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I open the door, I blow a kiss your way, I come where you are, I tell you everything before you can say a word. Please come in. I am glad you’re here, I’ve missed you.
I open this door to close the July issue that focussed on the poetics of the door. For this number, I have worked together with the different points of view and the artworks and research of each authors: Stephan Blumenschein, Tait Mandler, Luz Broto and Marjolein Schepers.
If there is something that the four contributions of this month have in common is they are rift-ass-borders. In one way or another, all the authors reflect and question aspects of the door as an object of mediation. They reveal the duality of the door and reclaim its multiplicity. They invite us to remember that no one ever enters or leaves through a door but through the millions of codes that keep it in place, why is it otherwise that we need signs to know whether they are open or closed? This month’s contributions examine, exhibit and criticize the door as a tool to control ruptures and define binarisms such as open. Closed. Yes. No. Inside. Outside. Human. Inhuman. Legal. Illegal. Life. Death. Correct. Incorrect. Mind. Body. We. They.
Luz and Stephan’s pieces think about the door beyond itself but within its context — often in the context of the museum or gallery — and the people who pass through it. Luz’s article disassembles the duality of the door by playing with its codes and performativity, inviting us to go through the back door, the cellardoor, the one nobody wants to open, the forgotten one, the sealed-off or the neighbor’s door who lent us their keys. Stephan’s essay revolves around the fantasy of the absence of doors and how it translates into exhibition spaces, a false idea of freedom, because what flows without rhyme or reason — without the pauses that doors create — is not set adrift but rather is blind to the limits of the other.
By analysing the door as an architectural object that embodies the politics of breaks and limits, this issue also looked into the collective processes that impose and maintain doors. Or in other words, how these politics carry with them the codes of behavior and moral judgments that we perform out of habit. That penetrate and trap us. That reiterate toxic restrictions and assume what places and bodies can and cannot be crossed. Authors Marjolein and Tait present a critical view on these door policies from the perspective of its penetrability and impenetrability: who can pass through a door and who remains, what doors can we open when all are closed.
Marjolein proposes the door as a space in-between and focuses on the analysis of city gates; both the old ones at walled cities and the current borders that keep out undocumented migrants, asylum seekers or people without a permanent residence. Marjolein reflects on the door as a space of exclusion when immigration policies make it impossible to enter a place and force people to live literally on the threshold, the doorsill. Marjolein speaks from her experience in her home countries Netherlands and Belgium and thinks together with the work of the artist David Bernstein and the poet Rodaan Al Galidi.
Tait’s contribution applies the notion of impenetrability to the concepts of history and trauma. Tait guides us through the colonial history of the city of Quito to trace a journey through the signs and lives of indigenous people that coexist and keep permeating the present despite the fact that history wants to keep them in the past. At the same time, Tait reflects on the impossibility of impenetrability in relation to his own trauma and memories which continue to reappear in their life despite the fact that they were already buried. In a series of superpositions of palimpsests, Tait’s text invites us to think of the door as a present always entangled in the fabric of the past. The palimpsest door is like the one described by Hélène Cixous: an organic and temporary door in which past and death inevitably end up reappearing.
This is our misfortune: in the case of apocalypse—when we are invited to rise above ourselves, so as to see the worst, as though to see the best—almost always we faint away. Mourning shows us the door, we are dislodged from our interior habitation, an absence moves into our place.Cixous, Hélène, “What Is It O’Clock? Orthe Door (We Never Enter)”, en McQuillan, Martin (ed.), Deconstruction, Routledge, New York, 2000..
When I think of the door as a border that manages which bodies may or may not penetrate this or that door and which ones may or may not be penetrated, I can’t help but think of the back door. A universal door that is often refused as an entrance because if we use it as an entry we are deemed dirty, perverse, weak, and passive. I’m referring here to the ass, the anus, the asshole.
In their book Por el culo. Políticas anales (2011), Javier Sáez y Sejo Carrascosa precisely present an analysis and genealogy of the ass in terms of penetrability and impenetrability. Despite the fact that the ass does not have sex and regardless of the sexual organs attributed or not to people, our heteronormative society classifies those who practice anal sex as penetrable bodies. As explained by Sáez and Carrasco this is not only one of the mechanisms that generate contempt for gay cisgender men, but it also turns the category “penetrability” into a way of defining a person’s gender identity. Heteronormative societies associate penetrable bodies as female, passive, slave, loser, weak, or object. While those who penetrate are considered male, active, masters, winners, strong or subject I have used the exact words of Sáez y Carrascosa to mention these binary pairs. See Sáez, Javie and Carrascosa, Sejo. Por el culo. Políticas anales. Triangulin, ePub, 2011, p.13. Atrocious chain of associations that articulate power into a binary system and moralize the ass based on the pleasant use that is made of it.
