Kiss My Genders at the Hayward Gallery curated by Vincent Honore is a dynamic voyage and vivacious celebration of infinite representations of gender-diversity, gender non-conformity, androgyny and gender-subversion over the course of 50 years, featuring a mélange of 100 artworks by 35 international artists.
Kiss My Genders features artists who redefine and destabilise the fixed ideal of the restrictive yet malleable concept of the elusive gender binary. Each artist has their own unique way of disrupting, reimaging and deconstructing the performative nature of gender identity through their chosen medium. Many of the featured artists hold non-binary identities on the boundless gender spectrum and use they/them pronouns.
Kiss My Genders is a true and authentic celebration of complexity, of nuance, of the humanity in gender-non-conformity
Thematically, the exhibition explores the implicit and innate politicised experience of being-in-the-world within the frameworks of a genderqueer body-mind. Through an emphasis on the intersectionality of sexual, racial, gender and class identities that reject the singular focus on unitary binary polarity. However, as much as Kiss my Genders is an exploration of multitudes of identity, it simultaneously explores the facet of anti-identity. The underlying theme of the works is that to exist, to play, to perform, to celebrate, to represent is a queer act of resistance against not only the societal norm of presumed cis-heterosexuality and surrounding culture but the entire idea that normalcy exists. Many of the artists’ artistic expression is intense and heavy with a sardonic tongue-in-cheek sense of humour as a means of personal survival, as well as to challenge the viewer through societal critique. Several of the artworks featured confront context-specific cultural and historical socio-political issues.
Kiss My Genders is a celebratory demonstration of the plurality of identity and artistic expression which is portrayed through a myriad of mediums: such as video, installation, photography, sculpture, painting, drawing and murals. Some artists utilise and transform traditional established mediums; other artists blur the constraints through interdisciplinary and inter-media approaches to create innovative characterisations to proclaim their experience through visual representations. Repeatedly striving for dichotomous ambivalence conceptualism, the works speak a subjective manifestation of the formation and dissonant discontinuity and transient impermanence of gender, sex and sexuality. The essence of the show is to celebrate that there are endless ways to experience gender and infinite ways to express it.
The first piece that draws my eye is Canadian artist Victoria Sin’s video installation “A View From Elsewhere, Act 1, She Postures in Context” (2018). Sin’s installation is the exploration of subverting barriers between performance, performativity and the performative. The large-scale multi-media installation allows the viewer to be immersed in the experience. The video is projected onto an opaque curtain that effectively works as a tool to symbolically and figuratively distort and deconstruct the material queer body into a fragmentary abstract form. This is representative of the multi-faceted dimension of the freedom to cut and paste different aspects of gender expression and gendered experiences to create an authentic and accurate gender narrative.
Maybe it’s a personal bias from my own experience as someone of queer/trans identity who finds that photography is the medium in which I can best visually articulate my contradictory bodily pride and dysphoria. I found the photographic works in the show to most authentically document the boundless potentials of gender-non conforming diverse expression. Photography allows the queer body-subject the limitless freedom to embody its movements, gestures in the context of its own unique sociocultural, historical ways. It opens up the door that identity is an enigma, something that is unrestricted and open to change. On the other hand, it allows that moment to be captured, to be written into a context of subjective temporary permanence, that creates an aesthetical language of the nuance and plurality of gender. Photography allows the Self and subjected body to be constituted to action, to performance, actions, and modes of expression, experiences that signify identity in the context of bodily inter-subjectivity. Photography allows the subject to represent gender as an abstract mimetic form.
A personal highlight for me was seeing Peter Hujar’s infamous photograph Candy Darling On Her Death Bed (1973/2018). I love this photograph as it speaks to my own individual experience of how representation allowed me to be myself, growing up without knowing the language to express my feelings, turned to music and art for modes of self-expression and internal validation. Candy Darling On Her Death Bed (1973/2018) shows Candy with an expression that shows her making peace with the concept of awareness of her impending death, a specific sense of melancholic sadness envelops the mood of the photograph.
Kiss My Genders brought me to tears at the feeling of finally being represented in a mainstream public art space and having my experiences and identity expressed in a way that didn’t feel like tokenism, positive discrimination or inclusion out of guilt or with ulterior motives. Kiss My Genders is a true and authentic celebration of complexity, of nuance, of the humanity in gender-non-conformity of gender-diverse people speaking for themselves with their own distinct voice in a language of their own.
Exhibiting artists include:
Ajamu, Travis Alabanza, Amrou Al-Kadhi & Holly Falconer, Sadie Benning, Nayland Blake, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Flo Brooks, Luciano Castelli, Jimmy Desana, Jes Fan, Chitra Ganesh, Martine Gutierrez, Lyle Ashton Harris, Nicholas Hlobo, Peter Hujar, Juliana Huxtable, Joan Jett Blakk, Tarek Lakhrissi, Zoe Leonard, Ad Minoliti, Pierre Molinier, Kent Monkman, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, Planningtorock, Christina Qurles, Hannah Quinlan, Rosie Hastings, Hunter Reynolds, Athi-Patra Ruga, Tejal Shah, Victoria Sin, Jenkin van Zyl, Del LaGrace Volcano.
Words/Photos Teo Robinson, Top photo: Sara Faith ©Artlyst 2019
Kiss My Genders at Hayward Gallery 12 June – 8 September 2019 Adult £15.50 Visit Here