Global Queer Research Group: Sexual Politics in the Era of Transnationalism, Diasporas and Postcoloniality

Latchkey Aesthetics

October 17th, 2012 · No Comments

Latchkey Aesthetics 

a public lecture by Dr. Karen Tongson

Thursday, October 25, from 4-6 pm


Social Lounge at St. John’s College

***Jane Rule Endowment for Human Relationships will host a drop-in lunch on October 26 from 11-1, for interested graduate students to discuss their work with Dr. Tongson. If you are interested in participating in the lunch, please contact

Unsupervised, left alone and either fearful or bored, America’s suburban spawn have been called latchkey kids since at least World War II (when the label was purportedly invented to describe kids transiently orphaned by work as well as war). As a scholar of suburban affect, race, sexuality and performance, my work has explored the uniquely trashy, yet delectable confection of what I’ve elsewhere called a “latchkey aesthetics”—the effort at converting cultures of convenience and prefabricated, prêt-a-manger materials into art and performance. In this talk, I will elaborate upon how “latchkey aesthetics” repurposes found pop cultural materials (often from the 1970s-1990s). In performance pieces that feature the latchkey look, popular materials become easily accessible and “re-heatable” through postmillennial digital technologies—a practice that befits individual performers and small collaborations operating on shoestring budgets, and limited schedules for making art (not unlike the absent parents who helped cultivate the aesthetic to begin with).
Of particular focus will be an ongoing project by Bobby Abate (aka “Bobby Service”) and Lynne Chan (aka “Black Waterfall.”) called New Sound Karaoke ( NSK combines live performance, video, internet broadcasting and participatory club nights in various karaoke venues throughout New York, channeling Abate’s and Chan’s earnest investments in karaoke as an expressive and deeply intimate social pastime. Through Chan and Abate’s own vocal performances that mash-up, reheat, and reconstitute pop songbooks from multiple decades, as well as their stylized visual accompaniments, New Sound Karaoke becomes a performative exploration of race, sexuality, reproductivity and the thin line between homonormativity and hipster heterosexuality. By discussing not only what, but how Chan and Abate repurpose analog fantasies, we might be better able to understand the contemporary horizons of post-digital performance
Dr. Karen Tongson is an Associate Professor at USC  in English and Gender Studies. Dr. Tongson’s work on popular culture, queer studies, performance, music and literature has appeared in such journals as Social Text, GLQ, Nineteenth-Century Literature, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and The International Journal of Communication, as well as in the anthologies Queering the Popular Pitch (Routledge), and The Blackwell Companion to LGBTQ Studies (eds. Haggerty and McGarry). Her first book, RELOCATIONS: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, was published August 1, 2011, as part of the New York University Press Sexual Cultures Series. Dr. Tongson is also a co-founder of the culture industry webzine OH! INDUSTRY (2007-2010).
This event is sponsored by Jane Rule Endowment for the Study of Human Relationships, Critical Studies in Gender, Sexuality, Race and Social Justice, and the Global Queer Research Group.

Tags: Uncategorized