Director’s Letter

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., 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.