Queer Embodiments, Abstract Drag, and Derek Jarman's 'Blue'
An adumbration of the defiant queerness of its author, Derek Jarman’s Blue resists categorization. It is a “film without image,” a “visual document without visuals,” and, I argue, a uniquely embodied ethical exchange between the witness (Jarman) and his spectator. In his brilliant subversion of what Simon Watney called “the spectacle of AIDS,” which focused a punishingly voyeuristic gaze on the bodies of people with AIDS, Jarman bears witness to AIDS without visually documenting his body. Renate Lorenz would identify this strategy as “abstract drag,” an artistic method that utilizes objects, situations, or “traces” to refer to human bodies. In place of conventional representations of AIDS and queer sexualities are transformative “queer embodiments,” which in Blue come in the form of the characters, both fictional and remembered, which Jarman and his co-narrators speak into being. The most significant queer embodiment, however, is the film itself—and its demand for radical responsibility is an especially productive ethical and political challenge.
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Calkins, Hannah (Georgetown University. Communication, Culture & Technology Graduate Program, 2014)Peer reviewed journal of communication, culture, and technology