Kieran Butler in collaboration with Samuel Beatty, Sabella D'Souza, Dileepa Dayananda, Emma Size & Matthew Varnay
Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls is about where the personal histories of LGBTQIA+ people intersect and speak with the histories of photography. The works created for this exhibition are born from conversations about the performance of photography and gender, re-imagining photography's existence as a non-binary medium, and lived experiences of forming and expressing individual identity. Through the lens of transgender studies lived experiences of gender non-conforming people - specifically experiences relating to practices and philosophies of drag, magic, reading and passing - are applied as a framework for understanding contemporary photographic practice and the ways photography and gender can be simultaneously lived and performed.
Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls are people who transcend what it means to exist in a gender binary. Unlike signing a contract with a divine being, or a practitioner of another kind of magic, a Rainbow Boi or a Magical Gurl signs a contract with themselves giving up their soul to themselves in exchange for magical energy. They practice 'personal magic' to reveal and express their true identity rather than succumbing to an identity designated to them at birth as part of a binary system. Like a magician personal magic is their "right-in-front-of-you-sleight of hand"; it is the powers of integrity and transformation that reside at the heart of a Rainbow Boi or a Magical Gurl. This kind of magic is intimate and has the capacity to inspire pure wonder and joy, or ambivalence and conflict. Magic refers to a sense of awe, mystery and uncertainty; "it is something that produces remarkable results, especially when not fully understood"1. For Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls their personal magic allows them to transform, walk through and move beyond a binary world. In this sense personal magic is a hyper-self-awareness that abstracts, disrupts, radicalises and transcends binary systems2. They are the makers and rule breakers of their own magical power.
In the same way magic resides at the heart of the photographic medium. Photography has the power "to conjure imaginative and open-ended experiences and trains of thought in the viewer"3. Photographic magic, like a Rainbow Boi's or Magical Gurl's personal magic, reveals elements in a material or a subject that previously may not have been visible. This conjuring of elements (a summoning of rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls) has the potential to re-calibrate, re-imagine and re-shape language, social constructs, bodies, actions and materials in new "ways that relate to our collective present"4. As a medium photography experiences the same kind of hyper-self-awareness as a Rainbow Boi or Magical Gurl; it is self-reflexive. Photography is a medium that validates itself, making visible all of its flaws regardless of what form it takes, how it acts, or what subject it attempts to capture. Photography is a medium that abstracts, disrupts, radicalises and transcends itself and ways of seeing.
At the centre of the gallery a magic circle is marked on the floor. A magic circle is used by practitioners of ritual magic, in this case Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls, to form a sacred space, contain conjured energy or provide magical protection. The circle extends out from the centre, marked out on the walls, on the ceiling and makes its way into the configuration of the photographs that hang in the space. By mapping out a magic circle the gallery is transformed into a ritual space for Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls to practise their personal magic, to share it with one another, to share it with an audience, to be intimate, break binary structures and summon new truths. The photographs that hang in the space are constructed into doona covers; the bedroom, the bed and it's covers can be ritual sites of magic that are personal and intimate. The images on the doona covers are constructed in collaboration with four gender non-conforming individuals who each identify at different places within the (trans)gender spectrum. Individually the images have become magic circles of their own, each depicting a magical shrine like still life dedicated to the individuals who collaborated on its creation, a conjuration of matter that makes up each essence of being. At the centre of the magic circle is a Magical Gurl, extravagantly glittering, covered in crystals, coloured bubble gum pink and blue. They are dancing as if they were in a club nearing the blue hour, just before sunrise, waiting for a green ray to signal a time of transformation from day to night5. They dance with a single audience member, sharing their movement with one another, intimately transferring magical energy. This dance is akin to a rain dance, an invocation of self-reflexivity, self-validation, self-awareness, transformation, honesty and integrity with themselves and with each other. The only evidence left of this performance is a single polaroid hanging at the centre on the magic circle, developing right before the audience eyes, attempting to fix the ritual dance, only to reach a point of transformation where it begins to visibly fade away, it's colours changing until the image disappears changing into something new altogether.
