How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?
The book considers how contemporary artists have mined the archives of gay and lesbian leather history to create a queer politics of the present.
What book in your field has inspired you the most?
Carolyn Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History is a model for this project and the kind of work I hope the book does. I also find myself now returning to Lucy Lippard’s Undermining, and Gloria Anzaldúa’s posthumous collection, Light in the Dark/ Luz en lo Oscura: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality [her writing on the writing process has been particularly illuminating]. Both books (Lippard and Anzaldúa) are beautiful examples of writers —supporting and supported by communities of readers.
Did your research take you to any unexpected places?
Because leather materials are rarely collected by academic institutions (or public institutions of any kind, really), researching these communities involves a fair amount of going into people’s basements, attics, and closets—where they usually keep stuff they find important, but would not otherwise be part of their day-to-day. Many folks have opened up their homes to me in the hopes that I would find their old “stuff” useful.
Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?
I write on my laptop, usually in a public space (that is, when I have the ability to bring research materials with me). I like noise and motion and life around me as I write. Of course archival work is more static and silent, and I like that contrast.
Why did you choose to publish with MUP?
The Rethinking Art’s Histories series is a signal series in our field, publishing exciting work by established and emerging scholars. I made my proposal for the book with the hopes that I could join such a motley, exciting, and storied crew.
What are you working on now?
I’m beginning a new project that considers the ways in which poverty has circumscribed artistic practice since 1968 (the year the Poor People’s Campaign camped out on the National Mall). Importantly I hope the book will also feature a slew of artist interviews that will create new primary sources for thinking about poverty as an important dimension of art’s production, dissemination, display, and reception.
If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice when starting out on this project, what would it be?
It’s a piece of advice I have to give myself a lot: patience.
If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?
I admire Ursula Le Guin; I enjoy how she unspools a story, and the many ways she guilefully navigates her politics and art.
What other genres do you enjoy reading?
From above: speculative and science fiction is a go-to. LGBTQ folks have always been involved in this genre—it makes sense: it’s a way to imagine a world otherwise. I love the genre for its capacities to put difference (contact stories are often the greatest example of this) at the center of a narrative.
Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?
I would love to have dinner with Carolyn Steedman (see above), Catherine Lord (see blurb for book!), and Beverly Buchanan (she’s an artist, but I’m an art historian, so I’m twisting the question a bit). Continuing on the science fiction tip above, I’d love to share a meal with N.K. Jemisin.
Bound together is available now! Andy Campbell is Assistant Professor of Critical Studies at USC Roski School of Art and Design