Monday, January 31, 2011

She Walks in Beauty


This is the full article I wrote for Out There magazine, considering beauty from the vantage point of trans/third gender. It appears in the current issue of Out There as "The Beauty of the Third Sex" but was originally titled "She Walks in Beauty". You can buy the magazine online or from stockists in the US and Europe, I'm not sure if it's distributed further afield yet. Anyway, here goes:


Karis Wilde by Jaime Baker


Beauty is a nebulous thing, it is indescribable, it can’t be captured, though that hasn’t stopped millennia’s worth of artists, writers and thinkers from trying. Baudelaire called beauty, “A sphinx no mortal knows,” yet, we know it when we see it. Of course it differs from every viewer’s vantage point, but that is the beauty of beauty; its consistency in tandem with its fluidity, its interchangeability and fixity, its permanence and its mutability. How one thing previously unremarkable, can be transformed by a stray ray of light, into the purest representation of perfect aesthetics, sometimes only for a moment.

Plato spoke of an ideal world, beyond ours, where there exist true forms, which appear in our world only as copies. Beauty is one of these ideal forms, what we see physically before our eyes (if our eyes can be believed) is only a representation of true beauty, a shadow cast by it. That’s maybe why we see it in so many forms, what we’re experiencing is only a reflection of the ideal of beauty, shining from the a beyond. Seeing beauty is like catching a glimpse of the moon’s reflection, it’s there, in every reflective surface, but it is only a copy, only a physicalization, sign posting the existence of beauty. A beautiful person (object, landscape, or emotion) is never beauty itself, but rather a souvenir of beauty.

Since Plato, beauty has been bound intrinsically with symmetry, the equal size and shape of both sides of the face and body. It is a value that has fed into phrenology and Renaissance portraiture, eugenics and ballet, nineteenth century Italian gardens and Art Deco architecture all equate symmetry with aesthetic achievement. Likewise, today’s highest paid professional beauties have almost perfectly symmetrical faces (Kate Moss being perhaps the prime example) and beauty is still for the most part seen in terms of balanced proportions. But more so, these most celebrated lookers represent another kind of symmetry, that of a balance between the modes of being we call “male” and “female”. Models, muses, movie stars, span the most beautiful qualities of “both” genders. Isn’t there always something very masculine, or at the very least boyish, about the most beautiful women of history? Elizabeth the First, Joan Crawford, Agnes Dean. And without even emphasizing the feminine connotations of the word “beauty”, the world’s most gorgeous men, from Alexander the Great, to James Dean, have all had a most definite prettiness to them. After all, if beauty is symmetry, then what can be more symmetrical than a beauty spanning both sides of the gender divide we currently insist on?

What makes symmetry so beautiful to behold is not purely the aesthetics of geometry, it is not just pure rational mathematics, curves, lines and angles which capture our attention. What makes symmetry transcendent and indeed beautiful is its rarity. The universe is basically asymmetrical, as are we. If it blossoms on our bodies in pairs, it will likely be asymmetrical. Balls, breasts, feet, eyes, limbs, all unequal in size and shape, represent the central trait of an existence that is askew, not square on. The very rareness of symmetry in our world makes it dazzling, because for better or worse we prize uniqueness, be it in jewels, animals or people. Often this lust for the unusual leads to fetishism, violent skirmishes and the formation of a psychological starvation economy, but to the positive, the desire for the different shows that there is still hope for individualism in a world defined by conspicuous conformity.

The twentieth century’s most mundane re-thinker of beauty, Andy Warhol, said, “I have never seen a person I couldn’t call a beauty.” Though not a common thing, you can find beauty in just about anyone if you try, lover. But, when you do find it, when you do strike upon beauty, you realize that it is never that which is most expected, homogenous or everyday about a person which makes them beautiful, never something High Street or immediately recognizable, but actually, the reverse. It is the things which marks out a person as unusual, that marks them out as beautiful. A unique blend of features signaling a blend of ethnic heritages, a sense of style informed by imagination not commerce, odd-colored eyes, a gap toothed smile, shoulder length hair in contrast with a gymnasts musculature. The unique is beauty, the incandescent and intangible strangeness of something wholly original is beauty, self-possession is beauty, uniqueness is beauty, non-conformity is beauty, the other is beauty.

