Viral Axes, Virtual Praxes: Towards an Object-Oriented Queer Politics of Resistance in Contemporary Art (1991-2012)

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Carlos Kong, Cornell University, USA


    This paper, written under Professor Jasbir Puar’s fellowship in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, aims to investigate the deployment of viral tactics in the art practices of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Zach Blas. By eliding the virus itself with postmodern conditions of virality, both openly gay artists rhetoricize viral strategy through interactive art objects to simulate and perform embodied undoings of the historically incited alignment of homosexuality with pathology that emerged in the biopolitical discourses of the AIDS outbreak. Focusing specifically on Gonzalez-Torres’s edible installation “Untitled (Loverboys)” (1991) and Blas?s ?Queer Technologies’ product (2007-2012) and new media disturbance “EngenderingGenderChangers,” I aim to elucidate both artists’ performative utilization of decontextualized and recoded commodity simulacra as their chosen media, rearticulating Marxian legacies of agential commodities to construct subversive aesthetics that confront and critique the entanglement of late capitalist ideologies with hegemonic sexual politics. Through virtualizing virality in productively unknowable trajectories that reify in embodied challenges to the representational subjection of queer identity politics in the milieu of the AIDS epidemic and its potent contemporary legacy, both artists de-visualize and reorient perception as an affectively haptic interaction to posit virality as the ontological relation of the replicated, queer object. Thus, drawing on historical materialism, feminist and queer theory, object-oriented ontology, and affect studies, I aim to explicate the multivalent axes of virality in the art practices of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Zach Blas that articulate an object-oriented queer politics of resistance in their works’ interactive receptions.