Ken Gonzales-Day’s Bone-Grass Boy
In 2017, queer Chicanx artist Ken Gonzales-Day put on an elaborate installation, titled Bone-Grass Boy, of glossy photographs, sculpture, mural, and mixed-media all seemingly taking place within the nineteenth-century US-Mexico borderlands. Accompanying the photographs is an old manuscript, also titled Bone-Grass Boy: The Secret Banks of the Conejos River, written by Ramoncita Gonzales in 1892. Gonzales-Day’s piece was inspired by a photograph he saw of his ancestor, a gender ambiguous person possibly named Ramoncita. Bone-Grass Boy, I suggest, is a type of speculative and performative archival practice through which Gonzales-Day brings together the erased histories of people of mixed racial, gendered, and sexual identities. I argue that the manipulation of media such as photography and the creation of a speculative archive is a type of queer archival practice that offers Ramoncita a place in history through Gonzales-Day’s queer present. I call this methodology “queer archival autoethnography,” which keeps close eyes on one’s own performative position in the archive, refusing any subject-object divide as well as past-present divide of either privileged or minoritarian archival encounters.
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