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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

I was asked to write a review after having seen the exhibition; this is more a reflection of my experience at the exhibition than a comment on the artists’ work. Even though I saw the show a second time, my main impression is from the private view. 

Listed as a fringe event, an exhibition that very much complemented the conference by presenting transgender in another idiom, made an excellent precursor to the conference. This precursor was also integral with the main event, in that several of the conference speakers made pictorial references to classical, modern and contemporary artists’ work. This was in addition to the strong theatrical element utilised by some of the conference speakers, which to my mind made the conference as a conference a fringe event in itself. Thereby the exhibition became a fringe of a fringe event, but then again by its very nature, the subject matter of this innovative exhibition and conference is already at the fringes of contemporary society. 

It is no coincidence that the topic of Transgender and Gender in Psychoanalysis should draw on the arts. With their ability to hold several ambiguities in the same frame, the creative arts naturally lend themselves to breaking the ground and giving form to complex human experience. The arts are there in all their manifestations which are then available to psychoanalysis for psychoanalysis to come into play; in a sense, the possibilities of psychoanalysis are everywhere. But this is never straightforward, as a colleague said after a trainee had just completed their pass: psychoanalysis is just so difficult to write about. 

Let us not forget that Oedipus – so present in psychoanalytic discourse – originates from the literary arts. How then was the introduction of Tiresias at the conference so liberating. Transforming the gender binary structure of the oedipal drama into a dynamic sexual difference, where sexual difference is considered in a potential multiple otherness, a subjective experience beyond the difference between the sexes.

This fringe event was an exhibition of 27 artists each presenting a single piece of work: a mixed media show, painting, sculpture, photography, film, animation and printmaking. A diverse group of artists at different stages in their practice with some clearly far more established in their work than others. A diversity that contributed to the strength of the show in a limited pop up gallery space, where life size photographs hung beside stone and moulded sculptures mounted on free standing plinths. Displayed under Transgender, these individually titled works very much complemented one another in this intimate space; as French artist and founder of Art Brut Jean Dubuffet says: ‘in the realms of art, genius abounds and any newcomer has sufficient reserve to produce an admirable work of art.’