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Leather, sex, archives, and contemporary art

Bound Together: Leather, Sex, Archives, and Contemporary Art considers historic gay and lesbian leather communities by way of two interrelated lines of enquiry; addressing the archives where leather histories and their attendant visual and material objects currently reside, while also examining the projects of contemporary artists who bring leather histories to the fore, making an implicit argument for their potential queer political force in the present. Arguing for an expansive, yet grounded, consideration of the vicissitudes and pleasures of archival work, the book centers the material and visual cultures produced by members of gay and lesbian leather communities, tracing their contextual meanings at the time of their making, as well as their continued ability to produce community-specific histories in archival repositories (that may or may not be solely dedicated to leather communities). Contemporary artists such as Dean Sameshima, Die Kränken, Monica Majoli, A. K. Burns and A. L. Steiner, and Patrick Staff have incorporated the themes, materialities, and/or histories of such archival holdings into their heterogeneous practices, establishing leather history as a persistent and generative touchstone for rethinking queer life, relationality, and sexual politics.

80 4 Bound together Yellow, or reading archives diagonally Archive: The Leather Archives & Museum It’s curious that the great thing that’s developed out of gay liberation, one of its most visible artifacts, is all those bars where guys go and piss on each other […] Kate Millett1 It was a specific death that established the Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M). Dom Orejudos, the prolific leather artist who went under the pseudonym Etienne, died in the fall of 1991 from AIDS. Reading the obituary printed in the Chicago Tribune, however, one would be forgiven for

in Bound together
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Bound together

take time as its setting; rather, it embeds time in its narrative structure. Carolyn Steedman1 The purpose of history, guided by genealogy, is not to discover the roots of our identity, but to commit itself to its dissipation […] to make visible all those discontinuities that cross us. Michel Foucault2 This book considers historic gay and lesbian leather communities by way of two interrelated lines of enquiry; addressing the archives where leather histories and their attendant visual and material objects currently reside, while also examining the projects of

in Bound together

‘Clubs that don’t exist anymore’ ‘Clubs that don’t exist anymore’ 129 6 Archive: The Carter/Johnson Leather Library; Viola Johnson’s pin sash An illustration in the 1955 Girl Scout Handbook: Intermediate Program depicts two teenage girls examining a sash filled with badges (figure 6.1). The girl wearing the sash looks down, her head bowed as she speaks to her companion. Lifting the sash away from her body with her right hand, she points with Illustration from the Girl Scout Handbook: Intermediate Program, © 1953/1955 by Girl Scouts of the United States

in Bound together
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world—the past—is stranger than we know, and this is chief among dust’s many lessons. How the dust of the past, in particular the fugitive histories of marginalized peoples, is attended to—disposed, loved and adored, or treated with ­indifference—is central to the installation devised by Nayland Blake at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Entitled FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!, Blake’s installation evinces how the artists (and we) might be attached to leather histories. In Blake’s case the attachment is at once figurative and literal. Figurative in the sense of

in Bound together

How to talk about Tom How to talk about Tom Archive: The Tom of Finland Foundation Artwork: Patrick Staff, The Foundation, 2015 Tom of Finland, whose name is now synonymous with the burly, smiling, big-dicked men he drew for over forty years, presents something of a problem for historians of leather art and visual cultures. While his influence was, and remains, undeniable in the ongoing development of leather aesthetics—via his drawn figures’ dress, affect, and range of sexual activity—he was hardly the only leather artist working in the latter half of the

in Bound together
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Surrogates, envelopes

this is because I was engaged in a similar process. At the time when I met Majoli I didn’t identify as a leatherman, but my close study and enthusiastic drive to gather research material suggested that I was invested to a great degree, both professionally and personally. As Majoli’s work was an act of surrogacy and self-discovery, so too, over the years, has her work become a ‘surrogate’ and ‘envelope’ for my own relationship with leather communities and sexuality. For some, this admission may severely undercut the credibility of anything I might now say about Majoli

in Bound together

this is the methodological fork in the road where historians and poet-gallerists diverge, but I don’t necessarily think it has to be this way. In pitting poetry and history needlessly against one another, Zieher has missed an exceptional opportunity to suggest a more sensitive 35 2.1 36 Bound together relationship between the two modalities in his exegesis of this fascinating group of photographs. Bike clubs, an important engine of the social lifeways and aesthetic programs of broader leather cultures, deserve better than to be shrouded in mystery. Historians

in Bound together
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confit, please. 44 Novelising 1997 Narratives of 1997 not only featured in political and journalistic discourse, but also showed up in fiction, both before and after the Handover. Examples include Stephen Leather’s The Vets ( 1993 ), John Burdett’s The Last Six Million Seconds (1997), Paul Theroux’s Kowloon Tong (1997), John Gordon Davis

in Hong Kong and British culture, 1945–97

officials, and less on the indigenous responses to them. The overall attempt of the chapter will be to highlight the process whereby the identity of Chamars – popularly known as leather workers – was crystallised. Chamars have often been seen as one of the most underprivileged caste groups in north India, and this is reflected in several literary works that depict their sufferings

in Beastly encounters of the Raj