Manifestos: Feminist genealogies, queer art histories
This thesis turns to manifestos produced since the late 1960s, through which important intersections between aesthetics and radical gay, lesbian and queer politics become legible. My argument foregrounds the manifesto both as a paradigm aesthetic-political form and as a category that has emerged in practice at various times in relation to broader contexts of queer struggle. The discussion is organised around three such moments, exploring the ways that manifestos proliferated in the earliest years of gay liberation, in the late 1980s during the onset of the AIDS crisis and through the work of contemporary artists associated with the rubric of queer art. Through these investments in manifestos, radical knowledges that have been produced around sexuality, art and politics at particular conjunctures become visible. More crucially, I consider how manifestos represent ephemeral materials held in the imaginary of queer art and therefore essential to the writing of histories of queer practice. With one eye turned reproachfully toward the canon, this thesis attempts to tell a story of queer art through its manifestos. Foregrounding the peculiar temporal and spatial registers that these objects perform, it argues that manifestos resist the categories and chronologies that threaten to build up around any historical study. These moments of resistance allow us to account for the ways that gay, lesbian and queer politics has coalesced with feminist, Marxist and anti-racist perspectives. In the same moment that contemporary artists are investing in the potential of queer, histories of radical struggle are threatened with nullification through institutional recognition. Writing at this seeming point of crisis, I consider what it is that we risk if we neglect the material claims of manifestos in the writing of queer art histories.