It is that which we consider different which we also consider beautiful, and vice versa, what we consider beautiful we consider different. That which marks a person as gorgeous marks a person as strange because there is something uncanny too about beauty, because of its symmetry and perhaps, to speak in Freudian terms, its suggestion of mirrors, doubles and supernatural replications. This goes some way to explaining the threat some people feel from truly radical, unfettered beauty. Humans are not know to embrace the strange immediately and with open arms, the unusual and unexpected scare us. Ask any person who has come to be acclaimed as beautiful (through no achievement of their own) and they will usually recount tales of being terrorized for their height, hair color, gender performance, weight or skin color. Because true beauty can be a terrifying thing, it can overwhelm. It can actually approach the sublime, that sensation of terror which Edmund Burke actually marked out as in opposition to beauty; writing that it caused fear not pleasure. It is unsurprising then that beauty is always on the defensive, protecting itself, its delicate, transitory and whimsical nature. Be it Diana turning Acateon ito a stag or trannies carrying flick knives, beauty has learned how to handle herself.

Beauty then is a quality not a quantity and as such its physicalization, is complicated by attempts to categorize it. Husserl wrote that we can never experience consciousness directly, that it is always mediated to us by act and objects in that consciousness. When we see beauty this is in fact a communication with the essence of beauty. There is then, no fixed beauty is there? At least not one we can know, because it comes to us in many shifting forms. We all know what we mean by the sentiment of beauty, but each of us would draw a different picture in describing a personal ideal example, wouldn’t we? And beauty would be the common ground, the essential behind each exponent, the last thing we have when we had abstracted everything else.

Surely then the ideal proponent of beauty would be likewise as unfixed as beauty itself. A person of fluidity, mutability, interchangability, a person who is sealed neither into the category of male or of female? A person who can encompass not just both genders, but all genders, and simultaneously eradicate the use of categorization by sex. Surely the prime examples of beauty in human form are third gendered beings. Is it safe to say then, that beauty itself is third gendered?

When I say third gendered I want you to be clear that I am not talking about some undecided, passive, default position for those who can’t make up their minds whether to be boys or girls. I am talking about an active state of being in which inhabitants have decided most definitively to live beyond the limits of traditional genders; “That shimmering gray area, where anything is possible”, as Justin Bond calls it. The third gender is not an excess option for those who are not male or female, it is not a halfway house, rather it engulfs both sides of the divide and then some. It is not choice C for those who aren’t A or B, rather it is D, F, G,4,5,6, X.Y,Z. The third gender is possibility, it’s potential, it’s limitless, it is not based on definition, it is in fact, an essence like beauty itself. If we try to line it up in a similar manner to the position of bisexuality in respect to sexual preference, then it will not serve anything other than a reinforcement of the predominant duality. We must look at the third gender as everything that is not fixed, everything that refuses to be fixed.

The third gender is beautiful in that it puts forwards the most powerful expressions of both sides of this prefabricated gender divide we labor under, and then offers yet more contributions, combinations, synthesis, and indeed provokes the undoing of that dichotomy. But beyond that, beauty is itself third gendered; limitless, essential, indescribable, palpable but always fluid. Husserl’s pure consciousness and Plato’s ideal forms both speak of forms beyond our sensory world which appear to us through mediation. These forms I believe are much in the vein of love as described by St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, or as string theory as described by new physicists; a universal, mysterious, inherent but not fully known binding principle that spans the universe, and is furthermore ungendered – third gendered. The third gender is a way of being that evokes absolute freedom of choice and expression, it is beauty, and it comprises a radical rethinking of unimaginative socio-biological restraints, a super intelligent approach to conceptualizing categories of existence. I guess that’s why Wilde was so adamant when he wrote, ”Beauty is a form of genius.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

LDN

Well, I'm off to the yUK for six weeks of hit shows, all of which are listed below.

I'll be popping up around town at other people's shindigs too but the main impetus of the trip is to present my play "Underclass Hero" for three nights at the Oval House theatre. Incredibly you can book tickets HERE now!

I'm very excited about UCH this time around, I have two live musicians working on a soundscape and a new set design, all of which I intend to reveal as they come together. I'm going to really blog the process. "Blog the process", best t-shirt slogan of 2011, already, right?


Feb 10th: David Hoyle Lives at the RVT


Feb 15th: Boom Boom Club


March 3/4/5: Underclass Hero at Oval House


March 19: Duckie

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Casting



Image by Alina Rudya

Hello lovers, we're casting for an Alexander music video filming in Berlin Jan Wed 26th. We need people in good looks to be part of our audience, so if you're interested email thatboyalexander@gmail.com

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Isadora



I wrote this for Fat Zine late last year, the zine has subsequently gone out of circulation so I'm putting it up here, for your consideration.

So you've been around the world once or twice in your homemade dresses, and no, short hair really doesn't suit you but yes, you were emaciated in your teens. When you were younger you wore braces and you listened to the Dead Kennedys and now all your memories smell like health food, because Jonathan left his multi-vitamins behind, and they wound up at the bottom of your box. You have always looked tired and immortal, you have worn a lot of silly outfits, you seem like you were forever looking to the horizon for the end of the world. You have always gravitated to beaches, to seascapes, to sunsettings over waves, where you waiting for me?

