Border Control, 2016, audience participation and printed matter, dimensions variable.
Border Control brings together elements of documentation, text and socially engaged works. It takes its inspiration from the border control gates at Miami International Airport, which marked Dylan Fox's entry in to the United States for Top Surgery in March 2016, and is closely linked to the idea of authorization and control within the UK NHS Trans-healthcare system.
Upon arrival, each participant to this piece is required to fill out an edited Border Control Landing Card whilst queuing for an indefinite amount of time, in order to move forwards towards an undefined ‘next step’. These cards have been designed to encourage dialogue around trans issues, with the official title of the Immigration Act of 1971 being replaced with the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 as well as offering participants the opportunity to declare their preferred pronouns rather than socially recognised ‘norms’.
When each participant reaches the front of the queue a border security officer will either approve their entry, or void their card requiring them to start over with the process. Regardless of how each card is filled out, or the participant’s eligibility to move forward, it will be up to the border security officer to authorize or deny this step of the event. Even the successful participants that are allowed past the security gate will be met with disappointment when they realize that there is nothing beyond that point, and their time spent waiting has been for nothing.
Either way, each participant will be allowed to keep their completed card, which will be stamped by the border security officer, and given a warranty seal to confirm the validity of their newly required Landing Card. Less people will be denied access than granted, meaning the voided cards will have a higher value, which poses an interesting dilemma between wanting to gain access and also wanting to be denied.
This piece has been developed to make each participant wait for some time before being told what the next step of their experience will be, without them having any direct control over that experience. Participants will receive a unique experience that will put them in a privileged position over everyone else, but ultimately the sense of disappointment after participating in this event is key to understanding some of Fox's experiences during transition.
Border Control was awarded Best In Show at Freerange in 2016, at The Old Truman Brewery.
Reader Board, 2017, lightbox, H677 x W2025 x D180mm.
PROTECT TRANS YOUTH. RESPECT PRONOUNS. END GENDER NORMS.
Reader Board utilises an easily recognisable form of American advertising, originally designed to quickly communicate information at a glance, to display a set of three slogans which are rotated on a daily basis. With each slogan the artist is protesting against out-dated social norms, transphobic attitudes and heteronormativity, summarising three huge problems that affect the trans community and presenting three very simple solutions in their place. It is hoped, through this small act of protest that people consider the importance of each slogan and attempt to, in any way possible, act out what is being asked of them.
Candyfloss, 2017, audience participation and replenishable candyfloss, dimensions variable.
Candyfloss takes its inspiration from the carnivalesque, a concept developed by Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin in 1972. For Bakhtin, the carnival represented a positive utopian vision where all carnival-goers would temporarily become participants, by leaving behind society and following the behaviours and rituals of a new way of life. The carnival, with its prospect of freedom and fun, as well as a disregard for pre-existing rules, is much like eating candyfloss in an art exhibition.
Upon encountering the work, participants are able to queue up and take a numbered ticket from the candyfloss stand and wait for their number to be called. Although this waiting time may vary, as well as sometimes seeming unnecessary and unfair, participants are aware of the outcome of free candyfloss and therefore must decide whether or not the wait and the desired result is worthwhile. It is important to consider with this work, that if this apparent freedom should come without rules then why must each participant first take a ticket, and why must they wait their turn? Why does each participant have to wait at all just to get what they came for?
Safety Card, 2017, audience participation, directional speakers and screen-print, dimensions variable.
By using directional speakers to bounce sound around the room, the audio aspect of this work appears to travel with the viewer as they navigate their way around the space. The voice details the artist’s pre-surgery daily routine, which includes wearing a chest compression vest and applying testosterone gel, delivered as though it’s an inflight safety announcement in preparation for take-off. The sound appears to change direction, until the viewer steps closer towards what appears to be an enlarged in-flight safety card taken directly from a budget airline. At this point, the highly stylised icons and images within the adapted safety card screen-print match up with the audio, giving the viewer a multisensory experience not often associated with printed matter.
By altering the familiar language of aeronautic travel, Safety Cardbecomes unhelpful in its original purpose, but instead offers the viewer an insight in to this unfamiliar process that many transgender people deal with on a daily basis. This experience seems at odds with the experience that the viewer is looking at, as the process detailed within Safety Card is one that many viewers will never have to experience directly.
Flamingo Petting Zoo, 2016, audience participation, petting zoo, and replenishable feedback form, dimensions variable.
Flamingo Petting Zoo takes its inspiration from the hospital on 'Flamingo Road' in Florida, where the artist underwent Top Surgery in March 2016. It is closely linked to the idea of authorisation and disappointment within the UK NHS Transgender healthcare system.
Upon arrival, each participant to this piece is required to wait for an indefinite amount of time, before entering the flamingo enclosure. When each participant reaches the interior of the enclosure they are confronted not with real flamingos but with fake lawn flamingos and a realisation that their time spent waiting has been for nothing. This sense of disappointment is key to understanding some of the artist’s own experiences during transition. Each participant is then instructed to fill out an edited NHS Feedback form to anonymously record their experiences of the petting zoo, invited to have a picture with the flamingos and given some shrimp sweets as a consolation for the lack of real flamingos.
Utilising the effects of lying or betraying the viewer by thinking of the artist as a trickster, this piece builds a level of hype prior to the arrival of a petting zoo, raised further through targeted advertising and word of mouth. This is to increase the level of expectation from the viewer to a greater extent which purposefully can never be met honestly by the artist, when ultimately the event will never happen in the way it has been advertised. It has a level of personal interaction with each participant so that they leave happy enough not to complain but still not fully satisfied having been slightly misled in their expectations of the event. It is this act of deliberate false advertising that is used to disappoint the participants, hopefully reaching a level parallel to how the artist themselves have felt when their own expectations of gender transition have not been met.
