Q/A Vincent Honoré
“Call me Caitlyn.” When Vanity Fair’s June cover ran these words over the hipline of a newly female Caitlyn Jenner – formerly known as Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner – many took to social media to celebrate a poignant indication of the triumph of personal identity that characterizes in our age.
These three words bespoke performativity at its greatest potential, in relation to identity- based body image. A verbal consummation of the self, the imperative “Call me Caitlyn” marks the act of metamorphosis from one being to another for both the individual and her audience, still more than the moment of surgical transition. Eschewing age-old socio-sexual codes, gender and sexual orientation are in the twenty-first century more frequently exposed as tools of essentialist control and also a self-declared manner of becoming. This reverses Judith Butler’s performative gender codes. From constricting, selfimposed and socially derived cues, they become something both empowering and liberating: rather than taking on the role of a woman to appear as a woman, Caitlyn’s self-declaration assumes the desired manifestation of her own self-image.
The volume of the media response reflects our age’s evolution towards a self-defined identity – one that is, like all forms of becoming, defined through performative rehearsal. The world has been a tragic, sublime, epic or absurd stage since the seventeenth century. The actors of a meaningless and contaminated world are now directing and defining themselves. Identity has turned into the real and definitive stage. To re-iterate the motto of our recently closed local drag bar, The Black Cap, “Be Fabulous!”
Vincent Honoré is director and chief curator of DRAF (David Roberts Art Foundation) in London. His programme of exhibitions and events is informed by different disciplines, including dance, literature and music, in order to explore and question how exhibitions can function as process.
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