– Autumn/Winter 2012

Lukas Duwenhögger: [Homosexual] Signs

Roger Cook

Lukas Duwenhögger The End of the Season, 2007—08, oil on canvas, 121 x 156cm Image courtesy the artist, Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin and Cabinet, London

'The homosexual’s codes are countercodes. Like a cannibal, it might be charged, he exploits all ideas, messages and roles by orgiastically wasting their content merely for the form, the vicarious fantasy, and then wearing them like a feather, or foreskin, in his cap. — Harold Beaver, ‘Homosexual Signs (In Memory of Roland Barthes)1

Insolence is not an art without value. It is a way to be equal to oneself and superior to others in all the circumstances in which others have the advantage of you. — Maurice Blanchot, ‘On Insolence Considered As One of the Fine Arts’2

I have never met Lukas Duwenhögger, and I am not sure I would be entirely comfortable doing so if a short clip on the internet of him expostulating on the ‘ego’ is anything to go by. He purveys a savage and vituperatively ‘queer’ intelligence and a propensity for disagreement, which for Jacques Rancière is singularly important for the disruptive dissensus that lies at the heart of both aesthetics and politics.3 For Rancière, the operative word in French is mésentente, habitually translated as ‘disagreement’, but which, Mieke Bal has suggested, does not adequately convey the sense of misunderstanding and ‘not getting along’ of the original French.4 Oliver Davis has also observed that there is an ‘irritable attachment’ in and between ‘queer’ and Rancière’s notion of relationality. This attachment might be seen to reflect the ‘queer’ affects one finds in Duwenhögger’s works.5

There was once a time when the divide between image and word ruled the art world and the

  1. Harold Beaver, ‘Homosexual Signs (In Memory of Roland Barthes)’, in Fabio Cleto (ed.), Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject: A Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999, p.161. In the printed version of this Afterall article, in the text's title 'Lukas Duwenhögger: [Homosexual] Signs', the word 'homosexual' is in strikethrough. 

  2. Maurice Blanchot, Faux Pas (trans. Charlotte Mandell), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001, p.306.

  3. See Jacques Rancière, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (trans. Steven Corcoran), London and New York: Continuum, 2010. For the clip of Lukas Duwenhögger on the ‘ego’, see Cast an Eye [blog], http://castaneye.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/lukas-duwenhogger-on-ego/ (last accessed on 13 June 2012).

  4. See Mieke Bal, Of What One Cannot Speak: Doris Salcedo’s Political Art, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010, p.10.

  5. See Oliver Davis, ‘Rancière and Queer Theory: On Irritable Attachment’, Borderlands [online journal], vol.8, no.2, 2009, available at http://www.borderlands.net.au/vol8no2_2009/davis_irritable.htm href="http://www.borderlands.net.au/vol8no2_2009/davis_irritable.htm%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E"> (last accessed on 13 June 2012).

  6. J. Rancière, ‘The Distribution of the Sensible' (2000), The Politics of Aesthetics (trans. Gabriel Rockhill), London and New York: Continuum, 2006, p.20.

  7. Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983, pp.xiii—xiv.

  8. The winning submission, by Elmgreen & Dragset, attempts to represent the unrepresentable by showing films of same-sex couples kissing inside a modernist cube. See Mark Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007.

  9. Thomas A. King, The Gendering of Men, 1600—1750, Vol.2: Queer Articulations, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, p.6.

  10. See T.A. King, ‘Performing “Akimbo”: Queer Pride and Epistemological Prejudice’, in Morris Meyer (ed.), The Politics and Poetics of Camp, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, p.48.

  11. T.A. King, The Gendering of Men, op. cit., pp.41—138; see especially pp.48 and 431, fn.8.

  12. See Anne Anderson, ‘“Fearful Consequences … of Living Up to One’s Teapot”: Men, Women, and “Cultchah” in the English Aesthetic Movement c.1870—1900’, Victorian Culture, vol.37, 2009, pp.219—54.

  13. T.A. King, The Gendering of Men, op. cit., p.50.

  14. See Lee Edelman, ‘Tearooms and Sympathy: Or the Epistemology of the Water Closet’, Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory, London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Such activity can be dated back to the eighteenth century. See also Matt Houlbrook, ‘The Private World of Public Urinals: London 1918—1957’, London Journal, vol.25, no.1, 2000, pp.52—70.

  15. Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal (1949, trans. Bernard Frechtman), Paris: Olympia Press, 1954, p.48.

  16. For more information, see John F. Galliher, Wayne H. Brekhus and David P. Keys, Laud Humphreys: Prophet of Homosexuality and Sociology, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

  17. See, for example, ‘Is There a God?’ by Bertrand Russell, which was commissioned but not published by Illustrated Magazine in 1952; available at http://www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/religion/br/br_god.html (last accessed on 13 June 2012).

  18. See Leo Bersani, Homos, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

  19. J. Rancière, The Philosopher and His Poor (1983, trans. John Drury, Corinne Oster and Andrew Parker), Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004, p.xxv.

  20. See J. Rancière, ‘Ten Theses on Politics’ (1998), Theory & Event, vol.5, no.3, 2001, p.12.

  21. ‘Queer World Making: Annamarie Jagose interviews Michael Warner’, Genders [online journal], no.31, 2000, available at http://www.genders.org/g31/g31_jagose.html#n11 (last accessed on 5 May 2012).

  22. See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol.1: An Introduction, La Volont. de Savoir (1976, trans. Robert Hurley), New York: Penguin, 1990; and Jonathan Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality, New York: Dutton, 1995.

  23. J. Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents (2004, trans. S. Corcoran), Cambridge: Polity, 2009, p.11.

  24. J. Rancière, ‘Jacques Rancière: History and the Art System’ (interview with Jan Ciret), Art Press, no.258, June 2002, p.73.

  25. J. Rancière, ‘The Aesthetic Revolution and Its Outcomes’, New Left Review, no.14, March/April 2002, p.137.

  26. Sudeep Dasgupta, ‘Art Is Going Elsewhere and Politics Has to Catch It: An Interview with Jacques Rancière’, Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy, no.1, 2008, p.74, available at http://dare.uva.nl/ document/138101 (last accessed on 13 June 2012); Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, Cambridge: Polity, 1987.

  27. J. Rancière, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, op. cit., p.13.

  28. See Charles Esche, ‘Lukas Duwenhögger’, 9th International Istanbul Biennal (exh. cat.), Istanbul: International Istanbul Biennial, 2005, available at http://9b.iksv.org/english/?Page=Artists&Sub=Az&Content=Lukas_Duwenhogger (last accessed on 13 June 2012).

  29. J. Rancière, ‘The Distribution of the Sensible', op. cit., p.93.

  30. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Tendencies, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, p.8.

  31. Ibid.

  32. Todd May, The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008, p.58.

  33. See Lukas Duwenhögger, ‘A Letter from Paris’, in Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, Leontine Coelewij and Hripsim. Visser (ed.), From the Corner of the Eye (exh. cat.), Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1998, pp.85—89.

  34. J. Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics, op. cit., p.9.

  35. Alain Badiou, Polemics, London and New York: Verso, 2006, p.143.

  36. A. Badiou, ‘Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art’, The Drawing Center, New York, 4 December 2003, available at lacanian ink [online journal] http://www.lacan.com/issue22.htm (last accessed on 16 May 2012).

  37. J. Rancière, ‘Politics, Identification, and Subjectivization’, October, vol.61, Summer 1992, p.60.

  38. See Jean-Philippe Deranty, ‘Jacques Rancière’s Contribution to the Ethics of Recognition’, Political Theory, vol.31, no.1, 2003, p.146.