Queer Reproduction: Horror, Landscape and Myth
James Chantry
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Research Questions

1) To what extent do queer supernatural themes in literature and media suggest alternative

forms of reproduction and community?

I will explore and propose a timeline of literature, film, television and art that portrays elements that

are arguably related to queer reproduction and community. Specific stories will be harvested,

particularly those of less established modern modes of sharing, such as folklore. I will propose

new links that compare queer people in alternative communities to that of the creatures in folklore.

2) What are the political implications of queer futurity and alternative societies?

I will challenge political and cultural hegemony and heteronormativity. I will identify capitalist

modes of living, working, societal expectations and reproduction, in contrast to their queer

counterparts. I will explore the use of the distasteful and monstrous, as allegories used to caution

those that deviate from capitalist norms. In turn I will reveal and propose queer alignment to the

distasteful and monstrous in establishing alternative identities and societies. An exploration of

feminist Marxist literature and theories will form the basis of this part of the study.

3) Can art, and particular use of media, be a speculative mode of engaging with utopian

models of queer reproduction and community?

I will explore art making as a form of reproduction. Particular media, such as drawing, sculpture and

animation will expound this, as will the act of building a piece through video editing and digital

montage/collage. I will make connections with ephemera such as folklore, heritage and found

material, in order to propose theories of queer reproductive and societal futurity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review

Since October 2020, I have continued to read and engage critically with scholarly texts, literature and media.  During the period between October 2020 and February 2021 this was done in tandem with making work and proved to be an essential element of the art making process.  Theory, literature and images informed elements of the video work that I was producing.  For example, Legends of the Lincolnshire Cars, a book which contains transcripts of folklore stories told by locals in the 19th century,  was adapted in order to provide stimulus for performers, as were the paintings in Harold Sharp’s Auragraphs.  This was for video produced for Darklins (2021)

 

Due to further lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, I had to adapt my practice in order to be able to work with live performers as had been planned for my piece film and mixed media piece ‘Darklins’.  The proposed installation would explore the connection between body and place, in particular, the liminal lands of the Lincolnshire Fens.  I would be queering the landscape and revealing how folklore and magic from these places relate to queer identity.  Queering would happen through performance in the land and treatment of the video through montage techniques in editing.  I would convey how political motivations around land ownership have parallels with marginalised populations and queer people.  In the visual elements of the work I would suggest the notion of queer and supernatural birth.  This would happen through sequences in the video in which performers, drawing and sculpture would transmute and transgress through me, the artist.  I had proposed that I would work with performers on location in the fen and coast in Lincolnshire, at Frieston Shore near Boston.  There would be sequences of movement within the fens and I would produce automatic drawings and sculptures whilst the filming was happening.  However this was not possible because of a third lockdown in January 2021.  Instead I produced packs for the performers and live online sessions in which we worked together.  The performers were recruited through advertisement from DMU performance degree courses.  The students had been in isolation for long periods of time and it was my intention to form a small community of performers within the project.  They were also connected in some way to queerness and/or feminism.  Two performers were from other countries and expressed an interest in folklore of their home country and how it related to Lincolnshire folklore.  The pack contained stimulus images, text from stories and sentences from theorists, including Julia Kristeva and Jose Esteban Munoz.  This was for the performers to respond to in their own way and record their work. The performers then made their pieces in domestic and outdoor settings and sent it to me.  In response to these works, I then created video, drawings and sculptures.  It was a symbiotic manner of working and provided interesting propositions for making, in regard to birthing and synthesis.  The method of producing physical artwork was also inextricably linked to theory.  For example, creating and birthing the dough sculptures, in my own performance was in response to Kristeva’s writings in Powers of Horror (1980). The sculptures were made using flour from the Lincolnshire fens, on location.  The sculptures, like the manifestations in M. R James’s and E.F Benson’s ghost stories, explored in research last year, resemble offspring and the phallic.  I explored all of the proposed themes for making this work, including: land, body, queerness and identity, the abject, challenging gender expectations, inner colonialism and exploring supernatural tropes.  

 

In February 2021 I presented a paper titled: Queer Creatures: Reproduction and Community,  and artwork at an international conference.  This was Progressive Connections - The Supernatural, in Lisbon, Portugal. It was however moved online due to Covid-19.  It was a highly valuable experience in which to connect with academics and artists across the world.  I received interesting and useful feedback, in regard to my work and research.  People were particularly affected by the connections between the connections between folklore of the land and queerness as this is a particularly unique and unexplored area of research.  There was also much discussion about my trans-disciplinary practice and use of media to produce artwork.  I made good connections with various academics and researchers at the conference, including Professor Blynne Olivieri, she maintains a supernatural archive at The University of West Georgia (USA).  I will organise accessing this archive in the future.

 

In July 2021 I coordinated and managed an exhibition that featured my work and two other queer artists.  Titled ‘Breeding Grounds’ it took place at Two Queens in Leicester.  Two Queens is a nationally and internationally recognised contemporary gallery and studio complex in Leicester’s cultural quarter.  I showed my installation Darklins,  as discussed earlier in this report, alongside work from Dr Daniel Fountain an artist and academic from Loughborough University and Joy Kincaid an artist and performer from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.  Fountain’s work explored camp and uncanny aesthetics through art making from discarded materials.  Kincaid’s live performances challenged the audience as she questioned her place as a black queer woman, being viewed as a spectacle.  She emerged into the space as if being birthed and interacted with the other artwork.  The exhibition was well attended, although strictly following Covid-19 guidelines of the time, it attracted over 120 visitors over 3 days.  It has provided a format for a second installation, planned for next year and how to coordinate a project like this.  Working with other artists in related fields has been enriching and has created a community of queer arts in Leicestershire, I plan to continue this throughout the PhD and beyond.  There have been some proposed opportunities, such as exhibiting in Taiwan for Next Art Tainan, that could not happen due to the pandemic but will be renegotiated hopefully.

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Darklins Breeding Grounds gallery view
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Darklins Breeding Grounds gallery view
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Darklins Breeding Grounds gallery view
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Darklins Breeding Grounds gallery view
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See Me With Them Hands (Daniel Fountain) Breeding Grounds gallery view
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Big Girls Blouse (Daniel Fountain) Breeding Grounds gallery view
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Untitled Performance (Joy Kincaid)  Breeding Grounds gallery view

Darklins

Darklins Breeding Grounds gallery view - video tour
Darklins video
James Chantry 2021