The intention for this blog to be a reflective journal was a good one when i created it last year but only now does it seem relevant to use it as a tool in my major project research. Since October I have been scoping the project, trying to locate the research question, it has not been an enjoyable journey until recently, and there was a reason why, this should become evident in the posts that I will now be writing everyday until the thesis is handed in on 15 September 2010.
May to October 2009
Taking my notebooks as a chronology here is a brief time line of the material that I have collected so far and where relevant commentary as to why this was documented: I was looking into the work and life of Dan Friedman who died of Aids in 1995. His book Radical Modernism spoke to me as a gay man, and I was no doubt reading the book and his other writings of his through that lens, however trying to gain conclusive evidence of his sexuality proved elusive and therefore I could only speculate. Tutors suggested that while I took a gay reading of Friedman, they took other readings that were not filtered through sexual identity. This made me aware that I need to be much more objective in how I read texts, saying this, the internal gaydar never switches off and it is instinctive. More on this later, but as it was rightly pointed out, you cannot write a masters thesis on intuition or instinct alone as this is all without evidence.
Sadly on 10 October the Boyzone singer Stephen Gately died, reported in all the national newspapers, controversy came when The Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote an article titled: ‘A strange, lonely and troubling death’. The PPC was inundated with complaints from supporters of Gately. Documenting this in my research files was highlighting the issue that news stories with gay/queer subject matter tend to have their source in popular mass industries other than design (specifically graphic design) such as music, art, film etc.
Over the years I have collected various items of gay related health promotion printed literature, Gay Men Fighting Aids (GMFA) and the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) are two of the most prolific campaign and awareness organizations dealing with all aspects of gay health and relationships. I thought that in this general scoping, health promotion could be included in the final thesis, but at the time of writing this is now unlikely. The research journey from October to May has clearly shown me that gay related matters/issues/discourses and theories are broad based and narrowing down the field of study has been a naturally occurring phenomenon.
Sex by Madonna published in 1992 didn’t shy away from depicting gay, lesbian, and bisexual acts. The design of the book by Baron and Baron seduced me, the shy closeted design student in lonely Norwich. It presented me with an alternative view of the world that seemed to be endorsed rather than chastised or forbidden, as peddled by the British tabloid press that I had to endure while growing up in a rural Suffolk village in the 1980s.
On 21 October each of us in our MA group held a seminar about our tentative investigations into our research thus far. I video recorded my slot and placed a caption in front of me inspired by Peter Tatchell‘s photograph included in the Gay Icons exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery:
As I mentioned earlier identifying gay related issues, subjects, people in graphic design has not been straightforward. After a meeting with the academic Richard Dyer (see earlier blog posts) his points of reference came from other creative arts such as film, literature and painting. I made contact with Ronald Greg at Yale and he said he empathized with my quest in the search for a gay authorial voice/position in design writing. Ron told me that he had been thinking about queer aesthetics theorizing that there is something to design (as well as voice) that leads us to understand the author as gay/queer. Ron has published papers on the gay actor turned interior designer William Haines, a name Richard had mentioned. As you can begin to tell the material is there for other disciplines but not for graphic design. Incidentally while writing this today, just as I was grabbing the page to link to Richard Dyer I came across the magazine ‘Gay Left‘ that Richard write for, this is poignant as will be revealed later…
In this notebook I pasted a book review from Eye magazine’s website titled: ‘No way to treat a woman (designer)‘ Women of Design by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit, published on the occasion of the exhibition elles@centrepompidou (an exhibition I was due to visit with some of my fellow students in December, however industrial action by staff at the Centre closed it so we couldn’t gain entry). Next entry, a still from YouTube of a sketch from the Armstrong and Miller Show titled: ‘Sportsfest 2010‘, interesting in that graphic design gets an airing as a subject in a mainstream comedy sketch show. The 2012 Olympic logo has been a much debated subject since it was unveiled in June 2007, the gay connotations of a seemingly innocent depiction of the relay event brings into the question the relationship between homosexuality and sport, Mark Simpson has recently written about coining a new word to describe the phenomenon Sporno.
The relationship between homosexuality and sport was touched upon in Grafik magazine with their Olympik project, where designers were asked to depict each Olympic sport on a poster. Rowing is represented by North Design’s unusual and profoundly disagreeable (to me) appropriation of the 1982 best selling book ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’ by Bruce Feirstein. In the catalogue that showcased these graphic designs, North stated that the sport of Rowing was a team sport both in and out of the boat, real men don’t eat quiche, was a subtle and I believe homophobic reference to reinforce a stereotype that gay men are not team players and the femininity undermines the masculine world’s of team male team sports and the graphic design profession. This is a essay for another day and time, but it fired me up and left me feeling let down by North. I requested an explanation from Sean Perkins, North’s founding partner, for the motivation to use the book title on a poster for Rowing but I didn’t receive a reply. Again I am reminded of how personal a reaction can be, and how this is not always productive to postgraduate research, although having it as a starting point for a research project is a useful force for motivation.
