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UCL Mellon Programme: Interdisciplinary Seminar 2008-2009

Seminar: 26 November 2008 (Chair: Cüneyt Çakirlar, more ... )

Alison Bancroft, School of Langauges and Film, Queen Mary University of London (more ...)

Queer in Fashion: Leigh Bowery and the Art of Dressing


Leigh Bowery (1961-1994) has been variously described as a club promoter, dancer, performance artist, fashion designer, queer activist, and artist’s muse. He was all of these things, but even, or especially, considered together they fail to sum up the iconic figure that was Leigh Bowery. An out and practicing homosexual who died of an AIDS-related illness, his life was devoted to creative practice, and his bizarre trademark costumes (he never, ever dressed “normally”) presented an equivocal erotic visuality that far transcends any notion of drag. His performances relied on the scatological (enemas were a regular feature) and the corporeal (he famously “gave birth” to his wife, Nicola, who had been hidden under his costume during the show) but curiously he is remembered best for the Lucien Freud paintings of him, a series of nude studies.

This paper will consider questions raised by Leigh Bowery on the visual articulation of queer. In particular, this paper will follow Tim Dean, Joan Copjec et al, and will predicate its reading on a particular definition of queer that comes from psychoanalysis, in particular the theories of Jacques Lacan. I will argue that Leigh Bowery is in fact a paradigm of queer sexualities when they are understood as the interjection of the Lacanian real. Bowery articulates visually precisely what cannot be uttered, and so represents the disruptive potential of fashion queered.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by UCL Mellon Admin

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