Back to THE HISTORY OF THE FUTUREFall 1999/ Winter 2000

Friday, December 3, 1999, Gender Benders:
Diane Torr, "Drag King for a Day"; Fen-Ma Liu Ming, "Photographing the Audience"; Cathay Che, "Impact 25."

Fen-Ma Liu Ming's performance for the 1997 Nippon International Performance Art Festival in Tokyo began in pitch darkness. Then the sound of a match being struck, the match raised and the glimpse of a gorgeous woman's face, long black hair. The match is pulled down the torso and as you stare you think you see male genitals, but by this time the match has gone out. The action is repeated, sometimes the match not igniting, but the same hand gesture is repeated so the same time elapses between each strike. We can't figure out the sex of this creature. Suddenly the lights go on. Fen-Ma Lieu Ming is standing naked on a pedestel still repeating the match-lighting gesture. We gaze at his beautiful face and male genitals, and begin to consciously question what signals lead to the assignment of gender.

Gender bending has been going within and without the art world for a long time. Marcel Duchamp's female alter-ego was named Rrose Selavy. Claude Cahun posed as a man in the 20s. In 1974, Lynda Benglis bought a full-page color ad in Artforum magazine and appeared wearing only sunglasses, baby oil, and a giant dildo. Recently, Murray Hill (Betsey Gallagher) ran for Mayor of New York against Rudolph Giuliani, appearing with his wife (Penny Tuesdae) at his side, and registering Gen X clubgoers to vote. And Kate Bornstein successfully completed a male-to-female sex-change operation, only to discover that her girlfriend wished to become a man!


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