The Queer Art of Failure

HON 398 – Professor Greyson Hong

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis

Course Description:

“Under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world. Failing is something queers do and have always done exceptionally well...” -J. Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure. In a culture obsessed with success, failure has a bad rap. We pay lip service to the importance of failure, but it has no place in our lives beyond our private shame. Yet, failure has been a recurring theme in art for centuries, whether it emerges as a failure of craft or ideology. One could argue that every shift in artistic style and expression has been a kind of failure to adhere to the previous era’s dominant artforms. We will look at failure from the perspective of queer theory, which examines the way that power legitimizes and enforces the repression and control of gender and sexuality. We will use a queer perspective on failure as an artistic methodology to counter, resist, and dismantle everyday hegemonies. We will ask: How can failure be generative of new outcomes, new ways of thinking, and new ways of living? How can we fail more, and fail better? This is a studio class, but no art experience is necessary. In fact, less experience could be beneficial! The course content will be introduced through short readings and discussed as a group with the goal of making art in response to the themes raised in class. We will experiment together with 2D, 3D, and time-based materials working towards an independent final project.