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Open Secrets in ‘Post-Identity’ era Art Criticism/History: Raqib Shaw’s Queer Garden of Earthly Delights

by Alpesh Kantilal Patel
29 Nov 2012 • Comment (0) • Print
Posted: Post-Racial Imaginaries [9.2] | Article

Raqib Shaw was born in Kolkata, India, raised in Kashmir in a Muslim household, and is currently London-based.[1] His works have fetched high prices at auction; been collected and exhibited by some of the most prestigious institutions—such as Tate Modern, Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and have been written about by an impressive array of scholars, most recently postcolonial studies scholar Homi K. Bhabha and England-based art historian David Lomas.[2] Postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis, and formal analysis have all been utilized to engage with Shaw’s work, however a queer frame—one attuned to issues of sexuality as well as to its instability—remains curiously missing.[3] It is curious because as art historian, curator and artist Sharmistha Ray revealed for the first time in print (as far as I am aware) in 2010 in her two-part profile on the artist for the website “Gaysi,” the artist is gay.[4]

When I happened to come across Ray’s profile of Shaw, the homepage of Gaysi fortuitously included an article on American television journalist Anderson Cooper’s public acknowledgement of his homosexuality.[5] In the United States, Cooper’s coming out was considered to be largely uneventful by many journalists because his sexuality was an “open secret.”[6] Shaw’s sexuality, too, had been an open secret in the British and American art world, at least since 2005 when a former colleague—who had arranged a visit of collectors to the artist’s studio—informed me that Shaw is gay.[7] Though I was not told this was privileged information it was shared with me in some sort of implicit understanding that it remain clandestine, or more specifically “gossip.”

At the time, I was writing a thesis on queer Desi (or South Asian diasporic) visual culture at the University of Manchester.[8] So, I was on the one hand thrilled and eager to enfold Shaw’s work into my writing, but on the other hand stymied. For instance, it was not clear if the artist, himself, identified as gay; I tried to interview the artist, but had little luck contacting him through Victoria Miro Gallery which represented him at that time.  Indeed, Shaw is reclusive and often does not even leave his studio/home. Moreover, Ray writes that he is estranged from his family in South Asia and intimates that Shaw’s sexuality might have something to do with this.[9] I certainly did not want to do anything that would in some way affect his already strained relationship with his family. My caution is deeply connected to my own identification as queer and Desi and the complexities of coming out. In addition, Shaw and I are the same age and were both living in the UK at the time. In short, Shaw’s open secret or gossip about his sexuality shaped what I felt I could or could not write and publish for venues much like darmkatter.

Much of what I have written thus far about Shaw potentially confuses and conflates the artwork with the author I think I know. In my doctoral thesis, I left Shaw’s sexuality out of my analysis and focused on the work and how it might surface issues of sexuality; this seemed like the ethical thing to do at the time. So, why is it important to address the author’s presumed homosexuality now? It is not so much how the artist may or may not define his sexuality that is at stake, but why homosexuality remains a frame through which his artwork has yet to be theorized by art historians and critics. Both art historians Gavin Butt and Irit Rogoff provide clues to answer this question. They have both written about how gossip is useful to sketch out the limits of acceptable or official knowledge. Butt, in particular, does so in the context of the construction of sexuality in a post-WWII American art world; he argues that even Warhol’s queer sexuality was disavowed despite his otherwise transgressive queer performances.[10] Shaw, too, is known for his flamboyance, penchant for excess, and dandy-like demeanor. His studio is decorated with 5000 artificial butterflies and 8000 artificial birds and filled with fresh flowers. When he flies (which is rarely) he only does so with his florist.[11]

The fact that Shaw’s sexuality was to be kept an open secret but never part of any official knowledge—I unwittingly contributed to this problem even if out of a sense of ethics and over-identification with the artist whom I think I know—is emblematic of the art world’s ongoing awkwardness when it comes to theorizing identity tout court. Art historian Jonathan Katz has been a trailblazer in suggesting the importance of looking at the work of a number of important artists whose careers took off in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Agnes Martin (among others) through the lens of sexuality. Importantly, Katz does not set up sexuality as fixed, but as performative and contingent.[12]

All of the above is a prelude to what I will spend the majority of the rest of this essay exploring: Shaw’s 2004 work Garden of Earthly Delights X, based on the similarly titled Hieronymous Bosch work from the early 1500s. I will argue that Shaw’s work queers broad notions of South Asian masculinity, not only by surfacing issues of homosexuality, but also related issues that are intertwined with it.  In so doing, it refuses to create new normatives and instead creates a queer identity marked by a productive instability; one that is hopeful yet not overly optimistic.

­To begin with, I will look closely at Shaw’s work in conjunction with and through an affective reading of Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin’s writings of the carnivalesque.  After all, Bahktin’s writings are inspired by the bawdy literary style of François Rabelais who lived in the same century as Bosch. Though there is no evidence they knew of each other, one could argue that Rabelais’ writings found its fullest visual expression in Bosch’s art; Shaw’s work I will argue productively surfaces these connections to further underscore the non-normative, unstable reading I am privileging.  I will then briefly map out the debates on identity in the art world since 1990, in particular the complexities of the manner in which post-identity has been mobilized; while not comprehensive, it will serve as an important backdrop to further contextualize my analysis of Shaw’s artwork. Finally, I draw links among theories of phenomenology, embodied pastiche, and colonial, queer, feminist theories of identity to conceptualize a model of identity in artistic meaning that functions to foreground the productive instability I cite above and to reject a compulsion toward normativity.

The Carnivalesque: Raqib Shaw’s Orgiastic Flora and Fauna

Figure 1: Raqib Shaw - The Garden of Earthly Delights X (2004). Acrylic, glitter, enamel and rhinestones on board Triptych. Each panel: 96 x 60 in. (243.8 x 152.4 cm) © Raqib Shaw Photo: Stephen White Courtesy White Cube

Shaw draws on the Indian miniature painting tradition, but paradoxically works on a monumental scale as evidenced in his triptych Garden of Earthly Delights X (2004) (Figure 1).  The former originally served to illustrate royal manuscripts and reached its height of sophistication during the Mughal empire (1526-1857), the emperors of which were largely Islamic rulers from Persia presiding over a predominantly Hindu India.  As part of their peacemaking efforts, the Mughal rulers encouraged a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic styles.[13]  This rare period of religious tolerance in the history of the subcontinent has often been downplayed, or suppressed, in contemporary Indian and Pakistani nationalist posturing and rhetoric.

