12 Pages

Secret Museums

Hidden Histories of Sex and Sexuality

Recognizing queer subjects in the museum is an often difficult and uncomfortable task that requires grappling with multiple definitions of queer intelligibility, sustaining a relentless self-reflexivity, and a willingness to engage viewers in questioning assumptions, and contemplating the standpoints of innumerable imaginary others. This chapter discusses these issues and imagines the museum as an ethical, sexual, and sacred experience, where the creation of equitable distributions of power and authority can build a more democratic, compassionate, just, and equitable institution. Museums maintain materialist mindsets regarding human sexuality and sociality. Their encyclopedic collections and presentations portray past and present understandings of the world and serve as lexicons of visual language. Speaking to the sexuality of both artists and their subjects may create tensions for some museums, but the field must begin to find creative and productive ways of discussing curatorially and working through these political tensions if new social possibilities are to flourish.