Thinking of Difference Differently: Carlos Motta

A selection of texts and images from Carlos Motta’s ambitious project ‘We Who Feel Differently’ currently on view at Museum as Hub: New Museum, New York.

The exhibition is a multi-part project that explores the idea of sexual and gender “difference” after four decades of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, and Questioning politics. It features a video installation based on fifty interviews with an international and intergenerational group of LGBTIQQ academics, activists, artists, politicians, researchers, and radicals.

Link to “We Who Feel Differently: A Symposium” at the New Museum, New York, which took place May 4-5, 2012.

Motta has identified five thematic threads from this research that address subjects ranging from activism to intimacy, art to immigration.

Below is the introduction to the book that was published as one part of the project.
You can purchase the book by contacting: The book is also available for sale at the New Museum bookstore and Printed Matter, Inc., New York.

In addition, you can download the book in PDF format Download PDF


by Carlos Motta and Cristina Motta

People are not provoked by those who are different. What is more provoking is our insecurity: When you say, “I am so sorry but I am different.” That’s much more provoking than saying “I am different,” or “I have something to tell you, I can see something that you cannot see!”   

With these words, Norwegian Trans activist Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad situates sexual difference as a unique opportunity rather than as a social condemnation. “Difference” is a way of being in the world, and as such it represents a prospect of individual and collective empowerment, social and political enrichment, and freedom. Freedom implies the sovereignty to govern oneself: Being human is being beyond parameters, being without sex or gender constraints.

Has this ideal been attained in the four decades of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Questioning politics?

We Who Feel Differently approaches this and other questions through fifty interviews with LGBTIQQ academicians, activists, artists, politicians, researchers and radicals from Colombia, Norway, South Korea, and the United States. The interviewees have been active participants in the cultural, legal, political, and social processes around sexual difference in their countries, and they frame the debates, expose the discourses and some of them critically discuss the LGBT Movement’s agenda from queer perspectives.

This section presents five thematic threads drawn from the interviews, identified to construct a narrative that is representative, yet not comprehensive. This book is not a survey or a statistical study; it puts forth an assemblage of queer critiques of normative ways of thinking about sexual difference.

The Equality Framework: Stop Begging for Tolerance, gathers opinions about the conceptual perspective that guides the claim for rights and validates their recognition by the State. This framework, founded on formal equality, causes significant doubts and frustrations, all of which start a productive discussion on the limits of legal formalism and liberal tolerance and the need for a more substantive moral debate and cultural transformation.

Defying Assimilation: Beyond the LGBT Agenda assembles perspectives on ‘difference.’ It vindicates a critical and affective difference that expresses skepticism about legal responses, a firm reluctance to be assimilated, and a strong resistance to be conditioned and disciplined. The interviewees articulate ways to deal with these circumstances and the actions they have undertaken to empower themselves and others.

Gender Talents brings together the voices of trans and intersex activists and thinkers who reject the binary system that organizes gender and sexuality. Their ideas aim at broadening the possibilities of an individual beyond normative categorizations of identity. They also struggle to avoid classifications and to abolish all forms of control over non-normative lives and bodies.

Silence, Stigma, Militancy and Systemic Transformation: From ACT UP to AIDS Today offers a brief description of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in the United States and of some of the strategies used by this social movement to confront the government’s response to the AIDS epidemic from the perspective of some of its members. They also reflect on the status of AIDS today.

  provides an analysis of the reign of silence around the discourse of sexuality in art and discusses the works of cultural producers that attempt to break that silence.

We Who Feel Differently attempts to reclaim a queer “We” that values difference over sameness, a “We” that resists assimilation, and a “We” that embraces difference as a critical opportunity to construct a socially just world.

A Timeline of Queer Immigration is an attempt to compile key events regarding queer immigration, although international in scope, it is mostly centered around U.S. legal and cultural issues.

Download PDF here

To highlight the issues faced by queer immigrants in the United States, the grassroots organization QUEEROCRACY in collaboration with Carlos Motta presented  A New Discovery: Queer Immigration in Perspective. The two-day event was composed of a social intervention-based performance held on Columbus Day (October 10), 2011 at Columbus Circle in New York City (video documentation above), where they collectively read excerpts of the A Timeline of Queer Immigration; and a panel discussion with leading queer immigration activists that took place at the Museum of Art and Design on October 15, 2011.

A New Discovery: Queer Immigration in Perspective attempted to bring attention to the way immigrant and queer politics intersect in the public sphere in ways that both confront, challenge and transform the state mechanisms that police borders and bodies in the United States. This dialogue strives to generate new ideas on how to better make a difference in the lives of queer people around the world.

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