Figure 2: Hieronymus Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1504). Oil on wood triptych 221 × 389 cm

As aforementioned, Shaw’s artwork is part of a larger series inspired by the sixteenth-century triptych of the same name by Dutch artist Hieronymous Bosch (Figure 2).  However, unlike Bosch’s triptych, which many scholars have argued is an allegory for man’s fall from grace due to an overindulgence of libidinal desire,[14] Shaw’s Garden of Earthly Delights X and related artworks celebrate “pleasure as a grand phantasmagoria and leaves religion’s moral codes far behind,” as one critic notes.[15]  I describe how Shaw’s depiction of “pleasure as a grand phantasmagoria” elicits an affect which I describe as carnivalesque, and thereby questions and upends dominant constructions of South Asian masculinity but importantly without fixing them or creating new norms.[16]

Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin initially theorizes the carnivalesque in Rabelais and His World (1965) through an examination of the medieval European carnival – a temporary festival in which he argues the riotous, bawdy, and exuberant voices of the masses ritually unmasked the official world-view of state and church authorities.[17]  He notes that the spirit of the carnival, which had all but disappeared in the shift from a feudal to capitalist social order, could nonetheless be evidenced as a literary style, most saliently in the work of François Rabelais.  The affect I describe epitomizes the transgressive aesthetic sensibility of hierarchy inversion – a world turned upside-down – in Bakhtin’s theorization of a carnivalesque style and, in particular, vacillates between or keeps in tension the feelings of exuberance and decadence, frivolity and prurience, and sumptuousness and grotesqueness.  The slippage between the two poles of the affect enacted through the pastiche of different forms and styles throws into confusion the dominant expectations connected to both the latter and the cultures and peoples connected to them.

A description of Shaw’s artistic process is helpful in teasing out how pastiche modulates the carnivalesque affect and thereby re-works constructions of South Asian masculinity.  Inspired by the cloisonné technique of labour-intensive Japanese lacquerware, Shaw outlines each of his figures and details in a gold-flecked viscous paint typically used to repair stained glass.[18]  He then pours different glossy enamel paints into the resultant low-relief compartments and manipulates the puddles of paint with the fine tip of an ultra-flexible porcupine quill to create delicate, marbled effects.  Given that Shaw’s paints are “touch dry” in twenty seconds, he largely works in small stretches of space at a time to create his intricate network of fluid patterning.[19]  His non-perspectival, all-over painting style in which no one area of the canvas is privileged over others is not only reminiscent of Kashmiri textiles, but also has antecedents in 1950s American paintings – such as those of Jackson Pollock and the Color Field painters.  In addition, Shaw’s incorporation of glitter, semi-precious jewels and rhinestones into his paint gives the surfaces of his paintings a singularly bejewelled appearance that reinforces the preciousness indicative of the refined style of Indian miniature painting.

From a distance, Shaw’s use of sumptuous colour, intricate patterning, and iridescent and opulent surfaces hypnotically pulls the viewer into the world of his triptych Garden of Earthly Delights X.  Once closer to the canvas, the viscous paint used to corral the more volatile enamel paint juts out in shallow relief, eliciting a tactile sensation in the viewer.  The canvas, no longer visible in one full view, shifts the viewing experience to much smaller sections of the paintings, which are teeming with detailed renderings of an exuberant array of flora, such as fan coral and seaweed forests, and fauna, including anemones, sea turtles, writhing eels, crustaceans, sea cucumbers, and lizards.[20]

Figure 3: Details of Shaw’s Garden of Earthly Delights X (2004)

As the viewer continues to survey the canvas, a number of more eccentric half-human/half-animal figures, such as human torsos with bull or jackal heads, become more visible (Figure 3).  Often in writhing and squirming hypersexual groupings, they are nestled seamlessly among the intertwined flora and frolicking fauna and shift the felt carnivalesque affect from exuberance, frivolity, and sumptuousness to prurience, grotesqueness, and decadence.  Cultural theorists Peter Stallybrass and Allon White (summarizing Bakhtin) note in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression that alongside the reversal of “high” and “low,” the carnivalesque often includes “grotesque realism,” a bodily blurring whereby the human body is imagined as:

multiple, bulging, over- and under-sized, protuberant and incomplete.  The openings and orifices of this carnival body are emphasized, not its closure or its finish.  It is an image of impure corporeal bulk with its orifices (mouth, flared nostrils, anus) yawning mouth and its lower regions (belly, legs, feet, buttocks, and genitals) given priority over its upper regions (head, ‘spirit,’ reason).[21]

Shaw’s figures – the “openings and orifices” and “lower regions” of which are emphasized over bodily “closure” – perfectly encapsulate Bakhtin’s sensibility described above.  However, over time, it is difficult to discern what exactly evokes “grotesque realism” and what evokes the sumptuousness, frivolity, and exuberance initially felt when viewing Shaw’s artworks.  Bakhtin notes that the narrowing of the grotesque to describe the distorted and the bizarre is a historical outcome of official reaction to the fifteenth century discovery of erotic drawings in Roman grottoes, and therefore what is “grotesque” is ultimately discursively determined.[22]  Shaw highlights this point by affectively confusing the source of the two poles of the carnivalesque I have described.

Figure 4: Raqib Shaw - The Garden of Earthly Delights VI (2004). Acrylic, glitter, enamel and rhinestones on board 74 x 48 1/16 in. (188 x 122 cm ) © Raqib Shaw. Photo: Stephen White. Courtesy White Cube

Figure 5: detail of Shaw’s The Garden of Earthly Delights VI (2004)

In another example, the top third of Shaw’s Garden of Earthly Delights VI (2004) is teeming with innumerable exquisitely detailed diamante butterflies, but a closer look reveals that the wings of these butterflies are held together by phalluses (Figures 4 and 5).  Also, the streams of semen shooting out some of the phalluses formally resemble fan coral.  By introducing phalluses into Indian miniature painting or the Kashmiri textile tradition, both of which are not typically associated with such overt displays of eroticism, Shaw’s artworks evoke the broad and complex constructions of South Asian masculinity.  Historian Mrinalini Sinha notes, for example, that British colonialists naturalized white supremacy in nineteenth-century Bengal through the production of “manly” Englishmen in contrast to the “unmanly” Bengali-educated men.[23]  Even a “corrected” colonial era masculinity was still constructed as discrepant and certainly not virile.  Frantz Fanon brilliantly and passionately articulates the psychoanalytical underpinnings of racialised male subjectification in the colonial context.  He argues that the Oedipal complex cannot extend to black male fathers who do not have access to phallic power in the same way that white fathers do.[24]  Shaw’s insertion of phalluses into his canvases surfaces and denaturalizes these effects by confusing the dominant felt expectations connected to the South Asian forms and styles he utilizes.

