July 18, 2019
... Dodie Bellamy is on our mind: Jack Halberstam on "Nothing"
In his brilliant, humorous, and whimsical parody of a Smithsonian book titled American History in 101 Objects, artist Chris E. Vargas, in 2015, invited visitors into his imaginary Museum of Transgender Hirstory to see a show titled Transgender Hirstory in 99 Objects. Riffing on the self-importance of the Smithsonian title, the precision of its 101 objects and its investment in the notion of authentic history in the first place, Vargas called attention to the way that a history of gender variance will necessarily fall by the wayside in any canonical account of American history and will require its own object lessons. The objects that collectively tell the story of gender variance are counter-intuitive and suggestive, risqué and emblematic. For Vargas’s show, the objects ranged from queer banners by Tuesday Smillie to sculptures of hybrid creatures and photographic records of transgender lives gone by. What Transgender Hirstory in 99 Objects made clear, however, was that a trans* history is all at once a mobile set of materials and an archive of mobility.

Initially, Jack Halberstam planned to discuss another history of trans* bodies, one that can be traced through decades of art work and that offers a visual survey of the instability and illegibility that many trans* bodies represent and to which they deliberately cleave. At the last moment, after have re-read Dodie Bellamy's Barf Manifesto (2008), he changed course and presents a manifesto on "nothing."

Jack Halberstam is a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of five books including: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012), and Trans* (UC Press, 2018).

This is the eleventh event in our year-long season dedicated to themes and questions posed by the work of Dodie Bellamy.

Lecture on Nothing by Jack Halberstam

6:30 pm