How to trace nonbinary relations at the Venice Biennale, an aging institution burdened by spatial subdivision into national domains of representation? With a queer transversal approach.
Queer transversality is a model of collectivity that combines queer subjectivity with a device for mapping the potential of desire within groups. For Félix Guattari, “Transversality is a dimension that tries to overcome both the impasse of pure verticality and that of mere horizontality: it tends to be achieved when there is maximum communication among different levels and, above all, in different meanings.” Group-subjects, according to Gilles Deleuze, “are defined by coefficients of transversality that ward off totalities and hierarchies. They are agents of enunciation, environments of desire, elements of institutional creation.” Transversality depends on an acceptance of the risk of having to confront “the otherness of the other,” of the multiplicity of desires espoused by groups outside one’s own.
Queerness implies a sensibility. Historically, queerness is linked to “Camp.” In ‘Notes on “Camp”’ Susan Sontag writes that Camp is a sensibility, not a hardened idea, and that “the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” Neither moralistic high culture nor high art, “Camp is art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is ‘too much.’ […] The whole point of camp is to dethrone the serious.” Camp confronts the normal as other, generating a perspective that accepts normality but also lays it bare.
Queer transversality can embody Camp, but the former is not necessarily defined by the latter. Contemporary queer expressions like drag, and particularly nonbinary drag, considered next to today’s more widespread genderqueer and transgender identities, challenge Sontag’s relegation of Camp to affluent societies “capable of experiencing the psychopathology of affluence.” An infrastructural sensibility, whatever its name, can draw relations between queer subjects across race, sex/gender, nationality and class. The trauma associated with queer experience, particularly that of adolescence, approaches something like a universal. Queer transversality accepts the risk of confronting the otherness of the natural and, as a mode of collectivity, unleashes queer desires.