Thursday, July 30, 2009

The number 149 bus to Dalston

An extract from my MA thesis, "On transdrogyny as an art practice and an identity."

Sometimes, when an artist's ambitions (if even so defined) are indistinguishable from that person's life, what they produce can no longer be discussed as an art object (sculpture, painting etc) or even a live art event/happening/performance. Instead they have created an artistartwork, something decidedly less staged than Gilbert and George's life-as-perfomance-art, which may seem like a contradiction in terms, but darling, with transdrogyny anything goes.

Artistartworks do not require a conceptual framework or a pre-written proposal, they are the complete and unadulterated expression of artistic and social concerns by all means necessary. They are not performances (though they can be) nor are they projects which run, like a science experiment, for a set period of time to explore the relationship between A and B. This is not Eleanor Antin's King of Solana Beach ,but Quentin Crisp's purple-haired daily strolls around the Lower East Side, and the Marchesa Luisa Casati's couture clad appearances at the opera, doused in chicken's blood.

If I may be so bold, and face it, I may, trandsdrogyny restores humanity to an art world able only to communicate self-referentially, with itself. There is no fourth wall with the transdrogynous artistartwork, no often caricatured gallery attendant, because the artistartwork is lived right out in the open, on the street, as much as it is expressed on museum walls and theatre stages. Any member of the public can (and usually will) ask a question of the transdrogynous artistartwork because she is not cordoned off in a white cube and coded as far to intellectually challenging for someone of your mental capacities. Debates about aesthetics, sexual practices and identity politics are opened every time I get on the 149, and I am quite happy about it – as Crisp himself once said to a fellow passenger; “Yes Madame, even people like me need to take the bus.”

Of course artistartworks do produce objects, performances, books and plays, but if you are to divorce these products from their producers then you greatly reduce their value. The Marchesa's impact as a patron,inspiration and facilitator of Futurism is undeniable but if you remove the life she lived from the equation all you are left with is souvenirs. Man Ray's photographs of her and D'Annunzio's poems become akin to the jewels she hocked in later life, anecdotal and decorative at best.

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