Whether or not sexuality is genetic, natural, inherently embedded, etc., queer theory assumes that it is only through culture and its language that sexuality can be understood. Following post-structuralist thought, queer theory understands the man-woman binary as constructed and meaningful only in the opposition which it creates. Only through this binary opposition are masculinity and femininity given “life” and meaning. Similar is a heterosexual-homosexual binary through which normalcy and otherness are created. Judith Butler believes both gender and sexuality to be a form of impersonation which is necessarily repetitive: “gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself” (371). While gender fails to hold within itself a true and holy original, the role the imitator plays must assume, being an imitator, that there is something to be imitated in the first place. Because of this, gender must constantly imitate the imitations which preceded and surround it, creating an endless continuum of imitation that inherently preaches an underlying Truth. Butler also believes sexuality to be extremely unstable and imitative: “if it were not for the notion of the homosexual as copy, there would be no construct of heterosexuality as origin. Heterosexuality here presupposes homosexuality. And if the homosexual as a copy precedes the heterosexual as origin, then it seems only fair to concede that the copy comes before the origin, and that homosexuality is thus the origin, and heterosexuality” (372). Here Butler shows the ability of this particular binary opposition to be flipped back and forth endlessly. The problem is that any given “resolution” is subject to being flipped once again. It is in this instability that Butler and queer theory are able to reject the Truths of gender and sexuality, thus making room for play.
Each photograph in this collection is a banana. It is only when put in opposition to one another that each’s imitation is exposed. The banana in the upper left corner is modified into a drawing (imitation) of a banana only when opposed to the others. The “real” (original) banana in the lower corned is exposed to be an imitation only when the banana to the left is observed in opposition to it. This collection of photographs plays as Judith Butler does to reverse and reverse again the binary between heterosexuality and homosexuality or original and imitation in order to expose the binary’s overall instability. Even in the right picture which appears to address and resolve the binary, one must remember the medium of photography to be imitative in itself. In this way the photos attempt to call attention to the restrictive and problematic nature of the extremely mediated communicative system of signs which the banana (along with gender and sexuality) must be understood through.
Because of the repetitive nature the repetition of gender and sexuality, I wonder what it to ever stop it from its endless impersonation of the impersonation preceding it. Is it not more likely that individuals empowered by the system will react to the exposition of its instability in violent frenzy? What value is to be gained from sighting instability if cultural memory refuses to let the system collapse?