By Paralleling the personal histories of five gender non-conforming individuals, histories of photography, drag and magic, Rainbow Bois and Magical Gurls aims to highlight the inequalities that exist within these respective discourses, and to contribute to a recalibration of cis-homo/hetero-normative social constructs.
This exhibition is by no means definitive of LGBTQIA+ experiences or histories, rather it is a collection of select stories which exist in spaces that are fluid, real and tangible.
1. Oxford English Dictionary Online; OED Third Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, March 2000. (accessed 18 January 2018).
2. Lorenz. R, Queer Art: A Freak Theory, Piscataway NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2012.
3. Cotton. C, Photography is Magic, New York, Aperture Foundation, 2015, p. 1.
4. Cotton. C, Photography is Magic, 2015, p. 1.
5. Balsom. E, 'A cinema in the Gallery, A Cinema in Ruins', Screen, Vol. 50(4), 2009, pp.411-427 - A green ray is an optical phenomenon that occurs the moment before sunset or just after sunrise. For a split second a green light may appear above the sun in the form of a flash. A green flash occurs when the suns light is refracted by the atmosphere and enhanced by mirage on a clear horizon line. In exceptional circumstances the flash can appear as a green ray shooting upwards from the sun. The moment of a green flash is said to contain magical transformative qualities.
Kieran Butler, 2018.
READ exhibition text No Reservations Fan Fiction by EMMA SIZE.
WARNING This text contains explicit adult content.
Kieran Butler (b. 1992, Nowra, NSW, Australia) is an emerging photographic artist of Mauritian Decent. They work across moving and still image, object, and installation. Currently their research looks at applying transgender studies as a methodology for examining non-binary models of contemporary photographic practice, gender identity, and where these two histories might speak to one another. Kieran currently lives and works in Sydney, Australia.
Samuel Beatty (22) is a printmaker and illustrator based in based in Sydney, Australia. His practice uses self-portraiture, storytelling and metaphors of outer space to explore themes of gender identity and discovering the authentic self. Samuel creates graphic narratives in to form of screen prints, etchings, zines and artist books that address his personal experiences of being transgender. His stories provide alternate forms of queer and transgender representation, as an educational tool, support resource, and to provide positive affirmations and validation to other gender questioning individuals on similar journeys.
Sabella D'Souza (b. 1995, Wellington, New Zealand) is a performance based artist whose work interweaves notions of cultural hybridity, virtual identity, along with the transnationality of cyberspace. Their current work queers the use of mainstream social networking websites through performance. Whilst their research currently examines how these spaces are used in identity construction with reference to their own diasporic Indian/Australian/New Zealand and queer identity. They currently are completing a combined degree of Arts and Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales.
Dileepa Dyananda "The mystical third, the brown, femme, the constricted and the repressed. That third’s body who exists by the first and second bodies but outside of the both. Such practice which looks to performativity within the folds of race, diaspora, dysphoria, gender, sexuality-and-pornography. The body in heels that falls down the stairs on platform four and bruises its leg. Runs away shame-faced at this spontaneous manifestation of the failed femme. The body draped in cloth and clay, the prometheic exoskeleton, the caricature which possesses the muscles that run through the face and silence the eyes and lips and teeth. The silent actor-ess and the father-mother who suckles. The son-child who takes in the voice of amma and aachchi and hangs limp from their grandmother’s pearls. The performing child, the ceramic child, the inebriate child, the tired and broken child. The age’d child’n who sexes, that is sex, to be fucked or to fuck. Halt here for the Indulgences of the skin" - PONNAYA DEVI.
Matthew Varnay So this one time I was dancing at 77 and this guy asked for some water (coz I was holding my water-bottle) and I was like 'sure, its my job as an aquarius to give ppl water' and he's like 'cool' and I'm like 'what are u' and he's like 'I work in IT'
Emma Size is many things, but a writer of one-line bios isn’t one of them.
IMAGE | Kieran Butler, And they, Sugar Boi, came out from a day dream (gurl-boi-burl-goi), 2017, detail, twin size doona cover, digital print on silk | Courtesy of the artist.