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Photographs in International Feminist Exhibition in Korea

This is a guest post by Laurie and Debbie. Debbie Notkin is a body image activist, a feminist science fiction advocate, and a publishing professional. She is chair of the motherboard of the Tiptree Award and will be one of the two guests of honor at the next WisCon in May 2012. Laurie is a photographer whose photos make up the books Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes (edited and text by Debbie Notkin) and Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes (edited by Debbie Notkin, text by Debbie Notkin and Richard F. Dutcher). Her photographs have been exhibited in many cities, including New York, Tokyo, Kyoto, Toronto, Boston, London, Shanghai and San Francisco. Her solo exhibition “Meditations on the Body” at the National Museum of Art in Osaka featured 100 photographs. Her most recent project is Women of Japan, clothed portraits of women from many cultures and backgrounds. Laurie and Debbie blog together at Body Impolitic, talking about body image, photography, art and related issues. This post originally appeared on Body Impolitic.

Laurie says:

I’m really excited that three of my photographs are in exhibitions in Korea that opened on the 13th of October. They selected the three photos I submitted – photographs of Kellen McCracken and Jerry McCracken (before and after transition) from Women En Large and Familiar Men, and my photograph of a trans woman.




(Quote from WCA)
This show was the brainchild of International Caucus of the Women’s Caucus of the Arts Chair sculptor Sherri Cornett and independent curator, artist and university lecturer Hye-Seong Lee, of Gwangju University. Coinciding with the Gwangju Biennale, Woman + Body includes works by members of the Women’s Caucus of the Arts and Korean women artists.

Dr. Tanya Augsburg from San Francisco State University juried the US artists’ works. She’s a feminist interdisciplinary performance scholar who specializes in contemporary art and performance.

The show explores a range of sexual identification — female, transgender, and male — with a contemporary 21st century view.

The exhibition is at Kepco Plaza Gallery Museum in Seoul, South Korea, October 13-19, 2012 and then at the Gwangju Cultural Foundation’s MediaCube 338 in Gwangju, South Korea, October 23- November 6, 2012.

Sherri Cornett emailed me from Korea;

First and foremost, Hye-Seong has pulled together a beautiful exhibition. I want to tell you all how privileged we are to be in this show with some amazing Korean artists – young and older. The three foremost feminist artists in Seoul have pieces in this exhibition. They are warm, inspiring and encouraging women: Yun Suknam, Park Youngsook, and Jung Jungyeob. The space at Kepco is large and gives breathing space between the works.

…I want you to know that the opening was attended by the head of the Korean-American Feminist Literary Association, the head of the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival, the head of the Seoul City Museum – all women and all had encouraging and congratulatory comments. I enjoyed watching the reactions of the visitors and listening to all of the excited chatter (and wishing I could understand Korean!) …Heading home later today feeling embraced by women artists here, full of good food and stimulated by seeing inspiring art in our exhibition and in galleries around the city

I’ll hopefully be be posting more about this, including images of of the Korean works. I need to check for permission first.

Both Hye-Seong and Sherri have been marvelous to work with. Here are a few of the photos Sherri took at the Kepco Plaza Gallery Museum.

Photos in the background on the left are mine


29 thoughts on Photographs in International Feminist Exhibition in Korea

  1. a range of sexual identification — female, transgender, and male —

    I wish you hadn’t put it that way.

    1. From Marlene Hoeber’s own blog:

      “women and trans” [is] a category that I find universally offensive

  2. Donna,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    “a range of sexual identification – female, transgender, and male” was the show’s language not mine. It should have been italicized.

    “transwoman” was the language Marlene and I discussed for the Korean exhibition. It was in this context that I used the phrase. In most contexts I agree with you and Marlene’s words in her blog.

    Andie, I like the way you put that.

    1. Thanks for understanding my concerns, Laurie.

      Just fyi, it’s “trans woman,” as you had it originally in your post, not “transwoman.” Just as it’s “gay man,” not “gayman,” “Jewish man,” not “Jewman,” “Chinese woman,” not “Chinawoman,” and so on. Thanks.


