Bisexuality in Art

Hier kun je zelfgemaakte kunstwerken plaatsen of kunstwerken van anderen bespreken, als ze verband houden met biseksualiteit, in elke vorm: tekst, beeld, muziek, film, dans, toneel enz.

Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor Roza » di 20 jul 2010, 00:56

Voor een vak dat ik recentelijk heb gevolgd, heb ik een (Engelse) paper geschreven over biseksualiteit in kunst, zowel als een kunstbeweging als een kunstwerk, waarin ik de positie van de biseksueel problematiseer. Ik ben er redelijk trots op, 't hele verhaal is beoordeeld met een 8,5 (jeej!), en het leek me leuk 't jullie 't zouden lezen :) Op- en aanmerkingen over de inhoud zijn welkom, evenals discussie.

Noot vooraf: Omwille van mijn privacy heb ik details over mezelf verwijderd. Dit zegt echter niet dat deze paper, en alles wat erin gezegd wordt, niet meer mijn eigendom is. Mocht je, om wat voor reden dan ook, gebruik willen maken van de informatie verstrekt in deze paper, dan kun je me even een berichtje sturen; zorg ik dat je de info krijgt om correct te kunnen verwijzen :) Niet (correct) verwijzen is plagiaat en, zeker met deze waarschuwing vooraf, strafbaar!
Verder; enjoy ;)

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Ok, nou wil ik het bestand toevoegen: doet-ie het niet! .doc is niet een toegestaan bestand. Moderators! Is hier iets aan te doen? 't Ding is nog geen 800kb groot!
“Actually, I am sure. I am bisexual.” “Yeah, well...” she said with a disgusted look on her face.
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor Els » di 20 jul 2010, 07:39

Kan je hem niet gewoon in tekst copy-pasten? Dan denk ik dat meer mensen hem lezen ook: een bestand downloaden is soms het een drempel (voor mij in elk geval).

/Els
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor PaulV » di 20 jul 2010, 09:52

Ja en .doc files nog eentje.
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor Roza » di 20 jul 2010, 11:41

Wanneer ik 'm copy-paste, verdwijnen de voetnoten en is 't dus plagiaat ;) Bovendien verdwijnen dan ook de plaatjes en die zijn nou juist zo handig als je 't hebt over visual art! Ik heb d'r een pdf'je van gemaakt, maar ook die wil-ie niet bijvoegen. Daarom ga 'k maar aan de slag om de voetnoten in de lopende tekst te zetten.
“Actually, I am sure. I am bisexual.” “Yeah, well...” she said with a disgusted look on her face.
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor PaulV » di 20 jul 2010, 11:50

Hoezo plagiaat, het is je eigen werk?
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor Roza » di 20 jul 2010, 11:53

Okee, hier is-ie dan :) De afbeeldingen die erbij horen vind je in de bijlage.

@ Paul: Ik citeer auteurs. Wanneer daar geen verwijzingen naar de desbetreffende auteur bijstaan, plagieer ik. Gezien de verwijzingen in principe verdwijnen als je copy-paste, plagieer je, ook al is dat niet je bedoeling. Maar nu zitten de voetnoten in de lopende tekst, dus de bedoeling is duidelijk :)
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Disassociation against your will.
Bisexuality in art.


by Roza


Autumn 2009, Utrecht, The Netherlands. A lesbian, a heterosexual girl and I were visiting “the most heterofriendly gayparty” in town. It was still early, we got ourselves something to drink and started dancing. A girl with a short haircut, baggy jeans, tank top and waistcoat walked to me and started chatting. After some formalities and small talk, I asked her: “Are you into men, women, or both?”. She laughed out loud. “Can’t you see?” she replied with a whim of astonishment. “That should not matter, I am not the one to judge your looks” I answered politically correct. Still chuckling she said: “Yes, well, I am fully into girls. How about you?” “I am bisexual.” “O, so you’re not sure jet”, she answered. I was surprised by her premise and said: “Actually, I am sure. I am bisexual.” “Yeah, well...” she said with a disgusted look on her face. She walked on after a short goodbye and has ignored me ever since.
This example in my everyday life shows a tendency described by psychiatrist Fritz Klein in The Bisexual Option. He puts forward that the bisexual is often seen as a traitor, since “he or she moves psychosexually freely among men and among women. ... The bisexual ... is seen as a dangerous person, not to be trusted, because his or her loyalty, so to speak, is non existent.”[1] In other words: the individual is allowed to have (sexual) relations with the other sex, the same sex, but not with both. The bisexual is being marginalised, ignored and sometimes its existence is even denied.

In this paper I want to focus on why there is no flourishing bisexual visual art scene. I start with answering the question why the bisexual is ignored and marginalized, using one of the few academic books exclusively written on bisexuality, The Bisexual Option by Fritz Klein. I will also use the concept of the Other. After that, I will try to solve why bisexuals have not created an own art scene (jet) and how bisexuality is visualised in art.
Before I start, I would like to introduce the notion “monosexual”. With this term I refer to individuals that claim to fall in love with and feel desire for only one sex. Whether they are heterosexual or homosexual is not of any importance when I use the term monosexual. When there is any importance in that, I shall explicitly mention heterosexuality or homosexuality, and, when necessary, the sex I am referring to.