I moved on following a tutorial to the journal Art History, specifically Volume 24 Number 2 April 2001. This was a special issue: Other Objects of Desire, Collectors and Collecting Queerly. In the context of queer publications (now the epicenter of the major project as I am writing this on 2 May 2010) an examination of the act of collecting could yield an angle on the project. The Editor Michael Camile introduces the concepts of ‘otherness’, gender and sexuality in relation to collecting, as a designer who has throughout my career collected books on design and gay/queer theory it has not crossed my mind to analyze the act of collecting. Camile quotes John Elsner and Roger Cardinal, editors of The Culture of Collecting: ‘The view of the ‘act’ of collecting as a psychological as well as an institutional practice, ‘presenting a narrative of how human beings have striven to accommodate, to appropriate and to extend the taxonomies and systems of knowledge they have inherited’. It could be argued that magazines are curatorial and form collections, they are often sequential, numbered, cataloged and thematic, therefore the act of collecting queerly about queerness perhaps deserves a chapter in the thesis. There is much to say about this subject, but here I will list the particular essays I photocopied and pasted in the research file: The Editor’s Introduction – Michael Camile; ‘For Our Devotion and Pleasure’: The sexual objects of Jean, Duc de Berry by Michael Camille; Homoerotic Art Collection from 1750 to 1920 by Whitney Davis; Mapplethorpe’s Living Room: Photography and the furnishing of desire by Richard Meyer and finally Collecting men, or my next duchess by Adrian Rifkin. More reflection will be written on the blog in due course about the relevance of these essays to the discourse.
October to November 2009
On 21 Oct I was browsing ‘Mapplethorpe a biography’ by Patricia Morrisroe and on page 272 is printed an invitation Mapplethorpe sent out for a dual show: Morrisroe’s caption reads ‘Mapplethorpe’s invitations to his dual openings at the Holy Solomon Gallery and the Kitchen revealed an uncanny awareness of how he planned to market his work and his ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ lifestyles.
This ‘duality’ of lifestyles would be familiar to most gay men, and I dare say straight men as well, however Mapplethorpe was explicit in visualizing the public and private, making everything public. I don’t want to dwell too much on Mapplethorpe as I am more interested in language and text in this project that visual imagery, however this simple image expresses a concept so succinctly that I felt it necessary to catalog it.
Still in the month of October my tutor Anna let me borrow a wonderful work of fiction Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Dunker, 1996. I took it to be about a relationship the author has with the fictional characters Paul Michael the writer of five novels and one collection of short stories between 1968 and 1983. The book provides a fictional lens through which the non-fictional relationship between a writer and a reader can be analysed. In one poignant quote Dunker says ‘the heterosexual press have not hesitated to speculate on the supposed connection between Paul Michaels madness and his homosexuality. But who is Paul Michael? The identity of a writer is always a subject of speculation. Currently I am reading Foucault’s The Will To Knowledge, The History of Sexuality:1. In the first year of my MA course Foucault’s essay What is an Author (1969), where he sets out the concept of the ‘author function’ was a key text, when investigating what is an author and what is a critic. It would be unthinkable to overlook Foucault in this research project, in terms of his sexuality and his views on authorship, as I have found already in the initial scoping stage Foucault’s The Will To Knowledge is often cited, making it a key text.
On 8 November The Observer published an article on the gay playwright Alan Bennett, whose Talking Heads monologues from the 80s and 90s I can still recall with some degree of clarity. As we progress in this blog, you will see that I have skirted around the subject of gay playwrights, and with Bennett I have always by his acute sense of habitus when writing for women. More on this later.
Reflecting on the research notebooks is a valuable exercise in that certain subjects tend to fade out then in again. The next article to received the print out and Magic Tape treatment was titled: Male-on-male blowjobs are no longer gay, an interview between the editors of the magazine ‘Vice‘ and Dr. Eric Anderson, where the blurring between gay and straight behavior is examined. The accompanying image of two footballers in post goal celebratory embrace, highlights again the conflict of homosexuality and sport.
Feminism and is subsequent offshoot queer theory is a central component of this research into gay language, discourse, identity and its relationship with design, I am also collecting articles in the media about feminist related issues, writing in The Guardian in September Germaine Greer asked ‘Women everywhere – please send a picture of your unsupported breasts to Stephen Bayley‘ Greer chastises Bayley for his ‘meaningless’ book ‘Woman as Design’ she states ‘Women are no likelier than any other animal to have been designed’. I have to agree with Greer, only through the filter of the straight male psyche (I make an assumption here) could such a title be articulated. On 20 September Bayley defends himself ‘Any fair reading of Woman As Design would not find reactionary sexism. But reactionary feminists are not fair readers.’ This is the language of patriarchy raising its voice again. What makes this noteworthy is that you have a journalist writing on design, but positioning the female form as a designed object. You only have to delve into second and third wave feminism to understand why the objectification of women is so distasteful and why Greer’s reaction is justifiable.
