n. An androgynous individual, literally a “man-woman” (ancient Greek andro- = “man,” gyn- = “woman”); technically a biological term for a living organism exhibiting male and female physical traits. In human sexology, it denotes a person whose body exhibits male and female features or whose psychological disposition or social persona blends masculinity and femininity. It has been recently superseded by “transgenderist” or “transgendered person.”
Androgyne is a project, which explores gender identity in an expressive way, with a bit of a scientific approach. Many are uncomfortable with the idea of gender-reassignment, and people who are transgendered. What many are not aware of is the long history of transgendered culture. For this piece, I used my interest in Ancient Mythology as an inspiration. I wanted to create characters that were not wholly male or female, but both, stuck midway in a state of metamorphosis. The characters enact simple movements, and we see how the male and female figures differ, and how they are alike. My inspiration for shooting was Eadweard Muybridge, a photographer who took a scientific approach to studying movement. His work has been debated as unscientific because of his choices in picking the best negatives, instead of the actual ones. Muybridge was also inspired by Classical art, picking gestures and themes from sculptural antiquity.
Each model had to wear the clothes that I provided, and follow a list of movements, holding each position for five seconds. Although the setup of the shoot was the same for each, I allowed the models to interpret the action, as they would naturally enact it. This led for feminization or masculination of the movements. The screens, which I created, further aid in sectioning the human forms in a quasi-scientific manner. Each is split horizontally and vertically in the middle. The rest of the shapes provide a sense of proportion, and isolate areas of the forms. I used two separate materials, cloth and nylon, which react differently to the projections. The nylon tends to reflect the image, while the cloth absorbs it. This was to further break up the body, and distort the image. It also aided in the mood I wanted to create for this piece, which was the feeling of twilight. Twilight is one of the most magical settings in literature, commonly used as a metaphor for change and transformation. This ambiguous time is the perfect setting for this project, which explores the ambiguous nature of gender.
A writing which was of great importance in my imagery, was a speech by Aristophanes. He describes a time when there were three sexes, and humans had two faces, four arms, and four legs. These humans were male-males, female-females, and male-females. As punishment for rising up against the gods, Zeus had them split apart. As generations pass, their need to become one again with their original sexed partner continues. While I don’t necessarily agree with the entire text, I found it an interesting take on gender identity, and personality characteristics of both male and females.