By drawing attention to the slipperiness between the aforementioned poles of the carnivalesque as felt, I argue that Shaw’s artworks uncover “the conflictual fusion of power, fear, and desire in the construction” of colonial South Asian masculinity, and in particular, the British colonial “psychological dependence on precisely those Others [in this context, South Asian men] which are being rigorously opposed and excluded at the social level.”[25] Shaw’s artworks also implicitly suggest other topsy-turvy overturnings of South Asian masculinity, such as the presumptive heterosexuality attached to the latter.  In this context, Sinha’s aforementioned scholarship outlining the production of “unmanly” Bengali-educated men in relation to “manly” Englishmen takes on a slightly different tenor.  The construction of “manly” Englishman can be read as implicitly further shoring up their heterosexuality and deflecting the spectre of an effectively effeminized homosexuality onto the “unmanly” Bengali educated men.  Post-colonial scholar Sara Suleri provocatively notes that the colonial gaze was specifically directed at the “sexual ambivalence of the effeminate male groom,” rather than the “inscrutability of the Eastern bride.”[26]

Queer theorist Diana Fuss notes that even though Fanon’s writings assume a heterosexual matrix, his “disidentification [with homosexuality] can be read as another kind of refusal as well – a rejection of the ‘primitive=invert’ equation that marks the confluence of evolutionary anthropology and sexology and their combined influences of early twentieth century psychoanalysis.”[27]  For instance, Freud writes in “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” that inversion “is remarkably widespread among many savages and primitive races.”[28]  Drawing on Fanon’s scholarship, French theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari argue in Anti-Oedipus that colonization and oedipalization are mutually reinforcing discourses:  “Oedipus is always colonization pursued by other means, it is the interior colony…where we Europeans are concerned, it is our intimate colonial relation.”[29]  Fuss further notes that colonial and psychoanalytical discourses collectively “participate in a double ideological operation where each serves effectively to conceal the political function and purpose of the other.”[30]  Fuss powerfully pushes Fanon and Deleuze and Guattari’s arguments forward to illustrate that colonial domination works through institutionalization of both misogyny and homophobia in tandem with the castration of black male sexuality.[31]

Yet another effect of Shaw’s use of phalluses is the destabilization of the construction of sex acts between members of the same sex as illegal in the subcontinent, where traces of anti-sodomy statutes installed during British colonial rule remained intact until quite recently despite the fact the UK dissolved its own anti-sodomy statutes in 1968.[32]  Dating to 1861, Section 377 of the Indian penal code considered consensual sex acts between individuals of the same sex to be criminal offenses and carried a maximum of ten years in jail; it was struck down in 2009 by the Delhi High Court.  Other former British colonies in South Asia – such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – continue to keep their pre-independence, anti-sodomy law intact.[33]

The artist’s pastiche of phalluses enmeshed within the forms and styles of Indian miniature painting and Kashmiri textiles not only alludes to these complex constructions of South Asian masculinity, but also the aggressive nationalism of both India and Pakistan in relation to Kashmir.  Indeed, though Mughal Emperor Jahangar famously referred to the region between Pakistan and India as “paradise” – “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”[34] – his words are now ironic given that Kashmir has served as the site of numerous territorial battles between Pakistan and India. [35]  Given the recent embrace of nuclear proliferation in both India and Pakistan, Shaw’s phalluses might serve as surrogate nuclear warheads, and the streams of semen I described earlier as resembling fan coral might be mushroom-like clouds – the tell-tale signs of another kind of explosion that is nuclear.[36]  In this way, Shaw’s Garden of Earthly Delights series also serves as a poignant allegory – in a quasi-Bosch-like moralistic manner – for the destruction of Kashmir that has accompanied the national constructions of India and Pakistan.

Shaw’s work not only re-works dominant constructions of South Asian masculinity, but also importantly refuses a simple stabilization of a reading that theorizations of identity and post-identity as I will argue in the next section often presuppose. The work immerses the spectator, making him or her aware of the inseparability of the viewing subject, artwork, and implied authorial subject. Importantly, the work yokes the viewer with the artist; I am he, he is I in an incessant intersubjective exchange. At the same time, blurring the corporeal boundaries between us, the work makes clear the ultimate futility in attempting to identify the artist in any but the most provisional manner. In the next section, I make a modest attempt to begin to tease out the complexities that accompany answering a question that post-identity discourses implicitly sidestep and that earlier identity discourses never fully resolve: what is the role of identity (especially that of the critic/historian whose investments are often opaque at best) in artistic meaning?

From Identity to Post-Identity: 1990s to the present

The 1993 Whitney Biennial exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City became a watershed moment in the debates on identity in the art world.  The exhibition received a “maelstrom of negative criticism” for tackling issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality, as Biennial curator Elisabeth Sussman has noted.[37]  For instance, art historian Rosalind Krauss bemoaned what she claimed was the tendency in the exhibition to ignore the forms of the artwork – the materials used and the compositional arrangement – and to conflate the meaning of the artworks with the politics of the artists’ perceived identification (racial, sexual, gendered, etc.).[38]  She claimed that the true meaning of the artwork transcended the identification of the artists – a position characteristic of modernist formalists. By the late 1990s, the identity debates took an interesting turn in the context of the art world, where rhetoric about globalization often cited the proliferation of international art biennials to infer that the margin had become indistinguishable from and seamlessly enfolded within the centre.  A plethora of discourses emerged declaring identity as being “post,” or in some sense irrelevant, in the art world and in academia, as well as in the general press.[39]  For example, one of the curators of the 1993 Whitney Biennial, Thelma Golden, described the artworks of emerging African-American artists in the 2001 “Freestyle” exhibition she organized as “post-black.”[40]  Associate Curator of “Freestyle” Christine Kim explained that artworks in the exhibition were suggestive of an incipient aesthetic sensibility that is distinct from the generation of African-American artists – such as Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, and Lorna Simpson – who had become well-known during the heyday of identity politics in the early 1990s.[41]

In the catalogue accompanying Tate Liverpool’s 2010 exhibition “Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic,” Golden in a conversation with American art historian Huey Copeland and the American artist Glenn Ligon – whom she credits for helping her think about post-black – considers the term in the context of broader issues of globalization, which became a buzzword in the Western art world after Okwui Enwezor’s 1997 Johannesburg Biennial. [42]  Crediting in part Paul Gilroy’s influential 1993 book The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Golden notes that the Studio Museum of Harlem – of which she is the director and chief curator – shifted its mission from an institution that “collects, presents, preserves, and interprets works of African-American artists and artifacts of the African diaspora” to one that “is the nexus for black artists working locally, nationally, and internationally, and for work that has been inspired by black culture.” [43]

