Framing Gays in the Military (2012)

by Coll.eo

The series Framing Gays in the Military addresses the sexual inclination of the macho types that the game industry chooses to portray as the face of simulated military. The interchangeable nature of the avatar - a mask that different players wear in the virtual world - raises questions about such notions as masculinity, virility, and performativity.

video game
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Thirty 3” x 4” framed digital prints of military-based videogame characters

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Artist Statement

The series Framing Gays in the Military addresses the sexual inclination of the macho types that the game industry chooses to portray as the face of simulated military. The interchangeable nature of the avatar - a mask that different players wear in the virtual world - raises questions about such notions as masculinity, virility, and performativity.

Interestingly, homophobia is a quite common phenomenon online gaming. The derogatory epithet “faggot” is frequently attached to players whose skills are deemed inferior to those of the alleged heterosexual players. And yet, such behavior is surprising considering the manifest homoerotic nature of military first-person shooters, centered around mostly male individuals chasing each other with a perpetually erected phallic gun.

The goal of these games is to impregnate the enemy with virtual bullets. Achieving such objective is often accompanied by the practice of teabagging, where one player simulates the act of inserting his scrotum into the dead player’s character mouth in the fashion of a teabag into a mug with an up/down (in/out) motion.

This work was both inspired by/is an homage to Edra Soto Fernandez’ One Vision: Hollywood Soldiers (2003-2007) and Donald Moffett’s Gays in the Military (1991). The former is a series of portraits taken from video stills of Hollywood War movies which question our perception of warfare. The latter is a series of annotated drawings of celebrated military men from previous centuries. If Moffett’s Gays in the Military series was a criticism of the Pentagon’s refusal to openly admit that homosexual men already serve in the armed forces - and have throughout history - Framing Gays in the Military addresses the right of openly gay men and their avatars to serve in the virtual battlefields as well.

Framing Gays in the Military also investigates the nature of the “male gaze” in videogames: the looks, the poses, the gestures that the gaming industry emphasizes in promoting their products. This artwork is an act of appropriation: the original screenshots were re-cropped and slightly altered to fit the format of the Polaroid film.

Finally, Framing Gays in the Military invites the audience to rethink the relationship between simulation, representation, and performativity in the age of simulacra. These are the issues that constitute the meanings of the worlds we inhabit: the real and the virtual.

coll.eo is Colleen Flaherty and Matteo Bittanti

San Francisco, September 18 2012

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