Kimberly R. Drew
Can a penis be relieved of its supposed maleness—mere flesh in a psychic void? Is that maleness innate or was it acquired and then performed?
Can gender flow across somatic and cognitive planes
throughout one's lifetime and forego a predetermined path
altogether? Once considered radical, these are now rudimentary inquiries within the context of queer theory, but can such
questions manifest into tangible realities today? How do we
take steps away from essentialist assumptions about gender?
Unless one has experienced such a relationship to gender within
one's self, learning in this subject can only occur when appropriate language is in place. One prominent voice who constructs
that vocabulary is Esben Esther P. Benestad, a sexologist and
one of Norway's most public trans figures.
I first encountered Benestad in 2012, at a symposium organized by the artist Carlos Motta for his program, "We Who Feel
Differently" at the New Museum in New York. I felt immediately
taken by Benestad's flamboyance and unabashed reappropriation of medical diction
in hir work as a sexologist and therapist in Norway. While Benestad
acknowledges the human tendency toward categorization as a
tenet to organizational thinking, they simultaneously resist the
didacticism so often embedded in categorical frameworking.
It is within this context that they have identified seven unique
genders. These categories are not structured within the dominant
narratives of hir field but have instead been observed through
conversations with real people. Each conversation marks a
movement from pre-determined to self-determined gender—a discourse of subjectivity. In Benestad's work, categorization
no longer provides an overarching systemization of logic but
instead serves to document an ongoing collective desire to
access more nuanced terrain in regards to perceptions of gender. Furthermore, our maps of this terrain must be
revised by a fundamental assumption that gender is far more fluid than our existing vocabulary can describe. In Benestad's own words:
I talk about "gender talents" because in that way I am
opposing medicalizing terms like "syndrome," and
"misshape," for example, I use the word "phenomenon." I think it is much better for a human being to be
a phenomenon than to be a kind of walking disease
or misfortune. In that way, I try to add to the language words that are much more positive. "talent" is a positive word. I have a very strong talent for being trans.
While entirely new languages for gender have been the subject
of great science fiction works, on earth in 2015, Benestad has
made a practice of gradually kneading language. In most cases
they favor a redefinition of the vernacular in place of inventing new words. Hir ideas are progressive in function but hir
vocabulary remains familiar, expanding the lexicon of gender
theory without erecting yet another barrier between those
who have access to specialized rhetoric and those who do not.
The language around Benestad's work is as performative as gender itself. These seven categories—born out of individual expression—range from familiar to rare. These categories are by no means presented as definitive terms for gender. There are countless other methods of classification currently in practice and the possibility for variation is endless. What Façadomy presents here are merely alternative ways of seeing; to quote Marcel Proust, as they do in the beginning of hir lecture titled Gender Euphoria:
The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
This first installment of Façadomy attempts just that—to nav-
igate these categories through the eyes of another. Andreas
Angelidakis presents a selection of buildings and chairs that
embody Benestad's phenomena. Kimberly R. Drew pairs each
gender category with a contemporary artist's work and Juliana
Huxtable constructs poetic texts that imagine individuals as
they channel their respective gender identities.
Their perspectives are presented as a way of looking, never
the way of looking. The intention is to not assert declarative,
didactic assessments, but rather to use image and text to fluidly
hint at a multiplicity of vantage points; to allow the buildings,
objects, artworks and voices in the following pages to become
part of an ever-expanding language for ever-evolving possibility.
*In Norwegian Benestad uses the gender neutral pronoun "hir," and in the case of this text "they" has been added to ease the translation.
- Andreas Angelidakis
Angelidakis' practice oscillates between the roles of architect,
artist and curator. Although trained as an architect, most of
his "built work" exists in online environments like Second Life.
Based in Athens, he often situates familiar forms such as ruins
and monuments within a contemporary sociopolitical context.
Most likely to manifest in the form of a proposal or an exhibition, his work often refers to the myriad ways the internet has
changed our behavior, both in theory and IRL.
Recent exhibitions include: curation and design of the exhibition
Period Rooms at the Nieuwe Institut in Rotterdam; exhibition
architecture for a survey of film director Alejandro Jodorowsky
at CAPC musée d'art contemporain in Bordeaux; Crash Pad,
the preliminary statement for the 8th Berlin Biennial; Fin De
Siècle at the Swiss Institute in New York and design for a show
of contemporary magazines at the Haus der Kunst in Munich.
He holds a B.Arch. from Southern California Institute of Architecture and a M.Arch. from Columbia University.
- Kimberly R. Drew
(AKA @museummammy) Drew's interest in contemporary art
stems from her interest in blackness, which lead her to found
the blog Black Contemporary Art in 2011. With a B.A. in African
American studies/Art History and a remarkable aptitude for
encapsulating the complexity of contemporary black identity in
140 characters or less, she has gained an impressive following.
Drew is currently the Associate Online Community Producer at
the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has worked for Lehmann
Maupin, The Studio Museum in Harlem and Hyperallergic. She
has participated in multiple panel discussions and talks at the
New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum,
Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York University and elsewhere.
In 2014, she curated Black Contemporary Art's first happening
which featured Juliana Huxtable and Christopher Udemezue.
- Juliana Huxtable
Huxtable is a New York-based artist exploring the fragmented,
mutating and mutable nature of identity; utilizing race, gender,
and queerness as mediums to explore the possibilities of a post-
identity politics. She uses a range of outlets and media including self-portraiture, text-based prints, performance, nightlife, music, writing, and social media. Technology and the ubiquity of the internet are essential components of her work; exploring the ways these structures reveal and conceal certain histories while seeking ways to artistically liberate new histories and speculative worlds.
Huxtable's work has been featured in group presentations at
MoMA PS1,New York; White Columns Annual, White Columns,
New York; Take Ecstasy with Me, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Frieze Projects, London; and 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; among others. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem. She attended Bard College where she studied literature, gender studies, and human rights.