Reacquainting Sensibility

One is not born a woman, but rather, becomes a woman. -Simone de Beauvoir, 1949.

The demarcation of space sets off possibilities for actions, simultaneously enabling and restricting the way we behave. This project explores the possibilities of actions through spatial means, specifically how it can constitute gender identity. The body is only known through its gendered appearance; a conception of constituted social temporality (Judith Butler, 1988).

How can we challenge this conception of gender through the construction of a space? What would an ungendered space be like? Would it enable an opportunity to perform differently, to experience and look at our bodies in an ungendered manner?

Gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceede; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time — an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self. This formulation moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of a constituted social temporality. Significantly, if gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actor themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. If the ground of gender identity is the stylized repetition of acts through time, and not seemingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or subversive repetition of that style. -(Judith Butler, 1988)

It isnt about Speaking -by Roberto Juarroz, 1988.

It isn’t about speaking

Or remaining silent

It’s opening an area

Between the words and silence

Perhaps when all’s transpired

The words and silence also

That zone will remain open

Like a backwards hope

And that inverted sign perhaps

Can be a point of focus

In this limitless mutism

Where we are palpably sinking.

We want to construct an installation aimed at understanding gender through spatial and performative means — a space that would challenge the conventions that structure the way the body is culturally perceived. The video is an abstraction of how we envision the installation to be, soliciting the expansion of sensory information.

The installation would seek to break away from the stylised repetitions of acts that constitute gender identity by inviting individuals to experience a space via auditory and sensorial involvement. The individuals would be wearing headphones, from which a personalised set of propositions is narrated. These propositions entail another participant’s response as elicited by their experience of the space, i.e. how they moved, how they felt and how they interacted with the installation.

The anonymous nature of the suggestion would encourage a bodily response that is not necessarily confined to the gender appearance of the participant. The participant suggesting the propositions would have no knowledge of who the listener would be, thereby these propositions would not be gendered ones, but rather just the result of an individual’s experience of the space.

The culmination of these propositions would see the installation evolving through time, constantly taking on new meanings and new contexts for the participants involved. Thereby constructing an ungendered collective identity that is instituted through the stylised repetition of acts enacted by the participants.

We hope to give the participants an opportunity to explore the performative aspect of gender, by exploring its boundaries and the fluidity of its performance based on the space one inhabits. A bodily experience outside ones’ comfort zone would hopefully open up a new understanding on gender identity’s social temporality, the first step towards changing conceptions about gender.

What it is “to do” rather than what we ought to do? -Judith Butler, 1988.

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