Visual Arts and Queer Secrets

Professor Dominic Janes presents The Visual Arts and Queer Secrets, a panel discussion on the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet (20 Jun 2015).

Part of the University Chairs’ Present Series, University Chair of Cultural and Visual Studies Professor Dominic Janes will be hosted a panel discussionand a cabaret performance by Bird la Bird.

Same-sex marriage has been legalised in the United Kingdom and to be gay or lesbian is no longer a matter for public scandal as it was for much of the twentieth century. The battle for queer visibility was fought out in the context of popular hostility which was fuelled not only by traditional prejudices but also, in the 1980s, by the AIDS crisis. It was the wake of these events that one of the leading pioneers of queer theory, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1950-2009), published her pioneering study, Epistemology of the Closet. Prof. Dominic Janes will be in discussion with three of today’s leading exponents of queer art history and visual culture, Prof. Whitney Davis (Berkeley), Prof. Jason Edwards (York) and Prof. Reina Lewis (UAL) to explore the continued importance of sexual secrets in the year that sees the 25th anniversary of Sedgwick’s book. The event will be followed by a wine reception to mark the publication of Dominic Janes’s study Picturing the Closet: Male Secrecy and Homosexual Visibility in Britain (Oxford University Press).


Cabaret Performer Bird la Bird is a no-holds-barred artist who straddles comedy and performance art. Her work explores queer femininities, spectacle, history and class. Over the past five years, she has moved from queer clubland into the realm of museums to explore and expose lesser known stories about working class, queer and colonial realities in the 18th and 19th centuries.  She created one of the most successful tours of the Victoria and Albert ever in 2014 and for the National Portrait Gallery in 2013. Her performance highlights include an acapella rendition of the Internationale sang through a megaphone on the grand staircase of the Wallace Collection as part of LGBT history month 2015.