Research and writing featured in Art Journal Open's Bookshelf / by Ace Lehner

Bookshelf: Ace Lehner

I’m currently working on a visual studies research project investigating the politics of trans and gender non-conforming representations in contemporary culture (mainly in the United States). Building on methods forwarded by cultural studies founder Stuart Hall, the project surveys a variety of visual culture forms in order to comprehend how identity categories are being proposed, contested, and negotiated in the visual field. I am interested in actively working to undo the partitioning of various identity-based discourses from one another in efforts to better understand the complexity of the ways visual culture relates to the constitution of identity categories. Looking at film, photography, magazines, and selfies, the project embraces interdisciplinarity to thoroughly attend to the interconnectedness of gender, ethnicity, racialization, and class as they relate to corporeality, representation, and systems of identity regulation. The books I am sharing here are either demonstrative of this type of approach in their praxis or their methodologies are foundational to probing such concerns, and they all are significantly impactful regarding my current work.

Situating contemporary self-representations of trans and gender nonconforming subjects in an art historical lineage of radical, self-representations made by members of the LGBTQ community, I argue trans self-representations (including those found in zines and on social media) are critical interventions in visual culture and imperative counterpoints to problematic representation of trans people produced in mainstream culture. Ultimately my project argues that it is in marginalized forms of representation that trans and gender non-conforming people are creating self-representations that constitute new artistic forms and new identity categories. Alongside this scholarly project I am also creating studio-based work investigating similar concerns.