October to November 2009
This caught my eye on Grammar.police: Meet Ze Monstras looks at a sexual health campaign by Aides (a French non-profit, founded by Daniel Defert after the death of Michael Foucault), it raises some thorny issues on racial stereotypes and immigration. Advertising imagery is a valuable barometer of cultural attitudes. The book Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design by Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen is a must-read successor to both Williamson’s Decoding Advertisements and Berger’s Ways of Seeing, all three explore the semiotic readings of the meanings of images.
In November a poster campaign for Frankie Goes to Hollywood The Greatest Hits was running and I snapped the poster at Liverpool Street Station:
At this time my research was beginning to look at the concept of Archetypes and the collective unconscious. I started to explore this by looking at Junging psychology specifically Jung’s The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious. In simple terms, intuition and instinct, the gaydar for example and how it operates, the distinction between stereotypes (gay men, tight white T-shirt and Jeans, hence the Frankie’s Greatest Hits image) and archetypes, what we could call hard-wiring, the unconscious universal linkages that control thoughts, behavior involuntarily. Fast forwarding to February 2010 and the second programme of a three part series called Women is analysed on The Review Show. I transcribed the discussion because the notion of hard-wiring was raised:
Kirsty Walk: But are people hard wired to do things differently depending on gender and sex?
Germaine Greer: It’s very hard to know about hard wiring and I think that’s the best part of Natasha’s [Natasha Walter: Living Dolls: The Return Of Sexism] book by the way her examination of the various interpretations of differences in brain structure and brain function and so on. It’s hard to know what’s really hard wired because for example, men are very good at doing nothing, they do stuff like angling where they go and sit in a muddy stream bank for days on end doing nothing, why, what is it with men and leisure? Now if we look at simian communities we can see very quickly that the silver back does nothing and in human society it looks similar whereas if you give women spare time they find work to fill it with they can drive you mad they’re cleaning clean houses as I speak to you.
KW: So determinism then?
GG: Well no why do women think they’ve have to work all the time?
I am fascinated by the concept of archetypes and I spent most of the Spring term this year trying to get to grips with it. Archetypes resonated as the poster for my degree show at Ravensbourne in 1995 state: ‘Forget The Archetypes: Not the usual show – graphic designs and moving images by 42 individuals from Ravensbourne College. The stock image of magnified snow crystals emphasized the notion of individuality, through collective uniformity.
In the back of notebook 4 is a photocopy of Foucault’s essay Technologies of the Self (Wikipedia definition) I need to re-read this as it has faded from my memory.
November 2009 to February 2010
As part of unit 2.4 Research Methods on MA Design Writing Criticism we had to write a Major Project Proposal. This I found problematic, I often get confused between methods and methodologies and not having pinpointed my research question I felt I was writing a proposal that wasn’t formulated with any degree of solidity. I reflected after it was written on the prospect of trying to deal with Jung’s Archetype’s and Collective Unconscious and not feeling as if there was enough time or competence on my part to grapple with psychology. I had to ask the question what is it that is important to me, how do I take this forward, I do know that gay/queer theme subjects are what I want to focus on so I continue collecting and pasting in the notebooks. We were told that the proposal wasn’t by any means fixed, and that the research process is evolutionary so I didn’t feel too concerned that I had stymied myself.
One thing that did dawn on me was that the focus had been too personal from the outset, trying to define a gay authorial voice or position in design had more to do with personal frustrations and issues than that of the profession. The problematic issue I had hit upon with joining up design and gay voices/discourses became evident after a text I received from my dear friend Sheena Calvert on 26 November 2009, she had met up with Andy Chen a Princeton graduate who is currently at the RCA on a Fulbright scholarship. In answer to Sheena’s question ‘why was there no gay/queer design discourse’ he answered ‘it is because design is obsessed with form, not content, and that largely denies the role of human agency’. Sheena remarked: ‘if design is form-driven, fetishizes the myth of the universal neutral in design, de-contextualizes and squeezes out ‘particular’ readings of work, along with the fact that the articulation of various subject positions (racial, queer, class you name it), is historically largely suppressed, how/when/why/should(n’t) a designer (as an agent of those personal/social discourses ‘speak’?
Sheena suggested a conference or symposium may be necessary to open up the debate, it planted a seed…
The process of cutting and pasting articles continued: In an interview in The Guardian on 29 November 2009 Rupert Everett argues: ‘I wouldn’t advise any actor thinking of his career to come out’, no mention of lesbian actors in the title. He asks the question: ‘Who are the famous gay Hollywood stars?’, ‘There aren’t any, although he says that there are ‘probably’ plenty still in the closet’. This is the fundamental question I think I was asking about the graphic design profession when I began my major project research in 2009. Why are there no gay graphic designers, well there are, me and I know one or two others, but they are not visible. I can understand Everett’s need to ask the question, because it feels like there will be damage done if you do raise your head above the parapet.
