GRID FAILURE: METAPHORS OF SUBCULTURAL TIME AND SPACE
Pp. 82-109 (28)
This chapter explores a set of conceptual relations between ‘the grid,’
understood as an organizing structure for subjectivity and urban spaces, and subcultural
identities and practices. In this context of metaphoric grid structures, the discussion is
concerned with addressing the legibility and recognizability of instances of time or space
that operate within subcultural practice to destabilize cultural and sexual norms. The
discussion first reflects on the location and temporality of an example of street art in New
York in terms of its skewed spatial relation to that city’s grid map, questioning how the
work’s unsettling of conventional ideas of cultural production can speak to the spatial and
temporal organization of place, property and propriety. In the second section, a reading of
John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus provides a means to imagining a time and space of
queer possibility within the grid failure of short-circuit and black-out. Using the film’s
literal rendering of these metaphors, the chapter argues that Mitchell’s depiction of a salon
of queer subcultural convergence evades heteronormative narratives of time and space and
instead highlights the priority and the productivity of the immeasurable momentary.
Finally, building from the impetus of this concept of productive failure, the potential of
queer theory to release academic subjects from the strictures imposed by narratives of
professional progress and institutional affiliation is considered, ultimately questioning
queer theory’s complicity in establishing further normative grids that may also stymie the
legibility and recognizability of those operating at the margins of academia. Melissa Jane
Hardie provides a response to this chapter.
Grid, grid failure, Shortbus, time, space, subcultural, queer, place, John
Cameron Mitchell, short-circuit, heteronormative.
American University of Paris.