Given that issues of identity, gender, and transgression of conventions established by a cultural history dominated by fixed and homogenous traditions have been profoundly questioned for more than a decade, the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, with the support of designer Thom Browne, has created a chair— The Disruption, Dissent, and Aesthetics Chair — within the heart of its teaching.
While HIV/AIDS ravaged the gay community during the 1980s, the insult “queer” carried a web of meanings through time—“bizarre,” “deviant,” “freak,” “faggot,” “dyke,” “poofter”—so many taunts referring to a shared history of violence, exclusion, and shame by the so-called minorities of sexuality and gender, and became the subject of a performative reversal. “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!,” roared activists of the Queer Nation collective. The objective was twofold: to refuse the relegation to invisibility and to refuse the policies of assimilation undertaken by more conventional LGBT movements. At the same time, on university campuses, queer theory was born, notably with the publication of Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble (1990). These works redefined queerness as a position of resistance and dissent against the regime of normative sexuality.
These two faces of queerness—constructed from affirmation and denial, militancy and reflection, anger and celebration—are contiguous. They disrupt dualities and binary oppositions. They allow the rethinking of the political regime of heterosexuality’s violence and its connection with gender, race, and class domination. They invoke a series of gestures, forms, acts, a collective and responsive intelligence that manifests itself in practices of political, artistic, and cultural subversions of power.
The Disruption, Dissent, and Aesthetics Chair of Beaux-Arts de Paris, supported by Thom Browne and guided by Ilana Eloit and Fabrice Bourlez, will analyze searing questions, exploring the new forms produced by this evolution in consciousness with students and professors.