I made contact with Andy Chen and on 1 December I had dinner with Andy in a lovely French restaurant in Earls Court. Andy is bright and articulate, never having visited Princeton or any other Ivy League college for that matter, I was given a glimpse into the hothouse environment via Andy and I felt a little out of my depth, but he was so gracious and could understand my quandary surrounding gays and graphic design. Andy told me that Harry Pearce – a Pentagram Partner – had an interest in Jungian psychology and that I should make contact, he also mentioned that I should read a book by Anne Cheng a tutor at Princeton title: The Melancholy of Race, I should track this down.
On 2 December I had a tutorial with Teal Triggs and Anna Gerber, where I mentioned the text I received from Sheena. Anna suggested that I should use archetypes to open the discourse to a wider audience, and that a symposium would open the discourse. The major project would then be practice led. I then looked into funding at the Arts Council, perhaps rather foolishly given that this is a student project. I tripped upon Diversity Works for London and feel reassured that equality and diversity in the workplace seems to be higher up the agenda than it used to be, possibly only because gays and lesbians are now legally protected at work, thanks to the efforts of lobbyists such as Stonewall.
George Michael opens up to The Guardian on 5 December. On 6 December I listen to a fascinating interview on Radio 4, James Naughtie and readers talk to celebrated American author John Irving about his novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I particularly like his stance on writing when you are angry or upset, don’t do it! Naughtie: ‘Waiting is worthwhile?’ Irving: ‘Well maybe not to eat but, but in the case of writing about something that is disturbing you – yeah it’s a good idea to wait’. A fascinating article Shakespeare’s Daughters by Rachel Cusk in The Guardian on 12 December asks the question ‘Can we in 2009, identify something that could be called “women’s writing”?’
Christmas comes and goes and I am still swirling around. I am procrastinating and take it upon myself to re-decorate my parents house, a sure sign that I am burying my head in the sand. What started out as a small one room project turned into a major project in itself resulting in the complete transformation of three bedrooms and a hallway, this was to take up most spare time in the spring term, and I have to say I don’t regret doing it, as my parents have contributed financially to my course fee’s so it was a way of paying them back, but in academic terms, I think it was symptomatic of a lack of direction and focus. Only now writing this in May, a little over one month before a first draft has to be submitted has the project become enjoyable. A shame as I now feel like I am playing catch up.
There’s no more prolific gay writer than Edmund White, and extracts of his new book City Boy were published in The Guardian on 3 January and on the same day Margaret Calvert appeared on BBC’s Top Gear programme talking to James May about the design of the British road sign system. The Eye Blog has the analysis.
In January I read The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the last 100 years in the west by Emmanuel Cooper, Routledge 1994. I highlighted some points of interest:
‘There I am’ was how Andy Warhol described his art’
‘David Hockney thinks there is no such thing as gay art, but it is a convenient shorthand for posing the problems of dealing with sexuality in paintings’
Duane Michals: ‘In my work with the nude I try to deal with my feelings as openly as I can’
‘One of the emerging strengths of art by lesbian and gay men has been a strong autobiographical component, ensuring that individuals are seen to speak for themselves, articulating their own desires, rather than to assume an authoritative and ‘objective’ voice. Occasionally this gets too narrow, such as when artists make an art installation within their own home, giving them total control but inevitably restricting the audience and limiting the effects of the work.’
The western humanist tradition that places the body at the center of its concerns is also at the core of much of this art – for it is here that discoveries can be made, complexities of desire explored and truths revealed. Artists, singing with pleasure and shouting with anger, continue to explore the diversity and strength of lesbian and gay identities with vigour and insight.
I read with intensity Le Livre Blanc by Jean Cocteau:
Page 8: ‘Who wrote it? Did I? Another? Probably. Are we not become the others the moment after we’ve done writing? A posthumous book? That too is possible; are we not today yesterday’s dead?
Page 75: ‘However, I shall depart, leaving this behind me. If someone should find it, let him publish it. Perhaps it will help to make people understand that in exiling myself I am not exiling a monster, but a man whom society will not allow to live, since it considers one of the mysterious cogs in God’s masterpiece to be a mistake.’
The denial of authorship is what makes this a profound read.
Aaron Betsky’s Icons: Magnets of Meaning (San Francisco, 1997) featured an image of a cowboy, captioned: Archetypal Media Image: Western. ‘The Western of cowboy prototype is identified by articles of clothing cowboy or western boots, jeans, flannel or western style shirts and in some instances hats. When the image appears in gay magazines, the settings are usually barns, corrals or fence posts. The cowboy represents the frontier and a male only society. The machismo qualities of the western archetype are vigorously exploited by advertising. Modern cowboys are used by the media to play up masculinity and sexuality in ways that are subconsciously understood by the gay populace.’
