Trans / position

Kiss My Genders
Hayward Gallery, London
12.06.19 – 08.09.19

I’m a fountain of blood
In the shape of a girl
You’re the bird on the brim
Hypnotised by the whirl
– Björk, ‘Bachelorette’ ( 1997 )

Bodies. We each have one that we inhabit, perpetually. They are gifted to us at birth and cocoon us, transport us through this so-called life.

We assume – indeed, we rely on – their constancy, their permanence. Yet, a body is fundamentally transient, always: shifting, moving, becoming, mutating, dying.

An artist perhaps has two bodies: a body of work, an oeuvre, beside – surrounding? – their organic one. One grows out of the other; they inhabit both. Perhaps they reproduce the latter, endlessly, in the former: mitosis, a doubling, of phantoms, penumbrae.

We all have bodies: I, the subject; you, my object; and that, our abject, too.

Me and you and her. You, I, they.


One of the things I noticed, walking around Kiss My Genders at the Hayward Gallery, was the lack of bodies, by which I mean, three-dimensional artworks embodying the human form. I guess I expected more performance, more presence.

Instead, the artists’ bodies – there are many works of self-portraiture – as well as those of their subjects, are flattened to printed images or film: photography, perhaps unsurprisingly, dominates the show. Any sculpture emphatically and wholeheartedly rejects anthropomorphic form. A dress, silk-screened with names of people who died of AIDS, hangs on a headless, limbless mannequin.

One of the effects of this was more emphasis, an increased focus, on my own body, the bodies of those around me, and our relations to each other, the space, the art. I became aware of how I was presenting myself – as a queer person, especially – and how I was relating to the art, in both physical and metaphysical ways.

All but one of the video pieces are presented as part of a larger installation: Hannah Quinlan’s and Rosie Hastings’s Something for the Boys ( 2018 ) and Silent ( 2016 ) by Pauling Boudry/Renate Lorenz both direct the visitor into a darkened, secluded space. The former constitutes a monstrous black spiral with a television screen at its centre, alternating between films of two performances in Blackpool, a drag queen in a cabaret club and a go-go dancer at a men-only sex bar: you feel at once transported to a different place, submerged in another time, liberated yet isolated, equally joyous and melancholic. Meanwhile, the latex walls and floor of the latter required the viewer to don oversized slippers and shuffle awkwardly around the partitioned space, somewhat ruining the subtlety of the piece’s eponymous silence.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Victoria Sin’s A View from Elsewhere, Act 1, She Postures in Context ( 2018 ): their image hangs from the ceiling, ephemeral, projected onto translucent cotton curtains. Their practice utilises the language of drag – lip-sync performance, exaggerated make-up, prostheses, etc. – in a provocative manner, interweaving the personal – heritage, identity – with the political, the universal. Their work is preoccupied with that which is lacking, utilising a thoroughly Lacanian lexis; this piece, in particular, hopes to address and expose ‘both the transformative potential and dissociative threat of desire’.

Without wanting to get bogged down in queer theory, it seemed inevitable that I should quote Judith Butler in this piece; far easier to oblige than to object. ‘Is there a way to link the question of the materiality of the body to the performativity of gender?’ she asks at the opening of Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ ( 1993 ). This study seeks to answer that question, positioning ‘sex’ as ‘a constrained production’ that regulates and ( re )constructs identities, genders. But what about the disruptive body, the queer body?

Here, feel the weight of one’s body, compared to the images floating in the gallery, the captured instants, instances of performance. Consider the litany of photography here: from one photograph – a moment in time captured, punctured – to the next, the singular self has changed, becomes plural. Isn’t this always the case? asks the exhibition.

The artists – Lyle Ashton Harris, Martine Gutierrez and Juliana Huxtable, for instance – who present self-portraits give us legendary singers, colourful and surreal masks, and alien creatures, respectively; they decorate, detach from, and adorn themselves. Those who offer us several subjects – Peter Hujar or Catherine Opie – expand this procedure, making it collective, social. And, then, the photomontages of Pierre Molinier further complicate matters, collapsing photographs from different decades into single artworks: a personal palimpsest, a kaleidoscope of the self. The painters serve similar ends, constructing their assemblages in pigment atop canvases, on walls.

