Auteur & Author meets Editor, Publisher and Writer

Reading Alexander Doty’s: Whose Text is it Anyway? Queer Cultures, Queer Auteurs and Queer Authorship I am wondering how this can relate to queer magazines, it raises the question is an editor an auteur? Is the art director? Will need to re-read Barthes’ Death Of The Author and Foucault’s What is an Author.

Doty reminds me that Barthes suggested ‘readers do their share in “authoring” the meanings of texts from their positions as cultural consumers’. Doty is writing in the context of film, in the context of publishing and magazines, where there are multiple producers and multiple readers I wonder if I can draw parallels?

Doty is framing his essay within queer culture, in terms of mode of production, author/auteur and audience. On Page 19 Doty asks the question ‘why should queers bother with Cukor and Arzner [both homosexual film directors]’. This resonates for in my earlier research investigating archetypes and if the sexual orientation of a designer/creator is relevant to the user/audience, I was met with a ‘who cares’ reaction from most although Andy Chen said ‘design is about form and not human agency’ which goes some way to alleviating my questioning.

On the website of BUTT magazine the ‘flannel panel’ reads:

‘Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom. They are two homos from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. We’re both blond and uncut. Jop has a rather big butt himself but Gert doesn’t. BUTT’s editor is called Felix Burrichter. He is a handsome and lean German homo that lives in New York City’.

BUTT’s producers/founders/editor and its readers (majority I would hazard) are queer. It has been labeled ‘pornographic’ by Caroline Roux but I dispute this, for reasons I would delve into in the project thesis, Roux’s reading of BUTT is strangled by stereotypical ideas of what constitutes porn. Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom are also the editors of  Fantastic Man and this is a more ambiguous object in terms of defining its readership. Where Doty’s essay cross fertilizes from film to publishing lies in Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom’s role as founders, publishers and editors of Fantastic Man, as queer (auteurs) of this ‘Gentleman’s Style Journal’ does the readership need to bother with this?

Doty says: ‘Being erotically attracted to members of their own sex shouldn’t automatically make these directors [Cukor and Arzner] interesting to queer cultures’. Richard Dyer’s Culture of Queers talks about the culture of queer production, and there’s every reason to include this as a frame for the thesis, as magazines in general but specifically Fantastic Man and more recently The Gentlewoman are noteworthy because of the complexities bound up with gender, authorship and queer cultural production. Doty provides a useful notion in the essay regarding ‘intersections’ that of cultural history and that of the personal history of the reader. He states:

‘It is in this intersection that queers have mapped out the complex and diverse space of their interactions with mass culture’. He goes on to say that ‘Naturally as audiences move through history as individuals and as members of groups, their initial readings and uses of culture are subjected to additions and revisions’.

And he gives an example of feminism, lesbian critical perspectives and textually the use of irony a signs of authorship.

BUTT, Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman lend themselves conveniently to analysis (within the frame of authorship and identity politics), as in film production, there is no single author. Multiple authorship through contributing writers, artists, stylists and photographers, provide multiple voices, positions that collectively require editing and art directing to consolidate and, one assumes, provide an overarching textual tone of voice and visual aesthetic. Whereas BUTT can be located within a sexual typology I suggest ‘gay’, Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman are predisposed to a ‘Queer’ positioning. More on this later.

Doty tells us that the writer Richard Lippe in his academic article “Authorship and Cuckor” A Reappraisal ‘he takes issue with earlier auteurist critics who devalued Cuckor’s authorship by pejoratively categorizing him as a “woman’s director” or a “stylist” [metteur-en-scene – the notion of women being the weaker sex and merely a stylist has its parallels in art and design history, the man as authentic creator paradigm].

‘He [Lippe] also suggests that his interest in reevaluating Cuckor’s films isn’t only focussed on “their status as auteurist works” by a gay man. From his position as a gay cultural critic, Lippe is also concerned with how Cukor’s films and his career are “relevant to a discussion of the Hollywood cinema which remains to the present day a homophobic institution,” as well as how Cukor’s films “examine “an extremely crude and barbaric social and economic system…which is constructed on sexual inequality”.

(Forgive the absence of footnotes I will insert later, but all quotes here are from Doty’s essay).

This paragraph forces me to take a position or more academically locate myself within a constituency of discourses within design writing criticism. The absence or marginalization of queer subjects and discourse within design (specifically visual communication) has always made me feel disenfranchised. Generally speaking within the design history books (I have specific examples for the thesis), queer tends to be documented within the realm of activism (1970s-) and health promotion (1980s and the onset of HIV and Aids).

Throughout this research journey I have conveniently used a quote from an article Teal Triggs wrote for Eye 27 Vol. 7 1998 ‘The endless library at the end of print’ she proposes:

‘What is required now is a careful consideration of the role of the “other” in the history of the profession: women, ethnic minorities, the anonymous the alternative [I’m comfortable for this word to embrace queer, but uncertain of the authors intention] and the everyday. Barbara Kruger and Phil Mariani write in their introduction to Remaking History (1989) that more generally, the new historical writing should “allow the chorus of voices to speak, to focus on the process and not just the moment…” Consideration should perhaps hbe given to an alternative history within such environments. History should be “democratic” , recognising and reflecting the totality of experiences’.

Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom’s BUTT, Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman allow me to document the ‘other’ within the frame of visual communication and queer cultural production.

Ellen Lupton’s Designer As Producer proposition in 1998 sought to bury the notion of designer as author and instead substitute author as producer following in the footsteps of Walter Benjamin’s Author as Producer in 1934. Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom’s perform the role of designer as producer, an aspect of the discussion that should be addressed I feel.

I will add more to this post tomorrow, Doty’s text is extensive and is appearing to be a key text in the development of the research question. I am skating around the edges but unable to get to the middle where the question is defined.

Off to LCC library now, then on to the Spectrum launch event tonight at the LSE, hoping to meet Professor Jeffrey Weeks, one of the founders of Gay Left.

Oh before I sign off, I think Gay Left (1975-80), Gay News (1972–83) BUTT (2001–) and Fantastic Man (2005–) are the publications that I have filtered down to, I don’t want to exclude other titles for example The Gentlewoman or Manzine, they will no doubt weave in and out of the discourse, it seems clear to me as the days go by that there is only so much you can include in the time available within such a wide file of study.

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