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{ 42 } \ Period Rush Affective Transfers in Recent Queer Art and Performance —TAV IA NYONG’O In Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 film, Ghost World, the malcontent Enid Coleslaw is firmly ensconced in the post-adolescent malaise her best friend, Rebecca, wants to grow out of. Tension erupts when Rebecca suggests they“pretend”to be yuppies . Enid acts out by dyeing her hair green and sporting a leather jacket. This response provokes Rebecca’s outrage, and a smirk from Enid’s nemesis, John Ellis , who sneers:“Oh my God, didn’t they tell you? Punk rock is over. If you really want to fuck up the system, go to business school. That’s what I’m gonna do. Get a job at some big corporation, like fuck things up from the inside.” Enid’s response to John is memorable for what it captures of the emotional alchemy through which queer and minoritized subjects negotiate subcultural histories: “God! Fuck you. . . . You know, its not like I’m some modern punk, dickhead. It’s obviously like a 1977 original punk rock look. But I guess Johnny Fuckface is too stupid to realize it!”1 In distinguishing her respectful approach to punk from mere trendiness, Enid bids for insider status despite her age, gender, and suburban location. Scoffing at such a claim to authenticity would miss its spirit. In marking off her homage from derivative 1980s hardcore, Enid displays the ideological hairsplitting that is the genius and insolence of youth. Yet such stringent logic permits her to avoid the cynicism that her peers display toward subcultural histories . Enid and John float in the same cultural effluvia of suburban America, where the past is blandly recycled as kitsch, but Enid’s sensibility stands out amidst such simulacra. She longs to maintain contact with a ghost world un- { 43 } PERIOD RUSH like her own, a world where it is she, not John, who truly understands that punk is dead. What I will call the “affective transfer” Enid performs between past and present illuminates recent debates regarding the archive in performance.Where some scholars emphasize the autonomous transmission of embodied histories through performance,2 I argue that Enid’s subversive genealogy reflects less the difference between archive and repertoire than the difference within both. Her critique hinges upon the difference between reenactments that recycle the past as kitsch and those that renew the impact of historical emotion. Such affective transfers still occur in our post-historical times, fiercely attached to untimely feelings. They are postmodern, along the lines outlined by Lev Manovich , Fredric Jameson, and Sue-Ellen Case, but they do not succumb to the“end of history.”3 Rather than simply end, history has transformed under conditions guided by new media and “the virtual.” Case speaks of our living in the era of “The Great Upload” and argues that “previous practices of gender, sexuality, materiality , community, and corporeality have been uploaded into various new technological zones.”4 Manovich calls this the “spatialization” of historical time, which has “replaced sequential storage with random-access storage; hierarchical organization of information with flattened hypertext” and the “psychological movement of narrative in novels and cinema with physical movement through space.” “In short,” he concludes, “time became a flat image or a landscape , something to look at or navigate through.”5 Conceptual transfers from one media to another harbor this transformation. Emphasizing affect pushes “the virtual” beyond new media, as Case’s genealogy of the virtual in both theatre and science suggests. Affect calls attention to the synesthesia of past and present, as the flattened landscape of historical time becomes not only a space of interactivity but a zone of affective noise and distortion. Technological effects have correlative affects. As a form of temporal feedback, affective transfers resist the disorientation that sometimes accompanies conceptual transfer. Brian Massumi defines affects as“virtual synesthetic perspectives anchored in (functionally limited by) the actually existing, particular things that embody them.”6 Affective transfers are “anchored” in the unmooring of historical time itself; they perform our disorientation. They seek repoliticized perspectives amidst the virtual. Queer theatre and performance depends upon affective transfers to sustain a particular slant on temporality and continuity.7 Taylor Mac’s play Red...


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pp. 42-48
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