19:15 authored by Kiana RadcliffeKiana Radcliffe

My capstone work, “Cycles,” explores what it means to exist outside of cis-heteronormativity. Four cloth panels hung in a circle form a narrative structure that exists without a clear beginning or end. Layered, sewn, embroidered and printed fabrics, interleaved with paper cutout imagery, depict two, side-by-side figures ambiguously related: A ghostlike figure bears witness to a self-inflicted decapitation and mending thereafter of self-inflicted bodily harm. This allegorical narrative explores gender a ritual construction, an idea present in Feminism Interrupted: Disrupting Power by Lola Olufemi. In clarifying what she sees as a common misinterpretation of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, Olufemi argues that: “Butler is often misquoted as claiming gender is a ‘performance’ when instead she argues that might be better to view it as a ritual that is made up of certain kinds of repetitive behaviours that sediment over time” (Olufemi, 2020). I prefer Olufemi’s interpretation. While both performance and ritual imply the repetition and projection of certain behaviors, ritual is more inward while performance is directed outward. Rituals of gender are still observed by outsiders; however, they operates on a more intimate level than the rhetoric of performance would imply. The rhetoric of performance centers the witness as being the key actor for gender while the rhetoric of ritual centers the individual in their gender. Cyclical time is important to the ritual the narrative builds. The circular form blends the panels so there is no end or beginning in the order. This is a queering of time by its denial of a linear narrative. In No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive by Lee Edelman and Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by Jose Muñoz they discuss how focus on the future through linear time leads to a sacrifice of the present and the queer. Form makes this reconstruction an ongoing process, as it repeats. Cyclical time reasserts the emphasis on ritual in gender; as gender rituals are created through behaviors that repeat and sediment over time. 



Dallarosa, Tessa


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