The Trans-Gender Body as Dada Object
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