Freedom To Be
In this age where LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights is gaining traction, the T in the equation still faces alienation, even within the LGBT community. Local events to raise awareness pertaining to LGBT issues such as Pink Dot tend to have a strong emphasis on gay and lesbian issues. Freedom To Be addresses this gap by taking inspiration from Guanyin, a bodhisattva that subverts our current understanding of gender identity.
This artwork is a visual response to the 8th Century Tang dynasty limestone Bodhisattva statue from the Asian Civilisations Museum, which is most likely claimed to be Guanyin. The artwork consists of printed .gif squares documenting a male in the process of transitioning into female.
Elizabeth Stuart, a pioneer in queer theology, argues that Guanyin plays an important role in defying societal norms on gender with her disposition yet is still widely revered by Buddhists, even going as far as stating that Buddhism is “queer before queer theory ever began”. This is further supported by the fact that early Buddhist scriptures view gender as malleable. In Guanyin’s situation, a female figure that is somehow understood intrinsically as male, parallels that of transgenders’ , who believes that they are born in the body of the wrong gender.
Like the bodhisattva of compassion whose devout worshippers readily accept her transition from male to female due to her attributes of bountiful kindness and acceptance, it is time for us as a society to be accepting of people who feel that they are born in the wrong gender, and for transgenders to be able to have the Freedom To Be.
Word Count: 266 words
*Sources will be in bibliography. Do we need to put footnote for artist statement?
Instead of using layered transparency, we decided to use ubersnap, a local startup that enables users to print moving images. The images will now be smaller and audience can tilt the picture to see the image move, adding an interactive and more personalised experience with the installation.
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