The identification with archetypal characteristics in relation to one another such as clothing and environment is commensurate with the notion of collective unconscious, more simplistically the notion of gaydar, an instinctual, intuitive and interpretative mechanism. Clothing, fashion as an expression of identity, both collective and personal is typified by the blue denim jean, documented by Betsky as a plain garment with mass market, modernist values, contrasted with a 1960s embroidered jean that ‘transforms the garment into a personal statement about identity’. I went on to use this visual in a formative assessment visual presentation on 17 February. Each of us had to bring in an object that represents one key element of our work. I brought in two pairs of jeans one plain and one embroidered to visually describe the concepts of universality and archetypes.
On 20 January Dr Ian Horton took us through the detail of how we structure the major project for its final hand-in. This felt a little too early, I think reading it again as I write this post, it is useful as a reminder of how to not get lost on this journey.
The formative assessment passed on 17 Jan, a little dried mouthed I managed to get the concepts across, although I think I should have worn the jeans as laid out flat on the table, they were too passive and not noticeable.
My friend Andy Chen is flexing his design writing muscle with an article for Design Observer examining how designers can countenance social exclusion in their work.
The archetype has not ceased to go away, the word is jumping out at me wherever I look, as this obituary for actor Ian Carmichael In The Guardian on 8 February illustrates. On the same day an article about Eastenders, the BBC’s flagship continuing drama discusses the prominence of matriarchy due to co-creator Tony Holland’s ‘gay sensibilities’. The matriarch has a fascination among gay men, myself included, and particularly for the playwright, Alan Bennett being one I mention earlier.
In February the gay fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen died, the death received considerable media attention.
In February A Single Man, Tom Ford‘s film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood‘s novel was released. I went along to see the film and decided that it was visually beautiful, but left thinking that I preferred the images conjured up in my imagination when I read the book in the early 90s.
Mapplethorpe disappears then appears on the research radar, this time through the memoir of his friend Patti Smith, I haven’t read her memoir Just Kids but I came across a review in The Observer. The highlights of the review for me:
When a tramp asks her, “What ‘s your situation?” she replies, “On Earth or in the universe?”
The relationship with Mapplethorpe infuses her writing with a necessary human warmth.
When she discovers that Mapplethorpe is dying of Aids in 1989, Smith writes with brutal poignancy that “every fear I had once harbored seemed to materialize with the suddenness of a bright sail bursting into flames”.
On 13 February the obituary of ceramic artist Jessie Tait appeared in The Guardian, who said of her:
The work she made as chief designer of Midwinter Pottery was characteristic of its time: cheerily and witty, modernist, exuberantly abstract and imbued with the forward-looking visual style of the Festival of Britain.
Perhaps someone as evidently talented from a more privileged background would have ended up at the Royal College of Art; for Tait, the child of a working-class family, the route lay directly into the factories.
A deeply modest practical woman.
February to April 2010
This notebook starts with brief news stories that I thought paste worthy:
On Friday 19 February Sir Elton John claimed Jesus was gay
Will Self‘s golden rules for writers
How British art lost modernism and found its soul says Jonathan Jones
On 1 March I accessed an essay by Norman Bryson titled: Todd Haynes’s Poison and Queer Cinema, Bryson defines the difference between gay and lesbian studies and queer studies, it’s too detailed to recite here. One of the reasons for writing this blog (retrospectively at the moment for lack of attention to it, but daily from now until the submission date) is to act as an aid to memory for texts visited, read or skirted, the latter describing the text just mentioned. I must revisit this text.
Last year I wrote a piece for No.Zine about two objects a three-legged Ant chair by Arne Jacobsen and a three armed unity sculpture bough at an African art fair. This post seems seems like an anomaly however I came across a lady called Kati Price who wrote a masters thesis at the Royal College of Art in 1999 title: Form and Fetish: African Sculpture in the Post-War British Domestic Interior, 1945-1965. I liked the certainty and the focus of the title, and it struck a chord with me because of my own interior juxtaposition of Jacobsen and African art. I don’t think this will go any further, but I thought it worth mentioning here.
1 March and I happen upon G-Star Raw Magazine #2 . On page 8 Jeanology/Low T, my interest in Jeans as an expression of modernism is given an airing ‘Using the clean architectural lines and form-follows-function ethos of durable workwear, they add a luxury factor in the form of intricate hand working, leather trims, new and vintage washes, advanced treatments and a rethinking of the standard Western-style pocket.
I found some posters and cd-covers for the band Gay Dad. Graphic designer Peter Saville was responsible for the branding using a figure of a male in a style appropriated from the British road sign system (see entry on Margaret Calvert):
I pasted these items into the research book, just to get some visual content, as I have noticed that my research books are full of articles downloaded from The Guardian!
On 5 March following advice from Anna, I met a friend of hers Dean Hanley a PhD student at Brunel University. Dean mentioned a talk given by Dr Lawrence Bartlam Smith a reference specialist at the British Library as part of Camden Council’s LGBT History month in February 2010 which I was very disappointed to have missed. Here are the details from the programme of events:
Tuesday 9th February
500 Years of Lesbian and Gay Related Material in the British Library The British Library has an extensive collection of lesbian
and gay-related material spanning almost five centuries. From The Yokel’s Preceptor, an 1850s guide to ‘low-life’ activities in London, to recent magazines, it is probably the largest and most comprehensive collection of the genre in any research institution.
