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What does it mean to become toxic? To be marked as a toxin?
How does one live as intoxicated?
As theorist Mel Y. Chen argues, toxicity threatens, but it also beckons. It inspires animacies as well as “queer-inanimate socialities.” Toxins are markings and substances that travel, producing unpredictable bonds along their way. How do we touch, ingest, project, and produce the toxic? In how far is toxicity a shared condition that is nevertheless unequally distributed? If you live in an intoxicating environment or social order, would it be promising to become a toxin?
Bossing Images: Bonding Toxins stages an experimental meeting between an audience, Mel Y. Chen, art educator and theorist Bernadett Settele, and Renate Lorenz and Pauline Boudry’s film Toxic (2012). Inspired by the film’s list of toxins, which range from heroin, androgel, and hydrolic fracking to the filmic apparatus itself, we want to ask how toxins bond and are bonded. What do the film’s provocative figures in masks and drag tell us about toxic power relations and the socialities that live within them? What kinds of queer bonds are produced within Chen’s slightly different catalogue: lead paint on children’s toys, immigrant workers and factory workers in the global south, and racialized, queered, and disabled subjectivities? Does Settele’s collective practice of hedonistic “luxory reading” offer strategies to create in/animate, toxic alliances?
The event will take place in English, however participation is welcome in all languages. When needed, we will try to translate contributions communally.
Bossing Images: Bonding Toxins is the sixth event in the ongoing series Bossing Images: The Power of Images, Queer Art, and Politics, curated by Jess Dorrance and Antke Engel. Begun at the NGBK Berlin in 2012, the series most recently traveled to Iaspis Stockholm with guests Wu Tsang, Andrea Thal, and Tejal Shah’s Between the Waves (2012). Bossing Images proposes “bossiness” as a framework through which to foreground the power relations that shape the production, reception, and circulation of art. These power relations are hierarchical, though never fully stabilized, and are at times saturated with desire. Focusing on images that engage with ambiguous genders, queer desires, freaky bodies, and the puncturing of other intersecting normative imaginaries, Bossing Images creates experimental scenarios through which to examine the social field of images, artists, audiences, critics, and curators, as well as questions of queer politics.
Mel Y. Chen (Berkeley, California) is Associate Professor of Gender & Women's Studies at U.C. Berkeley and an affiliate of the Center for Race and Gender, the Science and Technology Studies Center, and the Institute for Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences.
Mel's research and teaching interests include queer and gender theory, animal studies, critical race theory, disability studies, and critical linguistics. In the Fall of 2009, Mel convened "Species Spectacles," a U.C. Humanities Research Institute Residential Research Group focused on animality, sexuality, and race. Mel's short film, Local Grown Corn (2007), explores interweavings of immigration, childhood, illness and friendship; it has played in both asian and queer film festivals. Selected publications include Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke UP, 2012) and “Toxic Animacies, Inanimate Affections” (GLQ, 2011).
Bernadett Settele (Zürich) arbeitet an der Schnittstelle zwischen Kunst, Pädagogik und dem Politischen. Sie lehrt, forscht zu und schreibt über Kunsttheorie und Aspekte der Kunstvermittlung, über zeitgenössische und Performance Kunst. Zahlreiche Kooperationen und Projekte mit queer-feministischem und emanzipatorischem Hintergrund. Sie gründete Luxuslesen im Les Complices*, Zurich mit. Bis 2006 war sie Mitherausgeberin des poststrukturalistischen und queerfeministischen Zeitschrift diskus. Artikel: Common Subjects. ‚Schöner Lesen’ als Luxus der Kunstvermittlung (München, 2013); Dorothea Rust: Affektive Politiken von Performance-Kunst zwischen Erinnerung und Ereignis (FKW Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und Visuelle Kultur, Nr. 55, im Erscheinen).
Jess Dorrance (Montreal) is a writer, curator, and activist. She is interested in the intersections between visual culture and feminist, anti-racist, and queer politics. She organizes, with Dr. Antke Engel and the Institute for Queer Theory Berlin, an ongoing series of events on the power of images, queer art, and politics called Bossing Images, and co-edited the book Bossing Images (NGBK, 2012). Jess curates short film programs for activist and academic events, including “Oh Economy, Up Yours!” (Berlin, 2010) and “Time-Queering Against the Grain: Utopic Visions That Can’t Be Stopped” (Berlin, 2009), and is a member of Montreal’s queer zine collective. She is currently working on her Master’s project on queer visibility, representation, and trauma at McGill University, Montreal.
Antke Engel (Berlin) is director of the Institute for Queer Theory in Berlin, a site where academic debate meets up with political activism and artistic/cultural practices (www.queer-institut.de). She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy at Potsdam University and works as independent scholar in the fields of queer, feminist, and poststructuralist theory, political philosophy, and visual cultural studies. She held visiting professorships at Hamburg University (2003/2005) and at Vienna University (2011), and a research fellowship at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICI-Berlin, 2007-2009). She has published numerous essays and the two monographs: Wider die Eindeutigkeit (2002) and Bilder von Sexualität und Ökonomie (2009).
Toxic (Berlin 2012, Super 16mm film /HD,
13 min) by Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz.
Toxic (Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, 2012, Super 16mm / HD, 13 min), Filmstill, courtesy of the artists