possible selves: queer foto vernaculars

possible selves: queer foto vernaculars

Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)

Elizabeth Wirija, A Prose by Nature, 2018. Instagram post, March 26, 2018. Art direction + floral design: Jamie Shin. Makeup: Kara Yancey. Modeled by Aliyah Monet.

December 14, 2018
possible selves: queer foto vernaculars
December 14, 2018–April 14, 2019
Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)
15 Lawrence Hall Dr.
Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267

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Rarely does an exhibition find itself in the position of defining the visual terms of a global conversation. The artists and works featured in the Williams College Museum of Art’s (WCMA) new exhibition possible selves: queer foto vernaculars play a pivotal role in discourse worldwide about the impact of queer experience on the evolution of portrait photography. At once truthful and deeply personal, the exhibition, on view from December 14, 2018 to April 14, 2019, explores the realities of expressed personhood, the contingency of human affect, the natural fluidity of human desire, and human sexuality in ways that impact us all.

Spanning 60 years of photography—from a 1953 candid photo of Jack Kerouac taken by Allen Ginsberg to recent selfies on Instagram—possible selves: queer foto vernaculars draws on the critical writings of academic and philosopher Esteban Muñoz (1967–2013) and the poems of Emily Dickinson to define queer self-identification as an aesthetic and political act.

A trajectory of queer aesthetics
A selection of works from WCMA’s collection, including photographs by Nan Goldin, Andy Warhol, Lorna Simpson, and Joel-Peter Witkin, among others contextualize recent works made for social media platforms within a longer trajectory of queer aesthetics. These images, all made in the 20th century, find commonality in their dismantling of the myth of a gender binary and disavowals of what is considered “normal” or “normative.”

Over two-hundred photographs culled from social media over the past year are included in the exhibition with the consent of Instagrammers from 22 countries. The images, displayed in broken grids, remix and reframe queer portraiture conventions from the 20th century with their use of body fragmentation, compositional density, juxtaposition, and cultural citation.

All of these images are on loan from the makers, who provided a digital file of the image for display. Amid discussions and debates about the rights of social media images, the museum joins others around the world in thinking about the ethics of display, including the ways such images are attributed and circulated while on view at WCMA.

Ambitious in scale and rigorous in its attention to the ways queer digital portraiture circulates and accrues influence, the exhibition frames individual experiences of transition, translation, transgression, and examines a visual culture of dissent. Illicit, humorous, tender, confessional, violent, and irreverent, the photographs on view in possible selves remix and re-frame the limits between public and private, intimacy and formality, truth and the performance of self-fashioning.

possible selves: queer foto vernaculars is organized by Assistant Curator Horace D. Ballard.

For the full press release and information on related performances and programs visit: wcma.williams.edu

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Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)
December 14, 2018

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