Shirin Fathi 2015

Shirin Fathi
May 29  —  June 10, 2015
-1 × Underground

Shirin Fathi’s practice is informed by Japanese traditional theatre, Kabuki, and explores the overlap between pretence, performance, and gender identity. The history of Kabuki can be partitioned into three gender-based phases. In the first phase, women played the role of both males and females. In the second phase, this position was exclusively assigned to young boys. At present, Kabuki is run only by men. In this series, Fathi looks at some of the salient points in history where gender identity is called into question and is subsequently transformed. Her performances range from Onnagata (male Kabuki actors who impersonate women) to Qajar princes and courtly concubines. The theoretical substructure of this exhibition is indebted to Judith Butler for whom a person’s behavior should not be necessarily bounded to his or her sexuality. Butler argues that our normative notions of gender are entangled more with social power dynamics than innate biological constitutions. Ultimately for her, gender identity is nothing more than a dress. A few decades before Judith Butler, artists like Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura used photography to explore an understanding of the body as something transient, a hub for many narratives. Traces of their influence can be seen in Fathi’s work …