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Artist talk: Breaking our cages: Activism and queer posthumanism.
by Jamie Chi and Joseph Clark
British Library
13 July 2019

Imagine my excitement when I saw that the British Museum was holding a free talk on “activism and queer posthumanism”, the latter being something of a
particular interest of mine, as it seems so many on the trans train somehow want to be cyborgs, or else upload their minds to the internet. I recommend this book on if you have an interest in reading about it.
The event was held in the basement of the British Museum, where artist Jamie Chi, had set up an installation of her work of origami-type birds (representing freedom) and dotted around were stories from LGBTQI+ people.
Jamie Chi started the talk by explaining that she was inspired to make the film “Justice for Maya” as the Maya bird is kept in a cage for human entertainment and is also apparently a ‘homosexual’ bird (though I couldn’t find any references for this searching the internet).
Link to trailer for "Justice for Maya"


Chi explained that capitalism was responsible for putting queer people in cages, and explained that she was from Hong Kong where society is much more conservative than in the West.
Chi also said there is a heirachy of discriminatino within the queer community itself, e.g. a Japanese TW who had contributed had written that “women trap trans women into a small cage” and in turn “transwomen trap male-like transwomen” into an even smaller cage.
Another personal story collected by Chi offered the idea that sexuality borders and literal country borders are both ‘man-made’.

An example from a Nigerian lesbian from a Jehovah Witness family had to hide her sexuality as homosexuality carries 10-14 year prison sentence.
Another lesbian couple Chi had made contact with had families who had refused to write letters of support for leave to remain status - compromising their chances of getting settled status.
Chi ended showing a photograph of an installation in Hong Kong where people had written down their hopes for democracy on post-it notes. It is a movement all across Hong Kong asking for greater freedom from the Chinese government.

Then it was Joseph Clark’s turn to take over.
Clark began by thanking Chi for her talk and asking if she thought that heterosexual inter-racial couples (of which he is half) should be included in the intersection of the LGBTQ+ movement?
Chi agreed that sometimes inter-racial couples experience prejudice and that it is sort of the same thing.

Then Clark stood up and introduced himself as a 3rd year PhD student at Bangor University and that he was going to ‘ontologically explain’ what the root cause of
suffering was for LGBTQ+ people was. He also said, more than twice, that he was a ‘white cishet man’.

Clark talked about Judith Butler and how she had answered the question about performative gender identities, but that he had developed a new theory, namely
queer post-humanism, and that his sort of post-humanism wasn’t the sort which asked ‘what comes after humans?’ (i.e. the widely accepted meaning), but his own new sort which asked ‘how do we live now?’, particularly in relation to gender and queer theory.
Watching Chi’s ‘Justice to Maya’ video had excited him to make this new response, and although heterosexuals weren’t currently part of the LGBTQ+ bag at present, rather being the majority group, we should stop understanding it as a separate group. (Is anyone lost yet? I know
Clark was, as he constantly squirmed as he spoke.)

Normativity gives power. The protests in Birmingham over sex education were wrong and then Clark quoted Butler again. Homosexuals in the past had been put into mental institutions.

I have written in my notes
“proteins -genes - identities - many assemblies”. Yep, that’s right, Clark suggested there was a link between actual physical matter and gender feelz.

Clark said that the “site of pain” for LGBTQ+ people was located in the need to perform gender, and that people act for
performative purposes which causes a splitting off of the self.

I think ultimately Clark's point was that *everybody* is affected by the need to perform and use identity as a mask, and therefore he, a straight man, was no less affected than anyone else by that.
Then Clark analysed Chi’s film, with Chi in the room, and couldn’t stop putting his foot in his mouth saying rude things about it, before correcting himself each time by saying he actually did think it was really good really. Toes started to curl.
Then Clark asked “What is a cage?” and “What is law?”

Clark said Law has to satisfy three things:
1. it has to be written/codified,
2. it has to be ambiguous otherwise it is impossible for a judge to interpret it,
3. a law must be breakable.
Finally, there must be a way to leave the cage! A cage is only a cage if you can leave the cage (Did you know that? I bet you didn’t!)

What are they teaching at universities nowadays?! I really have zero respect for whatever programme of study this young man has gone through.
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