Although it is clear that the coining of the term “post-black” was not meant to suggest that racial identity is no longer relevant for a new generation of African-American artists in the context of Freestyle, Golden’s proclamations that we are in a “post-multicultural, post-identity…post-black” age – and therefore beyond purely essentialist notions of race – are more emblematic of the manner in which the term has circulated.[44] For instance, art historian Amelia Jones notes that “post-black” was taken up zealously by conservative art critics who leapt to posit that Golden’s exhibition is axiomatic, or proof, that we are “beyond” identity.[45] As one example, The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl wrote that “the ordeal of race in America may be verging on an upbeat phase that is without precedent” in his review of the exhibition.[46]  His comment, however, seems unduly optimistic and myopic in the context of those by New York Times art critic Holland Cotter, who considered with incredulity the term “post-identity” within broader socio-historical issues present in the United States in 2001:

…when affirmative action is in retreat; when poverty is a constant; when prisons continue to be holding pens for minority men; when American culture persists in reminding minorities, in ways large and small, that they are a problem… a wholesale rejection of identity-based art at the behest of a white-dominated art market and critical establishment would seem, to say the least, short-sighted.[47]

Cotter’s statement above is written just a little more than two months before 9/11 – a sobering reminder of what is at stake in facile claims such as post-identity.

Schjeldahl also wrote that “as a prominent curator at the Whitney throughout the nineties, Golden was a doyenne of multiculturalism, pushing agendas that she has now magnanimously set aside.”[48]  In other words, Schjeldahl embraces post-black because he believes it is devoid of the identity politics that rendered artworks created by artists of color in the 1990s less palatable, or less reconcilable with his implicit interpretation of classical aesthetic theory as suppressing the corporeal body (in this case, that of the author’s as “black”) in its value judgements.  Postcolonial studies scholar R. Radhakrishnan notes that the liberal use of the “post” label in academia often conflates “politics with epistemology, history with theory, and operates as the master code of transcendence as such.”[49]  That is, the bracketing of identity politics as a historical formation in the art world often relegates the politics of identity tout court to the past, as well. Schjeldahl’s comment that Golden “swore loyalty to high-art values” when she “pronounced the obsolescence of  ‘a Black History Month label’ [Golden’s words in an interview for the Village Voice] in the presentation of African-American art” is especially illuminating, and disconcerting, in its stark separation of the status of high art from artworks concerned with identity.[50]

In the 1990s, Hilton Kramer, one-time chief critic of the New York Times and art critic for the New York Observer, produced some of the most vitriolic and bilious responses to exhibitions such as the 1993 Whitney Biennial, in which he consistently constructed artistic meaning as outside of identity politics.  For instance, Kramer said of Golden’s “Black Male” exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1994 that it makes “…the Whitney Museum completely irrelevant for the artists and those among the public who continue to be more interested in artistic quality than political outreach.”[51]  Yet, Golden’s own comments about “Freestyle” in an interview in which she curiously aligns herself with Kramer also reveal how subjectivity has been suppressed by the most unlikely of individuals:

I am the holdout that believes there is no hip-hop corollary in visual art. I know this is where the Hilton Kramer in me comes out. One thing I thought was, What happens in a moment when popular culture is so present – and within popular culture hip-hop is ever present – when you do a show of emerging African American artists? I’m waiting to see the tag lines and headlines because I guarantee one of them is going to say, ‘Hip-hop Generation.’[52]

Golden’s invocation of Hilton Kramer encapsulates the contradictory impulses embedded within the concept of a “post-identity,” as well as the confusion in the post millennial period about the role of identity in artistic meaning, or aesthetic judgement.  Indeed, Amelia Jones notes that “the suppression of subjectivity” stretches back further to some of the most “radical theoretical ideas, in particular post-1960s poststructuralist notions of the ‘death of the author’ (per Roland Barthes’ famous 1970s essay).”[53]  Though identity politics and artistic meaning were perhaps never neatly contained as separate, non-overlapping enterprises, they increasingly became blurred by the end of the twentieth century.

In the new millennium, a curious alliance has formed between those that are sympathetic to identity politics and those that have always been suspect of artistic meaning being tied to any notion of identity: both groups agree that we are in a “post-identity” era. The former does so purportedly to distinguish between different waves of artistic production concerned with primarily racial, gendered, and sexual difference, but seems to fall back on conceptualizing identity as positional or fixed; while the latter suggests that we are post or over identity, but only to return artistic value back to a dis-embodied art object. My own overt positionality as the mediator of Shaw’s art and art historical praxis in this paper attempts to disrupt either of these unsettling fixities of meaning.

“Post-identity” discourses described above merely veiled the interestedness of those who strategically espoused them – from Thelma Golden, who used “post-black” effectively as a marketing tool or buzzword for her “Freestyle” exhibition, to her one-time adversaries, who seized the opportunity to herald an end to identity politics and to return to a conservative, formalist model of artistic interpretation.  The art object is never stripped clean of the discursive frames of the art world that imbue it with meaning.

In the mid-twentieth century, philosopher of phenomenology Maurice Merleau-Ponty destabilized oppositional terms such as subject/object, mind/body, and thinking/feeling by indicating they are intertwined.  He refers to the site of reciprocal interpenetration between and within embodied subjects, where an artwork is a kind of subject, as the “chiasmus.”[54]  The chiasmic intertwining of the artwork and the body of the interpreter, which in turn implicates the imagined art-making subject, indicates how a return to the art object “itself” is impossible. In the next section, I describe how Shaw’s artwork through an affective version of pastiche that includes elements of parody elicits the much more expansive chiasmic intertwining of the artwork and viewing subject.[55] To be clear, I am not heralding a return to an era of multiculturalism or facile globalization but to move these debates on identity forward by conceptualizing a model of identity in artistic meaning that is much more productive if only for unveiling the investments of the critic/historian in meaning-making—as opposed to adopting the norm of Schjeldahl’s mode of disembodied abstraction of identity issues.

