Friday, 10 January 2014

an Anatomical Education

I had been looking forward to seeing the products of an important experiment since the exhibition was first advertised.  Gendered Intelligence is an organisation whose name speaks its mission beautifully succinctly.  Gender is an area in which we are, it seems, lost at sea.  There is so much still to do, but Anatomy speaks volumes and starts a debate.  My only fear is that, as tends to be the case with anything about gender, it will be attended to and by only those who are already 'on the right page', if indeed a wide enough page could ever be found.

The project was, from its inception, challenging and exciting.  GI never imagined it would capture the interest of so many would-be transgender and intersex life models.  The work now on display at the Tavistock Clinic are some of the outcomes of a series of four practical life drawing workshops.  Those who produced the eye opening, thought provoking, assumption challenging artwork were a mixture of amateurs, enthusiasts, hobbyists and professionals.  From where I stood, it was hard to tell whose work belonged to who.  

The exhibition explodes gender to its audience before inviting the beholder to consider carefully what it is to behold the expression of another.  The space in between is a vast distance, in which I perceived a duty of care, to look more fully at what it was that hung before me.  The walls are adorned with biographies, and tales.  Sometimes angry, more often bittersweet.  There were stories being told in pictures, and images, lines and colours.  And there were big fat emotions in there too.  For those who captured the models before them, were documenting journeys rather than destinations.  

"It often seems like the harder they look, the less they see."  
- Ben Gooch

Layered Interpretation - Octavian Starr

"I believe that being Trans is a truly marvellous thing and ought to be celebrated.  Maybe one day society as a whole will take this view too, rather than seeing us as 'less' than 'man' and 'less' than 'woman' - let's recognise and enjoy all those shades of grey between too."
- Luc O
Untitled - William Stone

I was, and still am, stunned by the work I saw this evening.  The art pieces, hanging in a gallery space, really do call for attention - and rightly so.  But, it is the quality of attention that they demand and deserve that differs, I felt, from so many other contemporary art shows.  Transgender and intersex bodies have rarely, if ever, been portrayed in this way - both modelled, and encapsulated by those who identify with these labels.  This then is, and of itself, an explanation of what it is, to live a life in a body.  

For most of us, inhabiting the bodies we are born with, may not take too many thoughts.  We feel able, pretty much, to get on with it.  We conform, or we rebel.  We adapt, or we adorn.  Our complaints are largely trivial, superficial even.  What this evening reminded me is how much deeper a journey the trans or intersex person's psyche is necessarily taken on.  Go and see it.  Go and think about it.  Go and talk about it.  

"I am becoming, being realised, through the unity of art and science.  My body, no longer a stranger, he has become a dear friend..."  
- Sonny Van Eden

Just Another Life Drawing - Robin

Untitled - @Robot_Green

Cadaver Synod - Alice Warner

"Wrong body" has speciously come to define the syndrome.  A fresh-faced woman with a glowing smile arises from the hollow, lifeless cadaver that once held her.  No longer required, it becomes no more than a shadow beneath her...

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