Padraig Robinson is an artist writing books and screenplays. The forthcoming book Gaze Against Imperialism (Metaflux Publishing 2019) comes out of a longer investigation in the Irish Queer Archive, initially tracking tensions between activism and the social economy of the “scene”. This is summarised in a 1981 speech by President of the National Gay Federation, David Norris, who warns: ‘It would be an appalling irony if the net impact of the gay liberation movement was merely to make homosexuality safe for capitalism’. Gaze Against Imperialism departs from a photocopy depicting a banner reading: ‘Gays Against Imperialism’, and is co-authored with Cathal Kerrigan, co-founder of ‘Gays Against Imperialism’ and current librarian at University College Cork. By articulating the homonym “gaze” and “gays”, the title not only points to the generative misunderstandings in any public utterance, but also to the space between reading and listening.
A poetic and political root in listening is the foundation for the book 6 – 9: Notes from the archive of Dan Kane (Publication Studio Rotterdam, 2016). These ‘Notes’ were made at the analogue archive of American photographer Dan Kane. From 1985 - 1994 Kane ran a photographic workshop for US Army Berlin after abandoning a PhD in German Literature called Sprachlandschaft’ (linguistic landscapes). Sprachlandschaft required a strange form of listening to a literary character’s speech, identifying complex accents and slight idiosyncrasies referring to specific places, privileges or discriminations. This abandoned PhD became the metaphoric and structural background for the book, consisting of five essays and accompanied by a selection of Kane’s photography, which focuses almost entirely on subverting the classic conventions of the sculptural male nude. The book adopted different ways of writing about the pictorial material, ranging from art historical, to biographical, to documentary, to philosophical, and finally to literary. The literary chapter is written as a dialogue between ‘gender neutral’ voices. They are identified only as their methods of thinking about pictures; featuring a philosopher, an art historian who minored in literary theory, an artist, a curator with a good sense of humour, an anarchist, a closet iconoclast and a neo-liberal queer.