Review: masculinities - liberation through photography

Welch, Benedict (2020) Review: masculinities - liberation through photography. Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.

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Abstract

As Jack Halberstam says in the opening pages of Female Masculinity, “although we seem to have a difficult time defining masculinity, as a society we have little trouble in recognizing it, and indeed we spend massive amounts of time and money ratifying and supporting the versions of masculinity that we enjoy and trust”.1 Halberstam implies here that there are multiple kinds of masculinity, that there are kinds we can “trust,” and, therefore, kinds we shun, seek to avoid or negate. For Halberstam, masculinity is only “legible” when “it leaves the white male middle-class body”, meaning we can only read or recognise masculinity when it’s held up against something that is paradoxically different but similar to a body and status which is synonymous—or analogous—to power and hegemony.2

The recent Barbican exhibition Masculinities: Liberation through Photography picks up this gauntlet. By exploring “how masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed through photography and film”, in works by artists such as Laurie Anderson, Sunil Gupta, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien and Catherine Opie, the exhibition’s ambition was to read masculinity from the outside, from a particular vantage point of difference in an attempt to liberate it and open it up to a proliferation of possibilities or alternatives.3 After all, “liberation” implies that masculinity requires liberating, freeing not only from an oppressive force—itself—but also by something external to it. It’s hard not to consider the usual gendered connotations of historical liberation movements, here, meaning that the title thus resonates with protest cries calling for the intellectual, political, and somatic freeing of that which masculinity—and its near cousin patriarchy—often seeks to encroach, imprison and control: women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights.

Item Type: Other
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2022 15:48
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2022 10:51
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/107251
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