The Trans-Gen­der Bo­dy as Da­da Ob­ject

Art Press - - TRANSGENRE -

in­si­dious than the gal­le­ry, and more in­fluen­tial and po­pu­lar than the mu­seum. By buying ad­ver­ti­sing space in an art ma­ga­zine, Benglis was un­ders­co­ring the po­li­ti­cal and eco­no­mic links bet­ween art, the me­dia and the mar­ket, at the same time as she was ma­king ex­pli­cit the he­te­ro­sexual vi­sual epis­te­mo­lo­gy go­ver­ning the pro­duc­tion and cultu­ral cir­cu­la­tion of images. Benglis was a pop sculp­tor, mo­de­ling her li­ving or­ga­nism (just as she used po­ly­ure­thane, foam, glass, steel, wax or la­tex) to construct a pu­blic ma­te­ria­li­ty whose pa­ra­doxi­cal sta­tus—at once com­mer­cial and ab­ject, por­no­gra­phic but in­sis­tent­ly he­te­ro-cen­te­red—drew down cen­sor­ship from the “de­mo­cra­tic” and “fe­mi­nist” press of the day and rai­sed her to myth sta­tus. Using the col­lage tech­niques fa­vo­red by the mo­der­nist avant-gardes, but ap­plying them to the po­li­ti­cal ana­to­my of sexual dif­fe­rence, Benglis sculp­ted a bo­dy that was im­pos­sible ac­cor­ding to the he­ge­mo­nic cri­te­ria of beau­ty, health and iden­ti­ty. But her pa­ro­dy prose ero­ded any pos­si­bi­li­ty of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and al­lo­wed her a de­gree of po­li­ti­cal dis­tance (or hy­giene) with re­gard to queer conta­mi­na­tion. Be­fore and af­ter Benglis there was Du­champ, Ar­taud, Ca­rol Ra­ma, Uni­ca Zürn, Alice Neel, Claude Ca­hun, Pierre Mo­li­nier, Jür­gen Klauke, Ni­ki de Saint-Phalle, Ju­dy Chi­ca­go, Eva Hesse, and Zoe Leo­nard. But the ra­di­cal dis­tor­tion of nor­ma­tive re­pre­sen­ta­tions of gen­der did not come from art, but from su­bal­tern cultures and sexual po­li­tics. When I first saw this image of Benglis it was a long time af­ter it was made, at the end of the 1980s, in an English va­ria­tion on the Ame­ri­can les­bian re­view On Our Backs, made with black-and-white pho­to­co­pies using images of Del La­Grace Vol­ca­no and Tee Co­rine, which you could get hold of in Lon­don night­clubs. Col­la­ging a col­lage, so­meone had writ­ten in the bubble co­ming out of Benglis’s mouth, ma­king a new ad­ver­ti­se­ment: “Come to the par­ty and bring your best dil­do.” Ta­ken from the ar­tis­tic space of Artfo­rum and re­con­tex­tua­li­zed in a queer zine, for me this image was nei­ther “an ob­ject of ex­treme vul­ga­ri­ty” nor a pa­ro­dy pop icon. What I saw in this image was my bo­dy as po­li­ti­cal syn­tagm, de­si­ring and de­si­red ma­te­ria­li­ty. I un­ders­tood that my trans-gen­der bo­dy, which once was in­vi­sible, exis­ted as a Da­da bo­dy be­fore sur­ge­ry, en­do­cri­no­lo­gy or ge­ne­tics could construct it. This image, and the images by Bar­ba­ra Ham­mer and Ca­thie Opie, re­cons­truc­ted my bo­dy, ad­ding to my li­ving ar­chive what were like for­bid­den pieces in a uto­pian taxo­no­my.

Trans­la­tion, C. Pen­war­den

Lyn­da Benglis (et Ma­ri­lyn Len­kows­ky). « Female Sen­si­bi­li­ty ». 1973. Vi­déo

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