Chrome Legacy Window 18012018 200526 From ‘Palliative Care‘ by Bean Gilsdorf via Open Space

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A case of two halves

Abstract Painting (726) 1990 by Gerhard Richter born 1932 Abstraktes Bild (726), Gerhard Richter, 1990, oil on canvas

 

I edit myself into boldness.
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015)

 

As a child, I was a painful perfectionist and my conscientiousness trickled down to even the most mundane of tasks and occasions. Standard events such as Christmas or a friend coming to visit caused immense and unwarranted stress: ‘But what if an ornament was in the wrong place?’ I worried. ‘Or a napkin incorrectly folded?’ These insignificant details played on my mind: why do it at all if it wasn’t going to be just right.

This is how I have often lived my life. I am driven by the desire for things to be proper and just so, or else I am corrupted by a wretched, undesirable laziness, the dull, crushing numbness of ‘what’s the point’? At some point during my later teen years, I accepted that I could not hold minor particulars to such high regard, and settled into a downward spiral of ‘why bother?’.

Recently, it has come to my attention that somewhere along the line I have ceased to care about very much at all. Perhaps, to an outsider this is less obvious, but to myself, I can acknowledge a definite carelessness. Rather than fussing over details, I am more likely to be found meekly shrugging my shoulders.

This is a curious thing for me to admit, but I am compelled to explore what has caused this shift and what the link between perfectionism and failure and the transformation of one’s identity may be. I have moved from a place of personally-imposed rigid perfectionism to a collapsing, changing and volatile space of failure and flux. Simply-put it could just be the natural move from childhood to strange adulthood, where security and certainty are out of reach to almost everyone.

A few years back after finishing my university degree, I sat at my kitchen table with not the slightest idea of what to do next. What would I do? Instead, I went out walking and one day I could hardly breathe with the suffocating realisation that at some point I had missed a beat. I am all too aware of how lucky I am to have got to go to university, and now that I find myself to be studying once more in a new city, I am haunted by this privilege every day and particularly that I have been afforded time to ‘think it out’.

In the interim, the poetic notion of ‘uncertainty’ has granted me great solace. Uncertainty awards us time and a thoughtful sensibility. I distinctly recall sitting alone in a gallery in Dresden (which I have written previously about here) surrounded by spectacular Richter’s and finally realising what his work means, or at least to me, after years of trying to figure it out. Paradoxically, Gerhard Richter’s work is loved, I think, because it is about uncertainty, the grey areas of life, the things that are not easily seen, discovered and understood. In short, the characteristic ‘blur’.

The blur, the haze the fracture of life, I held it all dear. When my diligently carved identity seemed to be crumbing before my eyes, I hung onto a conviction in opacity. But there comes a time when obfuscation isn’t enough. It’s all well and good to be uncertain about things until it starts to actively contribute and even be the cause of your unhappiness.

A few weeks ago I read an essay by Jia Tolentino on poetry. In it, she quotes a poem by Louise Glück, which I pinned to my desktop because somehow it feels like a different side to wavering uncertainty:

The great thing
is not having
a mind.

Now, in a new stage of life, there is less room for toing and froing with a finger perpetually poised over the proverbial backspace. Rather, I find myself more often than not trying to re-build, exaggerate and conjure some kind of certainty regarding what I want from life. As life has progressed, uncertainty does not offer me so much anymore and I frequently toss it aside in frustration, regarding it as merely another word for overthinking, a treacherous compulsion to twist everything until nothing makes sense.

Yet, as Tolentino explains in her short but powerful piece, this quote (and for her poetry itself) invite multiple meanings from a place of unknowing. For me, I read these lines to be about uncertainty, yes, but they also represent a dialectic between uncertainty and certainty, a sureness, a confidence even, in the OK-ness to be uncertain, or conversely, the ‘no-time-to-thinkness’ that goes alongside conviction. It’s about the freedom of beginning from a blank space, a pure starting point that’s not contaminated with what has gone before.

The magnificent Maggie Nelson discusses these ideas of uncertainty, unknowing and ambiguity in her outstanding book, The Argonauts. Without a doubt, Maggie must find herself to be the unlikely poster girl for all those studious girls who don’t really know what they are doing or what they got themselves into half the time. Nelson writes beautifully about her belief in uncertainty, and like Tolentino, she regards it to be multiplicity just by another name. Uncertainty provides an outlet for thinking in multiples, in complex rhizomatic structures without beginning and end. Like Nelson, I too wholeheartedly desire a world of Deleuzian ‘becoming’, a sphere of infinities devoid of definitions offering only gorgeous, wounding possibilities.

