University of Sussex
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Becoming Pulau Hantu: mediating the loss and futurity of queerness through queer art and ritual

posted on 2023-06-07, 07:58 authored by Lynnly Ann Ng-Olsen
Queer identities exist in a state of ephemeral ghostliness and futurity within dominant heteronormative frameworks. Being queer is a ‘becoming’ that must be performed in perpetuity to be visible in dominant society; however, this is a transient performance that must be continually performed into the future to be perceived and it is not guaranteed that a queer performance will be perceived with accuracy. As a multi-ethnic, feminine, queer person, assumptions of who I am and how I am expected to socially perform are heavily projected by society onto my racialised feminine self. My feminine queerness is often lost amidst strict confines of heteronormativity that render my queerness as illegible, thus leaving my queer identity unrecognisable in dominant society no matter my performance. This autoethnographic practice-based research sheds light on how the present is insufficient for my intersectional queerness to successfully perform and be perceived. My contextual framework explores three main topics: First I discuss the perceptibility of my intersectional queer identity and the consequences that come with being perceived through Judith Butler’s work on identity and recognition. Second, I study José Muñoz’s work on queer disidentification that discusses being queer as a utopian performance of self that must always perpetually perform away from default heteronormativity to be legible if not to fully disappear into heteronormative concepts. Third, I study queer artmaking as a worldmaking strategy and an act of resistance through Audre Lorde’s writings that prompts us to question if the prescribed dominant frameworks have to be true and that better realities can be built by believing in the power of our agency. My practice explores what I can do for myself in the present through artmaking processes to sustain my existence despite the persistent experiences of loss that come with minoritarian participations of society. I have employed queer art as a way to mediate the loss and futurity of my intersectional queerness in a default heteronormative society through worldmaking art practices to explore what the queering of the present can offer and entail. I have achieved this through the development and exhibition of Pulau Hantu, a multi-channel interactive video art installation. Pulau Hantu embraces the ghostliness of my presence by exploring multi-channel video installation as an ephemeral method to present and situate queer art. My practice employs abstraction as the primary method of video-making to carry out and produce a queer practice of resistance from being seen and perceived. Ideas of ritual are also adopted through abstraction, repetition, and regeneration in effort to deny the heaviness of this world from attaching itself to me. I argue that queer art, while potentially worldmaking, will inevitably be perceived through the mimetic faculty of recognisable concepts thus threatening its stability. If queer art, like queer performativity, inevitably suffers loss through being perceived, it is then a queer strategy to develop art that refutes perceptibility instead. My practice accepts this reality and tends away from achieving social recognition in effort to discover alternate means of existence that is not hinged on being seen. Instead, my work embraces my ghostly ephemerality and rejects recognition as a means of being freed from constricted dominant frameworks.


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  • Media and Film Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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