A sensitive surface: exploring queer spectrality through lens-based paranormal methods

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Copyright: Yan, Meng Yu
My research concerns Queer Spectrality - a term that encapsulates the erasure and absence of queer people throughout history, culture, and society. Queer spectrality is derived from Jacques Derrida’s theory of hauntology first introduced in Spectres of Marx (1993). It looks at history through the figure of the ghost - an entity that challenges ontological notions of being and exists in a liminal space, traversing categorical distinctions. The ghost parallels the marginalisation experienced by queer people as well as the way queerness blurs rigid boundaries created by Western, colonial, patriarchal systems. Queer spectrality challenges the histories created by such systems and invites a reimagining of lost histories and voices in order to create alternative futures. Queer spectral disruptions challenge the perception that time is inherently “straight”, suggesting instead that it is non-linear, and multiple rather than fixed. Using experimental paranormal methodologies my practice is an attempt to resurrect one specific queer ghost whose trace I followed throughout Paris in 2019. Her name is Qiu Miaojin and she is a queer Taiwanese writer who lived in Paris during the early 90s. In 1995 Qiu committed suicide at the age of 26 leaving behind her final novel Last Words from Montmartre. The book is written as a series of letters and diary entries dated between April to June followed by her death on June 25th. During my residency in Paris at the Cité Internationale des Arts I recreated a response to Qiu Miaojin’s novel through temporal, geographic, psychical and embodied practices. In 2019 I was also 26 and the residency took place at the same time as Qiu’s novel between April to June. In Paris I retraced her steps, reading and embodying her novel on the exact dates she wrote them. From this intensive three-month immersive performance I created video diaries relating to each letter by Qiu; the footage is taken from the specific places she visited or themes she wrote about on each day. Through this work I have attempted to place myself in her shoes and to act as a human mirror. My project involves a process of becoming a medium who has opened themself up to being haunted, allowing Qiu’s words to come alive again through my physical embodiment. These works explore the intermingling of our lives, the cyclical nature of history, and synchronicity. It is an attempt to reach back through time and through death to make connections with queer kin.
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