JJ LEVINE - ALONE TIME (2014)
JJ Levine is a Canadian artist who works in "intimate portraiture". Their most successful series to date being Alone Time (2014), Levine "attempts to reveal the superficial nature of gendered appearance." With this work, "Levine asked friends to pose as both men and women for each photograph, therefore showing how malleable and subject-to-change gender can be." Levine argues: "I'd like to move away from the gender binary, and I think my images suggest that could be a reality."
OK, so some time ago I researched JJ Levine as an artist who may inspire my own practice in regards to gender performativity. It directly addresses the aesthetic that I'm hoping to achieve at the minute with my own arranged marriage to myself (see: seema weds seema) but my work is much less about the blurring of gender binaries and more about the emphasis of the multiple selfs of the ethnic woman: that such persons exist and the juxtaposition of revelation in the concealment of the paradoxically blatant self. However, it is also about marrying these minorital selfs as comprisements of the tortured, ethnic self.
With Levine, I think the aesthetic is fun, as I would imagine the act of performance was in each image too - but I just don't feel that malleable essence that Levine argues they exude. For me, it's all well and good in terms of showing the possibilities of how easily one can slip in and out of the tropey aesthetic of what people of different genders, whatever they may be, may look like but as a viewer, I could've done without the generic wigs and stances and make up. What if two of the same person wore exactly the same thing and looked exactly the same way but positioned or staged as in all of these images? That would be fab. Quite often I believe it is one's behaviour which so powerfully affirms their status or appearance in society and so perhaps these images, however fun they are in terms of aesthetic, could more challenging and thought-provoking without being so generic. Ultimately, it seems to reinforce notions of gender that Levine so sternly seems to want to challenge.
As good ol' Judith Butler asserts: "gender performativity is not a matter of choosing which gender one will be today. Performativity is a matter of reiterating or repeating the norms by which one is constitued...". Perhaps these "norms' she speaks of are more in the behaviours that underpin our appearance than our appearance itself.
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