University at Buffalo
Department of

Art

Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

Professor Benjamin Kahan to Give Two Lectures Today in Clemens Hall

November 23, 2015  by: Natalie Fleming

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Today, November 23rd at 2:30pm
606 Clemens (UB North Campus)

The Department of Art, the Queer Studies Research Workshop, the Modernisms Workshop, and the Leslie Lohman Queer Art Lecture Series invited lecturer Benjamin Kahan will give a talk entitled  “Ray Johnson’s Anti-Archive: Blackface, Sadomasochism, and the Racial and Sexual Imagination of Pop Art.”

His essay reconsiders the racial and sexual politics of Pop Art through the work of Ray Johnson. The first part of this essay revisits José Esteban Muñoz claim that “next to no people of color populate the world of Pop Art, as either producers or subjects. Representations of people of color are scarce and, more often than not, worn-out stereotypes.” Instead, he argues that “New York’s most famous unknown artist” Ray Johnson imagines Pop as an almost exclusively black art, one whose producers and subjects populate the world of Pop Art as a majority and utopically strive to eliminate the forces of racism. In particular, he attends to Johnson’s claim that his “rabbits and portraits” are in “blackface.” The second part argues that sadomasochism is a particularly important kind of blackface for Johnson (one enacted in the wearing of skin-like black leather). Following Elizabeth Freeman who argues that sadomasochism’s historical consciousness opens a space for reworking historical trauma, he argues that the explicitly sadomasochistic themes of Johnson’s work imagine a rebuttal to and reconfiguration of the racist exclusionary forces of the art world.

Followed by:
November 23rd at 4:30pm
306 Clemens (UB North Campus)

Benjamin Kahan will give a talk entitled “Toward an Etiological History of Modernist Sexuality,” This presentation theorizes an etiological rather than an epistemological approach to the history of sexuality. In doing so, Kahan revisits two of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s axioms in /Epistemology of the Closet/: 1. her eschewal of etiological approaches to the history of sexuality and 2. her avoidance of the dating of the invention of homosexuality. Thinking through the problem space of these axioms, charting Sedgwick’s concerns and the potentialities of these terrains of inquiry, he contends that his historical etiological method enables us to approach the historiographical questions and impasses of the periodization of sexuality in new ways.

Benjamin Kahan is an Assistant Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Louisiana State University. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Sydney. His book Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life was published by Duke University Press in 2013.