Theorising Identity in a Post-Identity Art World

Although postmodernism has widely been credited with unsettling many of modernism’s truth claims through its alignment with poststructuralism, where meaning is contingent rather than fixed, Amelia Jones notes that in the 1980s art world, dominant theorizations of variants of postmodernism – such as pastiche, allegory, montage, and appropriation – remained largely “stripped of its corporeal politics.”  A narrow focus on strategies of the production of art submerged issues of authorship and the investment of the critics themselves, and threatened to reinscribe modernist formalist’s concept of “privileging certain practices and derogating others.”[56]  For instance, art critic Craig Owens notes in his re-assessment of his earlier elision of sexual difference in his two-part essay, “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism,” that art critic and historian Benjamin Buchloh discusses six artists – all of them female – in his essay “Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art,” without ever referencing their gender or analyzing its relation to their artworks. [57] Tellingly, despite Owens’ self-criticality of his earlier elisions of gender, neither he nor Buchloh mentions that these artists are also white and largely US-based.

In sharp contrast to Owens’ and Buchloh’s singular focus on production in their theorizations of postmodernist appropriation strategies, film and queer theorist Richard Dyer in his 2007 book Pastiche offers a much more expansive view of appropriation via his theory of pastiche, which includes attention to reception and to the body of the viewing subject. [58]  Dyer notes that the term pastiche comes from the mid-sixteenth century Italian neologism pasticcio, which in its earliest use referred to a type of pie, the various ingredients of which remained distinct in taste despite being mixed together – therefore indicating the term’s deeply synaesthetic roots. [59] He further writes that his description of pastiche “runs counter to the conventional wisdom regarding progressive art, beginning with the Enlightenment prizing of aesthetic contemplation and becoming politically hardened in the twentieth century, emblematically in Brecht’s…procedures of estrangement.”[60]  In addition to suggesting that pastiche “is not just something cerebrally observed but felt,” Dyer broadens the remit of Owens’ and Buchloh’s early theorizations of variants of postmodernist pastiche by indicating that pastiche is cathected through a combination of a broad range of “paratextual, contextual, and textual evidence.”[61]  He implicitly suggests the chiasmic intertwining of the artwork, artist, and viewer.

Pastiche refers to the combination of things “that are typically held apart in such a way as to retain their identities.”[62] Shaw’s artwork reflects a synthesis of quotations from the canon of Western art history and broader visual culture, as well as styles and formal compositional arrangements connected to various South Asian subcontinental art historical traditions and visual culture.  The combination of different quotations, styles and forms blurs their distinctions. Dyer notes two formal features of pastiche – deformation and discrepancy.  The former materializes through “accentuation and exaggeration” by either maximizing or minimizing the size of the picture plane or scale of the installation, or liberally using a bold and bright colour palette, or “concentration” – where certain elements are stressed over others in a synecdochal fashion and the parts are taken for the whole.[63]

Dyer highlights that imitating formal styles are ways of “evoking, moulding and eliciting feeling.”[64] Pastiche can also serve to confuse what identifications are normative by both heightening and confusing the source of the elicited feeling.  In strategically combining different forms and styles typically construed as South Asian or Western, or contemporary or ancient, an artwork can elicit a felt dissonance in the viewing subject that serves to destabilize the normative assumptions connected to the cultures associated with these forms and styles.  For instance, Shaw’s introduction of phalluses into Indian miniature painting and the Kashmiri textile tradition – both of which are not typically associated with such overt displays of eroticism – serves to implicitly invoke and destabilize broad and complex constructions of South Asian masculinity.

Dyer notes that though pastiche can function as a form of critique, it does not do so in any conventional manner. While parody presupposes a distance from that which it is parodying, pastiche is much closer to its source material and “risk[s] contamination by it.”[65]  To further highlight the potential of pastiche to be critical, but not critically distant, I expand on Dyer’s brief reference to post-colonial scholar Homi K. Bhabha’s theorization of colonial mimicry.[66]  In his article “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse” (1984), Bhabha notes that colonial power consolidates itself as knowledge through “trompe l’oeil, irony, mimicry, and repetition.”[67]  He further notes that “colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite […] almost the same, but not white.”[68]  Yet therein lies the paradox of colonial mimicry, for “the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority.”[69]  In other words, “mimicry is at once resemblance and menace.”[70]  The slippage from mimicry to mockery immediately discredits the colonizer’s authorized version of otherness and profoundly undermines the colonizer’s elusive self-image.  The lack of a clear distinction between a mimicry of subversion and a mimicry of subjugation, or between mimicry and mockery, is therefore blurry at best.  Shaw’s artwork capitalizes on the blurring Bhabha notes is inherent in mimicry by strategically deploying pastiche to parodically call attention to, and thereby undermine, a broad range of stereotypes concerning South Asian masculinity as felt.

Bhabha’s scholarship on colonial mimicry provides a link to consider how pastiche as affective destabilizes the notion that identity (whether South Asian or queer) is whole and knowable rather than fractured and partial.  As Dyer notes, pastiche “may be conceptualized as a form of mimicry, playing ambivalently within subservience and insolence, making it possible to get with the latter.”[71]  To consider further the far-reaching implications of Dyer’s connection of Bhabha’s mimicry to pastiche, I explore Joan Riviere’s and Mary Anne Doane’s theorizations of masquerade and Judith Butler’s parodic mimicry – all of which pivot around the notion of parody to reveal that there is no original behind the copy.  As early as 1929, British psychoanalyst Joan Riviere theorized gender as a constructed identity.  In her essay “Womanliness as a Masquerade,” she describes the “compulsive ogling and coquetting” that one of her patients reported displaying after any “exhibition in public of her intellectual proficiency.”  Riviere surmises that her patient would unconsciously put on a mask of “womanliness…both to hide the possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to possess it.”  She further notes in a now well-known excerpt from her essay that: “…the reader may now ask how I define womanliness or where I draw the line between genuine womanliness and the “masquerade.” My suggestion is not, however, that there is any such difference; whether radical or superficial, they are the same thing.[72]

Riviere presciently uncovers the artifice of gender identity and signalled the possibilities for parody to uncover the artifice of identity.  Film scholar Mary Ann Doane extends Riviere’s theory of masquerade in the early 1980s to re-think both the imagistic representation of women in film and the gendered spectator.[73]  Doane notes that the masquerade “constitutes an acknowledgement that it is femininity itself which is constructed as a mask – as the decorative layer which conceals a non-identity.”[74]