Continuum, ongoing series:
Who Cares Anyway?, 2017, digital print with screen-print, L440 x W440mm.
How Do You Know?, 2017, digital print with screen-print, L440 x W440mm.
What Difference Does It Make?, 2017, digital print with screen-print, L440 x W440mm.
People Like You, 2017, digital print with screen-print, L440 x W440mm.
Developed out of a need to process old memories, this deeply personal series of prints brings together fragmented quotes with reproduced photographs of the artist’s childhood, exploring the impact that these words have had on his life. Each image has been carefully selected, along with each corresponding quote from somebody during his transition, in order to play with the balance between happy childhood memory and the much harsher reality of living as a transgender adult today. This balance also highlights the absurdity of the quotes, as questions of gender exploration would not be asked to a child at such an age, but oddly seems acceptable as you get older. When considering the artists intentions to present childhood images of throwing leaves or playing with a bucket on his head in response to the quotes, this series seems to have a more playful edge, suggesting that such words require a similar childlike response.
The Waiting Room, 2016, audience participation, sound, blindfolds and replenishable feedback form, dimensions variable.
The Waiting Room brings together elements of sensory deprivation, intrusive noise, and printed matter, through a participatory event that takes its inspiration from the indefinite waiting times between appointments within the NHS Transgender healthcare system.
Upon arrival, each participant to this piece is required to wait for an indefinite amount of time in the first of two waiting rooms, before being called through individually into a second room where the main event takes place. When each participant reaches this second waiting room they are informed that they may leave at any time by raising their hands but must not communicate with each other for any reason. Each participant is then blindfolded and sat on the floor, waiting for the room to reach capacity.
Once all of the participants are seated, the sound of a ticking clock is played into the space; the sound gradually slows down over the course of an hour and a half, testing the viewer’s patience. Towards the end, the recording reaches 200% of its original speed, causing the participants to hang on each click of the second hand, not quite knowing if the wait is over or what is even coming next. When the wait becomes too much, each participant may leave the room, and is instructed to fill out an edited NHS Feedback form to anonymously record their experiences of the work.
Having to wait in the first room, before being allowed in the second, only to have to wait again, not only places emphasis on the experience of waiting but also explores notions of gate keeping; each participant is required to complete each step of the event before progressing on to the next, without fully understanding what or why they are doing it. Ultimately, each aspect of the work draws parallels to the artist’s experience of gender transition, patiently waiting for appointments before progressing on to the next step.
The Hope of Going, 2016, digital print with screen-print, L148 x W105mm.
As an object, the postcard is designed to travel between different borders and thresholds, but does not fully belong to one particular place; instead the postcard straddles two spaces, the space it leaves and the space it travels to. This act of taking a static object, and sending it through the post, keeps it in constant motion and in turn changes the objects state of being. This idea of changing states, and crossing thresholds, can be considered a metaphor for transition, where the state of both the artist and the postcard remain in flux.
These postcards feature slogans that advertise holidays in Florida, and were developed prior to the artist travelling to America for 'Top Surgery' in 2016. The artist's dream of travelling to Florida was not for sunshine as the slogans suggest but for major surgery, adding an ironic twist to the works.
All Within A Binding, 2016, held within the collections at Kent University Library.
As well as literally being a hand-bound book, All Within A Binding takes its name from the various photographs of one of the artist's chest binding garments that were worn daily before undergoing 'Top Surgery', which are the main contents of the book. Rather than documenting the effects that the garment has had on the artist's body, this book details the damage done to the actual garment caused by prolonged use, side-steping typical documentation of the medical aspects of transition.
In protest against transphobia and heteronormativity, these stickers feature the slogan Gender Is A Social Construct, influenced by the online online trans community which acts as a support network for transgender people when help may not be on offer elsewhere. With this slogan the artist is attempting to highlight, and protest against, the outdated societal norm of 'gender', with the hope that as many people as possible will help to distribute the stickers and the message.
As well as often being given out at exhibitions and participatory events, these stickers are also available to order for free online. If you would like a free pack sent to you please fill in this contact form with your details and a pack will be sent out to you. Help to promote the message by uploading images to social media and use #genderisasocialconstruct and @dylanfoxartist.
Handle Medicines With Care, 2016.
Made at the same time as All Within a Binding, Handle Medicines With Care acts as a companion piece that documents some aspects of the medical side of transition. This book contains various photographs of medical artefacts involved with one months worth of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) including testosterone gel sachets and NHS prescription slip. The title comes from text found on the paper prescriptions bag that the testosterone prescription came in, however it is also meant to address current issues with NHS waiting lists which have caused the subject of starting HRT to become a topic which must be handled with care.
Postcards from Florida, 2016, projection, dimensions variable.
In its current installation, this work features a set of 14 postcards projected on to the gallery wall, which were originally sent by the artist during his stay in Hollywood, Florida for ‘Top Surgery’ in March 2016. All 14 postcards were found in various shops along the beach front, and depict exaggerated ideas of Floridian holidays in the sunshine. In contrast, on the back of each postcard is a short account of each day’s activities for the duration of two weeks, detailing the emotional struggles of the artist as he prepares, undergoes and recovers from major surgery. Both sides of each postcard are projected simultaneously, in the order of the events as they happened, highlighting the contrast between people’s expectations of holiday postcards and the reality of this specific set. By displaying the postcards in this way, rather than presenting the physical objects, the work slowly reveals itself over a period of time.
As a form of documentary practice, from the first day of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to the present, Dylan Fox has been collecting medical documents, labels and other artifacts, all catalogued within archival boxes. More collected material is added to this expanding archive periodically, as each day of Fox's medical transition is documented within this work.
He is currently working on documenting and photographing each item within this archive, in order to create an online archive to accompany the physical one.