DISCOurse, 2013—present

In a mirror queerness can hide. Even with the advantage of a rear view, queer’s reflection may not necessarily appear queer. Unlike the way skin color, for example, is always revealed. What the ‘straight’ mirror makes visible then is the surface of things in the here and now; it reflects-confirms what we already know, or think we know in the present: straight time*.


The spinning mirror disco ball creates a fractured, multiplicity of moving reflections in the round that are then scattered onto limitless chance surfaces—dizzying, exotic, ‘queer’ mirror, a pixelated globe. It reflects what it sees behind, in front, up, down, all around, even what we can’t see, breaking that into fragments with borders that are re-contoured by the surface-shape it’s reflected upon. Here, even a straight reflection is made queer.
It is in the interstices of society, the spaces in-between, androgynous spaces, where potentiality lies.

The site of DISCOurse, like all cross-border economies, is where ideas and materials are hybridized and repurposed, where culture, commerce, and the imagination anticipate a future diverse: queer time**.

This body of work entitled DISCOurse, uses custom made reflective Mylar pegboard as the conductive substrate for other materials and objects such as smaller paintings, disco balls, digital prints, found photos, holographic tape, tube lights, pipe cleaners, leather, and chain to be attached and arranged. The evenly perforated panels are like large computer motherboards each with a unique ‘form factor’ by which the connected components or circuits communicate. Mirrored, the mother-pegboard makes all external reflections components too. The reflected images appear to be rasterized into a bitmap of 1’s and 0’s when the formal grid of pegboard holes acts as a dot matrix inside the image. So one’s reflection becomes part of the piece, made further corrupt as it is interpolated into the other layers of the work. One such layer that often appears on the surface of these panels are images of digital glitches—failed images of pure pixilation, referring to both the pegboard and the mirrored disco balls as analogue pre-digital rendering devices.
Each piece performs like the mirror in a single-lens reflex camera, or a micro view of a silver gelatin print, expanding new directions in photography. And in painting: Re-imagined in the age of information and digital reproduction, painting is liberated here not just from the static pictorial field of the canvas-container, but also from ever having to complete itself. Here the work contains, and therefore is contingent with, whatever is in front of it—the viewer, other works nearby, the room itself. The total picture, if you will, can only be formalized in live time, moving through space, only to change again, forever precarious.

Bradley Wester, "DISCOurse"

This work relies on a ‘process-as-knowing’ methodology. Knowledge and invention is contingent on the properties of the materials used and how they act when acted upon by various processes and relational configurations. Materials are often cheap, quotidian; some processes simple, transparent. Both are meant as an everyday means to more complex information-age conditions, modes and paradigms, such as: precarity, reflexivity, contingency, immateriality, hybridity, heterogeneity, failure/glitch, repurpose/hacking. But the work stands against literal explication of these contemporary ideas, as they are decidedly aestheticized. DISCOurse is emphatic that art lie between the space of “knowledge production” and not-knowing—proto knowledge. It also refuses a critical discursive of the present that takes the form of complaint or condescension. DISCOurse imagines, in the here and now, a (queer) utopian futurity that is diverse, optimistic, joyous and fun—it puts the disco back into critical discourse.

*DISCOurse owes a debt to the book, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity, by José Esteban— for the ideas confirmed and inspired there. And to my fellows at the inaugural ‘Summer Forum for Inquiry and Exchange’ a nomadic text and discussion-based residency held in New Harmony, Ind. in the summer of 2012.
**This new body of work circles back to some of the ideas in my early work as a performance artist in New York during the East Village scene of the 1980’s. The term ‘Genderfuck,’ coined in the 70’s and coming out of the identity politics movement, loosely describes the objective of those performances, to “fuck with” notions of gender and to explore the androgynous, in-between spaces of possibility. Two of the most resolved of those performances were “Re:Gender (Scape),” a solo performance with film, sound, and movement at The Kitchen Center, and “Arousing Reconstructions,” a collaborative performance/dance piece with Diane Torr at St. Marks Danspace.

***The reflective and/or silver surface has appeared in my work for over 25 years. It can be seen increasingly in all three sections of my recent ten-year trilogy described in an earlier statement below. But the mirror as an image/idea made its debut in performance work as early as undergraduate school. In a performance called “Water Mirror” the stage was divided in half by a simple tapeline. The action (which included film projections) began on one extreme side of the stage and continued until it crossed the centerline where the same action repeated but in an exact mirror of itself. Another simple piece was two three-minute side-by-side film projections shot in 16mm, using stationary cameras outside of and focused on the entrance façade of the main New York Public Library and the main public library of the small town of my undergrad school. Two filmmakers shot the films at the exact time on the exact day.

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