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Lecture | Leiden Queer History Network

Trans-Inter-Queer: On Three Eras of the Seeable and Sayable in Visual Cultures

Thursday 12 December 2019
Free entry, no registration required. The talk is followed by a reception.
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference Room (2.60)

Please join us on December 12 for a presentation by Eliza Steinbock (Leiden University), who will speak on their recent book, Shimmering Images: Trans Cinema, Embodiment, and the Aesthetics of Change (2019). Responding to Steinbock will be Lieke Hettinga (Central European University, Utrecht University) and Stephanie Noach (Leiden University). Read on for more details about this “author meets critics” event.

Shimmering Images

In Shimmering Images, Eliza Steinbock traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change. Drawing on Barthes's idea of the “shimmer” and Foucault's notion of sex as a mirage, the author shows how sex and gender can appear mirage-like on film, an effect they label shimmering. Steinbock applies the concept of shimmering -- which delineates change in its emergent form as well as the qualities of transforming bodies, images, and affects -- to analyses of films that span time and genre. These include examinations of the fantastic and phantasmagorical shimmerings of sex change in Georges Méliès's nineteenth-century trick films and Lili Elbe's 1931 autobiographical writings and photomontage in Man into Woman. Steinbock also explores more recent documentaries, science fiction, and pornographic and experimental films.

For this talk, Steinbock will discuss how across three different eras for the seeable and sayable (the legible visuality and intelligible discourses), the interlocking relationships of trans-inter-queer mutate. Tracking these kaleidoscopic shifts illuminates the limit cases for trans arrival vis-à-vis intersex morphology and queer sexuality and therefore also the pressure points for elaborating a trans politic within visual cultures.

In their response, Lieke Hettinga will connect Steinbock's work on “shimmering" and the aesthetics of change to their own work on trans and disability aesthetics in Euro-American contexts. Lieke’s talk will explore how, for artists and activists working in frameworks of trans and disability politics, the realm of visuality is a complicated site through which to advance an aesthetics of change due to persistent optical epistemologies of what ‘trans’ and ‘disability’ is, and an intense demand for cultural intelligibility. One way to navigate this tension, or rather to refuse it, is through visual forms that enforce a re-articulation of the visual grammars of the body.

Stephanie Noach will then explore where Steinbock’s examinations of the shimmer meet with her analysis of darkness. Juxtaposing some shimmering images with installations in the dark, she will explore how both the shimmer and darkness can provoke, or be in themselves, disruption, and likewise break with binary and dialectical thinking.

Eliza Steinbock

Eliza Steinbock is Assistant Professor in Cultural Analysis at Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. They were awarded degrees in Cultural Studies (MA with distinction from Leeds University, 2004) and in Cultural Analysis (funded PhD from the University of Amsterdam, 2011). Eliza takes an interdisciplinary perspective towards the following socially relevant challenges: the aesthetics of bodily difference, the politics of visual culture, the practice of inclusivity and cultural participation. This research brings them to a wide range of visual culture mediums like film, digital media, photography, painting, and museum display, with a special focus on analyzing the intersecting dimensions of gender, sexuality, race, and ability.

Lieke Hettinga

Lieke Hettinga is a double-degree PhD candidate at the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University and at the Graduate Gender Program of Utrecht University. Their research examines ways in which artists and activists visualize, represent and/or enact non-normative embodiments, more specifically looking at the intersection of trans and disability visual politics and poetics of the body. By exploring how the visual rhetoric of trans and disability art and activism is complexly entangled with questions pertaining to rights, recognition and appearance, it investigates practices that allow for a reconsideration of the possible connections, affinities, and dissonances between transgender and disability politics.

Stephanie Noach

Stephanie Noach curates, teaches and writes. Her exhibitions have been presented at venues such as the Contemporary Art University Museum (MUAC) in Mexico, Havana Biennial, Museo de Antioquia in Medellin, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana and the Stedelijk Museum and Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. She taught and lectured at multiple institutions in Europe and the Americas, amongst them Casa Tres Patios (Medellin), Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales (La Habana), Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers (Paris), Lugar a Dudas(Cali), New York University, Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam), Universidade de Lisboa, Universidad Nacional (Medellin) and the University of Arts of Cuba (Havana). Noach holds a Master in Art History from the University of Amsterdam and a Master in Latin American and Caribbean studies with a Concentration in Museum Studies from New York University. She is currently exploring the potentialities of darkness as a PhD student in Art History and Latin American Studies at Leiden University, where she is also a lecturer on art and theory.

Leiden Queer History Network

This event is part of series of talks hosted by the Leiden Queer History Network, a new initiative co-convened by Dr. Andrew Shield (History) and Dr. Ann Marie Wilson (Leiden University College).

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