Presented with the generous support of the City of West Hollywood.
Design of posters and graphics by Sarah Gottesdiener
History of Transient
A few words about the show: Trans.ient is a curated group show that develops ideas about sharing and recognizing visibility within and outside of the transgender community. Built inside two U-Haul trucks, the show creates a space where trans/queer work can be seen in relationship to each other, instead of reconstructing that familiar space of opposition to the Other. The project brings awareness to predicated perceptions of our transgender lives and practice with cultural and historical relevance.
I created this exhibition in 2011 at CalArts as part of my MFA thesis. The work was exhibited in two U-Haul trucks on the CalArts campus, the artists participated in a moderated panel discussion in Los Angeles, and a publication was printed that went along with the work in the show.
The U-Haul trucks, being an ever-flowing-and-changing space, lend to the idea of transition – contributing to the creation of a temporary space of movement and dialogue around trans (in)visibility. I want to drive discourse that extends beyond the object and the object’s immediately surrounding space and into the public sphere, which, I believe, builds true visibility. Curating this show creates an important dialogue that belongs both within a queer discourse and outside of that specific conversation. The trucks allow for a moving exhibition as a means to transport the conversation beyond the spaces that are familiar with it.
By Kean O’Brien
Transient is a curated group show that develops ideas about sharing and recognizing visibility within and outside of the transgender community. Built inside two U-Haul trucks, the show creates a space where trans/queer works can be seen in relationship to each other, instead of reconstructing that familiar space of opposition to the Other. The project brings awareness to predicated perceptions of our transgender lives and practice with cultural and historical relevance.
This is the second iteration of Transient. I first created this exhibition in 2011 at CalArts as part of my MFA thesis. The work was exhibited in two U-Haul trucks on the CalArts campus, the artists participated in a moderated panel discussion in Los Angeles, and a publication was printed that went along with the work in the show. Included in the first show were artists I greatly admired, like Jules Rosskam, Malic Amayla, Johanna Breiding, Zackary Druker, and Oli Rodriguez.
The U-Haul trucks, being an ever-flowing-and-changing space, lend to the idea of transition – creating a temporary space of movement and dialogue around trans (in)visibility. I want to drive discourse that extends beyond the object and the object’s immediately surrounding space and into the public sphere, which, I believe, builds true visibility. Curating this show creates an important dialogue that belongs both within, and outside of, a queer discourse. The trucks allow for a moving exhibition as a means to transport the conversation beyond the spaces that are familiar with it.
By definition, the term “transient” is an adjective meaning “lasting a very short time.” The title of this exhibition attaches to the movement of the truck a metaphor for the fluidity of gender and identity. Trans artists and trans-themed work are often fetishized or capitalized on in art spaces in which the work is not presented as merely art, but rather specific to the identification of the artist. By creating a moving and temporary space for the work to be viewed in, I am creating new space of access.
The City of West Hollywood has given me a generous grant to produce this show in conjunction with their planning of Transgender Awareness Month. The City suggested that the opening be in conjunction with Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on November 20th of every year since its inauguration in 1998. While I believe the inherent political problems and complexities of Remembrance are huge, I agreed on the condition that they would a Transgender Day of Action in Los Angeles that Weho would engage with.
My goal is to use this opportunity to create a critical discourse around the institution, used here in reference to the system in which (trans) artists are created and shown, including the museum, art school, gallery and niche exhibition.
My curatorial direction revolves around ideas of visibility; whether that be personal visibility for the artist, narrative visibility, or circumstantial visibility. I am curating this show with transgender-identified artists. I have researched many works and narrowed my view to a few exceptional artists who are both diverse and cohesive together. I am engaging with ideas of visibility around the trans body as subject and object for the work, and questioning the inclination of the art institution to curate only body-related work when creating space for trans artists. I am using my liminal position to challenge and critique this institutional choice. The majority of work by trans artists that is shown within the institution revolves around the body and its “reveal.” This work, which I refer to as “trans body work,” is typically positioned in separation from, or opposition to, non queer-themed work, which creates an otherness that, is replicative of histories of othering. I am supportive of this expression and understand, inherently, its necessity. Exposing one’s trans body through art creates a forced gaze at a body that is and has felt invisible. Being in charge of one’s own visibility moves the body into a space of self-ownership and access. I see this work as a crucial part of transgender art history and I desire to honor that. I am curating a few pieces that negotiate the presence of body, but the majority of the work I am making space for does not explicitly revolve around trans-specific space or politics. The conversation between work that presents the trans body and work that does not creates a conversation that has not yet happened.