The bisexual as the Other

As Klein shows, many seem to think that bisexuality is a passing phase, and/or part of the process of accepting yourself as homosexual. [2] He points out that this statement is only adapted by monosexuals and they do not take in account that every individual has different feelings. He states, if one says he/she can love both sexes, one can. Nobody can reject that with the argument that they just don’t feel the same way. [3] The problem monosexuals have with bisexuals, is that they can partly identify with them, says Klein. It makes the monosexual feel uncomfortable, because it confronts him/her with the possibility of sexual ambiguity. Since the monosexual felt secure about his sexuality and now sees how things can be different, it can terrify the monosexual.[4] Klein speaks explicitly about the heterosexual as confronted party, but his theory works exactly the same way for the homosexual being confronted with bisexuality.
In this way, the bisexual does not belong to any monosexual group, although he/she is attracted to straights as well as gays. The monosexual groups can easily discharge the bisexual from their environment by saying he/she differs too much. Although the bisexual has features of the both groups and can identify with both groups, the groups feel uncomfortable when the bisexual is around and therefore he/she is marginalised, excluded, even denied.
The concept of the Other consists of two parties, as argued by Simone de Beauvoir. One dominates the other and de dominant applies stereotypes on the other, distinguishing what is abnormal and creating a hierarchy. This suppressed group she calls the “Other”. [5] De Beauvoir sees that this process of Othering can be done on different categories, such as race, religion, sex and sexuality. [6] This concept translates easily to bisexuality.
Klein describes a situation in which a woman broke up with her husband and has an open relationship with a woman now. Her parents do not understand it: first she loved men. Now she loves women, so she has to be a lesbian, the parents argued. When Klein asks more about the term lesbian and the possibility of bisexuality, the dad gets mad, bangs on the table and shouts: “You’re one thing or another! ... I’ve lived long enough to know that.” [7] In this situation, the father not only marginalizes the daughter because of her feelings, but he actually denies her existence as a sexual identity. When Othered, the bisexual is in a tough position when wanting sexual freedom, but at least the identity is recognised and given a name. In the example Klein gives, and also in my personal experience, the existence of the individuals feelings and with that, their sexual existence, is denied. My statement here is that although discriminated, the bisexual is in an even worse position when not even recognised by the majority (the monosexuals).


The non-existence of a bisexual visual art scene

When it comes to an artwork, there are three entities that can be distinguished in the process of how an artwork comes to be: the maker, the product and the audience.
When the maker is bisexual, he/she could engage in an art group exclusively for bisexuals. The problem one runs into then, is that the bisexual in regular can adjust easily; he/she can adjust to the monosexual environment he/she moves in, so he/she can also deal with a completely bisexual environment. Of course it could be a relief to be with kindred spirits, but it also limits the possibilities to the artist, because he/she identifies with both heterosexuals as homosexuals. In this case, the bisexual would be harmed in his/her creativity, which is of course not a desirable situation for an artist.
As an audience, the bisexual is most of the time denied or classified as just a part of a monosexual community. There are several gay art festivals, where there is said to be space for the whole queer community, including the bisexual. [8] But as argued above: monosexual communities often discriminate bisexuals, not taking them seriously or even excluding them from being a member of their community. And, as said before, the bisexual is used to adjusting to a monosexual world. So, as an audience, the bisexual will try to fit in with the monosexual community and with that undermining a part of their own identity. This counts for homosexual parties as well as for heterosexual gatherings


Bisexuality in visual art

Most classical visual art, but also contemporary art, has heterosexuality, or at least the heterosexual male gaze, as standard. There is also much visual art known about and made by homosexuals, male and female, seen on websites as Gay Art History, [9] or in the book Lesbian Art in America. [10] On bisexuality in visual arts, there are some books, but most of it are interpretations of earlier works and the former culture, for instance Eva Cantarella’s Bisexuality in the Ancient World. Current visions on bisexuality in art lack. When one googles “Bisexuality in art”, most of the visual results show the colours pink, purple and blue on merchandise, as a variation on the rainbow for the gay community.
Art from an out and proud artist, or especially meant for a bisexual audience, is hard to find. A well known example could be Frida Kahlo, who expressed her struggles with her childlessness, health and her turbulent marriage in her paintings. But non of her works include hints to her bisexuality. Her bisexuality might not have been an issue for her.
Other contemporary art(work) contains kissing men or kissing women, but this is often interpreted as homosexuality, which is understandable. One sees a homosexual situation, not a situation which includes three people to make the bisexuality clear. An example could be the Spanish gothic artist Victoria Francés, who made El Beso de Favole (freely translated: the kiss in a fairytale) (see image above). In this painting she shows us two women kissing, while blood runs from their mouths. In this case, the artist does not claim to be bisexual and still shows two women kissing, which would imply lesbianism. However, she also portrays men and women together in romantic settings (see image below), which imply desire on a heterosexual level. This could imply that the women in El Beso de Favole are bisexual, taking Francés’ other work in account. On the other hand, this is pure speculation and interpretation, while there is no further ground to say that Francés is making bisexual art.
With this example, I would like to show how hard it is to interpret art as bisexual. This also shows us the trouble the bisexual, as an artist and represented in art, is in. Obviously showing desire for both sexes can easily end up with an image of some sort of threesome or orgy. Showing desire for one sex will quickly be read as monosexual. Showing desire in a less direct way, using metaphors and semiotics, could lead to a bisexual language and independent art movement. The problem would be how the bisexuality can be read from the painting, by people who are not familiar with the bisexual tendency meant by the author. The bisexual language that exist in popular media always combines the colours blue, purple and pink (as mentioned above), which is terribly obvious and creates a narrow spectrum. This makes it hard to make the bisexual visible in visual arts.


