The work of Eddie peak encompasses video, photography, painting, sculpture, installation, and choreographed performances with sound. I am particularly interested in his work since it spans so many art forms and in doing so creates a multidimensional and multisensory world. His play on the ambiguities of sexuality and gender are attractive to me, as are his use of recurring images such as the faun. The faun occupies a space of ambiguity; it is neither man or beast, a symbol of sexual freedom, a queer, transformative and in-between figure.
I am particularly interested in the impact and traumas caused by being born into a gendered society and how this effects both those who do not relate to or fit within the binaries and its reverberations through wider society.
The masculine and feminine, for those who do not fit neatly into its formalities can be a painful and challenging beast to wrestle with. This categorisation of the sexes begins early on, when we are but a ‘twinkle in our father’s eye’ our sex is fantasied about, we say “If we had a little girl we could paint her room pink” or perhaps “I would much rather a boy, they are easier to handle”. The confirmation of sex by medical experts re-enforces the fantasy, it’s a boy! It’s a girl!
‘Are there humans who are not, as it were, always already gendered? The mark of gender appears to “qualify” bodies as human bodies; the moment in which an infant becomes humanized is when the question “is it a boy or a girl?” is answered.’ (Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble, New York: Routledge.)
What I am disputing and what I believe Butler also disputes is the so called “natural” division of humans by sex. Biologically and anatomically we recognise bodies as male or female according to their genitalia, assigning a penis to the male body and a vagina to the female. We can also go further than this, using chromosomes to denote a divide between the sexes. But what we do not ask is, are the bodies that are being sexed happy to be sexed in such a way? Indeed, by the time we are able to ask this question we may be so enveloped by a hetero-normative way of perceiving our bodies that we may never get to rebuke these body labels. Speaking at a conference entitled “Why bodies matter” in 2015, butler likens this to a positivist view of life.
“We are working with historical discourses that are available to us and seem very obvious… can we know the life of the body, without understanding in what way its living?...What we have done with the body is reduced it to a materiality that conforms with a positivist way of seeing” (Butler, 2015
(Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.)
Talking about Simone de Beauvoirs notion that “one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one”, Butler begins to unpick and investigate the moment of gender assignment, asking the question “How does one become a gender?”.
“Are there ever humans who are not, as it were, always already gendered? The mark of gender appears to “qualify” bodies as human bodies; the moment in which an infant becomes humanized is when the question “is it a boy or a girl”? is answered.” (Butler, 1999)
What is interesting to me here is the notion that sex and gender are a juridical prerequisite of social and what’s more political construction. This notion enacts that from birth we are all endowed by the state and by the social constraints of that state, to be sexed. My question then becomes; is being sexed our first initiation into the juridical systems that govern, regulate and control our outcomes as human beings? Is this our first step to becoming artificial persons? Are we born artificial?