Significantly drawing on Esther Newton’s study of drag queens and camp in Mother Camp (1972), Judith Butler singles out the parodic mimicry of homosexual drag queens, who serve to de-stabilize not only gender but also sexuality through their excessive performances.[75]  She notes that “in imitating gender, drag implicitly reveals the imitative structure of gender itself – as well as its contingency.”[76]  Butler also notes that “gay is to straight not as copy is to original, but, rather, as copy is to copy.  The parodic repetition of ‘the original’ […] reveals the original to be nothing other than a parody of the idea of the natural and original.”[77]  Invoking pastiche as a metaphor, she notes that “there is a subversive laughter in the pastiche-effect in which the original, the authentic, and the real are themselves constituted as effects.”[78]  Butler is also careful to clarify that “the deconstruction of identity is not the deconstruction of politics; rather, it establishes as political the very terms through which identity is articulated.”[79]

Bhabha’s colonial mimicry, Riviere’s and Doane’s masquerade, and Butler’s parodic mimicry expand the breadth of political possibilities of pastiche by suggesting the profound potential of artworks that employ parody to uncover the artifice of gender, queer, and racial identification.  Dyer notes that pastiche is the “feeling form of what at the level of theory is endless Derridean deferral or Butlerian performativity, the perception that everything in the end is a copy of something else.”[80] That is, French philosopher Jacques Derrida refers to that which always already escapes signification as the “supplement.”  Significantly, Derrida notes that the supplement “is in reality différance,” the simultaneous process of difference and deferral, which prevents the definitive closure of any category of identity as a visual signifier.[81]  For instance, the implicit “etc.” at the end of any listing of categories of intersecting identification to which queer or Desi is attached functions as a supplement, which “adds itself […and] is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude […] But the supplement supplements.  It adds only to replace,” and is therefore never fully able to deliver on its promise of inclusivity. [82] Indeed, the model I am theorizing uncovers the supplementarity of identity as not just seen but felt, and in so doing, a much more expansive understanding of identity becomes possible.[83]

Returning to my point above, the theories of Bhabha, Riviere, and Butler pivot around the “live” subject – and in the case of Doane, screen identification.  However, the “live” subject cannot be seen as separate from the screen or other objects/spaces and bodies/embodiments, which are all chiasmically intertwined.  Indeed, the forms of Shaw’s artwork engender such a chiasmic intertwining that produces a “context and reception in which subversive conditions can be fostered,” which Butler notes is crucial to identity subversion.[84]


My analysis of Shaw’s work has been deeply invested in performing and re-performing my personal investments—ultimately, as a foil for the disembodied and veiled prejudices of art historians and art critics that I have argued continue in a post-identity art world. Indeed, most prevailing discussions concerning post-identity have revolved around the artist, artwork, or curator, but the unfortunately presumed objective role of the art critic and art historian has not been interrogated. In this way, rather than position my own reading of Shaw’s work as definitive or better than those of others, I want it to be seen as highly contingent. As is evident in my approach, I am interested in performing meaning as a process and on-going exchange. I do not mean to evacuate the importance of criticism; rather, even as I try to convince the reader of the importance of my contribution, I do so by also acknowledging the limitation of meaning-making as inherently supplemental—something always escapes meaning [85].  Finally, I do not mean to imply that the artwork can mean anything, which is often the argument against this sort of highly personalized engagement with artwork. One’s engagement with a work is at least partially shaped by its forms. Indeed, it is worth noting that Shaw’s work in its use of the formal conventions of the miniature painting tradition structures the viewing experience to be highly personalized; this is in startling contradistinction to Bosch’s work, which was made to be viewed by the congregational masses. [86]. One might argue then that my embodied, queer and performative reading of the work is in line with the formal structure of Shaw’s work; and that any other kind of engagement merely returns us to the didactic paternalism and moralizing of Bosch’s work.

I am grateful to the editors of darkmatter and an anonymous reviewer, whose feedback led me to re-shape this article in surprising and exciting ways. My thanks also to Amelia Jones, Jackie Stacey, and Marsha Meskimmon, who all gave crucial feedback on an early version of this article; and to Anne Pellegrini for providing an opportunity to workshop my inchoate ideas while a visiting scholar at New York University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality.


1. Glenn Lowry, “Gained in Translation,” Art News 105: 3 (March 2006): 122-123. [↑]

2. Homi K. Bhabha, “An Art of Exquisite Anxiety” in Raqib Shaw: Absence of God, catalogue for exhibition of the same name (London: White Cube, 2009), 6-11; and David Lomas, “Tears of Narcissus” in Raqib Shaw: Paradise Lost, catalogue for exhibition of the same name  (London: White Cube, 2011), 43-52. [↑]

3. In addition to the essays by Bhabha and Lomas referenced above, I am basing this on a review of the following essays written about Shaw’s work and interviews with the artist: Holland Cotter. “Art in Review: Raqib Shaw,” New York Times, 30 September 2005, (accessed 14 July 2008); Richard Dyer, “Raqib Shaw in Conversation” Wasafiri issue no. 42 (Summer 2004); Bridget L. Goodbody, “Review: Raqib Shaw, ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’” TimeOut New York, 22-28 September 2005, (accessed 24 October 2008); David Rimanelli, Raqib Shaw, catalogue for exhibition of the same name  (New York: Deitch Projects, 2005). It is, of course, possible I have missed someone’s queer reading of Shaw’s work, but even in this case my point is that such a reading is the exception rather than the rule. [↑]

4. Sharmistha Ray, “Artist Profile: Raqib Shaw (Part One),” Gaysi, 1 December 2010, and “Artist Profile: Raqib Shaw (Part 2)” Gaysi, 1 December 2010,  Gaysi is a contraction of the word ‘gay’ and ‘Desi.’ Desi is defined as ‘from my country’—from the Hindi word ‘desh,’ which means ‘country;’ it is used colloquially by many Western-based subjects of South Asian descent to refer to themselves. See South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), “South Asian Journalists Association Stylebook for covering South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora,” (accessed 14 February 2008; no longer available). According to the website, Gaysi provides “a voice and a safe space to Desis from the South Asian subcontinent that identify as LGBTQ.” See Gaysi, “about” section, (accessed 29 August 2012). That is, Desi has apparently been embraced by the LGBTQ community in India who while living in South Asia are nonetheless discursively produced as being outside it. [↑]

