Annotation – Adrienne Edwards, “Relishing the Minor: Juliana Huxtable’s Kewt Aesthetics”

Edwards, Adrienne. “Relishing the Minor: Juliana Huxtable’s Kewt Aesthetics.” Performa. 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

In her article “Relishing the Minor: Juliana Huxtable’s Kewt Aesthetics,” Adrienne Edwards comments on the shortcomings of most writing on Huxtable’s work. “A cursory review of her press clippings reveals an overwhelming number of references to her as a model or muse, as opposed to what she is: an artist.” In a sense, Edwards’ essay acts as a corrective to this tendency. The author engages in an extended analysis of Huxtable’s most recent and “most ambitious performance,” There Are Certain Facts that Cannot Be Disputed. As Edwards explains, this piece, “co-commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art and Performa,” explores how “historical knowledge is constituted, circulated, and reified,” as well as “the modes through which this knowledge circulates, from printed texts to the Internet,” through an amalgamation of spoken poetry, music, video, and lighting.

Edwards examines how Huxtable’s performance speaks back to the hierarchized power dynamics that constitute the fetish and the ornament, as aesthetic objects and psychoanalytic concepts. She also roots her analysis in Sianne Ngai’s notion of “the cute” as an especially prevalent contemporary aesthetic category. This “minor” aesthetic, according to Ngai,  incorporates “problematic symbols of powerlessness” (Edwards) associated with femininity, including “particular modes of speech, high emotion, and seduction” (Edwards). Edwards expands on the interrogation of gender in Ngai’s writing about cuteness, enacting a more explicitly intersectional approach informed by critical race and queer theory. Edwards delineates the specific resonances of the “kewt – a colloquial replacement for the word “cute” among queer people of colour,” which “better encapsulates Huxtable’s affect.” In doing so, Edwards gestures toward an important project of examining aesthetic categories more substantially in terms of their relationships to queer communities and communities of colour. And yet, in her emphasis on the cute, and kewt, at the expense of Ngai’s other categories of the zany or the interesting, Edwards misses an opportunity to bring this project further, while neglecting certain valences of Huxtable’s complex and multifaceted performance work.

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