However, what got me most was when Nelson admits to her flailing conviction in uncertainty and her frequent shying of assertiveness. She writes:

But whatever I am, or have since become, I know now that slipperiness isn’t all of it. I know now that studied evasiveness has its own limitations, its own ways of inhibiting certain forms of happiness and pleasure. The pleasure of abiding. The pleasure of insistence, of persistence. The pleasure of obligation, the pleasure of dependency. The pleasures of ordinary devotion. The pleasure of recognising that one may have to undergo the same realisations, write the same notes in the margins, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again – not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change but because such revisitations constitute life. (140)

I was struck by this paragraph, because even Nelson as she tries to write a truly radical book on ambiguity admits to the essential human necessity for things to fall into place, feel right, the mighty urge to keep going, put down roots; how much effort we need to put in in order to simply live in this damned world!

Ideally, in an ongoing conversation, we could potentially learn to manage the two. I have come to understand certainty as a condition that makes us sticky, it puts wheels in motion, we can do something with it. But on the flipside, uncertainty is what grants us strength and knowledge, the ability to open one’s mind and to think afresh.

In the end, it would seem that ours is a world of both fixity and ‘flicker’, to borrow Nelson’s phraseology; a place of movement and stasis, an infinite realm of and and and… 

On the new Tate Modern

switch-house

On Saturday I visited Tate Modern for the first time since the opening of the Switch House. The extension itself is really quite impressive, inviting a more organic, multifarious exploration of the gallery space rather than linear instruction. The extension includes The Tanks, a series of underground chambers hidden in the vaults of the new building, which house video installations and interactive art. One such piece by Wen-Ying Tsai, an electronic sculpture which responds to the sounds made by the viewers, is especially thrilling insofar as the noises and white flashing lights, just audible and visible from the entrance, are unnerving in a way rarely experienced in a gallery of this size.

eh

Upstairs, I particularly enjoyed the display Between Object and Architecture, a cleverly compiled collection of interactive or ‘living’ sculpture. This gallery takes a phenomenological approach, summoning the viewer to physically engage with the sculpture rather than passively viewing it; be it peering into the shiny mirrored looking-holes of Yayoi Kusama’s The Passing Winter or clambering into Ricardo Basbaum’s cushioned pods. The far room of this collection promotes a more serious architectural approach to sculpture with highlights including Eva Hesse’s Addendum, where grey rope falls from a wooden bar in chaotic coils on the gallery floor, and Roni Horn’s Pink Tons, a candy-coloured glass cube, whose reflection shimmers and appears to melt under the glare of the gallery lights, with onlookers just about stopping themselves from touching it. There is witty curation here too, most notably, the secret inclusion of Bruce Nauman’s Corridor with Mirror and White Lights, which is hidden towards the back wall of the gallery. The wooden encasing of the corridor against the actual walls of the space means that this piece frequently goes unnoticed by passers-by, making its discovery all the more compelling.

lb1

lb2

For a real treat, there’s always Louise Bourgeois’ Artist Room on the fourth floor which showcases just some of the glorious, creepy absurdity of her work. The À L’Infini series of mixed-media etchings presents a stirring clump of bloody cords and damp pink stains, a visceral mass of unformed bodily tangles and oozy blots. From the ceiling, the flabby, uncanny limbs of her humanoid soft sculptures dangle, and her famous metallic spider, a colossal collection of thin, sprawling legs, imposingly occupies the centre of the room. The real highlight though is the wunderkammer, a weird assortment of crude corporeal forms, all round bellies and bulbous breasts, and a selection of peculiar texts, which provide a fascinating and necessarily look into an extraordinarily complex artistic mind.

KK-4175_1KThe mirror of the Indian Ocean, Karen Kilimnik, 2015.

It occurs to me as I move between the rooms of the exhibit that it’s been a long time since I’ve been forced to think about art as something that might be deliberately trying to make you feel something. The swell in the throat is for other mediums, for films and music, or it’s for overblown romantics stuck in the nineteenth century, or it’s for teenage girls with too many feelings.

There was a period of my life when I was a teenage girl with too many feelings and I would spend afternoons sometimes wandering through the airy vaulted rooms of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, getting emotional about paintings and photographs. I believed in the idea of art-as-catharsis, believed that emotion should be dived into and swum around in, and that art was emotion’s ideal arena. Then at a certain point all that emoting about art started to seem embarrassing. Excessive. I absorbed the belief that emotion pollutes critical thinking. That it is unserious.

