HIS TRUE NA­TURE: Ethan Bach

Pasatiempo - - CURRENTS -

An adorable blond in­fant blos­soms into an even cuter tod­dler, and then she is a lit­tle girl with pig­tails. As she con­tin­ues to age, her ex­pres­sion turns se­ri­ous behind her grin, her gaze in ju­nior high school photos un­wa­ver­ing, as if is­su­ing a chal­lenge to a future viewer: I know who I am. Do you? By col­lege, she looks sad, as if she might be strug­gling with de­pres­sion — but then some­thing hap­pens. She cuts off her long hair. And sud­denly, her face opens up and her smile reaches all the way to her eyes. The tough young woman slowly but surely tran­si­tions into a hand­some young man. By his mid-twen­ties, all traces of the lit­tle girl are gone, though he still stares straight at the cam­era.

“#Hel­loMyNameWas is a video that re­claims my en­tire life through mor­ph­ing im­ages of my face through over 40 years’ time. As a trans­gen­der per­son, I was taught that I should have shame about my history,” mul­ti­me­dia artist Ethan Bach told Pasatiempo. “I was taught I shouldn’t tell any­one my birth name, and I should ap­pear as though I’ve had the same gen­der ex­pe­ri­ence my en­tire life. Half of my life, I’ve been out as trans­gen­der and liv­ing in a way where I feel more com­fort­able in my own skin, but this

ex­pres­sion does not negate the first half of my life.

#Hel­loMyNameWas is about hav­ing own­er­ship over my whole ex­is­tence and be­ing proud of my jour­ney.”

#Hel­loMyNameWas is part of a larger dig­i­tal mem­oir Bach is work­ing on called Bodhi Life, which is about “ac­cept­ing ourselves as com­plete hu­man be­ings, no mat­ter what.”

Bach be­gan work­ing in dig­i­tal me­dia in 1995, when he was liv­ing in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton. “Dig­i­tal me­dia is one of the most pow­er­ful tools we have for com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” he said. “I was im­me­di­ately drawn to us­ing video for sto­ry­telling — work­ing in video helped me find my voice when I had none. This in­ter­est has since ex­panded to work­ing with in­stal­la­tion, im­mer­sive, in­ter­ac­tive, and large-for­mat me­dia.”

Bach moved to Santa Fe in 1999 and now di­vides his time be­tween Santa Fe and Den­ver. In 2015, as part of Den­ver’s RedLine Gallery’s 48 Hours: An Ex­hi­bi­tion of

So­cially En­gaged Art, he started his Bodhi Life project by scan­ning and dig­i­tiz­ing pho­to­graphs he’d taken to doc­u­ment his life be­fore the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion, in a live per­for­mance dur­ing which he also in­ter­acted with peo­ple in the gallery. “In the gallery I had long, deep con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple about gen­der ex­pres­sion. One straight, cis­gen­dered woman spoke with me for al­most an hour about her ex­pe­ri­ence as a woman who is not overtly fem­i­nine, strug­gling through­out her life due to not fit­ting the so­cial stereo­type of how she should present,” he said. “Bodhi in Bud­dhism is about the true na­ture of things. It can also mean ‘en­light­en­ment.’ It is my be­lief that liv­ing to our fullest po­ten­tial and com­pletely ac­cept­ing the truth of our jour­ney is the path to hap­pi­ness. It is my hope that Bodhi Life will help oth­ers, both cis and trans­gen­der, to find more ac­cep­tance of them­selves.” — Jennifer Levin

#Hel­loMyNameWas shows at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe from Fri­day, June 10, to June 26. The video can also be viewed on Ethan Bach’s web­site (www.ethanbach.com) and on YouTube.

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