The project Performing Gender explores the
increasing visibility of alternative gender identities, as they are articulated
in the works by artists (mainly) outside the West. It is organized by Art-Lab Berlin, an alternative artistic
project space launched in 2012 whose work focuses on the international artistic
community of Berlin with a particular emphasis on artists from the Middle East.
The project will be launched in April 2019 with a lecture by Charlotte Bank to
introduce the topic and comprises a series of events: three exhibitions, two performances,
as well as artist talks, lectures and musical performances.
In 1991, the American philosopher and theorist Judith
Butler published her book “Gender Trouble“, which subsequently developed into
one of the founding texts of gender studies and especially queer theory. Her
approach to gender as performative rather than inherent was taken up in
particular by trans-activists as it established a discursive basis to increase
the visibility of their movement.
These ideas are also discussed in the Middle East, in
the socially and culturally progressive segments of society and in artistic
production, even if this often has to be done with some caution to steer free
of repercussions. Thereby, links to premodern gender fluidity is occasionally
highlighted as a way to point to indigenous queerness which was lost during the
modernization process of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Heteronormative binary is thus defined as a consequence of colonialism.
Although these subjects still represent a fraught terrain in the Middle East,
artists attempt to carve out spaces for their negotiation.
The project presents works by artists from Europe and
the Middle East that articulate alternative notions of gender, questions conventional gender roles and
their social significance and examine the performativity of identity and
gender. If these questions were long considered taboo and remained in the underground,
they have gained greater acceptance during the past ten years and have also found
their way into contemporary art.