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June 19, 2017

TOPOGRAPHIXX: Trans in the landscape – a video curation by Tobaron Waxman

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Short description:

TOPOGRAPHIXX: Trans in the landscape – an international program of video art concerned with landscape, border, zone and territory, in a transgender spectrum.

Medium length description:

This programme is inspired by MTF spectrum filmmakers who have created imagery concerned with landscape. I have for a long time been interested in and an ally to activism around land claims, homelessness, and the basic human right to a self-determined context. This curation begins with two titles which each in critically different ways engage landscape, “Bidun Unwaan” by Raafat Hattab (MTF-spectrum genderqueer Palestinian in Jaffa) and “Allo Performance!” by Mirha Soleil Ross (MTF Francophone in Northern Quebec, who traces her lineage over 500 years to Jews of Portugal and Spain who were forced to convert (Anushim), and as early settlers of New France survived by mixing with Aboriginal / Autochthonous cultures and religions).

TOPOGRAPHIXX presents a number of short films and videos which engage a variety of sites both natural and urban with political and esthetic strategies that harken back to feminist concerns with landscape, while simultaneously pushing forward into new territories of transfeminist representation. These works are in synch with my thoughts and aspirations for curation of work by trans people as well as the cultivation of a more intersectional discourse around gender, border trauma, territory and power.

TOPOGRAPHIXX – Trans in the Landscape includes works by: Barbara de Genevieve, Raafat Hattab, Rémy Huberdeau, Del La Grace Volcano, Mirha Soleil Ross, Jacolby Satterwhite, Chris Vargas, Yossi Yacov.

Screening history:

La Mutinerie, Paris. October 30, 2012
Babel2 – Independent Biennale of Critical Housing, Rome, May 20, 2012
MIXNYC/ Brooklyn Academy of Art and Dance: OUT LIKE THAT! Festival – Bronx, NYC, June 14, 2012

For more information about this curatorial project or the artists, visit http://tobaron.com/curatorial.html

Curatorial text available upon request.

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TOPOGRAPHIXX: Trans in the landscape – a video curation by Tobaron Waxman

1. Chris Vargas (USA)
Have you ever seen a transsexual before?
2010 (04 min)

Eisner Prize for Film & Video, Honorable Mention
“Have You Ever Seen A Transsexual Before? is both a document of a live performance in the alienating “real world” and a fantastical adventure into another world of queer likeness and identification. The first half of the video records a guerilla performance, and through repetition, becomes a declaration and a campaign for Female-To-Male (FTM) transsexual visibility. When the campaign proves futile I enter a magical animated world where I observe and am greeted by colorful and flamboyant wildlife. Dedicated to friend Sam Lopes.” – Chris Vargas

2. Barbara de Genevieve (Chicago)
Into the Woods (08 min)

A sex scene between an FTM and an MTF in the forest, shot during Camp Trans. Winner of Paris Post Porn Film Festival Award 2010.

3. Del la Grace Volcano (London/Stockhölm)
The Passionate Spectator
2004 (10 min)

An elegantly costumed genderqueer apparition traverses a European urban landscape. Inspired by Baudelaire and the late Brixton Brady, 
this short embodies the magic of the flaneur who
sees but does not buy, who is in constant movement across 
borders which s/he refuses to recognize. 
(note: both the late BriXton Brady and Del are ‘herm’ identified. This film may be the first non-narrative example of an ‘intersex cinema’.)

Raafat Hattab (Jaffa)
4. Bidun Unwaan (06 min)

Raafat Hattab: “Art is the media for me as an artist to express my identity, thoughts, feelings, criticize and fight for my rights. Using Drag and my main character is “Arouse Falastine” (the bride of Palestine), showing the political aspect mixed with the gender and the sexuality, and The Arabic language is present exclusively in my works and not translated into either Hebrew or English. I focus on my everyday life as a Palestinian living in Israel and as a queer living in Jaffa (Arab society), and the feeling to be a Palestinian queer in the gay community. I’m doing the connection between the fight for my rights and my freedom in both societies I live in and don’t feel belonging to neither.”

In much of his work, Raafat performs in a non-traditional drag as ‘Arouse Falastin’ (The Bride of Palestine) عروس فلسطين. The Bride of Palestine is a traditional Palestinian reference to the ancient port city of Jaffa. In ‘Bidun Unwaan’ (untitled) the refrain of the soundtrack is “I leave the place”, and in Arabic the title also means ‘without mailing address’. As the loving caregiver to the tree, both Raafat and the olive tree as symbol for the Palestinian village are two figures who have never left the place. When the camera zooms out, the context for this nurturing is revealed to actually be in the middle of Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, and the source of the water is the fountain pool by City Hall, at the centre of Zionism’s largest city. The artist’s hands gently pluck a handful of olive leaves, which become the decoration for Arouse Falastine’s hair.

Raafat’s performance as Arouse Falastin is the embodiment of something that was always there, while simultaneously looking back at something that used to be there… she’s sort of like a ghost, and yet she’s also tangible in her physicality. This timeless figure of the Bride of Palestine by her graceful presence, her generous and even warm expression, and by the fact that she bears multiple signs of injury on the body, becomes the ultimate witness.

Raafat Hattab: “For me, the tree that represents my Palestinian identity, is planted in a place that, on one hand, it was Palestine, the original land of it. And now its planted in a place that is framed, so its not its natural place, its not an olive grove and it’s lonely. It represents me, that’s how I feel.”

