project image
Tiu Makkonen

first performed on November 21, 2016
Edinburgh Artists’ Moving Image Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland
performed once in 2016


London, England


“Visibility or Opacity?” is a thirty minute performative presentation and interactive conversation about legacy, unarchiving, gender, queerness, and the politics of art. The performance piece was created in response to the constant questioning of (my) gender. Using my gender non-conforming body as a vehicle of assemblage, I explored refusal, removal, presence and absence, and visibility and opacity as embodied resistance.

The performance uses both live and video elements, as well as an un-archived audio narration of an article I had written for Normihomolehti NHL, a Finnish queer magazine, in 2006, answering: What is feminine? What is masculine? The performance begins with video footage of a masculine version of myself in the bathroom, performing everyday cleaning rituals. The audio narration begins:

“People always want to know what defines gender, and I struggle between giving an answer and refusing to answer, because a refusal often means they have to consider gender more fluidly and broadly, rather than a fixed state that can be explained.” The performance continues with me amongst a live audience and in front of the video projection, peforming drag rituals of applying make-up and donning feminine attire.

Through the course of the performance, there is a confusion of masculine and feminine imagery in the layering of silhouette shadows and brown flesh, body hair and nail polish, nudity and clothing, vibrant colour and stark whiteness, shower sounds and the murmur of a voice. All elements are juxtaposed, as the layering of live performance, a changing digital backdrop, and audio narration creates a live, haptic sensory collage. The performance ends with an interactive conversation with the audience, que(e)rying, ‘what is feminine?’, ‘what is masculine?’, to them.

The purpose of this performance is to engage in an oral and visual conversation with multiple bodies in order to address the (dis)connection of bodies and to problematize how we are becoming more and more divided, fragmented, and separated from each other, particularly within the relationship between gendered and racialized bodies. For example, trans bodies vs cisgender bodies, and racialized bodies vs non-racialized bodies. The performance raises concepts relevant to these issues, such as notions of cleanliness/being dirty; normality/perversity; and the intersection of culture and heritage as they manifest, collide, and conflict.