60+: Queer, Old Joburg – Peer Reviews

Review One (anonymous)

My initial experience of the 60+: Queer, Old Joburg interview profiled in Elipsis [..] was one of haltering negotiation, frustration even: how do I silence this disco clip, move this flashing banner, obstructing image, access the material? But of course, this is the material – this is memory work layered and imbricated within a criminalized, ‘peripheral’ history of queer experience, affirmation and self-expression. Navigating the interview becomes as much a work of reading as of looking and listening - of imaginatively reconstituting spaces and human encounters from fragmentary sketches and archival traces. And, as derived from individual oral accounts of historically marginalised and largely unscripted narratives, it is intimate relational work – recalling the kind of periphery-to-periphery movement associated with Edouard Glissant’s poetics of relation.­ In this sense, I find the intimately obstructive and experiential interface of the platform productive on a number of levels, as the erotics of affect, memory and imagination are drawn into an academic archival research project.

Problematic for me is that this first interview in a proposed series is presented in isolation rather than in relation to alternative even conflicting experiences, accounts and histories. As the introductory text admits, this is an account of privilege – assumedly white male privilege – in which the mobility and access of this particular narration of cruising would not necessarily have applied across lines of race, class and gender. Rather than initiating the project from this (to some extent discrediting) position, a more plural approach may have been more productive, in revealing the overlaps and contradictions of intersecting queer experiences in the context of apartheid. As the text explains: “Cruising has never been an equal mode of manoeuvre in the city or online”. In this vein, whilst anonymity can work productively (in resisting a sometimes problematic insistence on disclosure), in this case I would think that a reference to the narrator’s subject position and chosen identity would be helpful in situating these accounts within a complex political history of intersecting difference.

Attending to such concerns would, I feel, assist the producers of 60+: Queer, Old Joburg in their formulating of a reflective and suitably layered queer digital archive, and one in which ‘cruising’ is deployed as a poetic archival approach – open to the kind of relationality that, as Glissant puts it, “makes every periphery into a centre”.

Reference:

Glissant, E. 2010. Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p29

Review Two (anonymous)

Project and Digital interface:
An extremely important work but it is not yielding its appropriateness, feels incomplete and in a draft form, perhaps. I don’t like the cock in the pants in the corner, it feels offensive and I don’t like how there is no key to the index and forms that might present themselves first as images, the front page of images and location and dates et al in the one document is not intersectional.

Some of the locations do not feel complete, eg: 'Near the drill hall?' as a marker is not good enough it for what felt demanded by the subject.

What are we looking at?
So I am aware that what we are looking is queer history, quite aware, but the political presentation of point of the queerness is not clear, is it to sanction a particular nostalgia?

Usability of the interface and the user's experience of the project:
This holds enormous potential and challenges heritage and culture and archive sensibilities. The queer archive as a south African (spelling intentional) legacy seems to be currently at a point of fracture because there is no clear consensus on whiteness, and therefore of course on race, if these two points as particular and political are made as brave exchanges, a demographic perhaps something that links the fractures.

Summary:
The potential interface suggests interlinks and the like but this is not apparent enough.
The work is however, conceptually strong and very interesting. There is undoubtedly value academically to the emerging and exploratory field of creative research and this project has an excellent interdisciplinary approach and needs to be up front about its frame. I feel rearing back to its critical failings could also be reflexive, cartographic, and it definitely has strong links to the queering and gendering of the interdisciplinary intersections of: urban-history-performance-archive. It is an excellent project that just needs a stronger profile and self critical framing, be brave.