We have our body, material, and its surface, transitory: identity and expression, substance and superficies. I don’t want to suggest a Cartesian dualism, another false binary. It is the intricate interplay of these opposites, rather than the primacy of one over the other, that generates meaning here. Gender is but a mask, part of a performance, something that merely rests on our skin; our skin, a site for experimentation and play.

Butler uses a quote from Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto as an epigraph, which seems eminently relevant here: ‘Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?’ These bodies – our bodies – become a network, an idea, iterative and unstable.

What this exhibition does so well is make such abstract concepts – namely, the fluidity and performativity of gender – salient yet, oxymoronically, graspable. Fluidity in a more literal sense percolates through the catalogue, a gorgeous and important volume that will likely long outlast its exhibition. Liquid imagery and aqueous metaphor infuse the essays and the texts included; Travis Alabanza writes in their poem, ‘The Sea’, of ‘A body of water, potential to do so much, yet eventually bottled.’

On the topic of water, a brief aside: two of the sinks in the gender-neutral toilets were replaced with Elmgreen & Dragset’s Marriage ( 2010 ), a pair of basins with conjoined drainpipes, seemingly emptying endlessly into one another; a subtly queer work that, with its placement and framing, affirmed the Hayward’s dedication to queering its spaces.

Queerness – queer bodies, queer ideas – often becomes aligned with abjection, in a philosophical, rather than fundamentally negative, sense. The abject, as per Julia Kristeva, is that which ‘disturbs identity, system, order… does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite.’ It is something other, something that belongs beside rather than within: to bring it in, to incorporate the queer, would threaten the integrity of the whole. The abject exists beyond a simple subject– object relationship: it lies beside, beyond.

In Looners ( 2019 ), Jenkin van Zyl tackles this idea head on. It is a confused and confrontational work that takes both time and effort to reveal its substance: a bizarre world populated by genderless beings, driven repeatedly towards abject, libidinal desire. In the cacophonous, convoluted construction that both houses and forms the piece, we are impelled to forgo traditional binaries – ‘real and virtual, front and back stage, male and female, self and other, ruin and repair, time and space, fantasy and rationality’ – and instead to embrace ‘instability and deviance’. Everything – gender, borders, selfhood – starts to break down; but within the chaos, motifs and themes repeat themselves. Everything starts to break down…

The title of the exhibition is derived from a song, ‘Transome’, by the artist Planningtorock, whose portrait is included in the show. ‘Kissing my genders / In our bedroom light’, they coo in a wildly wavering, digitally distorted voice, ‘With my body all femme / And my face all masc’.

I remain unconvinced by the show’s title: it requires context, but in providing such explanation, the meaning changes. The shift to the imperative – as in, Kiss my ass! – relinquishes the tenderness of the lyrics, becoming order rather than invitation, still affective but differently so.

Interesting, eclectic shows are what the Hayward tends to do best: Space Shifters or Light Show, for instance. There’s no single idea, besides the vastness of gender, that ties every work together; instead, there are several threads, a veritable web of matter and meaning.

All the work dates from the past fifty years – that is, since the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the watershed moment for LGBT rights both in America and globally. This point is not made within the show and most of the work is from this century; as such, this cut-off seems almost ambient, yet excludes several artists who would provide valuable counterfoils to included works. Claude Cahun immediately comes to mind, whose collages seem intimately related to those of Molinier; as does Brassaï’s Sodom and Gomorrah, remarkable portraits of female drag from interwar Paris.

Kiss My Genders feels incomplete – but perhaps it should. It serves part of a grander story, a perpetual, amorphous narrative that is constantly being written and rewritten: on the walls of galleries, in art, with bodies. It would be impossible to come out of this exhibition precisely the same person that went in. That’s its point – and its magic.