These images are two artworks that think of the vagina and the ass as doors to materialize some of the regimes of penetrability. In the case of Hon (Image on the left), the female body as a cathedral, the artist Niki de Saint Phalle claims the vagina as penetrable and turns it into a public entrance door and an amusement park inside. Inside Hon there were, among many other things: a planetarium, sofas to relax in, a movie theater, a fake art gallery, a bar, a fish pond or a public telephone. This way, de Saint Phalle steals from heterosexual and cisgender men the exclusivity of penetrating the female body, Hon welcomed anyone.
Next to Hon I place the work of Anthea Hamilton Project for Door (After Gaetano Pesce) (2016) part of the work Lichen! Libido! Chastity! (2015) (image on the right) because the vagina door has been represented on many occasions More examples of vagina doors can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLE4-vijE06/ This post was my first contact with the vagina door and it belongs to the Instagram of StepSistering run … Continue reading but not the ass door. Perhaps precisely because heteronormative thinking considers that the ass does not have a double function, like the door, of entry and exit. In fact, this is the only ass door I have found and it isn’t even a door, it was originally a sculpture for a door project by architect Gaetano Pesce that was never built. Hamilton also presented it as a sculpture, visitors were not invited to enter inside like in the case of Hon. Hamilton also presented it as a sculpture, the visitors were not invited to enter inside as in the case of Hon.
The fact that this ass has neither anus nor hair, gives us a kind of caricature of the chastity that heterocentric thinking tries to impose on the ass. That is, the ass is clean and better closed, it does not open and it isn’t penetrable, especially if it is for pleasure. Using the anus as a gateway is, among other things, a way of disturbing the heteronormative definition of gender. As Sara Ahmed points out, it is the notion of use that often brings us closer to the ways in which gender is defined, but a place from which we can corrupt this definition. Ahmed calls the latter, queer uses:
Queer uses, when things are used for purposes other than the ones for which they were intended, still reference the qualities of a thing (…) Queer use might also be understood as improper use; queer use as perversion (…) The figure of the pervert comes up as the one whose misuse of the things is a form of self-revelation. Ahmed, Sara, “Queer Use” from her blog feministkilljoy, 2018. Available here: https://feministkilljoys.com/2018/11/08/queer-use/ Last accessed July 23, 2021.
Vagina and ass doors represent modes of these queer uses and reveal the codes associated with physical openings, their entry and exit regimes. The artworks that appear or are part of the texts of Stephan and Luz in this issue, propose something very similar. They refer to the possibility of playing and changing the usual uses of the door to question their codes. For example, Luz transforms the uses of the door when she closes the door of her studio during open studio days, when she leaves a door open to let a hose or rope pass through it, or when she changes the locks. Some of the uses disturb the surveillance codes embodied by doors as well as the public and private codes defined by doors.
Ahmed suggests doors  Knocking on the Door: Complaints and Other Stories about Institutions. Online lecture, The Humanities Institute, Stony Brook University, 2021. Most of the new work of Ahmed focuses on the analysis … Continue reading are objects that articulate discursive elements of power relations, but they are also our tools to dismantle the master’s houseAhmed is inspired by the work of Audre Lorde who speaks as a black lesbian woman: “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at … Continue reading Our tools to reclaim and transform what was denied to us, starting with the use of the tools available to us, that empower us. This is also similar to what I have been thinking about here together with the authors of this month’s issue and their ways of dismantling the dualities and double faces of the door. Like using your ass as an entry door; the office’s door as an emergency exit when we were told that it did not exist; entering without knocking to claim our presence; slamming the door; seducing the gatekeeper; or peeking through the peephole in the door, as I do now while watching you leave. I’ll call you tomorrow. My eye on the little window of the closed door to frustrate the farewell.
|↑1||Cixous, Hélène, “What Is It O’Clock? Orthe Door (We Never Enter)”, en McQuillan, Martin (ed.), Deconstruction, Routledge, New York, 2000..|
|↑2||I have used the exact words of Sáez y Carrascosa to mention these binary pairs. See Sáez, Javie and Carrascosa, Sejo. Por el culo. Políticas anales. Triangulin, ePub, 2011, p.13.|
|↑3||More examples of vagina doors can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLE4-vijE06/ This post was my first contact with the vagina door and it belongs to the Instagram of StepSistering run by Matías Daporta Gonzalez. Last accessed July 23, 2021.|
|↑4||Ahmed, Sara, “Queer Use” from her blog feministkilljoy, 2018. Available here: https://feministkilljoys.com/2018/11/08/queer-use/ Last accessed July 23, 2021.|
|↑5||Knocking on the Door: Complaints and Other Stories about Institutions. Online lecture, The Humanities Institute, Stony Brook University, 2021. Most of the new work of Ahmed focuses on the analysis of the door in the context of the academic institution and the different types of abuse of power that occur “behind doors.” Ahmed analyzes the speeches of abused women and how they use the door as a metaphor. More on this topic can be found here: https://feministkilljoys.com/2019/10/31/the-same-door/ Last accessed July 23, 2021.|
|↑6||Ahmed is inspired by the work of Audre Lorde who speaks as a black lesbian woman: “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” (1984). Part of this text is quoted by Sara Ahmed in her book What′s the Use? On the Uses of Use, Duke University Press, Durham, 2019.|
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