Jack Halberstam »Refusal: An Aesthetics of Collapse«

In this video lecture for transmediale 2021-22, Jack Halberstam explores the value of radical nothingness and it’s political value. Set against a backdrop of 1970s New York, Halberstam retraces a time of queer encounters before dating apps and the internet.

Through a selection of queer and trans aesthetic responses – from Drag artist and political candidate Joan Jett Black, to photographer Alvin Baltrop and dancer Fred Herko – Halberstam highlights overlooked and forgotten artistic acts of refusal that thought beyond the mainstream political frameworks of the day. The 1970s were a time of increased private ownership, social tensions and booming real estate that was visible on New York City’s landscape through the slow-motion collapse of its piers. Thinking through scale, entanglement, queer and more-than-human communities in this semi-abandoned landscape,  a dystopian image is conjured. How might looking back on the city – its modes of collapse and forms of resistance to capital systems of corporate investments and private ownership – be part of an unbuilding, unworlding and »unarchitectural« project for today?

As partner of Transmediale 2021-22 and its digital platform Almanac for Refusal, PW-Magazine shows this 45-minute lecture by the author of »Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters«, »The Queer Art of Failure« or »Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal« (just to name a few), who is also Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.

Read also the interview with Sung Tieu, who also participated in this edition of transmediale.


PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.