译 / 顾虔凡








我走在海沃德画廊(Hayward Gallery)的展览“亲吻我的性别”(Kiss my Genders)中,注意到一件事,身体的缺乏,我的意思是缺少那些幻化成人形的、三维的作品。我猜想我期待的是更多的行为表演作品,更多的在场性。



除去一个特例之外,所有的视频片段都是一件更大的装置作品的一部分:汉娜客昆兰 ( Hannah Quinlan ) 和罗西客黑斯廷斯 ( Rosie Hastings ) 的《一些给男孩们的东西》( Something for the Boys,2018 ) 以及艺术小组Pauling Boudry/Renate Lorenz 的作品《寂静》 ( Silent,2016 ),都将展览观众带入一处黑暗而僻静的空间。前者由一个巨大的黑色螺旋构成,中间的电视屏幕,穿插着两段在布莱克浦上演的行为表演的视频,一段表演是歌舞俱乐部里的变装皇后,另一段是仅向男性开放的性爱酒吧里的艳舞舞者。你会立刻感到被转移到了另一个地方,并且在另一个时间维度里被淹没、被释放却又与世隔绝,既充满着欢乐也有忧郁。与此同时,后一件作品中乳胶漆的墙面和地面要求观看者穿上大码拖鞋,随后奇怪地拖着脚在分割的空间里走动,这有点破坏了作品标题里提到的那种寂静。

展览中的耀眼之作,毫无疑问是单慧乾 ( Victoria Sin ) 的《来自别处的视野,剧目1,她在语境中摆出姿势》 ( A View from Elsewhere, Act 1, She Postures in Context,2018 ):他/她的形象悬挂于天花板,短暂的,并且投射在半透明的棉质窗帘上。他/她挑衅地以变装者的语言—口型同步的表演、夸张的妆容、假肢等等—将个人的遗产、身份,与政治和普世性交织在一起。他/她的创作全神贯注于所缺失之物,充分地动用拉康式的语汇,作品尤其希望能解决和揭示“欲望所具备的变革性的潜力及其分离性的威胁”。

我不想陷入奇怪的理论中,但又不可避免地会在这里引用朱迪斯客巴特勒 ( Judith Butler ) 的观点:作为作者,顺应这个想法比反抗它要容易得多。“有没有一种方法可以将身体的物质性与性别的表现性联系起来?”巴特勒在《至关重要的身体:论“性”的话语界限》 ( Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ ) 一书的开篇问道。这项研究力图回答这个问题,将“性”定位为一种“受约束的产品”,它会规范和(重新)构造身份、性别。 但是,那些破坏性的身体、奇怪的身体又会如何呢?


艺术家们,例如,莱尔客阿什顿客哈里斯 ( Lyle Ashton Harris )、马丁客古铁雷斯 ( Martine Gutierrez ) 和朱莉安娜客赫克斯伯特 ( Juliana Huxtable ),呈现的自我肖像,让我们分别看到了传奇歌手、色彩丰富而超现实的面具以及异类生物的样子;他们装饰自己,抽离自己,扮装自己。那些提供了好几个主题给我们的艺术家,像是彼得客休哈尔 ( Peter Hujar ) 或者凯瑟琳客奥佩 ( Catherine Opie ),进一步拓展了自我肖像的类别,使其成为集体性的、社会性的。此外,皮埃尔客莫利尼尔 ( Pierre Molinier ) 的照片蒙太奇让肖像的主题变得更加复杂,他将来自不同年代的照片折叠并置为单幅艺术作品:一本私人的重写本、一个自我的万花筒。绘画艺术家们也很类似,用颜料在画布上、墙上建构起零散的身体与自我。


巴特勒引用过唐娜客哈拉维 ( Donna Haraway ) 在《赛博格宣言》 ( A Cyborg Manifesto ) 中的话作为开篇辞,那些话在这里也很相关:“为什么我们的身体应该以皮肤为终点,或者说,为什么皮肤最好地幽闭住了各种生物?”这些身体—我们的身体—成为一张网络、一个想法,它们反复而不稳定。

