KEZIA DAVIES TALKS TO ART AWARDS FINALIST TEO ROBINSON
Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice
I’m a Camden born and raised interdisciplinary queer transgender Jewish disabled neuro-diverse artist and activist emerging into the London art scene, after achieving a BFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. My art falls under a genre I’ve coined as “Manic-Expressionism” which conveys queer identity and gender performativity. The purpose of my art is to reveal to the world my raw emotions and fears through a cathartic healing process while critiquing social injustice as a form of political resistance and grassroots activism. My art is a mix between emotional exhibitionism, gender performativity and masturbatory masochistic performance, and intends to make the viewer feel a sense of discomfort while evoking empathy as I am able to express myself in a way that allows them to enter the dark realms of my psyche. I specialize in conceptual performance and intermedia/cyber arts but also work with traditional fine arts media such as drawing, painting, and photography.
What made you decide to apply for this year’s Winter Pride Art Awards?
I decided to apply for Winter Pride Art Awards because I felt that the theme “Beyond The Binaries” was the perfect opportunity to receive a platform to break in a literal sense the concept of a gender binary and challenge the binaries we create for ourselves that restrict us into a rigorous set of identity politics that we use to define ourselves. I wanted to express my experience of pride through challenging the traditional sense of pride by expressing pride through my pain.
Why do you think it’s important that art is used to open up the discussion around LGBT+ issues and how do you think your practice interacts with these issues?
Art is a crucial form of political resistance that can be used to open up discussions and visually represent complex queer theory, history, ideology and experience that is easier to digest and understand to a viewer. To exist with a queer identity is inexplicably political. My practice interacts with these issues through combining my activism with my art through direct action protests, representing my own unique experience and place within the LGBT community. I think there is a huge gap in representations of transgender issues. The increase in media exposure has created more misrepresentations that are dangerous and damaging and creates unachievable toxic constructs of transgender narratives that become standardized. My practice aims to deconstruct the concept that “things are better for the LGBT community now” and a lot of progress is based on an assimilationist agenda. Societal expectations of gender are placed upon us from the very moment we leave the womb and the doctor announces our sex, which therefore denotes our role in the world. It designates how we are supposed to think, act, who we desire and anticipates how we are treated and even the most superficial detail of how we are clothed. I have brought people to tears through my art practice because a lot of people take the privilege of being heterosexual and cisgender for granted and when I put somebody in the position of awareness of the everyday reality of my own and many other lives it can completely shift somebody’s perspective. Art has the power to affect people in ineffable ways and I think it is a crucial tool in direct action activism. There is an infinite amount of work to be done. I won’t stop fighting, I will resist and also be considerate that transgender equality doesn’t come in the form of assimilation and the reiteration of cisnormativity.
Can you tell us a little about the piece you’re exhibiting in reference to this year’s theme of ‘Beyond the Binaries’?
My piece Disjointed comes from a series of self-portraits I took with the intention of taking “empowering” nude photographs in order to feel confident about my transsexual body. After viewing the first photo, I started crying over feelings of the dysphoric, feelings of incongruence I had by viewing myself naked. The pose was awkward and did not represent me as me at all. Through my tears, I carried on photographing myself. This allowed for photographs that were truly emotionally raw and naked and represented how I authentically feel about my body and the oppression that is projected onto it. Disjointed looks visually how I experience dysphoria internally, and externally Disjointed resists binaries in a multitude of ways, firstly it breaks down the audience’s ideas of what a transgender body looks like, what a male body looks like, what a female body looks like, what a non-binary body looks like. It also creates a discourse about sexuality questioning if being queer is something you are or something you do. It presents a masculinity that is vulnerable and sensitive and breaks down that these traits are associated with being weak. It presents a transgender body that is going through a transformation, a transition and transcends the binary of before & after. The binary of before & after in terms of the “official” transgender narrative is extremely problematic because it assumes that the goal of transition is complete assimilation into society’s expectation of adopting the role of the opposite gender. Post-gender isn’t a call for the abolishment of gender itself but the act of standardized gendering bodies, clothes, voices, emotions, interests, hobbies, personality traits. Before/after assumes that at some point the transition is complete and those who have certain body parts or don’t undergo hormone replacement therapy are somehow lesser or incomplete. Disjointed is neither-nor, it conveys just a part of my transition, there isn’t an end. Talking about these issues can be extremely difficult as anybody who deviates from the typical transgender narrative can be accused of inauthenticity, and when working in the framework of a gatekeeping medical system can prevent people from accessing care. I identify as male but I reject the idea of masculinity, particularly the patriarchal construct of it. Looking cisgender isn’t my end my goal I want to remain beyond the binary. My transgender pride is being shameless in my self-hatred and shattering toxic masculinity.