7 – Queer Visibility & New Media

Within the readings this week I found I was most drawn to the pieces that considered the way in which new media, social media and how people access their media impacts visibility and the power of the audience. I found that throughout the texts there was both positive and negative thoughts of these changes and advances in technology. Lynne Joyrich in her article ‘Queer Television Studies: Currents, Flows, and (Main)streams’ considers this in an unsure or slightly negative way, as she considers the ‘splintering’ of the audience now that print media has been ‘replaced by a disparate combination of Facebook pages, the Twittersphere, and unpaid and uneven blog-style writing swamping us from all directions’. (138-9) The choice of the word ‘disparate’ particularly caught my attention as Joyrich uses it in a negative context whereas, in my opinion, this ‘disparate’ internet space is one of great diversity and celebration of those both adequately represented in mainstream media and those not. It may be difficult to navigate, and I will not argue with her description of it ‘swamping us from all directions’ (138-9) however, I personally do think of this social and digital media space as a positive space for education and representation. It also gives back some of the power to the audience, they can speak up when unhappy and as more of a collective. In ‘Queer Asian Cinema and Media
Studies: From Hybridity to Critical Regionality’ Audrey Yue talks of ‘the introduction of digital media technologies and their capacity to inform new self and group identities’ (149), this forming of communities online gives people, not only a safe space to be themselves and find others who feel similar, but also a community to stand by them and speak out against the mainstream in issues such as representation and diversity.

This selection of images by the artist Gabriel Garcia Roman showcases how social media can be used to bring visibility toward marginalised and under-represented groups of people and in such a way that how they are presented is under their control and not up to a group of usually white, cis, straight men in a Hollywood writers room. His images in this selection, entitled ‘Queer Icons’ are portraits of self identifying Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPoC) and mimic the set-up and style of portraits of religious icons. His series is said to have been inspired ‘by a desire to show the diversity of a population that often goes under-represented’ and showcase ‘icons’ within the community; ‘people who are working at gaining visibility with issues or simply the identity of being a Queer person of color’. (http://ow.ly/10dHoc).

The images are brightly colored as a way of showing a distinction from older religious iconography and the backgrounds, created by a silkscreen method, are unique to each portrait, reflecting the individual identity of the person. When the subject does some sort of artistic work themselves, such as poetry, Garcia Roman allows them to put a personal touch on their images, letting them hand draw or write on the image, he states, ‘I wanted to give them a canvas to speak about their identity, I wanted to amplify their voice’. (http://ow.ly/10dHoc) This contrasts greatly to the Hollywood way of working and representing Queer characters, wherein they have little say in the writing process and creation, resulting in damaging tropes and stereotypes being perpetuated in mainstream media about those that are marginalised by it. By giving these under-represented people a platform like this, that is unique and mostly under their control, Garcia Roman is fighting back against these mainstream spaces that do not allow groups such as QTPoC within them or do not do their characters and story-lines justice.

Using social media for this project’s main form of distribution and exhibition also shows a fighting against or a shift from a mainstream way in which the art world functions. Garcia Roman opts to step away from the ‘traditional’ forms of gallery exhibitions and print publication (which, as stated by Joyrich are ‘vanishing’ (138) as a whole and in their celebration of queer work) and instead presents his work online, in a space that is more accessible to a wider range of people and a space that could be argued to be in itself more ‘queer’. Social media, for the most part, benefits queer people and their work by not having the same limitations as traditional media, there is less impact from people such as showrunners, producers and companies that control what can and can’t be put on screen. With artists such as Garcia Roman using this platform as a space to ‘amplify’ the voices of those marginalised by other forms of media it becomes a space of celebration and visibility for those whose voices are silenced and misrepresented elsewhere.

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