      1. Hmm? I’ve never heard this before.

        I thought since the “trans” adjective modified the “woman” verb then there should be no space between them? Such as in transatlantic, or paralegal, or metadata.

        1. I’m not going to argue with you. I don’t care if you’ve ever heard it before. Take my word for it or not; I don’t really care.

        2. And I’m still not even close to getting past Mr. “trans women are male,” so pardon me if I’m not in the mood for another “academic” discussion like that with a cis person.

        3. Because “trans” is an adjective modifying the noun (not verb) “woman”, there is a space. That is how English works, being a more isolating than synthetic language. In your other examples (and in “transgender”) there is a suffix and root.

        4. Thanks for providing an explanation.

          I’m sorry I didn’t feel I could deal with doberman’s question. The prospect of providing an answer that he then wouldn’t accept, and having to persuade him that I actually know what the proper term is, was just too much for me.

          And it isn’t only a technical grammar issue — it’s the very different implication of “trans woman” (an adjective describing one particular aspect of some women’s identity and/or history, an adjective you can use or not depending on the situation) vs. “transwoman” (as if it’s the whole of someone’s identity, not simply modifying “woman” but putting trans women in a different category from just plain “women” — implicitly, real women who don’t need a permanent, inescapable modifier.) I thought that giving the examples I gave would make it clear, without spelling it out, why you don’t call someone a transwoman or a blackwoman or a chinawoman. But apparently it wasn’t clear enough for doberman.

        5. Even generously allowing that you meant to say “noun” instead of “verb” (because adjectives do not modify verbs), your comparisons are bad.

          The more reasonable comparisons would take into account the semantic categories. First of all, “transatlantic” and both of its component words are *all* adjectives, so really bad fit there. “Paralegal” is a job title, not a person. “Metadata” is a thing, not a person.

          More apt comparisons would be other social identity descriptors, like race, sexual orientation, ability status, etc. In English, we don’t use typically use constructions like “whiteman”, “gaywoman”, or “deafperson”. The use of “transwoman” or “transman” is no different – we do not make these into compound words the way we do with other combinations.

        6. Apologies Donna I did not mean to cause offence I was just wondering.

          Jadey: in transatlantic both components are not adjectives. Atlantic is a noun. As in, the atlantic ocean. And yes, I did misspeak when I said verb, but I don’t think woman is a noun — isn’t it a pronoun?

          In some cases though social or ability status is linked directly with the word “man” or “woman”. For example: “gentleman”, “fireman”, “salesman”, “ticketlady”, etc.

          1. Doberman, several commenters here have explained this to you already. You don’t have to like it or agree, but it is the usage on this website. It’s also not up for discussion anymore.

        7. Doberman, you have had very clearly explained to you that the correct usage is “trans woman”.

          Frankly anything else is derailing, but to answer your grammar queries, “woman” is indeed a noun, while “Atlantic” can be either a noun or an adjective depending on usage (with transatlantic the only adjectival usage I’m aware of), much like “American”.

          Quite WHY you felt the need to question Donna on the correct usage is utterly fucking beyond me.

        8. Doberman, “atlantic” is an adjective. “Ocean” is a noun. “Atlantic Ocean” is a noun phrase because it is a proper name, but that doesn’t make “atlantic” any less of an adjective (when we use “Atlantic” as a shortform for “Atlantic Ocean”, it’s a different word altogether – note the use of the capital letter to denote the fact that it is a proper name).

          “Ticketlady” is not an English word. The other examples are, but again these are clearly a different class of word from ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, ability status, etc, which are far, far more comparable to trans status. Job names and words like “gentleman” are far, far older in the language and yes, some have become compounds. But your employment description is not the same type of core social identity category I’m talking about. We also don’t say “richman” or “poorperson”, despite how long class divides have been around.

          Pronouns are special nouns which can substitute for more specific nouns. She, he, them, it, one, who, this, etc. are pronouns. Woman is a noun. Dude, seriously, you can Google this.

          Also, and this is the most important part, refer to members of marginalized groups the way they have requested you to refer to them. ALL ELSE = DOUCHEBAG. I don’t actually expect this moral to penetrate for you, given your track record here, but ah well, pissing into the wind again.