This piece by Madeleine Watts on Laura Poitras at the Whitney strikes that rare balance between being intellectually important yet highly personal and emotionally rich. It’s a beautiful piece that not only considers what it means to make politically-informed art in the current era, but how politics and messy emotions and feelings can actually be united against all odds.

Industrial inquiry

Ratcliffe 2Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, Nottinghamshire

1. There is something perturbing about the presence of enormous infrastructure in the midst of lush countryside. In a landscape befitting of a Thomas Gainsborough painting how odd and alien the power station is.

Thomas_Gainsborough_-_Landscape_with_Stream_and_Weir_-_Google_Art_Project Thomas Gainsborough, ‘Landscape with Stream and Weir’, c. 1750. 

2. My friend did not mention the existence of a power plant on the outskirts of the little village in which she lives. But, here it is, obscuring the skyline and spoiling the quintessential English idyll of rural Nottinghamshire.

nottinghamNottinghamshire, June 2015

3. I am appalled and fascinated in equal measure by the uncompromising ugliness of this mammoth structure. The towers, like gigantic conical flasks, seem to have been plucked from another world or age entirely and deposited here on unassuming pastures.

4. The power station in question is Ratcliffe-on-Soar, a coal-fired plant located 8 miles south west of Nottingham. It was built in the 1960s and is one of the most productive stations in the UK. According to the operator’s website the station generates enough electricity to meet the needs of two million people. In its extreme efficiency, the station is hugely at odds with the seemingly slow pace of the nearby countryside where cows lazily graze and cheery barges are docked along the sleepy-still canal.

england

5. At home, in Ireland, we have all but one coal-burning power station in Moneypoint, Co. Clare and it is hardly a suitable counterpart for this colossal construction, both in terms of scale and output.

fog-shrouds-the-esp-moneypoint-power-plant-image-pat-flynn Moneypoint power station, Co. Clare. 

6. There is no excusing the power station – it is a highly problematic producer of energy – but it is difficult not to be stunned by the enormity of such a structure, particularly when it is so foreign to one’s native landscape. There is something resignedly un-contemporary about the coal-fired power station that enhances its uneasy appeal. It is a relic of an older British past. One might go so far even to say that it is the symbol of Britain’s industrial zenith: the architectural culmination of the nation’s conflicted and deeply entrenched coal-mining heritage.

world-war-two-coal-mining-recruitment-poster-a3-a2-print-13361-p  World War II era Coal-mining recruitment poster

7. The coal-fired power plant could soon be obsolete in the UK. Currently, nearly a third of energy in Great Britain is produced in coal-burning stations. However, by 2016 a third of these stations are expected to close. Soon, the coal-burning plant could be resigned to the wastebasket of British cultural history, unless individual plants make considerable environmental advancements as some of these stations already have done. The coal-fired power station is both fierce and vulnerable at once.

8. In its dichotomous state, I am moved by the power station. Maybe ‘moved’ is the wrong word, but I am certainly affected by the prospect of a socio-economic memory embedded in the station’s architecture. There is the history of a nation within its sturdy structure, I think, of people and labour and industry and technology, of the environment, of past versus future and old versus new, of improvement and advancement, and of the repercussions and failures of progress.

Adrian-Street-and-his-father Adrian Street and his father

9. Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller’s work So many ways to hurt you (2010) is based on a photograph of glamorous wrestler Adrian Street going back to the coal mines in Wales to meet his father in the early 1970s. Of this image, Deller says: ‘It encapsulates the whole history of Britain in that period – of our uneasy transition from being a centre of heavy industry to a producer of entertainment and services.’ I am overcome with a similar feeling of disconnect when I look up at Ratcliffe. It represents aspects of a nation that I cannot ever fully know. In an age of solar, wind and of course, nuclear power, to burn coal in these immense quantities seems archaic. At the same time, the coal-fired power station is so culturally specific that it cannot be dismissed as merely an outdated producer of energy.

battersea Battersea power station, London. 

