This talk was delivered as part of a panel at The College Art Association annual conference in the spring of 2015. I recently came across it in my records and thought it was worth another airing.

For the past few years I’ve been engaging in a performance practice that has involved a series of collaborators and which has taken place in campgrounds and hotels and basements and apartments around America.  In each of these performances I and my collaborators devise a script, secure props and costumes and train for our various roles.  Some of my collaborators have been trained in the arts.  Some have not, but bring other skills to bear on the work. In each instance, the recipients of the performance were the same as the performers.

I’m not going to show them to you, but if I did, it would look like you were viewing kinky queer sex.

That’s because it is: kinky, queer sex.

I want to talk about some things I’ve learned through this performance practice in these past years:

What I’ve learned as a kinky queer:  nobody can fuck for you. Typing isn’t fucking.  and it certainly isn’t a way to fuck things up.

Here is the invitation sent to the participants on this panel:

“Each speaker will have approximately 20 minutes to present their own cultural point of view regarding the state of the arts from the position of theory, aesthetic practice, politics, economics, genres, genders, sexuality, spirituality, etc… This is a specially commissioned panel in honor of the 100th year founding of the CAA. You each represent crucial points of reference and intersection regarding the contemporaneous concerns in the arts industry whether mainstream global or on the edge.” 

In other words, I’m here to talk about what’s important to me in art these days.  I should be doing this from my position as an educator.  This is the College Art Association after all.  But I want to talk as an artist.  After all, I teach because it helps me make my work.  Not only financially, but because I’m a little dim and I need to be reminded about what my problems are.

The problem is representation.

By definition: To represent, to stand in for.

The pathos of the stand in, always waiting for their big break on the ideological stage.  Representation is built on absence. The real event is always delayed, coming.  Our representatives speak for us but are not us.

This is the problem.

Or to re-present: to present over again, to give the known, to reassure.  Let me know you are really whatever, so we can finally get the uncertainty between us over with.

It is laudable that our society strives for fairness.  It is not laudable that the justification for that fairness is so often an essential sameness.

When we submit to the regimes of representation, we occupy the mental space that W.E.B. DuBois delineated so clearly as double consciousness:

“ It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,–an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder”

The Civil right model, and representational politics in this country, lead us to ask the following questions: Where’s my slice of the status quo? Is it the same size as my neighbor’s? It is predicated on an idea where I am supposed to be both myself and the representation of a social group, an abstraction.  

Our difference is acknowledged, but only as a way of pointing to our essential sameness.  It is that sameness that gives us a claim on fundamental rights.  

We are allowed to be different in every way except when we wish to step outside our role as a representative.

Further, as an artist I am charged with making this dual nature legible to a mainstream. I am given the task of identifying my issues and then providing the remedial course in them to a public that can then decide whether they have been discussed long enough.

Trends, either in an art market or an academic one are predicated on a notion that issues can be raised and resolved.  In order to be heard one must format your utterances to that system.

Fuck the status quo. I don’t want my fair share of ignorance, jingoism and billionaire worship.  I’m not waiting outside the chapel to get my love validated.

I got into the cocksucking racket because I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about any of that crap.

To move from the toleration of variation to a love for the alien in all of its flowering should be our goal.

I want our difference to make things different, if it doesn’t, it’s been squandered.

Difference means change, queer difference means unexpected change

The work of sexual liberation remains unfinished. The sexual revolution is almost entirely consumed, but unconsummated. The artworks that emerged at the same time, were also predicated on a radical idea of presentness.  They were boring and uncomfortable as often as they were brilliant and transformative. 

Ideologies issue from bodies, from our bodies, which are not abstractions but wondrous facts, existing not in the realm of abstraction but in specific locations at specific times.

The information age banishes the specific, providing access to everything  except those things that matter.

IN A SOCIETY THAT ASKS US TO STAND IN FOR OURSELVES, we must not submit to the regime of double consciousness, which is the regime of representation.

I’m supposed to talk about the current art scene, so I’ll talk about what I see there: a bifurcated world where two markets, one financial and one intellectual, both collaborate to make the specific experience of artists irrelevant and interchangeable.

We talk about the dematerialization of the art object.  It’s time for the de-documentation of Art.  We live in an age where people are trained to experience art through the document, and to make art that can immediately be reduced to that document.  Performances that are reduced to photographs, video that are endlessly loped tableaus, unmoored from any temporal urgency.

We are the existence of sex in public.  We don’t have to be behaving sexually for that to be the case.

We are the reminder that the term “natural” is a mask for ideology. That identity is an ongoing pageant, not some sacred core of who we are.  

In this society it is our job to contra-dict – to speak against, to speak across. Even when things are nice.  Because someone has to do it. It is something all societies need, the disruption of the commonsensical, the rational, the disembodied.

We are hated because we remind people that pleasure is possible, that anyone can decide to take it. That it is a CHOICE, a choice that many don’t have the courage to make for themselves. As such, for many we are the reminder of their cowardice.

Queer isn’t who you fuck.  It’s how you fuck them.  It isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it.  It isn’t what you depict, it’s how you transform consciousness through the action of your will: That is what it means to make art.

Queer culture is not a style of culture, nor is it an adjunct to our lives which we can detach like Lego. We cannot stop talking about it or making work about it simply because some publication imagines that it has been resolved.  

Queer culture is the manifestation of our will in the world.  Our transformation of reality.  

Your dirty pictures are our history.  Your embarrassments our monuments.  