5. Sherlock Homo, “Anderson Cooper Raises his Rainbow,” Gaysi, 3 July 2012, (accessed 29 August 2012). [↑]

6. Forbes’ reporter Jeff Bercovici notes that “[t]o say his homosexuality has been an open secret until now stretches the definition of the word ‘secret.’” See his article, “Anderson Cooper Comes Out As TV’s First Openly Gay Prime Time Anchor,” Forbes, 2 July 2012, Anderson publicly came out via a letter which was published on blogger Andrew Sullivan’s long-running website The Daily Beast.  The letter was in response to Sullivan’s request for feedback from Cooper about the emerging trend of “gay people in public life who come out in a much more restrained and matter-of-fact way than in the past.” See Andrew Sullivan, “Anderson Cooper: The fact is, I’m Gay,” The Daily Beast, 2 July 2012, anderson-cooper-the-fact-is-im-gay.html. Here is another of the many articles that characterized Cooper’s sexuality as an “open secret” when he officially came out: Daniel Mendelsohn, “A Closet by Another Name,” New York Times, 3 July 2012, (all websites accessed 2 August 2012). [↑]

7. Personal conversation with author, December 2005. [↑]

8. Alpesh K. Patel, “Queer Desi Visual Culture across the Brown Atlantic: US/UK,” PhD thesis, University of Manchester, England, 2009, (accessed 29 August 2012). [↑]

9. Sharmistha Ray, “Artist Profile: Raqib Shaw, Part One,” Gaysi, 1 December 2010,[↑]

10. Irit Rogoff, “Gossip as Testimony: A Postmodern Signature” in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, edited by Amelia Jones (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), 268-276. Gavin Butt, drawing on Rogoff, also uses gossip to reconsider art world practices in relation to homosexuality. See his Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005). [↑]

11. Amrita Jhaveri, “Where I Work: Raqib Shaw,” Art Asia Pacific 56 (November/December 2007),; Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis, “TNT’s Paris Fashion Week Diary, Part One,” Vogue, 4 March 2012, (accessed 1 September 2012); “Raqib Shaw,” British Council, (accessed 1 September 2012) [↑]

12.  Here are a few of Jonathan Katz’s publications that interrogate open secrets and queer silences in the post-WWII American art world:  “Agnes Martin: The Sexuality of Abstraction” in Agnes Martin, edited by Lynne Cooke and Karen Kelly (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009); “John Cage’s Queer Silence or How to Avoid Making Matters Worse” GLQ, 5 (April 1999): 231-252 April, 1999; The Silent Camp: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and the Cold War Chicago: University of Chicago Press (forthcoming). [↑]

13. Debra Singer, “Nearness of Difference,” in Shahzia Sikander: Acts of Balance, exhibition brochure (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2000), 1-2. [↑]

14.  Walter Bosing, Heironymous Bosch C. 1450-1516: Between Heaven and Hell (Berlin: Taschen, 2000), 56. [↑]

15. Bridget L. Goodbody, “Review: Raqib Shaw, ‘Garden of Earthly Delights,’” Time Out New York, 22-28 September 2005, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

16. The investigation of constructions of South Asian masculinity and visuality is a largely nascent field of enquiry.  For an excellent discussion of the latter topic in the context of film, see women’s studies scholar Gita Rajan’s article, “Constructing-Contesting South Asian Masculinities: Trends in South Asian Cinema,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31:3 (Spring 2006), 1099-1124. [↑]

17. Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, translated by Hélène Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984 [1941, original; 1965, translation]). [↑]

18. For a brief summary of East Asian lacquerware, see the following: Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Lacquerware of East Asia” in Timeline of Art History, October 2004, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

19. Richard Dyer, “Raqib Shaw in Conversation,” Wasafiri issue no. 42 (Summer 2004), 77. [↑]

20. Shaw’s flora and fauna were inspired by his visits to archives of natural history museums. Ibid., 68. [↑]

21.  Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (London and New York: Methuen, 1986), 9. [↑]

22. Ibid. [↑]

23. See Mrinalini Sinha,  Colonial Masculinity: “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995). [↑]

24. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Skins, translated by Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 151-152. Originally published as Peau noire, masques blancs. Paris: Éditions de Seuil, 1952. [↑]

25. Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, 5. [↑]

26. Sara Suleri,  Rhetoric of English India (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 16. [↑]

27. For instance, Fanon writes: “I have never been able, without revulsion, to hear a man say of another man: ‘He is so sensual!’” Emphasis in original. Fanon, Black Skin, White Skins, 201; Fuss, “Interior Colonies,” 35. [↑]

28. Sigmund Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” (1905), in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 7. edited and translated by James Strachey, et al. (London: Hogarth, 1953-74), 139. [↑]

29.  Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1983[French original, 1972 published by Minuit]), 170. [↑]

30. Fuss, “Interior Colonies,” 33. [↑]

31. Ibid., 36. [↑]

32. An “open letter to Government of India, members of the Judiciary, and all citizens” from Vikram Seth, Amartya Sen, et al. entitled “Same-Sex Love in India: Open Letters against Section 377.” [↑]

33. Ibid. [↑]

34. Holland Cotter, “Art Review: ‘Arts from Kashmir:’ Treasures from a Land in Tumult,” New York Times, 26 October 2007, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

35. See the following for a useful gloss on the relationship among Kashmir, India, and Pakistan: Isabel Hilton, “Between the Mountains.” The New Yorker, 11 March 2002, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

36. National Resources Defense Council, “The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan,” 4 July 2002, (accessed 3 October 2011); World Nuclear Association, “Nuclear Power in Pakistan” and “Nuclear Power in India,” August and September 2011, respectively, and (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

37. Elizabeth Sussman, “Then and Now: Whitney Biennial 1993,” Art Journal 62: 1 (Spring 2005): 74-79. [↑]

38. Benjamin Buchloh,  Hal Foster, Silvia Kolbowski, Rosalind Krauss, and Miwon Kwon, “The Politics of the Signifier: A Conversation on the Whitney Biennial,” October 66 (Fall 1993): 3-27. [↑]

39. See, for instance, the emergence of the term, “post-straight,” perhaps the most surprising use of the “post” label: Chris Nutter, “Post-Straight: How Gay Men Are Remodeling Regular Guys,” Village Voice, 8-14 August 2001, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

40. Thelma Golden, Christine Y. Kim, Hamza Walker, et al., Freestyle, exhibition catalogue, (New York: The Studio Museum in Harlem, 2001), 14. [↑]

41. Jori Finkel, “A Reluctant Fraternity, Thinking Post-Black,” New York Times, 10 June 2007, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

42. It is important to note that I neither mean to imply that post-identity has emerged in the same fashion in both the US and UK nor that the historic relationship of identity in artistic meaning is the same in both places. This is a project I am working on as part of my larger book project of which this essay will form a part. For the moment, I highlight a examples of how the term post-identity has surfaced in highly visible exhibitions such as that at Tate Liverpool and the Studio Museum. [↑]

