Berlin-based photographer Celine Hasenstab, shoots Barcelona based model and spokesperson Virginia Ice, As a non-binary individual looking to challenge the ‘norms’ on identity and gender presentation.
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I can’t take identity seriously, I can’t take gender seriously. Of course, these things impact the way we experience life, but it’s quite shocking how fragile and mutable identity is and how much it defines our path, and our so-called ‘identity’. What is a man, what is a woman? what is class? The truth is that visual aesthetics are a kind of fascism of identity we live under. It’s funny to cheat the system, to be a proper dame one day and to be a genderless rebel the next one.
The truth is that we contain multitudes and we should embrace it instead of trying to simplify identity. The era of branding has us watering ourselves down to a simplified color palette, a silhouette, and a hair colour; a makeup style, certain lighting to define an entire being, an entire life, I personally think this is the death of art.
I like to think that we are walking, living, breathing libraries of references, of people and art we love. One day I want to be as sophisticated and distant as Marlene Dietrich, the next Fassbinder model turned sex worker, then I’m a naked rebel, finally a genderless angel. There is truth to all of them, there is truth to none of them. A reverse Cindy Sherman, bringing myself to life with different clothes, different hair colours to help me free myself, to be beautiful, to be ugly, to be honest.
Forgetting who you are is usually the best way to experience what you want to feel, and realising that makeup and clothing are more than skin deep. It’s the way you are treated, it’s power and oppression, it’s a flow. My experience with gender identity has definitely informed this idea. Depending on how I styled my hair and the clothes I wore I would get treated like a man or as a woman, experiencing first hand how it feels to be harassed, undervalued and objectified as a woman.
I have also come to terms with the power of beauty. When I put on makeup and I have long hair suddenly everyone wants to be my friend, they see me as an object of desire, they want to be me and they idealise me, yet at the same time, usually do it in a platonic way (because we don’t wanna really fuck trans people). Then I go out shirtless, without makeup and wearing a blazer and some male trousers, and I’m the cutest twink ever and I make out with twenty gay guys in one night, with the power that comes from being a sexually aggressive male-presenting person.
We need a queer revolution, we need to stop thinking about the binary-sex, male and women but start living the moment, being honest about our desires and inspirations. I want to be Bowie, I want to be Grace Jones, Barbarella too. And there’s a moment for each one of them, but the thing that most people can’t seem to quite grasp is that they are always there, and that changes absolutely nothing. If we can be anything, let’s be brave.
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