Amrou Al-Khadi almost splits into three in a triple exposure photograph that represents the fragments of their identity, being both a person in drag and of Muslim heritage. As a Muslim myself, I can imagine how hard coming out in drag must be, given even the slightest non-conformities can create schisms in conservative religious families.
It’s one work in a timely show at Hayward Gallery that looks at gender identity and gender fluidity. Given incidences of hate crimes against LGBT persons are still rife even in cosmopolitan cities such as London, it’s important for these works to be given a major exhibition to highlight how artists have been tackling issues around identity for the last 50 years.
Juliana Huxtable has become her own superhero, creating photographs where she has pink skin or is delivering a street fighter-style Hadouken. They are playful works, but do make us question when we’ll see a black trans superhero in the Marvel universe or similar, so Juliana no longer has to create her own.
Unfortunately, for every powerful work, others don’t quite hit the mark. One video work has a performing drag queen within shimmering curtains, and another requires visitors to wear overshoes to enter a latex installation and examine transphobic Government policies. Both films contain interesting messages about trans identity but, like a lot of video art, they take a long time to get to the point. These meandering works would have benefitted from some hefty editing.
The curation of this show is a bit of a mess, with photographs by different artists mixed together, no obvious context given. The works lack punch and colour without the stories and narratives behind them, and I’m left wondering what each piece is trying to say.
It’s heartening to see the important issue of gender identity addressed in a major art exhibition, I just wish it had been put together with a bit more thought. A fair amount of work still manages to make an impact but this show could have been so much stronger, and a lot less of a drag.
Kiss My Genders is on at Hayward Gallery until 8 September 2019. Tickets are £15.50 for adults.
Last Updated 12 June 2019