Serpentine Skin (2017)
Performance, Silk Screen on Rags
126 x 48
Serpentine Skin is an object created for a performance and the act of making it was performative as well. When I was making this piece, I was a SWAP student for the printmaking studio, which meant I did tasks like restocking supplies, cleaning up, and occasionally helping the other students with their work and educating them on proper studio etiquette and printmaking techniques. While I was cleaning the studio, I witnessed a shocking display of waste. Hundreds of dollars worth of ink was being wasted, dried up, and tossed. Clean rags were being thrown into the trashcan and hundreds more were being ordered as a result.
I dug through the garbage and found rags that had the most potential, taking a few filthy ones as well. I kept these rags knowing I could use them in a future project, but I did not quite know how yet, so I waited for the opportunity to come. As I was cleaning out one of the buckets of ink, so it could be put into recycling, I decided to take one of these old rags. While I washed it, the rag dyed itself red. It was beautiful. So, I chose to dye all the rags with the different buckets of used ink. This formed the backdrop for my image.
While I was working on this piece, I was registering for my next semester of classes, and dealing with student loans. Even though I had legally changed my name for 3-4 years, they continued to call me Bianca. This formed the idea for my piece. I drew myself in a bra, with the hair I had when I identified as female, and I repeated the words “hello Bianca.”
While most of my classmates were very accepting and accommodating of my identity, there were some that did not understand it and they were ignorant to my experience. I also encounter ignorance online regularly and the only presentation of transgender people in the media seems to be those that undergo surgery and “pass” as their chosen gender. It irritates me that the only kind of trans person that is valid is the kind that is not seen as trans, but rather fully resembles a cisgender person.
So, for my performance, I draped my naked feminine body in the fabric I created out of multi-coloured rags with my identity stamped all over it, and I asked two volunteers to undress me as a third took photos. It was my attempt to reconcile with my body and self-image, while also attempting to educate those around me about what trans looks like. It comes in a variety of forms. Some of us chose to remain in the body we are born with and we are happy with it.