keynote lecture:

“Productive Failure: Writing Queer Transnational South Asian Art Histories”

Art and Speculative Futures Conference
Center de Cultura Contemporánia de Barcelona, Spain

October 27, 2016



This presentation aims to explore the writing of queer transnational South Asian art histories. I do so through a deliberate ‘productive failure’ – specifically by not upholding the strictly genealogical approach that is regularly assumed for South Asian art histories. As a case study, I draw on various theories of affect to explore artworks and visual culture in connection to three historical events: the deaths of turban-wearing Sikhs misidentified as terrorists after the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States; the death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, misidentified by British police as a terrorist shortly after the terrorist attacks of 7 July 2005 in London; and the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, misidentified as a criminal by George Zimmerman, in Sanford, Florida in 2012. I consider a public art memorial designed by London-based Mary Edwards to commemorate the death of Menezes, artworks by Kehinde Wiley and Adrian Margaret Smith Piper, and a cartoon by Los Angeles-based Carter Goodrich that appeared on the cover of the New Yorker shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I theorise how these disparate works might engender an ethical future across racial, ethnic, and national lines. At stake in this presentation is the question of how certain subjects are considered as ‘belonging’ and others as not; and the role of art and writing in the re-constitution of notions of ‘home’ and thereby transnational South Asian art histories.

—Alpesh Kantilal Patel
Art and Speculative Futures Conference, October 2016