  3. I’m curious whether “before and after transition” was how Jerry described these pictures, or a label that’s been applied without him?

    And quite apart from that, as a trans woman I find this fascination with presenting trans people in a “before and after” format is really gross, frankly.

    1. I pretty much agree with you, Djuna, and find it incredibly exploitative, although if Jerry consented to it, it’s his business. But it’s definitely a media theme that I could live without — a key element in the trans drinking game. There was a newspaper article that was partly about me that came out shortly after I transitioned, and I now deeply regret complying with the journalist’s request for a “before” photo, which they printed right next to an “after” photo. At the time, I found the obvious contrast flattering. Now, seven years later, it makes me feel ill to think about that photo being out there. Fortunately, the particular newspaper doesn’t have an archive available on the Internet, so that’s some consolation, at least.

    2. I find this fascination with presenting trans people in a “before and after” format is really gross, frankly

      Ugh, Djuna, I totally agree that’s disgusting. And it’s not even some “advanced” form of disgusting, it’s pre-trans-101 disgusting IMO. I mean, if you and Donna had been cis, and someone had wanted “before and after” pictures of your puberty, that would readily have been acknowledged as gross, creepy, overtly sexualised and exploitative. It disgusts me that people abandon standards of decency for trans people that they would automatically extend to cis people whose bodies also weren’t done reaching final* form.

      *which is assuming that cis or trans bodies have a final form; an assumption I don’t make, but I’m feeling pretty hamstrung by the English language here and don’t know how else to convey my thought. I hope my phrasing works.

    3. I think of it as a the “cis gaze”. When I first got my head turned around the right way on trans issues, I realized that I was looking at pictures of trans people with a “misgendering eye”, looking for evidence of their “original” sex, seeing if I could “tell” (oh god, the sarcastrophes can’t be laid on thick enough for this!), etc. I won’t go into detail – I’m sure you can imagine and I know I’m not the only one.

      When I realized the implications of what I was doing, I had to stop looking at any pictures of trans people for a while because I couldn’t seem to stop myself from doing it, although I was eventually able to exert some cognitive control and untrain myself. (Mostly – I’m sure my reflexive response is still messed up. I tried to train a new reflex to counteract it, but earlier learning is deeper and more abiding learning.)

      Visuality is very culturally powerful. People are constantly claiming that they can “see” things in how someone looks (my most hated example is people claiming they can see “evil” in someone’s eyes – utter claptrap) and not realizing how much their vision is clouded by context and assumptions. I think the before-and-after issue is endemic of this “cis gaze” – it facilitates the comparisons, the apparent need to deconstruct and misgender trans people. I agree that it’s very harmful. As an artistic approach, it does more to discredit the validity of transformation than to showcase it – the “original” is inevitably privileged as more “real”, thanks to our generally essentialist mindsets.

      1. I just realized – I’m sure that people, probably trans people, are already using the term “cis gaze”. I don’t want to imply that I coined it first or take credit or anything like that.

  4. Things I haven’t expected to do this week: comment on a blog post with with a pic of my boobs taken by my former mother-in-law almost 20 years ago.

    I’ve edited Laurie’s work before and the missing space is just that. When changing a post at my request late at night, anyone can drop or add a character. Could have been Laurie, could have been Jill, could have been me on another day.

    Djuna, I agree (generally), but maybe not in this context. I think the context should be clarified a little. The two photographs of Jerry are parts of different bodies of Laurie’s work separated by years. The first, part of the book Women En Large and the second part of Familiar Men. The relationship between the two photographs ties the conceptual knot between those two bodies of work, and the continuing relationship with a model whose life allowed him to participate in two simultaneously different and similar projects.

    I would have liked to see that stated, but it wasn’t. Without that context, it is easily read as typical before and after.

    1. They selected the three photos I submitted – photographs of Kellen McCracken and Jerry McCracken (before and after transition) from Women En Large and Familiar Men, and my photograph of a trans woman.

      The bolded part is what I was referring to.

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