Queer(ing) Pleasure


September 7 – October 14, 2018

Curated by Andy Johnson as part of DCAC’s Curatorial Initiative
Mentor curators: Zoë Charlton & Tim Doud

Queer(ing) Pleasure illustrates the radical queer potential of pleasure, challenging the too-often limited, white, hetero-centric logic of the erotic. Ignited by Audre Lorde’s inquiry, forty years ago, into the erotic as power, the exhibition investigates the ways in which pleasure is an “unexpressed and unrecognized” feeling. Through performance, photography, embroidery, video, and sculpture, the artists trace new and existing networks between pleasure, erotics, and queerness.

Exhibiting artists: Antonius Bui, Monique Muse Dodd, Tsedaye Makonnen, John Paradiso, and Jade Yumang.

Closing Talk Opening Statement:

As many curators, artists, and creatives know, projects, such as this one, are years in the making. They begin with a thought, a question, several doubts, an observation, countless conversations, and most importantly a burning desire. The process, that ultimately culminated in this show, began when I first encountered Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic” in graduate school. It’s important to acknowledge and not obfuscate Lorde’s identity as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Reading the essay was a moment of intense clarity for me. It affirmed the things I always longed to recognize within myself as a child and now as an adult, and allowed me the space to realize what within our society abused, silenced, policed, and suppressed my desire to seek pleasure on my own terms.

Queer(ing) Pleasure is a play on words. It’s both a noun and a verb. It states that pleasure is queer and queerness is a force that actively alters pleasure. It is a framework and praxis with both unending and undefined uses. It follows in the footsteps of Lorde’s work to break free from a system that views human need in terms of profit, to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need, which in return rob the erotic and pleasure of its inherent value and power. We live in a system that creates, maintains, and feeds off of our misery; a system that prioritizes our worth depending on one’s wealth, race, gender identity, ability, nationality, and/or sexuality; a system that knows that if we were to acknowledge and accept the power that comes with embracing pleasure, desire, joy, and the erotic fully, it would crumble. Again, what’s important to note here is that Lorde’s vision was uncompromising in its demand for true equity. It called for a divestment from systems of white supremacy, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, classism, racism, homophobia, colonialism and more. Her call demanded that we put in the work, no matter the risk. My hope for this show was essentially two-fold. First I wanted to shine a light on the ways in which our access to pleasure and the erotic are met with a list of conditions. I ask who is free or deemed worthy enough to feel pleasure? When is one allowed to feel pleasure or pleased? With whom can one experience pleasure? What kind of pleasure is accessible? What limits one from accessing their full erotic and pleased potential? My second hope was to underscore the ways in which these artists are expanding our conceptualization of pleasure and the erotic in ways both known and unknown. Pleasure and the erotic have the potential to be sources of healing, acceptance, release, excitement, playfulness, wholeness, redemption, defiance, subversion, and freedom. Lorde writes that we are fearful of the yes within ourselves, that we are fearful of our deepest desires, and that such fear and self-policing keeps us docile, loyal, obedient, and defined by the forces around us, not within us.

My burning desire, and what has now manifested on the walls around us, is the question of what happens when we alter the lens through which we view the erotic and pleasure? What happens when we seek comfort in and acknowledge the value of our desires? What happens when we ignore that list of conditions? To start, we begin the process of radically undoing the hours, days, and years spent suffocating.