The illustrated talk by Dr Bart Smith of the Library’s Humanities Reference Service will include content of an adult nature.
The event will be chaired by Amy Lamé, BBC Radio London presenter and co-founder and host of the legendary club Duckie.
Dean suggested making contact with Dr Smith, but I decided not to do this until my focus has narrowed. Dean made it obvious to me how I could depersonalize the research and look at the change in voice from pre- and post-gay liberation. The change in attitude and ‘identity’. The key to success is to transform personal into academic. Look at the alignment of gay liberation and feminism, before the branding of gay liberation. Publishing, magazines, fanzines. It was a breakthrough I came away from Dean wondering why I hadn’t been able to come up with this direction.
6 March and Charlotte Raven tells us how the ‘new feminism’ went wrong.
8 March and The Guardian publishes a poster depicting a time line of key events in the history of the Women’s Movement to celebrate International Women’s Day. The Guardian is also supporting the launch of a new manifesto for 21st century feminism.
Surrounding International Women’s Day numerous articles surfaced and I spent the next few weeks immersing myself with the subject.
Notes from tutorial with Anna on 10 March:
Focus on publications / visual language analysis / language & textual analysis
BUTT & Fantastic Man…
Classic texts – reference to other theorists, look them up
Queer theory and feminism as a springboard, Judith Butler, Loraine Code – language. Griselda Pollock.
First and second generation feminism.
Read magazine mode and contents pages.
Tutorial with Teal 17 March:
Fanzines: Shocking Pink, Spare Rib
Shelia Rowbotham, A Century of Women, history of feminism, a good overview
For this title I came up with a possible title:
How has language shaped identity in the shift from political activism (1969-1997) to ego-led consumerism (1997-) in gay printed publications in the UK?
Teal immediately said this was too broad, and in hindsight it certainly is and from exploring gay magazines further since this tutorial I am aware that consumerism has always played a part in magazines.
I came across an article Peter Tatchell wrote in 2004 titled Inside the Gay Museum, it’s thought-provoking in that it raises questions about curatorial practice, how decisions are made in object selection, what position does the curator take? Political, social, economic, cultural etc. Is the role of the curator the same as an editor?
Some more news stories I cut and pasted:
Cool, queer white glasses, about the death of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a major exponent of queer theory
It didn’t seem to be long before Lady Gaga‘s feminist credentials were examined…
Like archetypes, embroidery seems to weave its way in and out of my research journey, A Stitch in Time charts the story of Mrs Delany and her Circle and exhibition that came to Sir John Soane’s Museum, London in February.
I have pasted several chapters from books into my research files, I have spent so much time scoping and gathering that sometimes I forget to read, so here are the texts that slipped through the net:
A new addition to LCC library: Queer Cowboys by Chris Packard, 2005. I photocopied the introduction.
Making Things Perfectly Queer, Alexander Doty, 1993. I photocopied chapter two: Whose Text Is It Anyway? Queer Cultures, Queer Auteurs, and Queer Authorship
Naked and Erect: Male sexuality and feeling, Joel Ryce-Menuhin, 1996. I photocopied chapter two: Homosexuality – The Real Story
In March the BBC broadcast three programmes titled: Women. Episodes one and three were of most interest. The first ‘Libbers‘ charted the rise of the Women’s liberation movement in the 1970s. In the third programme ‘Activists‘ charts third wave feminism, through the eyes of a new generation of women activists.
The series highlighted some key figures from the different movements, I found an article by Germaine Greer from 2006 when the founder of modern feminism Betty Friedan died, The Betty I knew.
In the last episode of the BBC series ‘The Seven Ages of Britain‘ presented by David Dimbleby, he interviewed the artist Tracey Emin, who gave an insight on what the differences are between male and female art and artists. I loved the closing remark by Dimbleby who just having watched a flickering animation of a woman masturbating, created by Emin, said it reminded him of a flick book, however ‘I don’t think we drew this kind of thing, we drew people jumping over hurdles, which maybe is much the same’.
The lack of thick skined female presenters on Radio 4‘s Today programme came under the spotlight in March.
There is some media coverage of Ricky Martin’s coming out at the beginning of April, announcing it on his website. Not a surprise to most people, it does highlight again the way certain industries or professions are wary of out gay men, for fear of financial implications.
A return to the theme of Gay Icons in a new book ‘Heroes and Exiles: Gay Icons Through the Ages by Tom Ambrose received a less than flattering review by Simon Callow.
