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Hein and Edelman

Hein and Edelman

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Published by Anna Ghublikian

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Published by: Anna Ghublikian on Oct 25, 2011
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04/29/2012

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1Anna GhublikianOctober 24, 2011Hein ResponseIn Public Art: Thinking Museums Differently, author Hilde Hein makes poignantobservations about the current conceptions and embodiments of publics and publicspaces. Out of these observations grow some very thought provoking ideas, such as hersomewhat radical rethinking of museum as public art. This suggestion calls for a motion,on the part of museums, to incorporate the paradigm of public art into their overall aimsand executions. While she is right to assign this task to the museums, this motion couldalso change the nature and perception of public art in unintentional yet insidious ways.If we were to model experiential museums after public art (how this would
manifest, I’m no
t entirely sure, given that a model for public art is so elusive, maybe evennonexistent, to begin with), we may inadvertently neutralize the volatile aspects of publicart that Hein finds appealing and useful.
1
Going a step further, I would even say that aside
from its neutralizing and potentially normalizing effects, Hein’s proposition
may evendivest some forms of public art of its power to disrupt and fracture. It is these powers of public art that I am most intrigued by, and which I believe need to be preserved.As I was reading Hein I was reminded of a particular notion of queer oppositionalpolitics that takes as its vocation the responsibility of rupturing and fracturing traditional,normal, dominant culture. At the risk of straying as far as seemingly possible away from
this week’s topic, I would
like to attempt to trace some kind of thread
 between Hein’s book and the other reading I’ve been doing lately.To do this, I’ll
extract one idea from the esteemed but occasionally challenging
theorist Lee Edelman from his 1998 essay: “The Future is Kid Stuff: Queer Theory,
Disidentificati
on, and the Death Drive.” While the overall aim of this work is quiteunrelated to public art, it is, in many ways, related to Hein’s idea that public art
may be,at times, jarring, oppositional and perhaps even offensive. I have admittedly provided alarger citation than is necessary, but the textual background may prove helpful. Edelmanwrites:
1
 
Hein, xxiii.
 
 
 
2
The right once again knows the answer, knows that the true oppositional politics implicitin the practice of queer sexualities lies not in the liberal discourse, the patent negotiation,of tolerances and rights, important as these undoubtedly are to all of us still denied them,but rather in the capacity of queer sexualities to figure the radical dissolution of thecontract, I every sense social and symbolic, on which the future as guarantee against thereturn of the real, and so against the insistence of the death drive, depends.
2
 
Death drive aside, it is the particular relationship between queer sexualities andthe contract, the particular extract,
“the true oppositional politics in the practice of queer sexualities lies…in the capacity of queer sexualities to figure the radical dissolution of the contract,” that interests me. This named “contract” stands for that which is acceptable,
allowed, normal by social and juridical standards, and
 — 
perhaps most of all
 — 
expected.The dissolution of the contract is the breach of the expected.Instead of attempting to normalize queer perspectives through actions such asembracing more acceptable sexual behaviors and living situations, for example, queeroppositional politics should occupy this position of deviance and immorality precisely
 because the “dissolution of the contract” is so important.
Its importance is in its ability toact as a catalyst for change, discussion, thought, or, at the very least, engagement.Dissolution can also manifest as a confrontation, intervention, or rupture that encourages
and occasionally even forces engagement. In Hein’s words
:
The new public art is mobile and practical. It exposes the ordinary, provokes criticism,and subjects itself to question as it probes outward and inward, releasing fresh ideas.
Such volatility is a fertile model for the museum….
3
 
Her positioning of public art as volatile, probing, provoking, and exposingmechanisms for deploying new ideas and perspectives is strikingly similar to
Edelman’s
conception of queer oppositional politics as essential for rupturing the contract.Furthermore, they are essential elements of public art that, I believe, need to beencouraged and might not be were the paradigm of public art to be employed by themuseum.Aside from its personal properties and energies, physical location is another formof rupture that public art can make. The geographical presence that public art can have on
2
 
Lee Edelman, “The Future Is Kid Stuff: Queer Theory, Disidentification, and the Death Drive”
 Narrative
,Vol. 6, No. 1 (January, 1998), 23
3
Hein, xxiii.

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