‘Melt Mutate’ (2013) is a work that explores the matrix of feminism, masculinity and patriarchy – specifically male representation within the gendered triad. The work extended my practice to explore the liquidity of gender and the radical (de)construction of gender norms in society, leading to gender freedom.
During my placement in Belgium I conversed with Tom Van Imschoot, a Belgian theorist. He believed that literature could provide an alternative to imagine new structures in society. This inspired the creation of ‘Melt Mutate’ and its deconstruction of gender binaries. Gender is a liquid state that centres on the concepts of Zygmunt Bauman. Bauman wrote prolifically about the liquidity of modernity, stating that it allows individuals in society to move freely without the necessity of restrictive norms. I developed this ideal with information from Erving Goffman and his criticism of gendered advertising and how men and women are represented through different physical signifiers portrayed via their bodies.
The stills of the work represent a historical reference to gender and the Eurocentric construction of it, whilst alluding to Goffman’s concepts of the ‘male’ and ‘female’ dominance/submissiveness in advertising, respectfully. I sourced the images whilst in Eastern Europe – the images act as a symbol of historical gender norms in the 20th Century. The interplay between the past and the present develops a playfulness in gender, transcending the rigid structures of today. The work ultimately dissolves the structures into a fluid formation, destroying the membrane (where the images overlap).
The screen is a water-soluble fabric that dissolves over time, changing its own form. The work installed, like its subject, is liquid and malleable. My process for the work began with exploring materials that change from solids to liquids. Ink jet printing of the scanned images on aluminum represented the physicality of gender as a liquid state. The aluminum was used as a flat print on the water-soluble fabric. The print then was reinterpreted historically, essentially making the gendered beings liquid. This was the basis of the installation.
Melt Mutate is intended to move gender forward into a world of liquidity where individuals are not defined by their physical signifiers. It is this creation of gender that will forward gender equality, and all those affected by gender-based discrimination.