LiberationanditsLimitsArthurTress1977SupermanFantasy (PDF)

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Liberation and its Limits: Negotiating Queer Male Sexuality in Arthur Tress’ 1977 
Superman Fantasy. 
Adding to multiple 1960s and 70s American ‘liberation narratives’, Gay Liberation mobilized 
social progress through essentialized representation. Shot in industrial ruins of Manhattan’s 
Chelsea piers ­ historic gay cruising sites ­ Arthur Tress’ 1977 photograph, ​
Superman Fantasy​

features a white male poking his penis through a cardboard Superman cut­out. The merging of 
Tress’ male model with Superman’s artifice produces multiple readings of an incorporated 
double body. Examining the secret identity archetype as queer metaphor, oblique relations to 
masculine myths like Superman highlight broader negotiations with nationalism ­ neocolonial 
orderings of the “American way” are bound to Gay Liberation itself, recuperated as a 
. A black and white photograph excluding Persons of Color, ​
Superman Fantasy 
chromatically fuses the ​
whiteness ​
of its characters, exposing a gendered racism in neoliberal 
imaginaries: queer cis white males are displaced by heterosexist matrices, but remain “gay 
figureheads” from privileges of race and ‘biological’ sex. Branding the queer white male body, 
Superman acquires new genitals, physically co­opting ‘Othered’ sexuality into flat construction: 
fantasy becomes a vehicle for control and domination. However, penetrating the cut­out is a 
symbolic act of queer vigilantism, echoing Superman’s heroic acts outside the law through 
post­Stonewall illegalities of same­sex relations. Viewing identity as a tenet of capitalism, 
Superman Fantasy’s ​
models ​
 liberation when paired with time: the 
only way out is through. This latter point locates current possibility and tension for liberation, 
‘speeding up’ global capital toward imminent rupture through cybernetic projection. Virtualities 
like social media mutate agency, complicating liberation in a superpowered patriarchy. 



Arthur Tress ­ ​
Superman Fantasy ​
­ Fiber Print ­ 1977 

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