ICONOGRAPHY OF THE VULNERABLE SELF
“Iconography of the Vulnerable Self” is an iterative performance series where I present some of my struggles with gender dysphoria and the public gaze as a gender-nonconforming individual. Each iteration is based on a score of actions and journeys that I modulate according to each site’s architecture to render the conflicting nuances of taking up space and navigating space, of being visibilised and being erased. Through these scores and paths, I shift between existing and performing, appearing and disappearing, presenting moments of both vulnerability and resilience with gestures that waver between stylized and everyday.
I began this first presentation of “Iconography” with a semi-public durational action where I stood behind the street-facing windows of the gallery—naked except for heeled shoes and a mirror covering my genitalia—and I sprayed a bottle of perfume shaped as a muscular male torso until it was empty. While physicalizing my own conflict in carrying a body whose signifiers are typically attributed to male / masculinity by the white hetero-patriarchy, I set up a dynamic of both voyeurism and witnessing that confronted the audience with their own (mis)gendering assumptions and behaviours. The mirror placed on my genitalia was an added layer I came up with on the day of the performance, as the gallery did not feel comfortable with me being naked in full exposure by their street-level windows. Ultimately, it helped me efface a strong signifier of gender whilst capturing and deflecting the gaze of the perplexed, at times moved, audience.
As the remaining actions of the score were performed in a sudden and episodic manner in between other artists’ presentations, there is fragmented documentation of the rest of the performance. Actions included: shaving my pubes on a plinth, tucking my genitalia with clear tape running around my neck as to choke me, lathering myself up with clear body lotion whilst two audience members helped me prop up a see-through shower curtain that I then wore as a mantle / shield. I had wished to conclude my piece by walking outside just wearing the shower curtain and heels, accompanied by volunteers from the audience to go around the block while talking about allyship, but this wasn’t possible due to the central location of the gallery in Manhattan.