Loughborough University
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All that glitters is gold: queering waste through campy craft

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posted on 2021-11-08, 10:57 authored by Daniel Fountain
This practice-led PhD explores the relations between queerness and waste, in both a physical and conceptual sense. It is driven by two interrelated questions: How does the concept of waste as ‘abject’ matter relate to queerness? How might crafting from waste matter navigate the supposition of queer-as-waste?
These research questions are explored via an engagement with waste materials (primarily found textiles), and textile processes (such as stitching, patchworking, braiding, binding and stuffing). It is argued that these methods offer particularly fertile ground for exploring themes of queerness because of their longstanding gendered associations, malleability, metaphorical capaciousness, and historic position as a ‘low’ form of art-making. Furthermore, through a distinctly camp practice that embraces the ‘low’, the ‘trashy’, and the ‘outmoded’, these waste materials are recuperated and transformed into powerful sites of self-expression, becoming a vehicle to explore personal feelings of abjection and the wider socio-political experiences of queer lives being treated as ‘disposable’.
Volume One evidences this practice-led research, reflects on its relevance to the research questions, and contextualises the resulting artworks with practices emerging from other historical, social and political contexts; particularly in the U.K. and the U.S. from the 1960s to the present day. These include: The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the costumes of The Cockettes, the contemporary textile art of LJ Roberts, as well as artworks created by José Leonilson and Oliver Herring during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. As a series of appendices, Volume Two gives further evidence of the research and its development, while also demonstrating its wider impact through dissemination in exhibitions, publications, curated projects, and press.
Influenced by Jack Halberstam (1998), the overarching methodology is described as a queer scavenger methodology. My method employs waste materials that have been scavenged to use within the practice-led research and the project also assembles various scavenged scraps from different disciplinary frameworks and sources, including archival research and oral histories, to produce information on queer subjects, by a queer researcher. The original contribution of the research comes from engaging with histories and practices that have been overlooked in current academic literature and from its contribution to emerging conversations around notions of queer craft, as well as queer waste. Moreover, the project has important ramifications beyond the academy – politically, personally and artistically. It concludes that the longstanding supposition of ‘queer-as-waste’ might not only be challenged but also parodied and even celebrated via camp as a form of cultural recycling which recuperates the deprecated into a source of queer identity and strength.



  • Design and Creative Arts


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Loughborough University

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© Daniel James Fountain

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A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Hilary Robinson ; Mary (Mo) White

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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