March 31, 2017 - Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art - Wild – Transgender and the Communities of Desire
March 31, 2017

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art

Doireann O'Malley, Prototypes, 2017. HD video & cgi. © Doireann O'Malley.

Wild – Transgender and the Communities of Desire
April 6–June 18, 2017

Opening: April 5, 7pm
Artist talk by Doireann O'Malley: April 6, 7pm, with Nika Pecarina and Pol Merchan from her film Prototypes

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art
Katharinenstraße 23
D-26121 Oldenburg
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Artists: Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Zanele Muholi, Doireann O’Malley, Johannes Paul Raether, Chris E. Vargas 

Wild – Transgender and the Communities of Desire is an international group exhibition that draws together recent artworks dealing with questions and challenges of transgender life and communities, which don’t necessarily present an inquiry into the complexities of transgenderism, but rather use transgenderism as a perspective to frame and narrate current human (societal) conditions.

Inspired by scholar Jack Halberstam’s concept of “wild,” the exhibition looks at how gender complexities are forever challenging the binary mode of societal organization. The exhibition claims that these complexeties should not be narrated as “problems” or “difficulties,” but rather as a wild range of human possibilities. As Halberstam reminds us, the notion of wild—reclaimed from its colonial historical context—in relation to societal models offers “different narratives of what a life can be like in general.” A powerful and potent critique can thus emerge from the margins of society, in this case through transgender voices, strategies, and perspectives. Many of the artworks in Wild restage the possibilities of envisioning a different future in the present and on the ruins of its impoverished political imagination.

The project’s starting point was Protopypes, a work newly commissioned by Edith-Russ-Haus grant holder Doireann O’Malley that aims to explore different experiences of gender transition through a pseudo-science fictional, dreamlike gaze. In the installation, she brings together transgenderism, science fiction, biopolitics, psychoanalysis, and artificial intelligence. She ties these together with phantoms of modernist utopias, combining glimpses of the future with unfulfilled promises of the past.

In Johannes Paul Raether’s installation, a “psycho-realist” lifeline of characters TransformellaQueen of Debris and Transformalor, Surrogate Mother of the Institute for Reproductive Futures take residence at the Edith-Russ-Haus. The figures at the center of the installation are several of the multiple “AlterIdentities” that  emerged from Raether’s cyclical system of performances as embodiments, materializations, and visualizations of social paradoxes and catastrophic political actualities. As “Research Avataras,” Transformella/or are dedicated to the assertion of the emancipatory potential of biomedical innovation in the field of assisted reproductive technologies.

Chris E. Vargas’s ongoing conceptual online project, the Museum of Transgender History and Art, which was founded in 2013, is presented in the exhibition as a study-room, bringing into existence a cohesive visual history of transgender culture.

Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s film installation I Want is based on a script that plagiarizes the texts of punk poet Kathy Acker as well as the words of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who, while held in US Army custody, came out as a transwoman. In Boudry and Lorenz’s work, Acker’s poetic strategy of switching identities provokes a rereading of Manning’s public disclosures. Manning’s acts of exposing important sensitive military and diplomatic documents through Wikileaks and of revealing her transgender identity are enacted in the performance as a strong resistance against war and a transgression against the ways in which gender and sexuality are deployed in the service of the military.

In her photo series Faces and Phases, South African visual activist Zanele Muholi fights against a queer-phobic environment with the weapon of the portrait, utilized to create a history and memory of her queer communities, to document their daily struggle, and to invite the viewer into their intimate spaces. Her projects attempts to break with the ongoing mainstream representation of queer life as a state of victimhood, subjected to hate crimes. Instead of portraying violence, Faces and Phases shares everyday experiences of intimacy and love.

Most of the works in Wild – Transgender and the Communities of Desire critique heteronormative societal forces and at the same time clearly envision the potentials of other kinds of communities and intimacies that can provide a more enriching overall human journey, not just for people who are positioned on the margins of society. The future communities imagined by the works included in Wild are based on friendship and mutual support, on shared desires and singularities, instead of competition, survival, and the collective forces of production.

Doireann O’Malley was a recipient of the Media Art Grant from the Foundation of Lower Saxony at the Edith-Russ-Haus 2016.

Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art
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