5. Mirha Soleil Ross (Quebec)
Allo performance (13 min) (2002)

From May 2001 to February 2002, artist Mirha-Soleil Ross, who is a trans woman, appeared pregnant every time she was in public as part of her 9 month long performance art cycle “The Pregnancy Project”. Ross’ seemingly innocuous dress is inspired by Shulamit Firestone, in this carefully layered performance video. “I had decided that my performance work would put the woman’s body on the line. We were trying to make it look like an old film, like a rich husband could have done of his pregnant wife in the 1950s…as a reference to documentation of early feminist performance art.” MSR

She gaily dances with the pounding surf, and one recognizes the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge on the horizon, this juxtaposed with the sound of her mothers voice retelling the stories of her difficult pregnancy with miracle baby Mirha.

Mirha Soleil Ross: “… white Anglophone, non Jewish, non Arabic, non Native, will see this as a working class or “white trash” speech. Most audiences will see the tape as related to class. It’s not just related to class. My mother never used the word ‘God’/ ‘bon dieu’. My mother never used spiritual terms related to Christianity. In this video she uses words that to me, go across culture and are related to Aborginal Culture, and come from 500 years of old, converted Anusian religion (Anushim are crypto-Jews forced to convert in Portugal and Spain who escaped to be early settlers of New France.) Her spirituality is in terms of ‘destiny’ and that is very Aboriginal. Those are things that most people wouldn’t understand, but we didn’t care. So much of the content is to render and recodify a sense of who the woman is.”

MSR: “At the end of the video I fall in the water, I collapse, I fail in the water, to be a woman who can reproduce, can reproduce either Jewishness or Aboriginalness, on foreign territory.”

6. Raafat Hattab (Jaffa)
Houria (07 min)

In “Houria” (Mermaid/Freedom), Hattab interviews Yousra, his aunt, who tells him generations of stories she has inherited, about where they lived, and where parts of the family dispersed to in 1948. The image of her storytelling is interwoven with imagery of Hattab dressed as a mermaid on the shore of Al-Manshiyeh, the northern Palestinian neihbourhood that borders the sea and Tel Aviv. Hattab, who ID’s as (what is in English codified as) genderqueer, is perpetually between contexts, not unlike the beached mermaid.

RH: “The word ‘horia’ حرية in Arabic, it’s freedom. And then houria حورية, it’s mermaid. So one letter makes the difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘mermaid’. ….. As a mermaid, she is in the middle, and I as a mermaid, I am in the middle — not fish enough to be in the sea, not human enough to be on the shore. So here, I am talking about the in-between of things.”

RH: “In “Houria” حـ(و)ـرية, I was trying to get to the roots of my past to understand the history of my family — to understand what my roots are, as a Palestinian living in Jaffa, and combining this with me, right now, and the way I’m living. It’s like checking and exploring my belonging to this society or this nation called Palestine.”

RH: “I went to meet my aunt, my father’s sister, and she was telling me the story of my grandparents, the stories about where my grandparents used to live, and how my family got to live where they live now. It’s important for me that she’s a woman, a Palestinian woman, telling the narrative of the family, and during this video I’m silent. She’s telling the story of the Bride of Palestine, instead of me telling it. In this video, I’m there, just listening to the story of my aunt, about what happened in ‘48. As a witness, I am part of the Palestinian society and not feeling belonging, and at the same time I’m part of the Israeli society, but I don’t feel belonging. So being in this place gives me the ability to look, to see, to criticize, and to analyze the reality around me, about the history, the past, the present… this place that is in the middle, between the Palestinian and the Israeli society. Like not being fully a part of the Palestinian society, although I’m from there.”

RH: “The tattoo is for me like making this contract, like something written to prove that I’m from here, I’m from Jaffa, I’m from this land. On the one hand, I’m using my body as a performer, while also using the concept that Jaffa belongs to Palestine, historically. Tattooing is not acceptable in traditional Palestinian society. So to make a tattoo, I go to Tel Aviv. So it becomes like, to make the tattoo, as The Bride of Palestine, I need to meet the Other, the Israeli. When I do the tattoo in Tel Aviv, that empowers my being as Palestinian. Maybe if there was no Israeli side, and I was living in a Palestinian environment, I wouldn’t need it, to prove that I am The Bride of Palestine. The distance, from the Other, the existence of the Israeli side, existence of the occupation, gives more meaning for the Palestinian existence nearby.”

RH: “I used to think that the Palestinians are the people who understand me the best way. I discovered that they are not. And I used to think that the Israelis wouldn’t understand me, and I discovered I’m wrong. There is a gap between the two societies, and I’m trying to understand both sides and to live peacefully with both sides, although I can’t find my place in either side. It should be one state. One state for both nations. With no borders, no checkpoints, no walls.”

7. Rémy Huberdeau (Canada)
Au pays des esprits (Home of the Buffalo)
2009
 (04:26 min)

Constructed from Canadian prairie archival images taken between 1920 and 1940, this film lyrically explores a son/daughter’s relationship with his/her father and the family’s relationship to their land.

8. Yossi Yacov (Berlin/Tel Aviv)
The National Erection
2007 (04 min)

Referencing a historic cannon-monument from 1948, Queer activists create a giant pink cannon-cock, to squirt giant cumshots on Tel Aviv’s military and Zionist monuments as a protest gesture, thus ‘dragging’ the national ethos as a squirting pink satin penis. Locals report that the police felt compelled? justified? jealous? enough to destroy the ‘national erection’ with clubs, castrating the queer phallus, in response to the activists perversion of the landscape of national myth.

9. Jacolby Satterwhite (USA)
Reifying Desire
2011 (7min)

3D animation / Digital Video. A Queer Creation Myth Story based on the artist’s mother’s drawings and vocals. Jacolby described “Reifying Desire” to me as a “queer, non sensical, psychosexual landscape….built from drawings made by a schizophrenic, and her son vogues around the material culture she drew.” He went on to define ‘Queer’ as “queer in the definition of outside of normativity“.

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