One of the largest British retrospectives of its kind to date, the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Kiss My Genders’ adds historical depth and social breadth to the emerging category of trans and non-binary art. Overseen by guest curator Vincent Honoré, it moves beyond photographic portraits of gender nonconformists, bringing in drawing, painting, sculpture and film to explore how trans and non-binary self-expressions have interacted with other counter-cultures and artistic movements, and how their increasing prominence has made people more widely aware of the creative possibilities of gender.
Some familiar photographs do feature: Peter Hujar’s famous images of New York’s 1970s queer underground stars, including the dying Candy Darling, appear alongside 1990s portraits of trans people by Del LaGrace Volcano and Catherine Opie. More representative of this show, however, are the opening works by Juliana Huxtable and Victoria Sin, who both address race as well as gender, defamiliarizing their bodies in inventive ways: Huxtable by incorporating Afrofuturist aesthetics and Middle Eastern religion; Sin by projecting separated parts of their stylized, distinctive self across a canvas.
At their most inventive, these works transcend not just gender but humanity. The most recent, Jenkin van Zyl’s film Looners (2019), imagines a world of ‘multiple selves, instability and deviance’, providing an audacious glimpse of a dizzying, terrifying postgender future.
Main image: Jenkin van Zyl, Looners, 2019, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Hayward Gallery
Juliet Jacques is a writer and filmmaker based in London, UK. Her most recent book, Trans: A Memoir, was published by Verso in 2015. She co-hosts Suite (212) on Resonance 104.4fm, which looks at the arts in their social, cultural, political and historical contexts.