This weekend Hilary, Sandra and I attended the 2016 ISCS York/Ryerson ComCult conference in Toronto to present our panel on “The New Authentic: Performing the Real in Culture and Media.” I noticed afterwards, that all of our presentations touched on absent or ignored figures: with Sandra talking about the violence of authenticating mediums, Hilary discussing colonial erasure, and my own commentary on the problems of dismissing girl bloggers and Instagram #sadgirls.
However this discussion of erased persons extended beyond our own presentation. Eren Cervantes-Altamirano (MA, Carleton University) spoke about Cindy Gladue, a missing and murdered Indigenous woman who was reduced to a body part when her vagina was displayed in court. Nicolette Little’s (PhD, York University) focused on remembering the life of Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed suicide as a result of online bullying. The panel “2Ludic: Re-Negotiating Relationships with the Adolescent Self” gave space for the voices of three amazing women game designers to talk about their work. In discussing their games, Gabriela Aveiro-Ojeda (Every1Games), Meagan Byrne (BA, Sheridan College), and Tanya Kan (Vivid Foundry) all spoke about their search for identity, their emotional investment in their games, and the use of storytelling in games as an alternate mode of communication.
All of these presentations left me thinking about the space for the personal in academia. This same conversation was brought up last week at the Concordia English Graduate Colloquium as well through a mixture of both academic and creative presentations. Lauren Fournier (PhD, York University) spoke most directly to this topic in her presentation “Queering the Antisocial Turn: Sodomitical Maternity in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.” Her talk attempts to characterize the term “autotheory” (which appears on the back of Nelson’s book The Argonauts, yet lacks a definition) as a style of writing that merges theory, the self, and the personal. Autotheory, according to Fournier, ties in with Lee Edelman’s “queer futurity” and Jack Halberstam’s antisocial feminism, but is not without future or hope. It is the space where women can be both a body and a mind or (much like Tanya Kan’s game Solace State) the conversation in-between these rigid boundaries/binaries.
These presentations revealed and dwelled on what (and who) is hidden. In my presentation this weekend on “Sad Girl Theory,” I briefly mentioned the work of Ana Mendieta as an example of another woman whose artwork is often ignored or erased by history. Her Silhouette series (pictured above) in particular draws attention to the absence of women’s body and minds. The irony is that Mendieta’s life, body, and violent death have also become a gap and been erased in much the same way as her art.
With these thoughts in mind, I hope to continue my understanding of how the personal, affectual, and bodily finds a home in the theoretical and the digital next weekend at the Digital Sociology Mini-Conference in Boston.
** Featured image is “Earth Work 3” by Ana Mendieta.