Conclusion

In the first part of my paper I have shown that the bisexual as an individual is often excluded or even denied from gatherings that are said to be open-minded. The inurement, but also the interest of the bisexuals makes it hard for them to distinguish themselves as a group and set up (artistic) gatherings for themselves. Within this, there is an ambivalence; the bisexual does not want to be said that his/her sexuality does not exist, but he/she also does not want to be actively (re-)presented in a group of sexually likeminded people.
In the second part of my paper I have shown that in art, bisexuality is hard to represent due to the possibility of choice a bisexual has. He/she can love both sexes and can be depicted with one of them, but such an image is incomplete. When one shows more than two people engaging in an expression of love, the artwork can quickly get over-erotic or even pornographic, or annoyingly obvious.
The question how bisexuals can get themselves represented in art, is hard to answer. I do think, when the bisexual as an individual wants to be accepted and respected, art could be a good medium to start requiring the esteem they now do not get from the monosexual majorities. When they would gather as a group and form an art collective, they do what they do not like, namely disassociating from the monosexuals, but they get what they want, namely acknowledgement. The only thing I, as a bisexual, would like, is to be accepted and recognised, without being Othered, but that seems only possible by Othering the monosexual majorities.


Footnotes


[1] Fritz Klein. The Bisexual Option. New York: The Haworth Press, 1993: 7.

[2] Klein: 5.

[3] Klein: 5-10.

[4] Klein: 11.

[5] Simone De Beauvoir. De tweede sekse. 1949. Transl. Jan Hardenberg. Utrecht: Erven J. Bijleveld, 1982, 295-296.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Klein: 9.

[8] Such as G-FEST (see http://www.gaywisefestival.org.uk/), Homotopia (see http://www.homotopia.net/), Frameline (see http://www.frameline.org/). Websites last visited on April 9th, 2010.

[9] See http://www.gay-art-history.org/. Website last visited at April 12th 2010.

[10] Harmony Hammond. Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History. New York: Rizolli International Publications, 2000.


Literature

Simone De Beauvoir. De tweede sekse. 1949. Transl. Jan Hardenberg. Utrecht: Erven J. Bijleveld, 1982.

Hammond, Harmony. Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History. New York: Rizolli International Publications, 2000.

Cantarella, Eva. Bisexuality in the Ancient World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Klein, Fritz. The Bisexual Option. Second Edition. New York: The Haworth Press, 1993.


Images

Images by Victoria Francés appear on http://www.victoriafrances.es/. Website last visited on April 12th, 2010.
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“Actually, I am sure. I am bisexual.” “Yeah, well...” she said with a disgusted look on her face.
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor PaulV » di 20 jul 2010, 12:50

Roza schreef:@ Paul: Ik citeer auteurs. Wanneer daar geen verwijzingen naar de desbetreffende auteur bijstaan, plagieer ik. Gezien de verwijzingen in principe verdwijnen als je copy-paste, plagieer je, ook al is dat niet je bedoeling.

Ja ok, het was niet bij me opgekomen dat je je referenties in voetnoten had. Maar een melding dat de referenties ontbreken en een referentie naar je eigen paper was volgens mij al genoeg geweest hoor.

(Je shrijft "jet" trouwens als "yet".)
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor Roza » ma 23 aug 2010, 10:19

@ Luc: bedankt voor je reactie :) Zie jij je biseksualiteit binnen je muziek dan als je identiteit, of als een eigenschap (zoals creativiteit, temperament, et cetera)?
“Actually, I am sure. I am bisexual.” “Yeah, well...” she said with a disgusted look on her face.
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Re: Bisexuality in Art

Berichtdoor Merel(tje) » ma 23 aug 2010, 20:54

Hoi Roza,

ik moet het nog uitlezen, maar vind het wel alvast leuk om te weten waar het onderschrift in je posts vandaan komt. Had niet bedacht dat het iets was dat iemand tegen jou zei.

groetjes,
Merel(tje)

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