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Joseph Noonan-Ganley - Cesspool of Rapture

Joseph Noonan-Ganley - Cesspool of Rapture

Exhibition, film, book and series of events that examines the life and work of the British-American couturier Charles James

The Cesspool of Rapture is a body of exploratory research produced between 2016 and 2019. The research was disseminated through gallery exhibitions of fabric artworks, screenings of a moving image work, a book, and a series of events involving discussions and performances drawing on the book’s content.

View of the sky with clouds and text

The Cesspool of Rapture examines the life and work of the British-American couturier Charles James (1906-1978), addressing the lack of discourse on James’s innovative use of the zipper which he popularised in the 1920s and 1930s, and his complex sexuality. Drawing on the literary genre of biofiction as a way to create new queer methodologies in a fine art context, in this work Noonan-Ganley developed innovative visual and textual editing techniques in response to a range of source materials on James: museum archives, personal collections and published literature. This allowed him to create new queer narratives on James’s design work with the zipper and his personal life, to expand and complexify contemporary narratives of male sexuality. The zipper is the central subject and device in this project. As well as being under-researched in studies of James, in a fine art context it operated as a compelling design, drawing erotic analogies between clothes and art. The zipper features across the output, in the exhibition and the publication and is the backbone of the experimental structuring and editing techniques. In this sense, each component of the project engages with techniques of assemblage to inform the overall ambition of exploring the zipper as a queer method of biographical, visual and textual study.


Download project PDF: Joseph Noonan-Ganley - Cesspool of Rapture (0.9MB)