So when you start taking them down, or when you ask us to do it differently, you are not just rearranging our decor.  You are attempting to make us disappear. When an art buying public turned away from “identity based work” it presented the world with the image of people growing tired of their own ignorance being pointed out to them after they had loudly demanded to be educated. “We’re tired of inclusion, what else have you got?”

The removal of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire In My Belly from the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was not about artistic freedom, which in this society is the freedom to be supposedly irrelevant, it was an attempt to rewrite American history, in an American history museum.

Representation is a losing Game, one where our own pleasure is put on hold while we make our case to a rigged jury. To beg for their tolerance: I’m supposed to believe that if a platoon of straight comic fans are persuaded to be slightly less homophobic because they see two superheros kiss, it’s more important than one queer person be fully themselves.  I call shenanigans on that shit.


To our straight allies: we are here to remind you of the fact that you are making a choice every time you fuck. And to encourage you to make bolder ones, not by buying sex toys, but by bringing your whole self to the persons you are fucking.

These days I teach photographers, and I’ve come to regard photographic documentation as the enemy of artistic thought. It is time to abandon the document, to show it for the false currency it is.  We understand art through proximity, through our own risk, not by browsing and scrolling.  What is the art fair experience, if not that of a three dimensional trip through a google image search.  Attention accrues to the loudest and the most looked at becomes somehow the most pertinent.

What can we do now?  

Present, Not Represent

These pieces are embodied, in the midst of a rhetorical landscape that has become increasingly disembodied

Represent no one, be yourself present and make us a present of your pleasure.

Embody queer, don’t represent it.  Do this in your work, your teaching, your career. 

Make things different.

Refuse to buy in, refuse the status quo, stop standing in for an idea, an abstraction.  

Stop standing in the wings waiting for your big break in a show that we didn’t write and isn’t meant for our amusement. Stop waiting to add your special stripe to the rainbow,

Stop hoping  Start transforming.


Maybe it’s just me, and years of living on the sexual margins have made me all to ready to see hints and innuendo every where I look, but even from my warped perspective, I have to ask what exact message is this woman trying to send with her canvas tote with the shackles and noose on the side?

She was coolly reading the New Yorker from when she got on at Seventh Avenue til when she got off at 34th Street, in an outfit that had no other hints of kinkiness. Is the image an invitation to bondage or an expression of freedom from it? Some random importation of violent motifs onto the side of canvas totes as part of a fashion statement? I’ll never know.


…are what I need to buy today on the way home. But really this post is about IMsL.

This was the first Leather Contest I’ve attended, and only the second title contest (in the late 90’s I was part of helping the Metro Bears put on a run/contest that had very little impact). On the whole I have stayed away from organized leather, but if there was going to be a first one, I’m happy that it was this one. The stakes, while high for the contestants, seemed low for the rest of the event. People were there for a whole array for reasons, only one of which were the contests.

It was very interesting to be at a women’s event; my Seventies feminist training kicked in and it combined with my shyness to make me quite reticent about approaching people. I was trying to mind my ps and qs, not wanting to be intrusive and to listen twice befreo speaking once. I wasn’t always successful, but on the whole it was more relaxing than it sounds.

My class fell victim to the vagaries of San Francisco’s climate. Since what I was teaching involved smoking, it had to place outdoors, on the patio outside of the hospitality suite. This was fine when the sun was shining directly on it, but once there was no sunshine, the classroom turned chill to such an extent that people were stepping inside to watch from beyond the glass patio doors. I had to cut things a little short, both on the demonstration end and in general, because it was just getting silly. Scheduling also meant that many folks could only attend part of the class, which meant that there was a constant trickle of people in and out of the session. That tends to rattle me, and I feel like I didn’t do as good a job as I might have. I did have a stalwart demo bottom, and good friends in the audience, two factors that made the whole thing much easier.

There were many great people there to connect with, and despite the above mentioned shyness, I did have some wonderful conversations and saw some hot action. My own experience was mixed. I had one encounter go wrong on me and was really rattled by it. Luckily my friends were there to help me process it all.

Maybe its because I was fairly close to the operating staff, but the event seemed exceptionally well run to me; things happened when they were supposed to with a minimum of fuss. When that happens, it means that everyone can relax and enjoy what’s happening. Problems don’t become crises.

On the whole I feel like the women’s community is a lot more vibrant and diverse than the men’s. And it’s really interesting to me the way that a younger generation is upending questions about gender style and play. There’s a kind of giddiness in the exploration and reconfiguration of rules that speaks to my heart (and other parts, since I find that kind of energy very hot).

I don’t think I’ll ever find a place in “Leather Tradition”, and I’m not really interested in doing so in any event. But I am glad to have been a small part of IMsL. And very grateful to folks who brought me there.


I spent most of today at Kink For All, a kind of cross between a conference and speed dating for the alternative sexualities communities. I initially thought I wasn’t going to go at all, as I was getting things done around the house. Then I decided I would drop in for an hour. Once there, I stayed until it ended: five hours. I did a presentation, saw friends and soaked up the great good will that permeated the event.

I went in skeptical given the looseness of the organizational structure. But it all worked, in part because everyone who came committed to doing something to make the event a success. It was a low pressure volunteerism, that might not work for achieving other sorts of goals, but was perfect for something of this scope.

Presentations were twenty minutes apiece, which allowed people who didn’t have full topics to step forward and start discussions, and encouraged the more seasoned people to keep it crisp. I heard a lot of interesting discussion, and that’s what kept me around. It was exciting to learn how many people are thinking deeply about issues of gender and kink.

If New York is going to move beyond its current sexual doldrums, it will be because of many different people working on many different fronts. Today felt like a good step towards that.