43.  Huey Copeland, “Post/Black/Atlantic:  A Conversation with Thelma Golden and Glenn Ligon,” Afro modern: journeys through the Black Atlantic, edited by Tanya Barson and Peter Gorschlüter (Liverpool: Tate Liverpool, 2010), 76-81. [↑]

44. Golden quoted in: Jerry Saltz, “Post-Black,” Village Voice, 15 May 2001. [↑]

45. Amelia Jones, “Post Black Bomb,” Tema Celeste (March/April 2002): 52-55. [↑]

46. Peter Schjeldahl, “Breaking Away: A Flowering of Young African-American Artists,” New Yorker, 11 June 2001, (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

47. Holland Cotter, “Beyond Multiculturalism, Freedom?,” New York Times, 29 July 2001,,%20Freedom?%22&st=cse (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

48. Schjeldahl, “Breaking Away.” [↑]

49. Emphasis in original.   R. Radhakrishnan, “Postcoloniality and the Boundaries of Identity,” Callaloo 16:4 (Autumn 1993):751. [↑]

50. Ibid and Thelma Golden, “The Golden Age: Interview with Studio Museum’s Thelma Golden,” by Greg Tate, Village Voice, 15 May 2001,,tate,24753,1.html (accessed 3 October 2011). [↑]

51. Hilton Kramer, “Black Male’s Blackmail Raises Foucault’s Ghost,” New York Observer, 21 November 1994, 1. [↑]

52. Thelma Golden, “The Golden Age.” [↑]

53. Amelia Jones, Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004), 22. See also Roland Barthes, “Death of the Author” (1968), in Image-Text-Music, trans. by Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Lang, 1977), 142-149. [↑]

54. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Intertwining: the Chiasm,” in The Visible and the Invisible, edited by Claude Lefort, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968 [1964]). [↑]

55. Ibid. [↑]

56. Amelia Jones, Body Art: Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 29 and 30. [↑]

57. See Craig Owens’ “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism,” October 12 (Spring 1980): 67-86 and “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism Part 2,” October 13 (Summer 1980): 58-80; Benjamin Buchloh, “Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art, “Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art,” Artforum 21 (September 1982): 43-56;” and Craig Owens, “The Discourse of Others: Feminism and Postmodernism,” in Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983), 166-190.  [↑]

58. Richard Dyer, Pastiche (London and New York: Routledge, 2007). Note: not the same individual as previously cited. [↑]

59. Ibid., 8, 10. [↑]

60. Ibid., 167. [↑]

61. Ibid., 47, 133. [↑]

62. Ibid., 21. [↑]

63. Ibid., 54-59. [↑]

64. Ibid., 180. [↑]

65. Ibid., 40-8 (for Dyer’s discussion of parody as distinct from pastiche), 157, 167. [↑]

66. Ibid., 156. [↑]

67. Emphasis in original.  Homi K. Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” October 28 (Spring 1984):126. Special Issue, “Discipleship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis.” [↑]

68. Emphasis in original.  Ibid., 130. [↑]

69. Ibid., 129. [↑]

70. Ibid., 127. [↑]

71. Richard Dyer, Pastiche, 156. [↑]

72. Joan Riviere, “Womanliness as a Masquerade,” in Formations of Fantasy, edited by Victor Burgin, James Donald, and Cora Kaplan (London: Metheun, 1986), 35-44. Originally published under the same name in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis 10 (1929): 303-313. [↑]

73. Mary Ann Doane, “Film and the Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator” (1982), in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, edited by Amelia Jones (London and New York: Routledge, 2003) and “Masquerade Reconsidered: Further Thoughts on the Female Spectator” (1988-89), in Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 33-43. See also Stephen Heath, “Joan Riviere and the Masquerade,” in Formations of Fantasy, edited by Victor Burgin, James Donald, and Cara Kaplan (London: Metheun, 1986), 45-61. [↑]

74. Mary Doane, “Film and the Masquerade,” 66.  For Doane, the masquerade served as a crucial corrective to Laura Mulvey’s influential theory of spectatorship in which the viewing options for a female spectator included an oscillation between identification with the female character, a passive masochistic position, and the male lead, a transvestite-like position.  Doane argued that since the theory of masquerade indicates “that it is femininity itself which is constructed as a mask,” then the logic of models of female spectatorship which require women to submit to a transvestite-like position is called into question.  As Doane explains, “The transvestite adopts the sexuality of the other—the woman becomes a man in order to attain the necessary distance from the image [per Freud].  Masquerade, on the other hand, involves a realignment of femininity, the recovery, or more accurately, simulation of the missing gap or distance.” [↑]

75. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York and London: Routledge, 1990).; Esther Newton, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979 [1972]). [↑]

76. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 137. [↑]

77. Emphasis in original. Ibid., 41. [↑]

78. Ibid., 146. [↑]

79. Ibid., 148.  Queer and gender studies scholar Diana Fuss clarifies the difference between the use of mimicry (used by Butler) and masquerade (used by Doane and Riviere) in recent feminist theory.  She notes that “‘mimicry’ (the deliberate and playful performance of a role) is offered as a counter and a corrective to ‘masquerade’ (the unconscious assumption of a role).”  She further notes that “the critical difference […] depends on the degree and readability of its excess.”  These distinctions are not relevant for my argument, given I am not concerned with notions of intentionality.  See Diana Fuss, “Interior Colonies and Frantz Fanon and the Politics of Identification,” diacritics 24:2-3 (Summer-Fall 1994): 20. [↑]

80. Richard Dyer, Pastiche, 173. [↑]

81. Jacques Derrida, “Speech and Phenomena: Introduction to the Problem of Signs in Husserl’s Phenomenology,” in Speech and Phenomena and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs, translated by David B. Allison (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 88. [Originally published as La Voix et le phénomène (Paris: Presses Univérsitaires de France, 1967).] See also xliii in the “Preface.” [↑]

82. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 144-5. [↑]

83. See also Robert Phiddian’s article on the parallels between parody and deconstruction: “Are Parody and Deconstruction Secretly the Same Thing?” New Literary History 28:4 (1997): 673-696. [↑]

84. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 177. [↑]

85.  This line of argument is very much indebted to the work of Amelia Jones, especially her “Art history/art criticism: performing meaning” in Performing the Body/Performing the Text, edited by Amelia Jones and Andrew Stephensen (London: Routledge, 1999), 36-51. [↑]

86. I thank art historian Jane Chin Davidson for pointing this out and for her feedback on this article. [↑]

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Alpesh Kantilal Patel is an assistant professor of contemporary art and theory and director of the MFA program in visual arts at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. He is working on a book length project on queer South Asian visual culture.
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