This leads to my next set of questions. What is my role in the transgender art revolution? As an artist, thinker, community organizer, educator and curator, how do I use my privilege to create broader spaces for others?
I am an artist, as well as a curator. My own arts practice is in community engagement. Collaboration is the way my work is made and where my work finds inspiration. I do not see my work as "mine," but rather, as “ours.”
I am an artist, as well as a curator. My work is about community building, deconstructing or reconstructing masculinity, queerness, binary systems of oppression, and the many constructions of identification. I am a transgender person. I am exploring my personal identity and relationship to nature and the construction of space created for me/against me. In many of my projects, I am striving to create a community space of engagement that allows us, as a community, to be in dialogue around (in)visibility. My main interest in making art lies in community engagement. Collaboration is the way my work is made and the source of my inspiration. The ideas in the work, my practice and its documentation are all the result of artistic collaborations. An example of this is Concord. After I graduated from CalArts with an MFA in Photography and Media in 2011, I co-founded this artist run space in East Los Angeles. Concord is a trans-disciplinary collective, an artist-run gallery, an international residency program, and a home in Cypress Park, Los Angeles. As both an art project and a project space, Concord practices and provides a platform for critical models of art making, culture-working, and community building. After the Concord project was up and running, I pursued my desire to be an educator again. I have been teaching Photography and Digital Filmmaking for the last year and a half at an Art Institute in the middle of Southern California desert.
As I began curating this exhibition I was looking for work that challenges the idea of bodies as “the” means to reveal trans. What are other ways we can discuss art as transgender artists other than relying upon our bodies for the reveal? I am both drawn to work that is subtle, like Nicki Green’s sculptures, but also to emphatic work like Heather Cassils’s aggressive use of their body as a way to talk about power.
Nicki Green’s found bricks, elegantly glazed with flowers are sculptures that discuss both a subtle and violent history of oppression and (in)visibility. Green’s recognition of the brick as a potentially violent object, used to throw through windows and/or other acts of aggression and protest, create for me a building block of ideas around how our history has been written with both invisiblity and violence. The relationship between the “violence” of the brick and the “tenderness” of the flowers directly relates to the (in)visibility of othering in trans art history. Green’s bricks are a highlight of this show and bring together my intentions of historical and current cultural relevance around visibility.
The Papi Project by Oli Rodriquez explores trans visibility from a place of distance and recognition. I view the work as a way for Oli to seek an understanding of himself through his father’s relationships with other men. This project began in Oli’s exploration of his history and through his fathers photographs and memories. Trans people are histories of becoming. We are complicated and sometimes feel confusing and confused in the transitional spaces we have to navigate, especially with our familes and our cultural heritages. This project is beautiful not only in its attempt, but also in its compliation of reaching those deep places of reflection and looking. I think to see is to explore and to look is to notice. This project seeks to see deeper and in turn gives the viewer the opportunity to truly look at their histories and find a new way to see themselves.
This exhibition reaches from the subtle to the overt and in between. I am excited about how the work flows through these U-Haul trucks and challenges the institution of the gallery and the institution of the binary.
The exhibition and publication are dedicated to my mentor, Barbara DeGenevieve, who taught and fought for the unseen, for the invisible, for the silenced, for the creative. Her power will live eternally in our work, our impassioned artists’ hearts, and our critical queer minds. Barbara, I speak with words you taught me, and I seek to inspire from a place in my heart that you created.
2011 Exhibition Artists: Jules Rosskam, Malic Amayla, Johanna Breiding, Zackary Druker, and Oli Rodriguez.
Along with the exhibition a publication was created that included writings, bios and work by the exhibition artists and Erin O'Brien and Jai Arun Ravine.