Text - Design Research - (Self-) Publishing

how to subvert the straight-line

How To Subvert the Straight Line encompasses both textual and performative forms of dissemination, showcasing Tjerre Lucas Bijker's research on the commodification of subversive and queer identities in fashion. At the core of this publication lies the essay titled ‘Subverting the Straight-Line: Notes on the Repression of the Queer Body in Capital and Liberating Tactics of Subversion,’ while interwoven within its narrative are three additional publications that serve to activate, react, and embody its proposed methods.

Graphic Design: Julia Berg 

To Manifest:
A Body of Knowledge that Radiates Resistance

In a society that asks, at times forcibly and at other times with a simple gentle push, all to conform to singular ideal of what it means to be human, few things are as alarming as the ones that, at times forcibly and at other times gently, opt to push back. The thought of such deviance is captivating though, magnetic even, perhaps both because it offers us a change to understand the narrow straight-line we are forced to walk on, but also because it offers us a change to exist far beyond its confines. The line scares us. The line re-orientates us. The line reduces us. The line flattens us. In a situation that seems so dire. So, bleak. And so, dark. One can indeed ask themselves, ‘How To Subvert the Straight-line?’

To give answer to such a question, requires delving into the complexities of the line and the complexities of the ones that aim to defy it. It requires exploring, challenging, and expanding our understanding of queerness on- and off-the-line, as well as understanding how processes of commodification throughout the capitalist world system seem to have depoliticized the oblique and disorientating nature of queerness. Finally, it would require the design and dissemination of a set of liberating tactics that are able to un-straighten and queer the straight line.

How To Subvert the Straight Line encompasses all three of these dimensions. At its core lies the essay ‘Subverting the Straight-Line: Notes on the Repression of the Queer Body in Capital and Liberating Tactics of Subversion,’ while interwoven within its narrative are three additional publications that serve to activate, react, and perform its proposed methods. The comprehensive presentation of these materials offers a multidimensional exploration of the subject matter, inviting readers to engage with both theoretical analysis and practical manifestations through which they may find themselves beyond the confines of the line.

Once we find ourselves off-the-line, our intensities, passions, and knowledges flow body to body, creating resonances so thick that they transit in-between and at times embrace bodies and worlds. Resonances so thick, they create new disorientating lines where bodies of knowledge will radiate resistance.

‘How to practice a Camp Reading Practice’ poster, ‘Camp Reader’ booklet,  and the ephemeral ‘Flaming Faggotry Handkerchief’ as included in How To Subvert the Straight-Line

Subverting the

Notes on the Repression of the Queer Body in Capital and Liberating Tactics of Subversion
Essay - MA Thesis 

Abstract: In Subverting the Straight-Line: Notes on the Repression of the Queer Body in Capital and Liberating Tactics of subversion, Tjerre Lucas Bijker delves into the complexities of queerness and challenges and expands our understanding of queerness within the capitalist world system. The essay explores the meaning and potential of queerness beyond non-normative sexualities and gender identities. Additionally, the essay highlights the commodification and regulation of queerness by late-stage capitalism. Finally, the author proposes liberating tactics employing subversion such as camp reading practices and queering ephemerality to un-straighten and queer the straight line.

Within the introduction, “Queering the Definition of Queer,” the essay explores the meaning of the term ‘queer’, which traditionally refers to those who practice and participate in non-normative sexualities and gender identities. However, by drawing upon the work of Sara Ahmed, the essay argues that queer is more than just sex and gender; it also represents a social disorientation of being in a dominantly heterosexual and patriarchal world. As such, queerness sees and imagines potentiality of life beyond the norm, beyond the heterosexual, phallocratic, and oppressive system based around capital, but is not yet here. It lingers as an invocation of such futurity, putting forward the illumination of a horizon of existences.

The first chapter, “The Capitalist World System, Straightening Devices and Commodification,” however, highlights that capitalism has limited the potential of queer thinking by commodifying it and confining it to structures it is trying to resist. Heterosexuality operates as a form of power and privilege, reinforcing dominant social hierarchies and marginalizing those who do not conform to normative gender and sexual expectations. Many contemporary forms of queerness are the result of the regulation of non-conforming sexualities and gender identities, as well as the commodification of queerness. Many contemporary representations of queerness in fashion showcase the commodification and normalization of queerness. Queer language, imagery, and symbolism have been co-opted within mainstream fashion media, fashionable styles, and popular cultures, resulting in simplified and sanitized versions that are greatly distanced from the original meaning and intention. As such, this has only led to further monitoring and regulation of queer bodies and identities, forcing them to conform to the straight-line. In having sketched the context of the queer body within capital, I will position the capitalist world system and the dominant fashion system as straightening devices that regulate and correct the queer body for being off the line and putting it back on the straight line.

As ways of counteracting the forces of capitalism, the second chapter, “Liberating Tactics Employing Subversion, proposes, a set of tactics that aim to un-straighten and queer the straight-line. The proposed tactics, developed within my artistic research practice, aim to create awareness about the commodification of queer identities and suggest ways of working, making, and being on diagonal axes.

The first method, a Camp Reading Practice, involves recognizing the ways in which capitalist forces seek to commodify and neutralize subversive queer identities. By examining commodified queer subversion through a lens of camp, readers can uncover the tactics employed by capitalist forces to profit from queerness. This approach invites readers to examine the intricate connections between capitalism, labor, and queerness and to shift their focus from passive consumption of "queer" goods to active production of queering thought, affect, and knowledge.

The second method proposes utilizing the queering nature of ephemerality (Muñoz), intentionally designed to be lost but retaining a queer trace that lingers. This method rejects the ways in which the straight line dictates one's life and chooses a different path. The essay connects such a sense of ephemerality to affect theory (Gregory J. Seigworth and Melissa Gregg), which finds potential for a queer method, a queer way of working, and a queer fashion design strategy that is always in transient, always in-between, and always disorienting. To bring the message of the no-longer-conscious past of queerness onward, a series of performative garments called Doing Ephemera has been initiated. By wearing these garments, individuals put forward their affective force to (un)become and shape their existence off-the-line. The ephemeral garment becomes a visceral compass through which the queer body disseminates its production of knowledge and onward thinking while safeguarding its affective force. By engaging in transient processes that reveal them, individuals extend their human agency by incorporating their subjectivity, carnality, and sensory experiences into the meaning they present.

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