10. One of Great Britain’s most noteworthy structures is London’s majestic Battersea power station, a coal-fired plant located on the south bank of the River Thames. Originally built in the early 1930s, Battersea is renowned for its attractive Art Deco interior style and its brick construction. In 1983 Battersea ceased production for good but it still remains an iconic London landmark, famously featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals. After multiple attempts to redevelop the site, including a failed theme park plan, now the station is being transformed into millionaire luxury apartments and leisure facilities; a culture clash similar to that depicted in the photograph which inspired Deller.

animals-2 Pink Floyd’s Animals (1977)

11. I am always drawn to unsightly feats of architecture. Brutalist towers, dilapidated high-rises, construction sites, falling down or disused buildings generally appeal to me more than any polished palatial structure fully intact. I am not alone in this. Most famously, Bernd and Hilla Becher documented the disappearing architecture of the nineteenth century in the Ruhr valley in Germany. Beginning in the late 1950s, the Bechers created a photographic archive of antiquated industrial forms such as water towers, lime kilns, gas tanks and blast furnaces, which is celebrated for its cool, dispassionate lens. Theirs is not a nostalgia project but more so a sustained and exacting study of the formal attributes of these architectural forms and how their photographic repetition may ultimately reveal some aspect of their otherness.

Bernd and Hilla Becher cooling towers wood-steel, 1959_77 Bernd and Hilla Becher, ‘Cooling Towers’, 1959-77.

12. Ratcliffe itself is in no state of decline – in fact it is the first station in Britain to be fitted with specific technology to reduce the emissions of noxious gases – yet I am still reminded of the Bechers’ artistic project. Through their stoic catalogue of forms, the Bechers drew attention to elements of a culture and a lifestyle that may otherwise have vanished from public memory. Many argue that the Bechers’ images emphasise the unorthodox beauty of these cold and crumbling yet ever steely structures.

Ratcliffe

13. My friend and I drive past Ratcliffe in the early evening. The station’s heavy towers are starkly silhouetted against an apricot and mauve streaked sky, and momentarily I can appreciate its spectacular strangeness. Yet, it is impossible to admire Ratcliffe in the comfortable way that the Bechers’ photographs might allow. In depicting industry in decline, the Bechers’ images provoke a lamentation on the passage of time more than anything else. In doing so, their photographs allow a reflection on industry at a safe remove.

14. There is no distance between me and Ratcliffe’s whirling turbines and clanking generator. In the station’s shadow, I am powerless. I can do nothing but look up at its steaming chimneys, helplessly.

No girl so sweet: An Introduction to SUGAR

This is an essay that I wrote several months ago to accompany an exhibition that I helped curate. The show, titled SUGAR, was a collaborative exhibition between two female-identified artist collectives, Cork’s Bunny Collective and Finland’s Areole. 

Sugar, oh, honey, honey
You are my candy girl
And you got me wanting you

As a word, sugar is highly provocative when associated with women. It implies a term of cloying endearment, restrictive femininity, essentialist claims to woman’s innate ‘goodness’ and equally, woman as vice, temptress, as Eve with her sweet, ripe apple. In contemporary life, dubious studies have ‘scientifically’ proven that women prefer sweeter foods to men, and in advertising, woman’s ‘biologically-determined’ sweet tooth is actively used to peddle chocolate, ice-cream and a whole cornucopia of sweet, sugary products. Take, for example, on Irish supermarket shelves Gem granulated sugar can be found in explicitly gendered packaging. A cerise pink lipstick stain accompanies the caption, ‘Spread a little sweetness’, thereby inferring that the consumption of the product is equated, if not, sealed with a woman’s kiss. In culture, women are as sweet as sugar as the old nursery rhyme would have it:

‘What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of’.

Sugar, then, is a suggestive title for an exhibition featuring self-identified female artists (with the exception of one agender artist). It summons all these socially-inscribed clichés and stereotypes that would make anyone squirm. Sugar is sickly; too much of a good thing triggering queasy stomach aches and crumbling tooth decay. For others, specifically girls who grew up in 1990s/early 2000s Ireland or Britain, the title may bring the eponymous teen magazine with its twinkling typeface, ‘flirty’ fashion, ‘celeb’ gossip, and embarrassing tales of crushes gone awry to mind. Much like the now defunct teenage tome, in many ways, Sugar, as a title, is wince inducing, or ‘Cringe!’ as Sugar would have it.

More than that, sugar, and sweet foodstuffs in general – consider terms like honey, sweetiepie, tart – have long been ascribed to women cementing this widespread cultural metaphor. As Caitlin Hines writes in her essay, ‘Rebaking the Pie: The Woman as Dessert Metaphor’, the result of this is to reduce women to the status of sugar: as a harmless, inessential frivolity lacking in sustenance and illustrative of both pleasure and vice.[1] Too much sugar is not necessarily bad; it’s just naughty, just as women are not very threatening. In this sense, sugar has come to represent femininity in its most stereotypical guise: as polite, inoffensive and pleasing in small doses.

