by Terre Thaemlitz

10 pm
Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Vassileos Georgiou B’ 17-19, Athens

Terre Thaemlitz, Deproduction, 2017, video still 

NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED: Sound/Reading for Incest Porn (43 min.) and ADMIT IT’S KILLING YOU (AND LEAVE): Sound/Reading for Gay Porn (43 min.)

Athens world premiere introduced by Pierre Bal-Blanc, documenta 14 curator

There isn’t much time, so we’ll have to skip the foreplay. For some of you this will require suspensions of disbelief, but please open yourselves to the following two premises.

First, having children is unethical. Second, families make democracy impossible.

We live in an era in which dominant LGBT agendas are increasingly revolving around themes of family, matrimony, breeding, and military service. The cultural terms for social analyses and organizing around such issues require an aggressive capitulation to peculiarly Western humanist notions of the nuclear family, as well as private and public space. As a result, feminist and queer critical rejections of family structures are increasingly scarce. An ability to understand the abuses of family and domestic violence as symptoms of larger institutionalized dominations becomes virtually impossible.

In a stereotypically familiar and heteronormative manner, the anticipated promise behind today’s queer families is nothing more than the egocentric notion that familial abuses will be resolved by this generation being better parents than the previous generation. What is forever absent are discussions of what it means to deliberately not be a parent. They remain as taboo as the notion of celebrating the relief of an abortion. In Deproduction, a multi-media project involving audio, text, and video, Terre Thaemlitz investigates the awkward, uncomfortable, and hypocritical power dynamics behind Western humanist notions of family, and how they function internationally through processes of globalization.

Aesthetically, Deproduction is a continuation of Thaemlitz’s work in the fields of electroacoustic audio production, writing, images, “non-performative” performance and concerts, and collage-based video work that confuses/combines the languages of documentary/cultural analysis/oral history/personal narrative. It is designed for presentation in a wide variety of contexts, including gallery installation, performance, lecture, concert, and multi-media release.

Sonically, the audio will likely fall within traditions of electroacoustic audio, music concrete, and ambient. Sounds are digitally processed from field recordings and found samples. The relationship between these audio genres which favor peripheral sound over centralized melody and culturally critical praxis is summarized in Jacques Attali’s famous line from “Noise: A Political Economy of Music.”: “[Music’s] order simulates the social order, and its dissonances express marginalities.” The live performance incorporates lecture, audio/video presentation, and discussion with audience members. This performance strategy has been developed over the course of two decades, and is done in ways that deliberately complicate typical entertainment expectations from both curators and audience members.

In previous works, Thaemlitz hypothesized that we are presently experiencing the historical end of democratic social projects. Cold War assumptions that capitalism and democracy were inherently linked are a thing of the past. Capitalism works better with slavery than with labor equality, as proven by the West’s own history of slavery, as well as the contemporary expansion of capitalist business practices in non-democratic countries. This spread of capitalism is paralleled by the utter absence of the establishment of any new democratic nations. Meanwhile, traditional enemies of state and nationhood have been largely replaced by enemies of clan and faith. All of this involves a re-inscription of the power of family, dynasty, and birthright.

Within Democratic nations, this is reflected by the habit of legislating LGBT rights based on essentialist arguments that sexual and gender orientation are matters of biological predetermination. Like the aristocrats of old, we find ourselves justifying our claim to rights based on the blood in our veins. Within transsexual communities, this claim to rights—including access to medical care—often goes hand in hand with a formal diagnosis of gender identity disorder (GID). A self-identification with the psychotic and ill becomes a ritual of cultural initiation and acceptance. It also becomes the key to cultural momentum and normalization.

Thaemlitz proposes that this relationship between cultural momentum and psychosis within transgendered communities parallels global awareness of the oddity of Western humanist values, particularly in relation to their obvious antagonism with conventional clan-based and extended family structures—despite neurotic denial and blindness toward these contradictions within the West. Furthermore, the cultural and anti-feminist compromises required of gender transitioning as an act of gender conformity under patriarchy has parallels with the cultural and anti-democratic compromises required of capitalist expansion. The censorship of radical queerness is entwined with the censorship of democratic organization, both within and outside of Western borders. And at the center of both issues lies the family as the sanctioned cultural site for sexual expression, breeding, continuation of community, and continuation of the self.

Deproduction investigates the tensions between cultural production and biological reproductionand presents a cultural defense for those who choose not to reproduce. These analyses are informed by her own involvements in non-essentialism, pansexual queerness, and non-transitioning transgenderism. Thaemlitz is developing this project within Japan, where she is a permanent resident and the site of her studio, to premiere in Athens in 2017, with support by documenta 14.

comatonse recordings

Terre Thaemlitz (1968) is an award-winning multimedia producer, writer, public speaker, educator, audio remixer, DJ, and owner of the Comatonse Recordings record label. Her work combines a critical look at identity politics—including gender, sexuality, class, linguistics, ethnicity, and race—with an ongoing analysis of the socio-economics of commercial media production. She has released over fifteen solo albums, as well as numerous tweleve-inch singles and video works. Her writings on music and culture have been published internationally in a number of books, academic journals, and magazines. As a speaker and educator on issues of non-essentialist transgenderism and queerness, Thaemlitz has lectured and participated in panel discussions throughout Europe and Japan. As of January, 2001, she has resided in Kawasaki, Japan.

Commissioned by documenta 14, coproduced with Akademie der Künste der Welt, Cologne, and Comatonse Recordings

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