An inspirational conversation with a colleague on ‘Undoing the princess’.

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Ferranti, F. (2017) Rip gender roles. [Unpublished photograph]. Digbeth, Birmingham.

While I was walking around Birmingham before the launch of Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, I came across these stickers on a red-brick wall in Digbeth’s area.

The fact that the male figure on the left wears a crown enables my reflection on gender roles: why do we tend to associate the world princess with female figures like Lady Diana, Sissi or Caroline of Monaco?

Conversely, the blonde female figure on the right wears a red plumber hat, providing an alternative mode of representing women.

This occasional encounter fuels my imagination in recalling the project Undoing Princessing, envisioned by one of my colleagues,  toying with the act of dressing up and playing with friends in the pictoresque setting of Severn Beach in South Gloucestershire.

I would like to share her thoughts in the most truthful way possible, without providing any comments as they completely match my way of reasoning:

‘Identity and gender is something I have been interested in for many years – my practice cannot escape it and of course it it so tied up with sex and power but more than that, in the creative world and in the social and political context I think non binary thinking and queer studies offers up the most promising way forward to remake ourselves out of this feudal madness. Exciting thinking in unstable and uncertain times. Another piece of work I did was about adaptation and impossible tasks. Perhaps to embrace a destabilised notion of our identity allows us to openly embrace alternative ways of being. However, it is not something I can profess to knowing so much about so it would be good to talk more.

Yes you described my Princessing as it is, sort of. It is ongoing work, with a group of friends and friends of friends, and has been on hold for a while. It is taking this role which is gender ascribed and playing with what is underneath this. Unpicking, deconstructing and best, dressing up and playing in the mud along the Severn Beach with big Princess dresses. It is fun. ‘ (Anonymous colleague, 2017)

References: 

  • Ferranti, F. (2017) Rip gender roles. [Unpublished photograph]. Digbeth, Birmingham.
  • Anonymous colleague (2017) Email conversation with Francesco Ferranti, 30 November.

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