Sugar3 Hobbes Ginsberg

Taking sugar as its title, this exhibition unfolds from that very place of nauseating, stereotypical femininity. This is the point of departure: it is what SUGAR hopes to encompass, but at the same time, what it seeks to question and break away from.

The result is a response to femininity that is contradictory, strange, multi-faceted, problematic, humorous, at times, jarring and often deeply personal. There is nothing definite about the eventual outcome: SUGAR does not strive to offer a complete rejection of the syrupy tropes of archetypal femininity, but more so, seeks to instigate an exploration of them, and by extension of this, of womanhood as a whole. In light of this, SUGAR hopes to start a conversation that covers both the clichéd and complex dynamics of what female identity might entail.

Sugar 1 Hinni Huttunen

For many of the artists, this exhibition provides a space in which to think about their own selfhood against this backdrop of saccharine femininity, and how that personal response might deviate from cultural conventions and stereotypes. Take for example, Hinni Huttunen’s video Venus (2013)  in which the artist’s is pictured from the shoulders up, tugging a brush through her hair. Immediately, the subject matter recalls Marina Abramović ‘s 1975 video, Art must be beautiful; Artist must be beautiful, in which she engages in the same activity, repeating the eponymous lines over and over again in what eventually emerges as an angry rumination on the expectations of female beauty in art and in culture. While Huttunen’s video does not offer the same black and white-hued drama and vigour as the original video, nonetheless, her stoic expression suggests something of the tedium involved in the rituals of femininity – a resigned boredom in the monotonous, feminised act of brushing one’s hair. For the artist herself, Venus, presents a crossroads in personal identity rooted in an interrogation of femininity. Of the video, Huttunen writes: ‘I can imagine how Edgar Degas saw pretty girls standing on a shore, dressed in white and combing their hair. I stare at myself and try to figure out if I should be more like a riot grrrl or those girls in their white dresses.’

Of course, the title, ‘Venus’, hardly needs an introduction in a discussion on femininity and art. Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, sexuality and seduction, has been immortalised in art for centuries and in many of these depictions, particularly those by Renaissance artists such Botticelli or Titian, Venus represents a classic ideal of feminine beauty. Vanessa Omoregie’s work, taken from her highly successful CamGirl project, seeks to explore the actuality of that ideal for women in contemporary life. By digitally inserting webcam images into the fabric of famous paintings, Omoregie compares and contrasts depictions of women in art historical tradition with contemporary portrayals of women on the internet. In doing so, these images propel the viewer to think about the circumstances of representation – for example, the gender, race, pose and dress of the portrait subject – and particularly what it means for the female subject to partake and control her own image construction.

SUGAR6 Louise McKeown

Indeed, self-imaging is central to SUGAR and both Louise McKeown and Aoife O’ Dywer present self-portraits, or at least versions of that tradition. In her digital drawing, If it weren’t for you I would probably have led a meaningless life (2014), McKeown considers the impact of romantic relationships on her own sense of self. The quote itself is borrowed from Garnet/Dagger, a character from the popular computer game Final Fantasy IX, and is uttered at the end of the game as she attributes her accomplishments and growth as a person to the love and guidance offered by the male protagonist and love interest, Zidane. In combining her self-image with this quote, McKeown offers both a uniquely modern and vulnerable approach to self-portraiture. In sorbet shades, McKeown depicts herself in her underwear with a self-conscious arm pressed against her stomach. Simultaneously, there is sense of laying bare and of restraint; of wanting to reveal but equally, of uncertainty and perhaps, fear of revealing too much. Yet, in picturing herself directly alongside this textual fragment, she positions herself against the cultural stereotype perpetrated not just by computer games, but by TV, film and literature alike,  that women must be ‘saved’ by a hero in order to be fully realised. Ultimately, she asks the viewer to consider the validity of that narrative, not just for her, but for themselves also.

sugar2 Aoife O’Dwyer

Meanwhile, Aoife O’Dwyer suspends her self-image from the ceiling. Like McKeown, she similarly presents herself in a state of undress with hands clutching at her middle. This time though, the image has been manipulated to include multiple pairs of arms and hands: a second set sprouts from the natural upper arms and another set of hands emerges from the chest, covering her face. The result is a striking composite form that appears to float in the space and defy gravity as her hair shoots upwards as though pulled by some unknown force. In startling definition, so much so that the bristles of leg hair are visible to the eye, this work represents an experience of one’s body and the myriad of feelings that accompanies that. An Extended Occupancy (2014)allows the viewer to think about the anxiety involved in revealing oneself like this, and what it means to overcome these highly complex and personal feelings of shame and embarrassment and eventually, arrive at the possibility of self-acceptance.

