It was hard not to be inspired, moved, and thrilled by Douglas Crimp’s remarkable Kessler Lecture on November 2nd. Combining personal history, art criticism, political analysis, and trenchant commentary on the intersections between them, Douglas gave us a guided tour of the long-abandoned, much-used piers of lower Manhattan. He moved effortlessly between analysis of the site-specific art that suited the epic deterioration of the piers in the mid-1970s and chronicling the now-mythic sexual scene that gay men cultivated at the same moment in the same space.
Douglas’s talk was, for me, an ideal of what Queer Studies can and should do. It pulled together seemingly disparate elements of a given historical moment and queered them, reoriented the avant-garde towards the sexual revolution, and rethought sexual adventuring as itself a kind of site-specific performance. The lecture itself was light as air and substantial and nourishing as a terrific meal; like Queer Studies itself, it was spoken in part in the language of academia and at the same time reached into innumerable other spaces. Like other Kessler lectures before it, “Action Around the Edges” acknowledged its connections to the academic world while embracing activism, art, sex, life. It’s my hope that CLAGS can fulfill the kind of challenge that Douglas Crimp and his equally distinguished predecessors in the Kessler lecture present us with. One project we’re focused on, reviving connections between CLAGS and the CUNY Queer Studies community, may seem prosaic, but it offers the same kind of potential. For over a decade and a half, CLAGS has been an exemplar nationally and internationally for nurturing cutting-edge LGBT scholarship. At the same time, we have not cultivated the same kind of intellectual community here at CUNY, the nation’s largest and most diverse urban university. Over the next year, CLAGS will be sponsoring roundtables, symposia, and other opportunities for CUNY students and faculty to share resources and research, to build a truly vibrant Queer Studies community throughout the University.
Our attention will not only be local, of course. Our International Resource Network website is poised to go live, with a transnational launch. OutHistory.org, our innovative LGBT history website is gathering exciting archival materials to be collated into “exhibits.” Taking up our theme for 2008, Queer Arts, our events for the Spring range from a presentation/performance on contemporary avant-garde burlesque to an exciting Seminars in the City series on opera to an exploration of queer black theatre, provocatively entitled “Who Needs a Queer Black Hero?” Our Queer Arts semester will culminate in groundbreaking one day conference co-sponsored with Visual AIDS on AIDS, art, and activism. As always, your generous donations help support the work we do on every level.
Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you at our many events.