by Á.R. Vázquez-Concepción
“The ‘revolutionary consciousness’ is a mystification if it is not situated within a ‘revolutionary body,’ that is to say, within a body that produces its own liberation.”
Currently on view at SOMArts is Creative Labor: Queer-It-Yourself (QIY) Expo and Faire, done in collaboration with the Queer Cultural Center and the National Queer Arts Festival, showcasing the multimedia work of queer artists working across the Bay Area.
Creative Labor: Queer-It-Yourself (QIY) is an exhibition of sculpture, painting, video, installation, drawing, and photography produced by artists who cross-examine notions of work in their practice —complicating capitalism’s view that the body, in particular, the queer body, is a commodity, and neoliberalism’s claim that competing markets are the only viable alternative for organizing labor and human relationships.
The artists in Creative Labor are doing work that produces queer insurrectionary discourse —about beauty, economy, and liberation— not through fruitless binaries or tired rhetoric, but by disidentifying from heteronormative capitalism. Disidentification is a concept developed by the late queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz, who explained that there are ways in which individuals can reject identifying or counter-identifying with dominant ideologies within a society for more dynamic perspectives. He explained that this is “a step further than cracking open the code of the majority; it proceeds to use this code as raw material for representing a disempowered politics or positionality that has been rendered unthinkable by the dominant culture.”
According to psychotherapist and philosopher Félix Guattari, quoted above, “using every available access route into our organisms, [the capitalist state] insinuates into the depths of our insides its roots of death. It usurps our organs, disrupts our vital functions, mutilates our pleasure, subjugates all lived experience to the control of its condemning judgments. It makes of each individual a cripple, cut off from his or her body, a stranger to their own desires” The artists included in Creative Labor engage this functioning of the capitalist state, and repurpose its matrix to produce and circulate profound discourses on queerness and the queer body —which have always existed situated along a sociopolitical fault-line in the United States and further afield.
An example of this is the sculpture installation titled The Harbinger (2014), by Lorenzo Cardim, which comprises a leather breast plate and mask that wraps around the body and is attached to some weights that encumber the movement of the wearer of the bodice. The mask has no nose or eye holes, meaning that the wearer of the leather assemblage will have to pull the weights about without being able to see forward or breathe properly —making movement and maneuvering an absurd ordeal.
Cardim originally wore this restrictive garment for a performance where he dragged on the weights along the floor of a gallery space, representing the challenges and burdens queer artists encounter in the face of exclusionary forces within the art systems and capitalism at large.
Another work that exemplifies the effective and affective critical arc of this exhibition is Documenting Disability (2013), by Indira Allegra. In this video work the artist secures warp threads to her teeth, then runs a loom as she speaks, creating a woven document about disability. Impairment may be an obvious physical one —one that would impede verbal communication— or an unseen one which would be harder to represent. As a consequence of her act of weaving through her hampered speech, Allegra creates a material document —as she posits in her statement, “proof of the substance of my word.”
The total artist lineup includes Indira Allegra, Carlo Abruzzese, Bren Ahearn, EG Crichton, Jamee Crusan, Torreya Cummings, Lorenzo Cardim, Kadet Kuhne, Evie Leder, Mia Nakano, Ramekon O’Arwisters, Kolbe Roper, Tim Roseborough, Jeremy Chase Sanders, Micah Elizabeth Scott, Angie Wilson, and Debra Walk.
Alongside are the Maker Faire artists and artisans Audacious IAM, Anna Anti-Palidrome, Micah Bazant, Corey Brown and Ary Smith, Cartoon Art Museum, Jamee Crusan, Roxana Dhada, Fammead, Alexander Hernandez, E. Salvador Hernandez, KUMILICIOUS, Heather C. Lou, Dorian Katz, E. Oscar Maynard, Radar Productions, Miss TANGO, ObsidianMoon, Astrology, Liam Peters, Ritual and Repeat, and Wild Fancy Design.
Creative Labor: Queer-It-Yourself (QIY) is on view at SOMArts through June 24, 2016.
SOMArts empowers artists and the multifaceted communities of San Francisco by supporting and producing work that is culturally engaged, deeply social and political and thrillingly experimental. It connects over 2,000 organizations and individuals each year to activate public space citywide and to organize community-building exhibitions, classes, performances and events for over 30,000 people at the South of Market Cultural Center.
 Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 1999, pg. 31
 Félix Guattari, “To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body,” Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews, 1972-1977, 2009, pg. 208-209