I cut and pasted an article about the writer Penelope Fitzgerald because of the way the article introduced her as a ‘lady’ writer as opposed to a ‘woman’ or ‘female’ writer and the headline reads ‘From the margins’. Being marginal oneself or of relating to margins has been a concept hovering above me throughout my life (both socially and professionally, as margins are instrumental in a print designers vocabulary) and seems to be a thread running through the kinds of subjects and people I have touched upon in the research. When I met Professor Richard Dyer in October 2009 he was enthusiastic about the concept of being marginal, and I doodled an illustration:
It would have been impossible to get through April and May without acknowledging the UK general election, in the lead up I discovered that last year David Cameron apologized to gay people for Section 28, certainly was preparing himself well in advance. This temporary white flag was withdrawn in April by the shadow home secretary Chris Grayling, in short it has something to do with secret tapes, Bed and Breakfasts and Christian beliefs.
Some more shorts:
Alleged sexism at the The Royal Institution
The rise in fathers as primary carers for their children, feminist victory?
Two of my favorite comediennes strutted their stuff in The Observer on 11 April, Miranda Hart and Julia Davis. I am passionate about comedy writing, and I loved the sitcom Miranda and Nighty Night, it is always fascinating for me to read about the writer, do we ever get to know a writer’s true identity?
A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days transcribing programmes I had found on VHS tape in my parents loft. I had recorded them in the 1990s when there seemed to be quite a lot of interest in queer programming, especially on Channel 4 with their seasonal Queer Street series, I imagine the rise of queer theory in the early 90s combined with Channel 4’s ‘alternative’ remit was the catalyst for this. I came across some brilliant material:
This led me to look up the printed edition of the Pink Paper
The Review Show critiqued the second programme in the series Women: Mothers where the issue of hard-wiring is explored.
Ivan Massow: The never-ending Tory in The Times
Ivan Massow: I love being gay but I wish I’d been born heterosexual in The Independent, his thoughts on the ‘pink plateau’
The rise and fall of Ivan Massow in Money Week
Massow mentions the Gay Mafia, I came across Gay Mafia Watch
Two brilliant documentaries: Stagestruck: Gay Theater in the Twentieth Century shed light on the depiction of gay life in the theater by gay playwrights. The ‘homitern‘ or homosexual mafia was believed to be exerting too much influence. Dissembling – having heterosexual characters portray the lives of the homosexual was raised by critics like Stanley Kauffman. I bought his book Persons of The Drama, it contains two articles for the NY Times: Homosexual Drama and Its Disguises (NY Times 23 January 1966) and On The Acceptability of the Homosexual (NY Times 6 Febrary 1966) the book has only just arrived at time of writing this post, so as yet have to read.
A sharp deviation in route again and a column in The Independent by John Lyttle ‘The so-called ‘gay press’ has shown its true colours – and they’re anything but pink‘. he argues that gay business and gay press (mostly free sheets) are cosy bedfellows because of their sexual com-modification and consumerist agenda.
Jumping to the life and work of gay film director Pedro Almodóvar who has a particular fascination with female actors, especially Penelope Cruz. Not sure how this is relevant to gay publications,but it made interesting reading nonetheless. The Independent article was written by one of my favorite authors Gilbert Adair, since my cutting and pasting on 19 April the article seems to have been removed from The Independent website. however Stephen Maddison has his own take on Almodovar’s portrayal of women in his paper: All About Women: Pedro Almodovar and the Heterosocial Dynamic.
On 19 April I am browsing Stonewall’s website looking at this history of LGB equality in UK. I notice that in 1972 the year of my birth, there were some key events (thanks to Stonewall I am able to cut and pasted them from their website):
- Law Lords found the International Times magazine guilty of ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’ for publishing gay contact advertisements.
- Gay News, UK’s first gay newspaper, founded.
- SMG launched a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Scotland.
- First UK Pride carnival and march through London held on 1 July.
I am specifically interested in IT magazine (counter-culture) and Gay News (subculture) the former is forcibly closed albeit temporarily and the latter is launched. The 1970s are a fascinating decade as Edmund White explains in an interview on The South Bank Show in 2001, here is an extract taken from my transcription of the programme:
Melvin Bragg (MB): The novel before The Married Man The Farewell Symphony goes back to New York of the gay scene of New York in the 70s when as it were you got going.
Edmund White (EW): I think that whole period in the 70s was interesting because it was, I mean I remember once Susan Sontag said to me there’s only a very brief period in the whole of human history between the invention of antibiotics and the invention of lets say the invention of the birth control pill and the onset of Aids there’s only about a twenty year window there where in all of human history where people were actually free to do what they wanted sexually and so it’s true that it really was a golden age of promiscuity the 70s and it was a period when nobody worried about the consequences there weren’t any consequences of what they were doing I think the shackles of religion and psychiatry had been thrown off a bit and people felt freer psychologically, there was a whole army of young available men and people felt good about themselves and about having lots of sex.
MB: So did you think was there a sense in the 70s that the we’ve used the word promiscuity I think you prefer the word adventuring.
EW: Well anything that takes the curse off the word.
MB: Yeah I think that this was actually the way forward this was the way people should live their lives, all people men women of whatever taste had been bonding put down for too long and this adventuring was a form of what, did you feel that?
