readme.txt

For the span of years, a tote bag accumulated folders with documents tracing the bureaucracy enfolded in gender transition: diagnosis letters, prescriptions, birth certificates, bank statements, old passports, notary office letters, deed polls, school records, National Insurance application forms, and pictures. Across these items, one can trace the disappearance of a named self — titled a “deadname”, although whether the subject named dies with its name is a prehistoric question for what troubles me — and the appearance of Vincent, a named subject, attested to by diagnosis and nationality, but with no history his name can be accounted for. The lack of history for Vincent is of little regard for the State. As far as surveillance agents are concerned, it's a new label over the old one on a bottle in the cupboard. If the vessel remains the same — which i am unconvinced of — then a change of name can be argued for simply with a trail of paper documents, e-passports, and NHS records. The anonymous “deadnamed” subject is no longer of concern for the database and its realm (individuals, families, property et al). Yet I remain concerned with the destiny of the deadnamed child. For they no longer exist among us, but is inscribed in my memory. The question left in the tote bag with this silent spirit is: “What is the point of archiving someone who does not exist?”

Re-reading Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, in a commissioned piece for the Museum of Sex, pornographer-director Vex Ashley stumbles tangentially upon the question of the archive. Archival is of importance in discussion of AI ethics, data points, democracy, surveillance and nationality. Who gets stored in the network and under what code? Ashley recounts how her working hours for the span of over four years are inscribed in secondhand cam-girl streaming websites, making her labour eternally archived for gratuitous access. Marxist-feminist questions aside, Ashley reflects on how the labour she has put into those streaming sessions have both been emblematic of who she was, who she performed to be, and how these are dissected from her current work. It can never be erased, this hologram of the cam-girl in and out of performance copied and pasted into pirate networks, denied of copyright and rejecting authenticity, the eldest child of future pornographer-director, in a similar way that the cyborg denies its patriarchal maker, going rogue in the margins of the web.

I see the mirrored image of the tote bag in the archived streaming website. My former birth certificate is of no use but a nostalgic one; the occasions in which it becomes relevant are, nine times out of ten, at an airport, a hospital or a border — surveillance spaces. I used to carry the tote bag in travel, a blockchain paper trail testament executing the magic trick of convincing an officer or nurse, should the need arise, that I am that who does not exist. The face is not the same; the voice is anew; it speaks in foreign languages in both Brazil and England. I am reminded of the archived spectre only at the edge of nationality and gender, where I respond to an online system of records and citizenship. So I have mutilated my archive, erasing the first name off every single document. Produced a glitch — between my face and the database, my voice and the passport, Vincent and the hologram.

Carrying the intersection of transgression of border and gender, Paul B. Preciado’s writing becomes relevant. In the essay Trans Catalonia, Preciado writes: “Becoming trans, like becoming independent, means that one must above all always resign from nationhood and gender identity. Renounce anatomy as destiny and history as prescriptive of doctrinal content. Renounce laws based on body, blood and soil. National identity and gender identity must be neither foundation not goal. (...) Like gender, the nation does not exist outside of collective practices, which imagine and construct it. Cross out the map, erase the first name, propose other maps and other first names whose collectively imagined fictional nature is evident. Fictions that might allow us to fabricate practices of liberty.” (P. 112) Preciado writes of a radical and essential practice of refusal; Ashley reminds us of the challenge of archival. The purpose for each element is conflicted; for Vincent can only transgress so long as the deadnamed child is archived.

Special thanks to Andrew Kingham for the assistance in developing this project.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A Cyborg Manifesto (2019) Directed by Vex Ashley. Available at: https://afourchamberedheart.com/cinema/a-cyborg-manifesto

Ballard, JG. (1980) The Atrocity Exhibition. London: HarperCollins Publishers

Preciado, Paul B. (2019) 'Trans Catalonia', in An Apartment in Uranus. London: Fitzcarraldo.

index