Alexander Theo Giesen
Queer Kinding: Aesthetics, Classification and HIV/AIDS in the work of Leigh Bowery
My research charts the intersections of medical classification and performance practices. Bringing together concepts from the history and philosophy of science (HPS) and performance studies, it explores Leigh Bowery’s live art alongside the HIV/AIDS medical archive in London (1980-94).
I respond to a notion in the philosophy of classification set by Chuncheng Liu, working from Ian Hacking: that queerness and its classifications were moulded, formed, and produced by and through the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Focusing on what I describe as the aesthetics involved in creating queer ‘kinds’ in London (1980-94), I place the epistemic activity of classification into the ontology of the kind – the kinding. Analysing Bowery’s collaborations, performances, fashion, and music post-1988 through the shifting meanings or kindings of queer bodies in London, I argue that Bowery’s work is interested in – and subverts – medical classification. I suggest that Bowery offers an anti-classificatory aesthetic that, when read through the ambivalence of HIV/AIDS in his archive, can uncover new para-medical sites of knowledge. Through this, my project offers an intervention that focuses on performance research for epistemologies of classification.