I didn't have the money for iced coffee, and in June it's too hot to drink it hot, I wasn't prying but I was lonely and lost and bored. I hoped I would find a quarter or even a sentimental dollar bill crushed in a corner, but I didn't. I found yards of your acrylic hair and I found photographs that made me bitterly jealous and I found letters I had written you and letters that you had never mailed me. Will Rebekah be your loud college roommate? Yes, nothing else. And Nick will be that trip to Mexico? Yes, nothing else. And Brooke will be that party in her underwear. Yes, nothing else. Some of us were born in the digital age and won't even suffer the mercy of photographic prints; we will remain lost on a hard drive or hang suspended on some forgotten blogspot mid-air. It was what you do when your grandmother dies or your lover leaves, it was intrusive I know but I missed you so.

I am alone you know, I have nothing but one silver dollar and the very sleepless fear of a cold hand on my freckled shoulder.
I am a very old woman now, I spend my countless days in dusty reverie and old newspaper articles, I stretch out time between unnecessary meals and bleary cups of tea. I think about jewellery and I grow agoraphobic, a visit to the bodega downstairs may as well be a day trip to a carnival for me. I talk out loud but not always to myself, most often to you. I make resolutions, I plan out my life with great precision and I calculate airfares, laughing to myself that I will be quite fine. I am quite resigned; either I will die as I am or I won't, and neither option is particularly appealing. I sign in and out of my email account just as a way to tick off the hours. Occasionally I speak with someone, somewhere else for a little while and I feel deeply jealous. I envy her for her free time and her financial stability, I would take up baking if I was bored, but I myself can not afford an apple to bake or a tin to bake it in. Would that it were just mercury in my fillings! Some minor detail that could be realigned. But no, I am treading poisonous water, thick green disinterested water that cares not to hear what I say. I might drown, yes, I might float on, yes, and then there are numerous other options that I would not like to bet on; I am not a gambling man and probability was never my strong suite. Corpses float when they begin to bloat.

We're in an awful mess, and the ground beneath our feet is not even thick mud, not even cracked yellow earth; it's a gum splattered sidewalk without poetry, and that is our great tragedy. To have come to the end of the world together, to have looked over and still to be stoned by mere mundanities; food and water and shelter and subway fare, it's a bloodless death but a cruel one. It's Calvary, the road of the cross, a long walk of humiliation, only I wouldn't dare suggest that the path leads to anything other than self-preservation at best. More degradation at worst.

Am I abandoned? I can't help but feel it so. Should I wake up and acknowledge myself for the weight I am, the nuisance I present, the added pressure on a sinking rat's back? Should I be a gentleman for once and withdraw, without drama, and let you take to your grey veils and very black eyeliner? I have never been a heroine, why start now? It's stupid to think I could help you, it's pointless to think I have anything to offer you, and if I did your bleak ingratitude, your distaste for it all would suffocate me again.

Know this though dear, my dear Isadora, I have tried. I am loyal to my last teardrop and I have rolled with so many punches that I am dizzy now. I have weathered great callousness, I have weathered indirect aggression and direct cruelties, I have weathered storms of passion and long, long silent empty weeks. I never would have left you, I would have nursed you in the gutters of Harlem rather than seek my own safety in the Village. I never would have left you. I would have slept with you in subway stations all through Brooklyn rather than lived as a lover in Bushwick. And yet. I now find myself alone but I went nowhere. I find myself alone Isadora dear, but I haven't moved at all. I am at the mercy of food scraps again, again I am at the mercy of someone who is merciless and not through brutality, but lack of experience. I am at the mercy of a privileged sadist with a credit card and well-heeled parents and paperwork and a therapist and candy coloured sprinkles who wants me to fuck him. I find it pleasurable, I am no martyr and I pray to St Judas, who fell from a vending machine for fifty cents, for forgiveness, that he may absolve me for the numerous horrible acts of selfishness I have perpetrated; a guilt ridden back catalogue I would rather delete. St. Judas betrayed Christ, born of necessity, and still he wears a tongue of holy flame above his head. Surely then, surely there is another fresh start for me?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Iwajla Klinke





New images by Iwajla Klinke, whose work can next be seen on display as part of a group show at The Centre For Endless Progress next month.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Alexander 2011



Lovers, Alexander is back in business, this Thursday at Chantal's House of Shame. Very excited, that crowd is always ready for a party, and let's not forget how entertaining the proprieter herself is.

Now, here's a little flashback to his first ever appearance in 2009 in Berlin, alongside everyone's favourite cookie Max Steele.






Photos by Luigi V