TRANSISTORS, in a practical sense, are semi-conductor devices capable of amplification and rectification. they are ubiquitous in daily life and enhance our abilities to communicate, listen, and quite literally, hear each other. As a trans-arts-laborer, I am seeking to find ways for other queer artists and art-laborers to not only find each other by creating accessible networks for solidarity in a rigorous art world, but to also create a space to openly interrogate frustrating and systemic issues we face, through programs and exhibitions with artists, educators, and activists working today.
TRANSISTORS @ RALPH ARNOLD GALLERY, FEB - MARCH 2019
EXHIBITION + TRANS IN RESIDENCE + WEEKLY PROGRAMS
The first iteration of this project launched February 21, 2019 at Ralph Arnold Gallery in Chicago, IL. It grew out of a need I saw for queer work to be allowed to exist not just in service of narratives of trauma. Often queer objects take on the labor of having to represent the entirety of the queer experience or of a particular queer identity of the artists. Identity becomes absolute, narratives become flat. Working with trans artists, often means putting trans bodies on display but for who? This was my most sincere question when embarking on the thought project that became Transistors In recent years, trans visibility has “increased” within the pop culture conversation, transforming social platforms into advocacy soap boxes. The three editors of the recent publication Trap Door:Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility, write:
“In today’s complex cultural landscape, trans people are offered many “doors”—entrances to visibility, to resources, to recognition, and to understanding. Yet…these doors are almost always also “traps”—accommodating trans bodies, histories, and culture only insofar as they can be forced to hew to hegemonic modalities. Yet, in addition to doors that are always already traps, there are trapdoors, those clever contraptions that are not entrances or exits but secret passageways that take you someplace else, often someplace as yet unknown.”
Much of this work was about driving, gossiping, holding space, and listening. Whether it was the conversation we had inside the space or those to and from, they all generated new thought paths and creative ideas. This exhibition included 35 artists, most of whom I had worked with in some capacity before, some who I had been following online for years, and for some artists, it was their first show to ever be in and some were just the partners of artists I had invited which are some of my favorite secret conversations within the exhibition. I sought to create a space where the objects held court for each other and spoke in chorus. No singular queer identity or experience favored over one or the other. We hosted weekly events to gather in the space and transform it from gallery into home. With my apartment rug and favorite chair in the space, we congregated on blankets, yoga mats, and chairs wheeled in from adjourning classrooms. There were so many hugs. Also many break ups throughout the process. Some that affected pieces in the show, all moments which made the experience feel particularly queer. I sat in the gallery on Fridays and spoke with students, keeping a small library of my own materials on site for “public” access. I learned a lot about organizing and myself through this extremely laborious project that has done nothing but bring joy and validation.
Transistors continues on as a queer art+labor listserv (launching by October), an ongoing program series, and an upcoming book project with Candor Arts.
Chicago artists included: Jacob Blank, Jared Brown , Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero, Cameron Clayborn, Andi Crist, Oscar Chavez, Darryl Terryl D’angelo, Ryan Edmund, Maryam Faridani, Azadeh Gholizadeh, Zachary Hutchinson, Elnaz Jivani, Betsy Johnson, Luan Joy Sherman , Diana Torres, A. Klass, Marina Labarthe del Solar, Marlo Koch, Jessie Mott, Marissa Neuman, Michelle Nordmeyer, Sheri Rush, Emilio Rojas, Amina Ross, Anna Showers-Cruser, Derrick Woods Morrow, Katie Vota and Caleb Yono.
Many thanks to Luan Joy Sherman and Andi Crist for their install & prep help during this project install.