Shifting Focus

  • Abstract:

    1984, Marilyn Peter Robinson visited Australia to perform his hit song Calling Your Name. Visualise, not the performance itself, but me, a nine year-old boy on the sofa with a bag of crisps, watching on television. Affecting both masculinity and femininity in equal measurement, Marilyn was the very image of the beautiful Hermaphroditus. His movements and the adornments of his body formed a spectacle with which he displayed subjectivity, and signal a proximity to a particular social scene in London, known as ’The Blitz’. All the gender benders frequented that club. Grace Jones, Boy George, David Bowie, I wanted to be just like them. I slipped my tiny nine year-old feet into my Mum’s sling back heels and danced in front of the television, imitating the performer while applying my own appropriations as though the screen formed a kind of mirror. I saw myself reflected in Marilyn, and reflected from the TV screen itself. There was a particular vulnerability that underpinned the constructed persona that I identified with. I too felt different and strange, becoming aware at such a young age that the performance of gender was a material that could be moulded and shaped according to my own sensibility. In this paper, I propose a model of identity that is not fixed within the individual, but mobile and fluid, shifting within the slippages between acting and being, the internal and external, between the self and other. It is an empathic exchange between people that both reflects, and is reflected in ourselves, and the world outside us.