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"We found ourselves in unexpected realms"

Fri 30 May 2008 In: Events View at Wayback View at NDHA

Rebecca Swan's 'Assume Nothing' exhibition challenged preconceptions of gender. Next, her clay figure collection will reveal truths about relationships. We got a sneak preview. "We found ourselves in unexpected realms" Rebecca Swan's newest exhibition Fabricated Truths will open at the Mark Hutchins Gallery on Wellington's Willis Street on Sunday 1 June. "The subjects are clay figures, yet we recognise their exchanges as strangely authentic," the artist explains. "The ambiguous nature of the subjects allows multiple readings, drawing on the universal language of vulnerability and dreams." "I was nervous showing you my favourite artwork; I wanted you to see what I saw." Swan: "The primary reading of the work is the narrative of an intimate relationship. What it means to reveal the essence of oneself to another. The passion of discovery, the tenderness of vulnerability, the desire to be seen, the minutiae of domesticity, the isolation of jealousy, the fear of risk , the peace of trust, the limits of attachment, the transcendence of the physical. Layers of meaning emerge through the dialogue between artifice and truth using humour and irony. "We got a pet knowing it may outlast our relationship" The Fabricated Truths exhibition of 15 unique images is at the Mark Hutchins Gallery, 216 Willis Street, Wellington, until Thursday 26 June. Assume Nothing Meanwhile, Rebecca Swan's Assume Nothing exhibition is still on display at the NewDowse Gallery in Upper Hutt. The exhibition of 23 photos by Swan and 8 animated portraits by film-maker Kirsty MacDonald follows the launch of Swan's book of photos Assume Nothing, an exploration and true celebration of the complex world of gender diversity. The portraits of Assume Nothing show transgender peoples from all walks of life, and include well-known personalities such as performer Carmen Rupe, politician Georgina Beyers, Wellington activist and spokesperson Mani Bruce Mitchel, and artist Shigeyuki Kihara. Trust is at the heart of Swan's work with her models in this exhibition. "I try to do an interview before I do the photographs, so I get a sense of the person's story, what's particular to them, how their body moves, how light falls on them," she explains. "So during the interview process I start getting images popping up in my head as to how I would like to photograph them. We talk it through in terms of what they feel is appropriate. For example, I might have an idea that feels really great to me, but feels really inappropriate to them. "So it's about involving each person in the creative process as much as I can, so that they feel that the direction is appropriate for what they want to express about themselves. "It comes down to them getting my intention of honouring them through, through who I am, how I relate to them, and showing them my previous work, so they can know that it is in no way exploitative or sensational." Rebecca Swan: "It's as much about education is it is about artwork." With her exhibition showing that the question of gender has more than two simple answers, Swan is aware she has become something of an educator about transgender and intersex people. The gallery is also running community workshops that go hand-in-hand with the exhibition. "Well there's always people that know more than you, and less than you," she explains modestly. "But there are these nuances that come up when you're talking about gender identity. What's great with the Dowse is that they've put quite a bit of time into constructing resources - so there is actually a list of terminology that people can take away with them, which is pretty extensive. In late June, using Rebecca Swan and Kirsty MacDonald's images as a starting point, trans people will talk about the power of sharing stories and using creativity to express their gender identity, in ways that bring the Humans Rights Commision's recent Transgender Inquiry recommendations to life. A dialogue session for Trans people, their families and friends, called TransVocal - Sharing our Stories Builds our Community will take place from 6pm on Friday 27th June. Guest speakers include trans poets, artists and performers in the 90-minute presentation. To book, please contact Mary Kibblewhite on 04 5601470 or . Rebecca Swan's Assume Nothing collection at the NewDowse Gallery, 45 Laings Road, Lower Hutt, is on display until 20 August. Matt Akersten - 30th May 2008    

Credit: Matt Akersten

First published: Friday, 30th May 2008 - 10:34am

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