Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts

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Seeing Differently offers a history and theory of ideas about identity in relation to visual arts discourses and practices in Euro-American culture, from early modern beliefs that art is an expression of an individual, the painted image a world picture expressing a comprehensive and coherent point of view, to the rise of identity politics after WWII in the art world and beyond. The book is both a history of these ideas (for example, tracing the dominance of a binary model of self and other from Hegel through classic 1970s identity politics) and a political response to the common claim in art and popular political discourse that we are beyond or post- identity. In challenging this latter claim, Seeing Differently critically examines how and why we identify works of art with an expressive subjectivity, noting the impossibility of claiming we are post-identity given the persistence of beliefs in art discourse and broader visual culture about who the subject is, and offers a new theory of how to think this kind of identification in a more thoughtful and self-reflexive way. Ultimately, Seeing Differently offers a mode of thinking identification as a queer feminist durational process that can never be fully resolved but must be accounted for in thinking about art and visual culture. Queer feminist durationality is a mode of relational interpretation that affects both art and interpreter, potentially making us more aware of how we evaluate and give value to art and other kinds of visual culture.