Last weekend, a short film from my Balancing|Projecting series (‘Balancing feathers on our fingers’) was shown at Translucent. Translucent is ‘an artist-led series of events of live art. We are providing platform to trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists.’
My film, along with three others’ was shown before and in-between performances, in a brutal but welcoming space high above Waterloo Station.
In the final weeks of my degree, I applied to a small handful of open calls for exhibitions and workshops that I had seen advertised, in order to make sure I continue to challenge myself and create opportunities for my work to be seen by new audiences.
No matter how old you are when you finish a degree, you’re still Fresh Graduate Blood, and whilst I have a plethora of experiences and achievements, I’ve never been a graduate. Until now.
Before I arrived at Translucent, I was lucky to finally get to see ‘Kiss My Genders’ at Hayward. This exhibition included some artists whose work I love, such as Victoria Sin and Catherine Opie. The former included some beautiful film projection work.
Whilst it was an amazing and inspiring exhibition, that included work by artists from diverse backgrounds (still felt a little heavy on the white cis gay side though, tbh), I often wonder when gender non-conforming/trans/queer/nb artists will be permitted by the arts establishment to take part in exhibitions that aren’t exclusively *about being* gender non-conforming/trans/queer/nb? Walking into a space surrounded by artists from my community will always feel powerful, exciting and glorious upon first entering. But what is next? Acknowledgment of the continually evolving subject of gender and identity in exhibitions is GREAT, but, in the eyes of the art world, is it possible to make work that isn’t about your gender and identity if you present outside the norm?
I don’t know. Here are some images.
And now I’m going to write a little about Sasha Velour- she’s referred to as a drag queen (she won RPDR two seasons ago) but I prefer to refer to her as a contemporary performance artist.
I went to see her London show, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, and it did not disappoint. On a creative level, it was beautifully designed, written and executed. On a technical level, it was perfection (projecting mapping YES), and on an emotional level, it put a few tears in my eyes. (Which is very hard to do as I am on a tonne of medications that stop me being able to cry.)
During one segment, Sasha performs a lip sync to ‘The Greatest Show Of My Life’ by Shirley Bassey. Afterwards, she tells us that due to illness, she has in fact only been walking for a week. She talked about the duality of her character- how she feels there are so many parts of her, and that somehow the only one that ‘matters’ is the successful one that is always presented perfectly. She mused about how strange that is.
As a sick person (I have lived with Ulcerative Colitis for almost 15 years now, as well as severe anxiety and depression that is further triggered by UC…and so on and so on) this really struck a chord with me. When you spend so much time being unwell, the world can often drift out of your grasp. You feel like you have to force yourself to fit into it in ways that everyone else seems to manage perfectly easily. To give a specific example of this, on a mild UC flareup day, it can take me hours to leave the house (if I can at all). If I have to be somewhere, I will have to have spent the day before taking specific medication, resting, creating a ‘worst case scenario’ plan. On the day I will wake up early enough to be able to stay resting for a while, then I need to spend at least an hour or so in the bathroom making sure it is safe to go out (Spoiler alert- I’m never really safe with UC.)
Then I can go out (hopefully). When I turn up at work/friends/meeting/studio etc, I am in make up and I am ‘public Kate’. No one has had to see the huge amount of effort I’ve had to put in to make sure Public Kate can appear, so its assumed that that’s the only Kate there is. Is this really ‘me’? Or is scruffy, depressed, lying down in bed Kate really ‘me’?
I have friends who don’t talk to me when I’m unwell. I guess it makes them uncomfortable and they’d rather just wait until I’m ‘up and about’ again because that Kate is an easier one to know. Of course I have friends who know the gory details and have seen me at my worst. Not nice for either of us but I’m grateful some understand.
After Smoke & Mirrors, I really thought for the first time that I need to figure out how to reconcile these separate versions of myself. There really is only one of me, and whilst the art world is less than encouraging of able-bodied people, how do I make sure illness doesn’t make the art stop?