这个展览做得尤其好的一点是如何将这么抽象的概念—也就是性别的流动性和表演性—能够得到突出,同时略微矛盾的,也得到理解。从字面意义来说,流动性渗透于整个展览画册,这本非常华丽而重要的出版物很可能比展览延续得更持久。液态的图像和水的隐喻注入到了画册中的各篇论述及文字。特拉维斯客阿拉巴萨 ( Travis Alabanza ) 在诗作《海洋》 ( The Sea ) 中写道:“一片水体,有潜力做许多事,但/最终会被装入瓶子。”

论及水的话题时,有一点需要简要说明:在不设性别预判的厕所中,两个水槽被双人艺术组合艾默格林与德拉塞特 ( Elmgreen & Dragset ) 的《婚姻》( Marriage, 2010 ) 所替代,这件作品是一对带有相连的排水管的洗手盆,它们似乎无休无止地在进行相互排空。这件巧妙的作品通过布展方式及其框架,很好地肯定了海沃德画廊在空间上对酷儿的关注。

从哲学而非本质消极的意义来说,所谓的“酷儿性” ( queerness ) —酷儿的身体、酷儿的想法—常常与排斥相关。根据朱莉娅客克里斯蒂娃 ( Julia Kristeva ) 的观点来说,互斥的是“扰乱身份、系统、秩序……的事物,互斥的事物无视边界、立场和规则。它们是介于事物之间的、模棱两可的、复合的”。它是另一种事物,是在类别之旁而非类别之内的事物。若要将其带入某个类别,将酷儿进行合并,无异于在威胁整体的完整性。互斥的存在,在简单的主客体关系之外:它位于事物之旁和之外。

在詹金客范客齐尔 ( Jenkin van Zyl ) 的《懒人》( Looners,2019 ) 中,艺术家试着思考这个问题。这是一件让人困惑同时又直面人心的作品,需要花费时间和精力去揭示其中的本质:一个由无性别的生物组成的怪异世界,受到互斥的、力比多的欲望驱动。在既容纳又构成作品的曲折复杂的结构之中,我们被迫放弃了传统的二进制—“真实与虚构,前台与后台,男性与女性,自我与他者,废墟与重建,时间与空间,幻想与理智”—并转而去拥抱“不稳定性与偏差”。所有的一切—性别、边界、自我—都开始崩塌,但在这团混沌中,主题与母题不断地自我重复。


这次展览的标题来自 Planningtorock 的歌曲Transome,艺术家的肖像也出现在展览中。“亲吻我的性别/ 在我们卧室的灯光下”,他/她以一种野性而摇摆、数码化后略带失真的嗓音唱到,“我的身体是全然的女性/我的脸是全然的男性”。


有趣而又折衷的展览,是海沃德画廊所擅长的,比如“形状改变者”( Shape Shifters ) 或是“轻轻的展”( Light Show )。除了性别的广泛性之外,没有别的想法可以将所有的作品都联系到一起,相反,展览有好几条线索,编织起了一张真正的物质和意义网络。

所有的作品都可追溯到过去的五十年,也就是“石墙暴动”发生的1969年,那是美国乃至全球LGBT群体之权利变化的分水岭。这个时间节点并未在展览中得到突出,而大部分作品都创作于这个世纪,因此,这种与历史的切割似乎是环境性的,但也排除了一些会为展览所包括的作品提供有价值的反制效果的艺术家们。克劳德客卡恩(Claude Cahun)立刻浮现在我的脑海中,她的拼贴作品似乎与莫利尼尔(Molinier)的息息相关,还有布拉塞的《索多玛与蛾摩拉》(Sodom and Gomorrah)同样如此,那是一组惊人的、两次世界大战期间于巴黎拍摄的女性变装者肖像。