The photo-based project for the Wisconsin Triennial—Shame’s Glove— stems directly from my queer feminist practice as an artist, theorist, and historian of visual culture. In this charged post-feminist moment in which gender and sexuality are still roiling sites of public conflict, this work reframes femininity or what in lesbian codes would be called “femme” as a contested site where gender and sexuality cross not as physical, psychological, or biological givens, but, rather, the high stakes matter of everyday performance in and through the potent and policed site of the not at all settled materiality of the body as produced in and through the photogenic—that is, as image and situation of crossed and contested looking for actual and implied cameras.
Shame’s Glove remobilizes “queer” to put into play those aspects of gender and sexuality that exceed the normative and resist legibility but are also contingent on the unpredictable dynamics of encounter and negotiated in a society that still operates under a regime of visibility that insists that sex, gender, sexuality, and desire can be read on the surface of the body. These are not self-portraits, but, rather, what I term “meta-photographs” that reflect on photography as image and technology.
The installation takes place between two small facing walls that create a folding field. This folding space of encounter is both experientially and conceptually central to the project's exploration of the dynamics and affective responses of spectatorship, that is, to the fold of shame and pride involved in being seen looking.
As the text in the exhibition embossed on a vintage SX-70 case elaborates the material metaphor:
“Pride and shame are different interlinings of the same glove.” Shame’s glove is the flamboyant sartorial figure of the dandies, flaneurs, and their ghost practitioners in ongoing efforts at the style-is-everything and life-is-art imperatives. Shame’s glove is the molten feel and everyday creative process of what the late queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick movingly portrayed as the fold of shame. Taking off the glove to put on the gauntlet of everyday survival acts of striptease, queer femininity and its charged exposures unfold as they implicate taking, looking, and becoming in the photograph as a charged and unpredictable place of encounter. The fold of shame is a technology of the self that makes its way through the folds of the accordion pleats of the camera body, the hinges of the chrome and leather case, the dial turns of the performing lens, and the self-developing textures of the film. The fold of shame is a tool of affective bonds touched off through the unfolds of the first folding single-lens reflex camera: the SX-70 Polaroid, that swinging camera of intimate, analogue exchange and promised immediacy—right here, right now.