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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Glamour, pageantry and knives : gay identity in File megazine [i.e. magazine] Ballantyne, Robert


In the spring of 1972, a Toronto-based artists’ collective caffing itself General Idea began publishing File megazine, which derived its format from Life magazine. Like Life it was a rich mixture of text and imagery which has so far gone unanylized. It incorporated and celebrated the work of an artist’s network and a mail art network both of which were commensurate with an experimental gay aesthetic. The early seventies were marked by the emergence of ‘gay liberation,’ when police harrassment and surveillence were central issues for political action. In this context, the gay artists connected with File were, in various ways, attempting to advance their careers in a shifting art world. The first three years of File brought together a range of concerns with vision and visuality, gender and sexuality, media and the position of an ideal of the ‘self. All of these threads of knowledge served to reconfigure and challenge the claims for identity as constructed by Life magazine. My thesis locates a fraught and at times radical homosexual inscription in these new configurations. If Lfe is a paradigmatic form of mass culture in which a particular ideal of freedom and seithood are visualized together File tends to eroticize trivialize and burst that false yet powerful ideological coherence. In the pages of File the content of the dominant culture is made available to gay aesthetic manipulations like ‘camp’ under a persistant tendency to ‘de-sublimate’ the sexuality of that culture. In a effort to reclaim and reposition the forgotten and unacknowledge gay representation I have tended to place a certain priority on a historical narrative interaction between the counter-discourses of sexuality within what could be losely termed ‘the counter-culture’ and an academic modernism that seems to have tried to wish away erotics from its field of view. File megazine like the works of Robert Smithson that I have addressed does not congradulate its audience for having discovered some newly available access to knowledge or power over the sexual or the social.

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