Mapping Sexual Artistic Geographies: Minor Transnational Approaches and Horizontal Art History

College Art Association Annual Conference, 2018

“Globe to the Cosmos: Entangled Perspectives on the Question of Global Art and World Art” Panel

Marsha Meskimmon & Jane Chin Davidson, co-chairs

Los Angeles, CA

February 21 - 24, 2018


This position paper brings into dialogue Tallinn, Estonia-based Jaanus Samma’s installation "Not Suitable for Work: A Chairman’s Tale" (2016) alongside San Francisco, California-based Tina Takemoto’s video "Looking for Jiro" (2011), both of which are concerned with LGBTQI-themes but in relation to different discursive and geographical spaces: Soviet-era Estonia in East-Central Europe and World War II Asian America, respectively. I will examine communism and homosexuality across regions rather than only within them as closed systems and suggest an alternative mapping of sexual artistic geographies—beyond the national or regional and the global or local—through what Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih have described as a “minor transnational” approach. Here, what is transnational is understood as connections that are neither between dominant Western metropolitan locations nor through a vertical relationship of power between dominant and minority cultures. Connections, instead, occur through minor to minor engagements that avoid the center, the dominant, and the metropole. Moreover, I will mobilize Piotr Piotrowski’s conceptualisation of “horizontal art histories” that effectively brings the discussion of minor transnationalism squarely back to the writing of art histories. He argues that if the West is conceived as one of the many regions in the world it is possible to have conversations beyond the power differentials of the West as the center and everything else as the periphery. If the power of Western art history is taken away in this manner, the various marginalized art histories can move beyond only having a centre-periphery relationship with the West.