|THINGS WE DO
Arthouse, Temple Bar, Dublin
That to which the neon points never tires from drawing attention to its own plainness and mediocrity. The average does not want to be imperceptible and it will not be satisfied with merely leaving a trace. Still, its desperate need for its Other for justification and sustenance is not lost on its advocates and defenders. This need is often covered over by a surface appreciation, if not a relish, in the frivolity of the "different." The average wants to be all-pervasive; it is urban; it is loud; it is. The line between a pride parade and a GAP(r) commercial is sometimes difficult to draw.
As a sign, "AVERAGE" hovers between a declaration and a prescription, even if it is a negative one. Is that why the damn thing will not stop blinking? Is there perhaps a malfunctioning in its power source? Or is it merely prolonging its staying power by economising on its energy? The average has finally joined the ranks of the environmentally friendly. As an object, and a reproducible one at that, the rate and charge of the sign's stroboscopic eruptions may hence be altered depending on the desired setting or effect.
Nowadays, and perhaps more so than ever before, one could easily, but sadly, imagine the sign hanging comfortably above the entranceway to many a so-called queer institution-a watering hole, an advocacy organisation, or a scholarly enterprise. The political advantages and efficacy of such a manoeuvre should not go unnoticed. Neither should its pitfalls. However, a balance sheet is too late at this point, assuming it was ever possible. This by no means forecloses on action. Action is inevitable, regardless of the sequence of events. The question is then hardly of whether or not; rather, it is one of what and how. For those who know what they want to say, strategy becomes a major priority.
The neon could very well be the equivalent of a road sign alerting commuters to a hideous crash in the making. The explicit coding of its colour selects, or at least privileges, those travellers that are dear to the agency behind the sign. Its intensity is not only a response proportional to the magnitude of the event; it is also calibrated to penetrate its audience's veil of false security. One might argue for the parody in the appropriation of ordinary objects and even the humour in the painting of mundane words with queer colours. Nevertheless, both are overshadowed by the irony of a certain reversal. In part at least, the warning is now directed at those who, while populating the demonstrations against the tyranny of the hetero-normative and its average, are making their own demands for the codification, and hence averaging, of sexuality in terms of an orientation or a lifestyle.
What then of the sign's invitation? After all, the average is inevitable. Even a conscious and earnest commitment to the eradication of this most dreaded of evils produces its own norm, its own pattern, its own-dare one say it-average. What is most interesting and rewarding about the work before which we stand and the effects it generates is that they are produced as tense, contradictory, and aleatory. They are dispensable, not because they are meaningless or valueless, which they are not, but because they are effects rather than fixed categories, effects that may potentially lead and contribute to the production of other equally aleatory and contradictory effects. In this respect, they share almost nothing with the average.
Abou-Rihan, PhD practices psychoanalysis, teaches, and writes in Toronto,
(c) Fadi Abou-Rihan 2000, All Rights Reserved
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