Performance - Design Research - (Self-) Publishing

Doing Ephemera 

Existing within the realm of How To Subvert the Straight-Line, I designed the performative design practice of Doing Ephemera: The ephemeral garment allows you to navigate the world off-the-line, to carve your own path beyond the confines of normative visibility. It invites you to embrace disorientation, to reject the straightening forces that seek to define and confine. In this state of flux, you have the power to shape your own existence, to (un)become in ways that resist the norms of the capitalist world system. But remember, it is not just the garment that (un)becomes—it is you. By revealing your body, by making it vulnerable, you expand your agency and transcend the limitations imposed upon you. Through your embodied experiences and sensory perceptions, you create meaning that defies interpretation. You become an active participant in the dissemination of knowledge and the construction of a queer future.


‘Flaming Faggotry Handkerchief,’ as included in How To Subvert the Straight-Line

To Affectively (Un)Become: Doing Ephemera

Exert from Subverting the Straight-Line: Notes on the Repression of the Queer Body in Capital and Liberating Tactics of Subversion

Designing in [...] ephemerality could create the potentiality for the queer body to affect, be affected and put forward their disorientated extension off-the-line. It could entail a method of knowledge dissemination that gets lost in the in-between; a design extension that calls upon the oblique subversion of queerness, and through which it carves out an existence in which the queer body can endure.

To activate such a design practice, I have initiated the making process of a series of performative garments, a series which I have coined Doing Ephemera, that through designed intervention of ephemeral nature seize to exist; they materially (un)become. The ephemeral garment can, and has taken, multiple shapes and iterations. T-shirts, shorts, and handkerchiefs that through interactions with water fade and melt across the body. However, their shape, or ‘how’ they (un)become, isn’t of the upmost interest, it is about the message they aim to bring onward. Therefore, on these garments I print texts descending from the no-longer-conscious past of queerness. Per example, the ephemeral handkerchief caried exerts of the pamphlet A Gay Manifesto (1970) by Carl Wittman, which is considered a foundational text of the gay liberation movement in the United States of America. The manifesto presents an argument for the radical political and cultural liberation of gay people and argues that the only path to true liberation is through radical action. Resurfacing such a text on an ephemeral garment would mean to resurface the call to action put forward by Wittman. The subversive texts, now resurfaced on the garmented body, fades into existence and leaves traces. It leaves traces of the no-longer-conscious past, traces of a potentiality that is defined as a certain mode of nonbeing that is affectively eminent, a thing that is forced forward but no longer exists in a present tense; something Muñoz would describe as a utopian feeling.  In Doing Ephemera, one can then design in such traces.

While dematerializing, the ephemeral garment, and the subversive call to action they carry, evade the grasp of the capital. As the garment’s physicality seizes to exist, the capitalist world system is unable to straighten them, unable to repeat them on-the-line. In other words, the ephemeral garment seems to unstraighten itself, as it slips through the fingers of the capitalist world system it takes ground off-the-line. However, similarly to how Muñoz argued that queer dance doesn’t dematerialize, but rematerializes, I would argue that the subversion located in ephemeral garment doesn’t dematerialize, it rematerializes and transforms. The garments physicality seizes to exist and is seemingly gone, but it lives as an ephemeral happening that we remember and embody. It persists, transformed into an ephemeral materiality, circulating within queer realms of affection. In other words, the subversive nature of the garment rematerializes and (un)becomes in the in-between.

As such we can instrumentalize ephemera to un-straighten and to queer garments, as well as dressed bodies. We can utilize its transient nature to evade processes that aim to commodify on our representations, and we can employ its queering force to (un)become and extent our bodies onto, besides and off the straight line. While our dressed bodies become undressed, we unstraighten the normalizing force that aims to straighten the way all bodies ought to present themselves. Instrumentalizing our queering bodies in this sense is crucial, as we can put their oblique nature to use and call out the ways in the normalizing forces of the capitalist world system have put a stop to our disorientating way of dress. We disorientate into space from our queer bodies and it is from this disorientating affect that we utter a knowledge that is embodied, visceral, material and inherently carnal. Central throughout such an ephemeral tactic then are the senses of our carnal knowledge. A knowledge that “that eschews transcendence entirely and is only possible within the material world, within the specificity of embodied existence, and within that which can be openly perceived and experienced by the body"  (Barret & Bolt, 2013, p. 2). Carnal knowledge as a form of knowledge that stems from the body and is directed towards the body, a knowledge that develops a deeper understanding of the world and our place within it. Such carnality is not new to queerness, rather I’d argue that forms of bodily affect are central to the origins of queer subversion. Central to the employment of subversion by queer forebears in creating worlds within the world, where the queer body could endure despite the power that patriarchal institutes hold over them. And therefore, central to methods employed, when once again aiming to create a sense of place and time where queer’s futurity can endure; a world of affective and material encounters, not framed by the capitalist world system.  A bodily performance of the ephemeral garment then is as much an important activation of getting lost as is the transient nature of the garment itself. Through wearing the ephemeral garment, we put forward our affective force to get lost and we (re)shape our existence off-the-line.  While our disorientating garments evade capitalists’ grasps, our bodies may be rendered visible, exposed, and susceptible to becoming entangled in the mechanisms of the capitalist fashion industry. However, I would argue that our bodies, similar as our garments, (un)become. By engaging in transient processes that reveal our bodies and make them vulnerable, we expand our human agency by extending our bodies' ability to ‘enframe’ themselves – we performatively shape the image we present by incorporating our subjectivity, carnality, and sensory experiences into its visual meaning. We become able to not only put forward our own affective force to (un)become, we also “affect the viewer in ways that resist interpretation” (Shinkle, 2012). Thus, while ‘doing ephemera’ we perform instances of disturbance in meaning, uncertainty, and ineffable sensations within representation that indicate the existence of the deliberate and purposeful body. The ephemeral is then not only a trace, but far more a visceral compass through which the queer body disseminates its production of knowledge and its onward thinking while safeguarding its affective force.

Seven day performative experiment wearing an ephemeral handkerchief. 

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