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Number 13: Spring 2018

Review: An Exhibition at Drayton Hall Community Centre—A Fringe Event of The Site’s Transgender, Gender & Psychoanalysis Conference

Douglas Gill

It seems inevitable when exploring the subject that work gets caught in a gender binary oscillation. The most engaging pieces for me were those that managed to transcend this struggle. 

The curators, Mandy Wax and Spencer Rowell, both Site trainees, had the task of selecting work from 72 artists who responded to an ‘open call’ website under the conference title. The exhibition was professionally mounted in the Drayton Hall Community Centre with Luisa Pretolani, another Site trainee and director of this regular Site venue at the edge of a council housing estate in South London. 

The private view was full, wide eyed and bustling with excitement. And dare I say how taken I was by the numbers of a younger generation, a generation who was clearly inspired and excited by the transgender subject, making a specific appearance in the public gallery; a generation who is in a very different place from the sexual politics of the hippie and punk eras that I straddled. 

This was a thrilling evening making me feel that I was at the cutting edge of something important, reminiscent of the early fringe theatre and outsider arts movements of my day. 

This younger generation audience has of course grown up in the digital revolution and thinks nothing of recording the gallery work on smart phones and retaining images in their personal filing systems. The work, originally sourced by the curators on line, was transformed from the virtual to the real gallery, and then from the real to multiple virtual galleries by those attending the exhibition. Social media publication and communication are now so everyday. 

The two main things I have taken from the whole experience are an endorsement of how integrated psychoanalysis is with the arts, and how the trans subjectivity creates movement in psychoanalysis beyond the gender binary. 

I recall a conversation with the curator Tom Trevor when he was director of the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol. I was obsessing with how to define a project in a funding application. Would I be more successful by focussing on just the arts, or health, or education? Tom responded by saying, ’Stay in the grey area between the three – the creative is always between things.’ 

Likewise in the contemporary arts, household names such as Tracy Emin and Grayson Perry have produced work between one medium and another; between the visual arts, film, literature, theatre, digital media etc, more scope has been created for the next generation to make their own transitions from studio to gallery, and take up their place in the world where they are perceived by others.