She played with opticality and the image in the mirror reflection, inversing it into the ‘wonderland’. The ‘Looking-glass’ juggles with vision. It distorts perspective, inverses looks, gazes and stares back. When you stand in front of the mirror, you recognise yourself. You might see a woman or a man but you can also imagine someone else. You might be drawn into a world of possibilities. Suddenly, you can become your opposite gender, or someone in between or above, or perhaps both. The mirror invites you toward liberating gender, fluidity and transmutations. At the same time, it encourages going beyond heavily loaded connotations such as ‘she-male’ or ‘transsexual’. Some recently proposed pronouns, such as, amongst others, ‘ze’, ‘zer’ or ‘mer’, ‘ey’, ‘em’, ‘eir’ (Creel, 2010) or ‘hir penis’, ‘hes vagina’ (Quinn, Pissarro, 2010: 106) slowly appear to substitute the traditional linguistic constructs. Merger sexuality The merging of the male and the female also destroys other oppositions associated with the binary. Gender studies refer to binary or multiplication systems, distinguishing two or more genders. According to Judith Butler gender is situated within but is not restricted to physical sex. It transgresses genes’ markers, processing and performing various internal mechanisms. Gender goes beyond and through the traditional binary of the masculine and the feminine, which does not allow any trans- or cross- gender permutations. According to Butler, gender is a mechanism transmuting, naturalising and producing the female and the male (Butler, 2004: 42). Likewise, Hélène Cixous proposes the concept of an ambiguous and fluid sexuality. She remarks: I do desire the other for the other, whole and entire, male or female [...] Castration? Let others toy with it. What’s a desire originating from lack? A pretty meager desire. (Cixous, 1981: 262) The separation between the male and the female and the subordinating and repressing of the feminine with the masculine leads towards a ‘new sexuality’, what Cixous calls ‘merger type sexuality’ (Cixous, 1981: 254). It deconstructs sex and dissolves the differences. The emerging neutrality is liberated from phallocentric representationalism and annuls the dichotomy of the self and the other. As such, all oppositions forming the binary are erased. There is no uniform and homogenous, classified sexuality - male or female, presence or absence, language or silence, light or dark, active or passive, good or evil. This ‘merger type sexuality’ does not merge the masculine and the feminine together, but rather dissolves the distinctions and draws sexuality from any body and any time. Specular transformation So what exactly happens in the ‘Looking-glass’? Trans, fairy, queer, dyke, hetero, amongst others, go through towards fluidity and excess – the borderless and ‘other’ - challenging concepts of gender, sexuality and identity. The body becomes reversed into fantasy, as in James Bidgood’s film Pink Narcissus (1971). A male, lying on a lounge, dreams about other worlds, where he becomes the main character, transformed into a Roman slave boy or the keeper of a male harem. As with a stroke of a magic wand, he can become anyone and anything. The visual imagination is baroque and otherworldly. It invites us into an alternate reality existing in parallel – the ‘trans’ world. Everything is transformed into specular fantasy, where the boundary between here and there slowly annihilates. The film is a shameless celebration of excessive aesthetics and a paradise of vision. It creates a wonderland a bit like a patchwork quilt, where the real and the imaginary merge. Is it fake? Or is it the other side of the mirror, where binary is erased and personality
“When you stand in front of the mirror, you recognise yourself. You might see a woman or a man but you can also imagine someone else.”
The Binary issue of Stimulus Respond, November 2010.