Hapticality, the capacity to feel through others, for others to feel through you, for you to feel them feeling you. To feel others is unmediated, immediately social, amongst us, our thing.
—Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, “Hapticality, or Love”
In The Estrangement Principle poet Ariel Goldberg writes of their “routine obsession” with “collecting the phrase queer art.” In these days it does feel impossible to not trip over the compound (and compounding of) queer art and the trends swirling all around it. Queer craft and queer haptics, thematics laboring steadily, if quietly, in the studios and social and aesthetic practices of artists for many years, now occupy the “art world” efforts of museums, curators, critics, and art historians, all hoping to make sense of a feeling.
Two Spiders, an exhibition of sculpture and drawing by artists Jesse Harrod and Chris Bogia at GrizzlyGrizzly, does the work of crafting queer art, not as a fixed proposition, but an active dialogue. Harrod and Bogia linger with materials, manipulating ordinary and everyday objects and put things to aesthetic work. Constructing a method—one we could, if so inclined, describe as “queer art”—out of materials, Harrod and Bogia create patterns and dimension in the surface of the everyday. The labor of their hands is registered in the evidence of knotting, twisting, brushstrokes, balancing acts. Yet to make sense of the “queer art” in Two Spiders you need to activate and amplify the sense of looking to touch.
Anchored in the material, felt, sensory and sensual, the haptic can be thought of a break with the dominance of visuality as a mode of aesthetic knowledge and value. The notion of “queer art” it forwards is a nonrepresentational set of forms or “tactics.”¹ In one of Harrod’s untitled sculptures (2018), a pair of mustard limbs made of paracord dangle in the air, suspended from an aluminum frame. There is no proper “front” or “back” to this work as an identical pair of limbs flops out the other end of the sculpture, creating a collective shadow.
We associate craft and the haptic with the hand, handmade, touch, touching, texture, sensuality, and the sensorium of the senses. In Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy Performance, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick writes of the haptic as “tactile plus emotional.” She proposes the haptic as a feeling of touch and also describes its proprioceptic registers, writing about “the perception of texture, as when we hear the brush-brush of corduroy trousers or the crunch of extra-crispy chicken.”
The haptic, like craft, describes more than an affinity for materials. A social and aesthetic formation anchored in the properties we associate with craft—the materials alongside the methods—the haptic is a social form, reminding us of our social bodies. The bodies Bogia and Harrod fabricate in sculpture and drawing evoke the social networks of queer care, the loops of dependency and interdependency. The body is desiring and in motion, some made of skin and flesh, others of wire, paracord and acrylic, undoing the false categories of the natural or “fake.”
In “Other Sensualities” Rizvana Bradley reminds us: “the etymological root of haptic in Greek is haptein, which means to take hold of an object, fasten onto, or to touch it.” She observes, “our collective attempts to theorize the haptic as a visceral register of experience and vital zone of experimentation, direct us to somatic forms of knowledge attuned not only to contemporary bodies and spaces, but also to the worlds and imaginations that have both conditioned and surpassed the body in and of performance.”
The Decorator (2017), a sculpture by Chris Bogia made of wood, steel, yarn, veneer, grass cloth wallpaper, house paint, lacquer, jute rug, and vases, is described as an “arrangement” because of the way the artist carefully balances objects into a form. One finds suggestive resonance between balance and interdependence and the persistence, malleability, and adaptation required of our political times. As necessary as resistance is, the materials and techniques of queer craft allow us to see resistance in many shapes and forms. Two Spiders is a welcome queer allegory: knots framing an opening.
Craft no longer signifies simply as oppositional to the “fine” arts. The longstanding labor of artists working in marginalized materials is now recognized in many museum exhibitions, catalogues, journals, scholarly books, and galleries. Yet many of us are also wary of the commodifying of craft and the haptic sensorium it references. In Two Spiders we find a sensorium of craft becoming not a solid object but a moving methodology to apprehend and describe the everyday of queer life.
¹ Haptic Tactics, curated by Risa Puelo, Daniel Sanders, and Noam Parnes, at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Lesbian and Gay Art, spring 2018.
Jeanne Vaccaro is a writer and curator working at the intersection of performance and aesthetics, feminist art and archives, and queer politics. She is a 2017-19 Mellon postdoctoral fellow in science, technology, and gender studies at the University of California, Davis and co-organizer of the feminist arts and sciences lab, an incubator to decolonize and queer science pedagogies. Her book in process, Handmade: Feelings and Textures of Transgender, explores the felt labor of making identity, and was awarded the Arts Writers Grant by Creative Capital / the Andy Warhol Foundation. Jeanne received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at New York University and held postdoctoral fellowships in Gender Studies and the Kinsey Institute archives at Indiana University (2014-17) and in Sexuality Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (2012-14).
Chris Bogia was born in Wilmington, Delaware. He received his BFA at New York University and MFA from Yale University, and currently lives and works in Queens, NY. Bogia is the Director and co-founder of Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR), the first LGBTQ artist residency in the world, located in Cherry Grove, on Fire Island, NY, as well as an instructor of sculpture at New York University. Bogia is the recipient of a 2018 Queens Council for the Arts grant, the 2017 Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Artist Community Engagement Grant, the 2015 Tiffany Foundation Grant, and is a current artist-in-resident at the Queens Museum Studio Program 2016-2018. Recent exhibitions include shows at the Queens Museum; CF Hill Gallery, Stockholm; Kate Werble Gallery, NewYork; Ortega y’ Gasset Projects in Brooklyn and a solo presentation at Spring Break Art Show.
Jesse Harrod has an MFA in Fibers & Material Studies from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. Currently, Harrod is the Head of Fibers & Material Studies at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Harrod’s solo exhibitions include “Low Ropes Course” at NurtureArt in Brooklyn, “Toxic Shock and Hotdog” at Vox Populi in Philadelphia, and “Soft Hardware” at the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, VA. Their work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions throughout the United States. These include “In Practice: Material Deviance” at the SculptureCenter in New York, the traveling exhibition “Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community,” and “Towards Textiles, Material Fix” at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI. Harrod has been awarded residencies at The MacDowell Artist Colony, The Fire Island Artist’s Residency, Open Studio Residency at Haystack Mountain School of Craft, the Icelandic Textile Center, and the Vermont Studio Center, among others. Harrod’s work appears in two recently published edited collections: a book-length catalog to accompany the exhibition “Queer Threads” and an edited book published by Publication Studio: Hudson that situates their artistic practice within a larger historical and contemporary context, with contributions from Jenni Sorkin, Daniel Orendorff, Allyson Mitchell, Laurel Sparx, Anthony Romero and JD Samson.