Talk by Nguyen Tan Hoang, "Sad Porn"
In the 1980s, the AIDS pandemic wiped out a vibrant gay sexual culture established in the United States during the sexual revolution in the 1970s. Consequently, the trauma of AIDS is reflected in the preeminent site of gay male cultural production: gay video pornography. Critics noted the consumption of pornography as the “safest” sex of all, and activists called for the use of condoms in porn videos as an important strategy of safer sex education. While these scholarly and activist responses have rightly focused on education and prevention, there have been few efforts made to register the affective dimension of AIDS and visual representation.
This presentation examines the process of mourning in experimental film and video in the 1990s in response to the AIDS crisis. Specifically, Nguyen considers queer collage as a way of thinking about gay porn as a history of sexuality, as a celebration of sexuality, but also a history of loss and sadness. Using the films and videos of Robert Blanchon, Michael Brynntrup, and Stuart Gaffney, I argue that by reusing found footage from 1970s and 1980s gay pornography, these works call attention to the disappearance of the gay sexual archive with the advent of AIDS and the de-generation of analog media. The reanimation of obsolete formats, including celluloid film and VHS video, constitutes a witnessing and a memorialization of a lost sexual culture. I contend that these films demonstrate how personal porn archiving ensures the survival of public sexual histories and memories.
Nguyen Tan Hoang is Associate Professor of Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of California at San Diego, and his book A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation (Duke UP, 2014) is an important contribution to interdisciplinary work in gender and sexuality studies, Asian American studies, and cinema studies. His experimental videos have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Nguyen's research interests include Asian American visual culture, Southeast Asian cinema, queer cinema, experimental film, race and pornography, film programming, and video production.
Professor Nguyen's visit is part of Staging Asian America: a performance and lecture series sponsored by the Committee on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Theater, Dance & Media, with thanks to the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities and the Donald T. Regan Fund for making the series possible.