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Queerness in Photography

  • Highlights
C/O Berlin examines the representation of identity, gender, and sexuality in photography in three complementary exhibitions entitled Queerness in Photography. Ranging from historical image material that shows the act of photographing as a way to find one’s identity, a documentation of a safe space that is unique in the history of photography, to contemporary forms of expressing gender fluidity, all of which bring up the question of whether socially constructed genders are even topical today. 

Since the invention of the medium in 1839, photography has not only depicted people; it has also significantly influenced their position in society and politics due to the way that photography visually categorizes people based on their physical characteristics, behavior, and clothing. By marking constructed gender roles, it also became a medium of stigmatization and discrimination. Just as the current discourse on the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community is continually developing all over the world, terms and topics are constantly being renegotiated, and the photographic vocabulary for the visual depiction of queerness has also multiplied. 



Under Cover . A Secret History of Cross-Dressers

In the exhibition Under Cover . A Secret History of Cross-Dressers . Sébastien Lifshitz Collection, C/O Berlin presents the collection of amateur photographs that French director and filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz has amassed over several decades.

Since the 1860s people used the medium of photography to question and challenge their assigned gender identity through clothing or physical traits. Without knowledge of the particular genesis or personal motivation of the individual photographs, these depictions clearly express the wish of the people portrayed to explore themselves in front of the camera: in addition to the rebellion against imposed social expectations and political regulations they become aware of their own identity in the photographic self-portraits. The visual documents of the Lifshitz Collection are among the more significant discoveries of the recent history of photography, which also fill a blank in cultural memory.
 

Casa Susanna . Cindy Sherman Collection

The exhibition presents original photographs of Casa Susanna from the collection of the photographer who is probably the world’s most famous artist of disguise. 

„I found the Casa Susanna photos in an actual scrap book that was for sale at an antiques flea market in New York City about 17 years ago. The scrap book itself wasn’t worth saving but the photos blew my mind“, explains Sherman about her historical discovery.

Casa Susanna was a safe space for cross-dressers and trans women in Hunter, New York, in the 1950s and 1960s.

The act of photographing within this community was socially volatile, since the members were documenting something that was not allowed at the time: a life outside of socially constructed gender roles as well as personal growth that was based on an individual’s own needs. The works from Sherman’s collection, together with the Lifshitz Collection, create a unique and empowering queer image archive at C/O Berlin – one that must be preserved and appreciated by future generations. 


Orlando
Curated by Tilda Swinton

In 1992 Tilda Swinton played the gender-nonconforming lead role in Sally Potter’s award-winning film Orlando which was based on the eponymous novel written by Virginia Woolf in 1928. „I see Orlando as a story about the life of a person who is striving to completely free himself from the constructs of gender and social norms“, is how Swinton describes the subject. Against the backdrop of the book and the film, Swinton was commissioned by the magazine Aperture to curate the exhibition Orlando for C/O Berlin. Gender fluidity and the idea of a limitless awareness are interwoven in a totally new way within the exhibition.

The works in Orlando . Curated by Tilda Swinton, some of which were created especially for the show, present various perspectives on questions of identity, gender, origin, and sexuality.

The exhibition presents works by the artists Zackary Drucker, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Jamal Nxedlana, Elle Pérez, Walter Pfeiffer, Sally Potter, Viviane Sassen, Collier Schorr, Mickalene Thomas, and Carmen Winant.

In Cooperation with 
Aperture
Les Rencontres d'Arles

Made possible by
Capital Cultural Fund (Hauptstadtkulturfonds)

As Part of
Berlin Art Week 2022

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C/O Berlin (im Amerika-Haus), Hardenbergstraße 22, 10623 Berlin

1665273601