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73 2. FOR TIME IMMEMORIAL Marking Time in the Built Environment To Mark or Not to Mark Between 1984 and 1992—that is, while fear and grief over AIDS, the previous chapter argued, played out in proscriptions against queer memory —the French historian Pierre Nora was supervising a massive (sevenvolume ) study of what he influentially termed lieux de mémoire, places of memory. These memory sites, which include both physical places and rituals of commemoration, Nora contends, characterize modernity. Places of memory, Nora argued, enact self-conscious efforts “to block the work of forgetting” that is inherent to the “acceleration of history” in “our hopelessly forgetful modern societies, propelled by change” (“Between Memory and History,” 7, 19, 8). We take his influential phrase, generated as part of a study on the spaces of French memory, as the starting point for this chapter in order to emphasize two points: that the assaults on gay memory described in chapter 1 took place at a time when sanctioned forms of memory were thriving and that these campaigns of memorymaking were often focused on physical locales. Minority sexual identities have a long history of withstanding forms of critique and scrutiny not visited upon sanctioned forms of identity— 74 For Time Immemorial like heterosexuality or Frenchness—that, in theory, should offer equally valid fields in which to debate biological causality, perform linguistic deconstruction , or outline the sequences of contingent historical events that got us where we are. Spaces of gay and lesbian memory may emerge the stronger for the intellectual rigor to which they have been subjected. It is hard to imagine any critically viable theory of sexuality that would allow for the fuzziness of Nora’s defense of memory sites founded on a contingent “will to remember” (“If we were to abandon this criterion, we would quickly drift into admitting virtually everything as worthy of remembrance,” he says [19]) but nevertheless justified by an appeal to a lost “real memory—social and unviolated” (8). Nor should theoretically informed critics leave unchallenged Nora’s claims that there once were authentic “milieux de mémoire, real environments of memory,” assertions grounded in romantic notions of “peasant culture, that quintessential repository of collective memory” where “real memory” was “retained as the secret of so-called primitive or archaic societies” (7–8).1 While we are not eager to import into queer theory the muddled reality claims in this highly respected theorization of history organized around national identity, we want to use Nora—and the fact of his influence on more mainstream identity constructions—to critique the complete denial , within much queer theory, of the significance of memory-places to identity. For many theorists of sexuality and the built environment, “queer space” is insistently cast in the present. “There Is No Queer Space, Only Different Points of View” was the title of Brian McGrath’s installation for the 1994 Queer Space exhibition at the Store Front for Art and Architecture in New York. This statement ran at eye level along a semicircular Plexiglas screen showing computer-generated images of various Manhattan locales. The project statement explained, “‘Queer space’ exists potentially everywhere in the public realm . . . it is the individual’s appropriation of the public realm through personal, ever-changing points of view.” Echoing this claim, historian George Chauncey opened a 1996 article subtitled “Gay Uses of the Streets” with the assertion, “There is no queer space; there are only spaces used by queers or put to queer use” (“Privacy Could Only Be Had,” 224). The restriction of queer space to definitions premised on action or perception in the present was reiterated in the 1997 anthology Queers in Space, where the architect-turned- For Time Immemorial 75 artist Jean-Ulrick Désert insisted, “A queer space is an activated zone made proprietary by the occupant or flâneur” (21). Similar claims have been made at the scale of the single building. In 1994, as part of the Wexner Center’s House Rules exhibition, architects Benjamin Gianni and Scott Weir presented “Queers in (Single-Family) Space,” a design for a suburban house configured on the inside to accommodate a variety of living arrangements. Gianni and Weir tied their design’s flexibility to the looseness of the term “queer” but rejected any further links. “Sexuality exceeds the purview of the architect,” they said; queerness “is more a strategy than a space” (Gianni et al., “Queerying (Single Family) Space,” 57).2 Whether in the landscape or at home, these arguments run, queerness...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816678686
Related ISBN
9780816676118
MARC Record
OCLC
768082778
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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