EW: Well yes I mean I think so but I think it is very important to try to give the feel of what it felt like to live through, when people hear about anonymous sex or promiscuity they imagine that it is actually al of these sort of totally faceless, cold, non verbal encounters that are sort of robot like whereas the actual experience was that two guys would meet each other at the sauna lets say and then find that they’d have all these things in common and start talk all night long and stay friends for life I mean that happened to me many times and I think there was sometimes course it was just five minutes in the dark but sometimes and rather frequently it could lead to real dialogue with another person and I think the other thing that was happening a lot were that people were trying to construct these kind of new molecules of association between men so that for instance you would have a group of seven or eight friends whom you slept with and they slept with each other but you were also all friends and if you lost interest sexually it didn’t mean you lost interest in the other person as a human being. The idea of being in an exclusive couple seemed awfully impoverished compared to these sort of large and unlimited ways of adhesiveness to use one of Walt Whitman’s words.
It’s too simplistic and convenient to label the decades it seems, however in the 1980s and 90s Aids dominated gay-related discourse. When the Labour government was elected in 1997 were gay rights and equality on the agenda, not since 1967 had they been of importance to any political party, but it does appear to be when Labour are in power then gay equality is acknowledged. In ‘Canary‘ a new play by Jonathan Harvey starting at the Hampstead Theatre this month, Billy says to his lover Tom ‘It’s not all about sex Tom as you well know. Women and gay people are the litmus test of whether a society respects human rights, we’re the canaries in the mine’.
21 April 2010
The start of the Spring term at LCC and we present our projects to the rest of the group and decide on whether we have met our two objectives over the Easter vacation. I think mine were to read up on Feminism and Queer Theory and visit the British Library. I did the former, but I thought it too early to visit the library as I would be floundering a bit. Anna stated what I feel is now close to being my research question ‘Choosing to define what constitutes a gay publication’. For example what does it call itself? DEFINITION I wrote in caps in my notebook.
Teal suggested reading about counter culture after presenting my findings on International Times, of which she has copies. All Dressed up by Jonathon Green would be useful and I now have this to thumb through. I make a note to get hold of copies of Fantastic Man, BUTT (I have the book of the first five years of BUTT magazine) The Gentlewoman and the April edition of Creative Review where designer and magazine enthusiast Jeremy Leslie has written about Fantastic Man. Teal mentioned many women’s magazines fanzines namely: Bust, Chrysalis, Spare Rib, Shocking Pink and the movement stitch ‘n bitch. Jeremy Leslie was featured in Grafik magazine in February, I found a news story in The Independent about the launch of The Gentlewoman. I visit Jeremy Leslie’s Magculture website which is a great resource, I find a magazine called The Ultimate Man, a men’s title from the 1970s an era says Jeremy that Fantastic Man among others have referenced for their design. Manzine for the bloke down the pub! Army Man by the Simpsons scriptwriter George Meyer.
In my scratching of the surface of counter culture print, Mary Whitehouse came to mind, the supposed voice of the nation, i don’t want to give her too much air time here, sufficed to say the age of libertarianism in the 60s and 70s had to meet with an equal and opposite force and that came in the guise of Mrs Whitehouse.
April to May 2010
In 2000 I contributed to Zed magazine (now defunct I believe), issue 7 public + private. Teal and I had articles situated next to each other, on the theme of public and private, Teal chose to write about The Woman’s Building an I wrote about pseudonyms. I shall re-read Teal’s piece as no doubt it will prove useful, the 1970s are now featuring quite prominently, I wonder if this will be a good counterpoint to contemporary publications?
I recall reading in 2000 the excellent On Queer Street: A social history of British Homosexuality 1895–1995 by Hugh David for a review I wrote for a friend who was working at a publishers. I photocopied it for some general reading.
The UK general election and women voters feel sidelined according to Ruth Sunderland. In 1995 Teal edited the book Communication Design and wrote an essay Generation Terrorists: Fanzines and Communication, another on the ‘pending reading’ list. From the same book Redesigning Men: Arena Magazine, Image and Identity by David Cook is on the list.
I found an interview with Claire Daly the first editor of Spare Rib magazine. Following this an interview with Sue O’Sullivan editor of Spare Rib from 1979 to 1984. Ms. Magazine, founded in 1971 is another title to add to the collection.
Having recommended Liz McQuiston’s Suffragettes to She-Devils to one of my foundation students I thought I should remind myself of its contents. The magazine Oz is mentioned in the Foreword by Germaine Greer, Greer guest edited issue 29 of Oz.
28 April and tutorial with Anna. I need to collect more stuff and start filtering what I’m collecting. Sit with more contemporary publications. From a business point-of-view consider the target audience. Take BUTT as the epicenter in relation to the publications Teal has mentioned. Carry on with Focault, queer theory and less on feminism.
In the news Afghan feminists
And to finish off this epic eight and a half thousand word update on eight months work I came across the magazine Gay Left, which could prove to be instrumental, I’m not sure how just yet, but it feels good.
Now it’s a film then bed.