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Artists' Association MUU » TEEMU MÄKI – TRANSGENDER
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25.5. – 25.6.2018
MUU Gallery
Lönnrotinkatu 33, 00180 Helsinki, Finland
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16

Image: Teemu Mäki, photograph


Images of Gender Diversity

A human being is classified either male or female at or even before birth. The classification is based on sex organs: a penis makes a man, a vagina makes a woman. But the matter isn’t as straightforward for all individuals. Some people are men, even though they have female genitalia; some are women, even if they do have a penis. They are transpeople, or transgender people to be exact.

A transperson has been placed in the wrong gender category at birth. Living in the wrong category is difficult, so most transpeople want to remedy the situation at some point in their lives and start living also publicly in the gender that is true for themselves.

Many transpeople also undertake to alter their body so that it will better reflect their true gender. Hormone treatments and surgery can be used to change the body so that the conflict between one’s internal sense of gender and body is mitigated or even removed. A transperson does not “change” gender, but only corrects the body – the logic is more or less analogous with a near-sighted person correcting their eyesight with either glasses or an eye operation.

Many transpeople feel that the binary idea of gender that only recognises two genders, is false. For example, a transmasculine person can be more like a man than a woman on the male-female continuum, yet without being unequivocally a man only. Some transpeople feel that the terms “male”, “female” or their intermediate forms and combinations are not suitable at all to describe their gender, defining instead their gender with the term non-binary gender.

My exhibition showcases multi-part photographic portraits of Maru Hietala (transman), Jamie MacDonald (transmasculine), Aro Mielonen (non-binary) and Jennah Vain (transwoman). The works consist of photographs that I took in a studio with a view camera and childhood photos from the person’s family album.

The show also includes a short film called How Many Genders Are There?, which consists of interviews with transpeople. It is a standalone piece that I feel is particularly well-suited to an exhibition context, but it is also part of my research for an upcoming feature-length documentary.

In the gallery you can also read my text: Transihminen, mikä se on? (in Finnish only).

The exhibition is an extension of my documentary theatre performance TRANSFORMATIONS — Rewriting Masculinity / Otteita maskuliinisuuden sanakirjasta (2016) that was performed in Helsinki, Tampere, Copenhagen, Tallinn and Tartu in 2016 and 2017. The performers were Maru, Aro and James, together with Valto Kuuluvainen and Venni Rechardt. The video also features Jennah Vain, Annu Kemppainen and Lexie Matheson.

The portraits of transpersons are part of a larger photographic series entitled Miten olla mies tai nainen? / How to Be a Woman or a Man?, which I have been working on and have presented in exhibitions since 2004. The works in the series are photographic portraits of all kinds of people and of their relationship to gender, family and mortality.

The exhibition has been supported by Koneen Säätiö and by Arts Promotion Centre Finland.