In some ways, Siinä Vaiheessa’s video-performance piece At that Point (2012) addresses similar issues in terms of intensely private feelings of shame and acceptance. In an intertwining and fragmented sequence, the speakers deliver anecdotes from their childhoods that caused embarrassment in a sort of psychological re-working of those embarrassing stories in teen-girl magazines like Sugar.  The result is a slightly eerie confrontation with personal memory that addresses universal issues encountered in the process of growing up:  friendship, sexuality, self-esteem, bulling, and peer pressure. In a way, one is reminded of Margaret Atwood’s astonishing story of memory and schoolyard bullying, Cat’s Eye, where memorably she writes: ‘Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized’.[2]

SUGAR5 Samantha Conlon

Samantha Conlon’s photographic series Be the Good Girl You Always Have To Be (2014) presents the most direct exploration of girlhood through her investigation of gender formations. In this series, Conlon emphasises the socially-constructed nature of feminine identities by photographing her niece in her Barbie-pink themed bedroom. In amongst the gauzy, glittery canopy and teddy bears, the little girl defiantly stars back us. With hand propped beneath her chin, she lounges with a confident ease in a pose that is strikingly assertive for her young age. Although angelic with blond hair and blue eyes she may be, the image reveals a child who is startlingly self-aware, as though she is very much conscious of the identity construction that she is expected to partake in. Equally, Hobbes Ginsberg interrogates these questions of gendered identity in highly saturated, stunning self-portraits that recall the performative photographs of Cindy Sherman, except this time captured through a decidedly grungy, riot grrrl-style lens. Ginsberg, who identifies as queer and prefers the pronouns ‘she’ or ‘they’, asks us to reconsider how we assign and perceive gendered identities, forcing the viewer to rethink the often very narrow view of these ideas in mainstream society. Of this, she writes:

‘You have to navigate between this concept that nothing (none of the behaviours or clothes or personalities etc.) we assign to any gender is inherent while still being in a society that is so heavily structured around this idea of a strict binary. It’s something that is confusing to navigate and hard to navigate but I feel like as a “queer girl” I can decide for myself what is feminine and girly and beautiful and me and I sometimes find solace in that fact that maybe it is all made up and most people just haven’t learned that yet’.[3]

Sugar4

In the end, SUGAR hopes to expand beyond the realm of femininity and emphasise something else. That something else is epitomised by the symbol for this exhibition: the chemical formula for sucrose (table sugar) in order to promote a different thought process behind the term. In using the molecular diagram, SUGAR moves past our initial assumptions regarding the relationship between sugar and femininity, instead proposing a new idea rooted in chemical bonding. The chemical diagram becomes a metaphor in itself then, one grounded in composite combinations, connectivity and possibility. While SUGAR does not wish to uphold the concept of a total or universal experience of femininity, it does wish to accentuate the strands that bring us into dialogue with one another: how our identities overlap and collide and diverge again in brilliant constellations; how we are united by our fears, doubts and inadequacies as much as any concrete and certain sense of self. In this sense, the symbol becomes more like a web signifying not just the collaboration between Bunny Collective and Areole, but the collaborations operating within the exhibition as a whole: in the literal collaboration between Rosemary Kirton and Manuel Arturo Abreu, for example; in thematic concepts such as gender fluidity; and through the way in which the works powerfully converse with each other throughout.

‘These correspondences connect us both to ourselves and others, promoting transformation rather than stasis, equality rather than hierarchy, and an “unfinished universality” rather than closed order.’[4]

Notes:

[1] See Caitlin Hines, ‘Rebaking the Pie: The Woman as Dessert Metaphor’, in Bucholtz, ed., Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 145-162.

[2] Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye, London:Virago, 2009, 140.

[3] Quote taken from Ginsberg’s Tumblr blog in response to the question, ‘Are you trans male to female?’. http://hhobbess.tumblr.com/post/93539705538/are-you-trans-male-to-female

[4] Kaja Silverman, Flesh of my Flesh, Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press, 2009, 2.