Every day we put on a performance. We perform gender by getting dressed in the morning, by the way we walk to work and by the way we interact with the world around us. This is Judith Butler’s concept of performativity and “doing gender,” the notion that everyone does gender whether intentionally or not, to convey their gender identity—whether assigned or not. We perform in two different ways during our lives: consciously when we get up on stage, and subconsciously during our everyday expression of gender and sexual identity.This exhibit examines the tension between representations of gender and sexuality in the past and present. By contrasting the past and present we are better able to examine our own societal views of performativity.
The variety of sexualities and genders shown in this exhibit rejects an essentialist reading and instead shows the complexity of performance. There is a range of what acts and words are found deviant across generations, locations and religions. For this reason we begin this exhibit by examining historical representations of gender and sexuality in the context of specific cultures and time periods. These objects challenge our concept of sexuality and gender in the past, before certain acts were seen and labeled as deviant. Looking at old objects, we see the ways in which people thought about gender and sexuality in their societies and we can use these insights while examining performance in our own society. With these insights we shift to looking at contemporary artists and the way they represent gender and sexuality through various medias.
We hope to show with our exhibit that representations of people deemed “deviant” by society are extremely important, and can hold so much weight when the representation becomes self-representation. These self-representations can help to break down the label "deviant" and allow marginalized people a voice, allowing them to be seen as complete people by normative society. This exhibit is a reminder that there is not and has never been just one way to be, we see artists erase the line between deviant and normative.