Musings / Portrait

PROJECT – Where Androgyny Lies

‘Iphis pledged as a girl and paid as a boy’ – Iphis, Ovid.

I wanted to share with you an experimentative project which explored the aesthetics of androgyny. It was a collaboration with my good friend Ina who has just completed an MPhil degree in Multi-disciplinary
Gender Studies. She is now in Japan and writing a wonderful blog, Japanina, which you should all check out here.

WHERE ANDROGYNY LIES

This project started off as an experiment to see whether we could capture what we understood to be the beauty of androgyny; by the end, it had taken us way beyond this simple proposition. Androgyny, it seemed to us, had entered the world of fashion as a desirable and alluring feature. What we attempted, therefore, was to find this androgynous beauty for ourselves.

Yet, where were we to find it?

We considered to create an appearance that combined masculinity and femininity and thus situated androgyny somewhere between both genders; but, in that place, we couldn’t quite find its beauty. It seemed that this understanding of androgyny was a fallible one; is androgyny really that which lies between two firmly rooted genders as another category?

What we tried to capture, a beauty that does not rely on endlessly repeated features of stylised femininity or masculinity, was slipping away. If this was the beauty we had hoped for, it was too complacent, too untroubled by its opposing relation to maleness and feminine beauty.

Instead, we realised that what we really became interested in was to play with the gendered and constructed features of the human body and face, to subtract them, to add them, to amplify them, and to mock them.

Androgyny, in its original meaning, carries with it a fear of gender, but its desire to escape from masculine and feminine expressions binds it forever to exactly that.

We realised that this kind of androgyny was not what had intrigued us, but the idea that gender is a choice, or an option, that bears significance and carries beauty, but that is essentially an expression of individuality, not an intrinsic characteristic whereby categories can be established.

This is our hopeful portrayal of a new beauty of androgyny, of extreme stereotypes, of a richness of expression, of a lack of lack, of gender that never quite believes in itself.

[PHYSICAL SET UP OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS

First Set

1. Adding and subtracting parts of both genders; binding chest, eye makeup. No set gender position.

2. Model asked to perform like each gender. Two gender performances were combined using digital image manipulation as a way of comparison.

3. Similar to 2. but use of abstract shapes no particular performance. (Yet you may naturally wish to look for one after being shown the first image.

Second Set

1&2. All features blanked, stripped by application. Makeup so face was all one colour. Trying to erase any tell-tale signs.

3,4&5. Adding features, with makeup, from both genders, or what we conceive as being connected to those genders.]

Models: Steph Marley and Niall Cruickshank.
All images copyright Diana Patient.

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