|1997-1999 [installation documentation, length: 2min 20sec.]
A large video image of a figure intermittently unbuttoning and buttoning a white shirt is projected into the corner of a gallery. Fifteen feet away are two unhoused audio speakers playing a sound track of overlapping voices telling brief accounts of passing women. Although there is repetition both in the video image and the audio track, there are subtle changes that occur in the piece as the audio shifts in relation to the image.
[Video Projection] Continuous video loop projected into a corner of a gallery approx. 8' x 6' / LCD Video Projector, VHS deck
[Audio] Continuous audio loop / 6 unhoused full-range speakers or headphones, CD playback deck
This is a memorial piece about women who, for various social and/or economic reasons, lived their lives disguised as men. Those who assume the clothing, gestures, environments and privileges of men are known as 'passing' women. Although many passing women succeed in living and dying with their biological sex undetected, the stories recounted in Duet are of women whose passing was discovered upon death.
Although passing is often described as a choice women made in order to disguise their gender and/or their sexual preference - a survival strategy rooted in pre-gay liberation times - the women honored in Duet lived from the turn-of-the-century to the mid 1990's. While some artists have recently been interested in celebrating drag as a performative form of queer identity, I am interested in revealing the personal and physical 'costs' of this identity for women and, in particular, lesbians.
This and other video installations by Nina Levitt are distributed by V/Tape, Toronto.