KISS MY GENDERS | London, Southbank Centre, Hayward Gallery

Kiss My Genders is a delicious, deviant and defiant celebration of gender identity and gender fluidity. With over 100 artworks from artists based all over the world, the show feels simultaneously immediately urgent and timeless. From the exhibition’s outset, gender ceases to operate in terms of our rigid societally-imposed structures and simply falls away.

The vastness of the exhibition is impressive and the wealth of material has been incredibly well curated and paced. The multifaceted pieces challenge many established forms – from a video installation of Victoria Sin, a drag artist, projected onto cascades of rippling lace to the heavily stylised self-portraits of Juliana Huxtable, in which she looks like a religious icon or mythical being, because she believes that ‘marginalised groups are forced to be their own saints.’

The show is almost challengingly immersive at times: in one performance piece we are instructed to put slippers on over our shoes before walking into a giant latex structure, and for another we file into a cabin-like installation to watch a darkly disturbing film by Jenkin van Zyl (all of the sensitive content in the show is very well sign-posted).

Despite the flamboyance and playfulness of most of the pieces (as Martine Gutierrez states, ‘We’re living in an era where my existence is political… humour is my saviour), the show is haunted by the threat of violence, reminding us of the harsh and often brutal realities faced by those who do not fall in line with the gender binary. We see members of the black lesbian and transgender community in South Africa photographed by Zanele Muholi as though they are victims in a crime scene, and ‘The Memorial Dress’ by Hunter Reynolds revolves on a platform, engraved with the names of 25,000 people known to have died of AIDS-related illnesses. These are just two of many humbling and moving moments in Kiss My Genders.

Allow a couple of hours to fully delight in, absorb and digest the delights on offer at the Hayward Gallery this summer. This was a dizzying, freeing afternoon, and made for a truly engaging, soul-wrenching and regenerative experience.

Kiss My Genders until 8 September 2019.

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