Mandy Romero

Short biography:

Mandy Romero
United Kingdom, Liverpool

Mandy Romero is a transgender artist, a created identity but not a conventional alter ego. The artist has produced films, writing and installations and has performed in plays and curated cabaret but her main performance focus is on Live Art actions and interactions, which she has carried out in places as diverse as Barcelona, Shanghai, Copenhagen and the Pearl River Delta. She is based in Liverpool and has had a long association with the Bluecoat Arts Centre there, producing many of her art-works for them. She took on the mantle of Queen of Culture for the Liverpool ´08 Capital of Culture celebrations.
Mandy´s website

Tranny Hotel

Project description:

In these early years of the 21st Century there are many preoccupations that shade and color the way we interact with and come to understand the world around us. The lives of transgender individuals raise issues and address questions relevant to these preoccupations, through which ambiguity and “difference/differance” become meaningful strategies in the negotiation of our present circumstances.

European transgender performers and live art artists of all types and genres have jointly created Tranny Hotel as a setting for extraordinary attractions. Visitors are cordially invited to experience these works in the hotel rooms, in the lobby and throughout this hospitality establishment. In the Adelphi Hotel Liverpool, transgender artists—celebrities and unknowns, stars of the local scene and those who’ve traveled from afar—offer insights into their world(s).

Interview 1:

Email interview with Mandy Romero
May, 2010

Gerald Harringer: GH
Mandy Romero: MR

GH:  What can a “visitor” of the “Tranny Hotel” expect and what are the  things I have to be afraid of (as “visitor”).

MR: The “visitor” will visit a hotel – a very different experience from staying in one – and a hotel he/she may not have been aware of before. It will be a temporary home for art and artists. Knowing that it is Tranny Hotel for this period and, maybe anticipating a freak-show, the potential visitor will either be attracted or turned off by the prospect of a set of rooms containing various encounters with artists of a transgender character. Those who venture to the hotel will probably happen upon one or more of the artists outside, intervening in the life of the streets, and inside, in the many public and private spaces which the hotel houses, they will find many shades of transgender and possible engagement with the unclassifiable diversity of the world created by the artists. Diversity being  innately witty and playful  we may expect intimate conversations, public displays, parodic performances, pictures, installations, – everything is possible and the artists will be there to  manage provocative but accessible experiences for all who negotiate their way around the building. There will be creative transactions, from which the audience and artists will emerge enriched and mutually enlightened. Any initial fears will be displaced by fascination and the only risk we all face is that our ideas about people, society and gender may be shifted during our stay in this temporary “place”. Tranny Hotel is a moment.

GH: What kind of encounter do you offer in your performance and art work?

MR: My performance manifesto says,- “I have created a transgender ”other”, Mandy Romero, whose creative incursions into public situations produce new understandings in a diverse and sometimes informal audience. I work in the medium of “transgender” and I insert transgender into performance occasions to draw attention to issues and perspectives unique to it as performance and/or experience (the way transgender sees things and/or the way transgender experiences things). This involves work in many art-forms and technical media, and produces both momentary and recorded art-works.

My work as a transgender artist involves crucial elements of artifice, ambiguity and creativity. Whatever medium I work in, these elements have a positive force to intervene in both quotidien and heightened realities and generate new perspectives and elucidations, to reshape, often just for a moment, but a vital moment, some aspect of reality. My chosen artistry flows through the medium of Mandy Romero and although some of the ideas and experiences she embodies and enacts have flowed from my time as a human being the language used to express them, and her own, are precisely hers, – the acts of transformation, personation, commentary, appearance and engagement, which she carries out. “

I would add that encounters with Mandy are usually quite poetic and sexy, often magical and thought-provoking.

GH:  What are the very specific aspects of Transgender Art in general,  compared to other contemporary art forms and what in your personal perspective

MR: Transgender art is simply art made by transgender artists. It is not an art-form per se but an action by an artist. Sometimes the artist is a transgender offering art-works for public consumption and the significant gesture is to be that doing this. Other transgender artists make transgender, and usually their own living of that, into the subject and medium of the art. Some artists are transitioned – their whole being is that of a gender they did not come into the world as. Some artists inhabit transgender for the purposes of making art, and maybe the social interface around the being of an artist (Grayson Perry, the designer is a good example). My own situation is nearest to that. What all art which is transgender in nature (as opposed simply to being made by a transgender artist) offers is an experience of the Derridan “differance”, the being in two linguistic/signifying categories simultaneously and requiring a double-mind which accepts the challenge of abandoning normal or socially-learnt categorical engagement. In this, I suppose, it is post- and sometimes post-post-modern.  Transgender art inhabits liminal space, a somewhere that is happy, for a moment, to be nowhere. It always asks, sometimes demands, that ideas of gender in its audience be revised. There is a poetry which is specific to the art which may not be overt and easily graspable and which maybe hymns a world where social relations are always spontaneous and produce language rather than result from its hidden structures. And the artist is always present in their art as a subtle, disconcerting but reassuringly real presence. This is art as a home for identity, so it must be, in the end, welcoming as well as self-conserving. For me transgender is a release and an affirmation of self-hood.

GH: Are there differences between European Transgender Art and others   like American, Asian,….

MR: In the basic entertainment context of, say, drag performance you can see cultural differences in every country. This happens the world over even, somewhere, in countries whose mores forbid such displays in the public realm. There is much to say about these differences, to note for example the commercial precision of the U.S.A. or the gender-tolerance in Thailand, or the community-consciousness in Australia, or the multiple ironies embodied in European performers, and this is not even to explore the deeper cultural differences which these imply. No-one, so far as I know, has even attempted a full over-view of this. I hope that Tranny Hotel will uncover some new and detailed dimensions of this area of interest. What is true is that in more tolerant countries,- tolerant, that is, of provocative art – the basic entertainment is overlaid with art which attempts a re-structuring of the audience-artist relationship, art which may fall into the numinous category of “Live Art” but which uses gender as the focus for that. There is much such art is Europe with its liberal-humanist traditions and avant-garde precursions , possibly more than anywhere else in the world. And each example of such art is related in some way to its local, national or community context, as a dialogue with, or reaction to, this context.

And we must not forget that countries where people are closer to their deep cultural roots than we are in Europe know better than we that transgender, in some form, is an aspect, a manifestation, of the divine.

GH: What is your passion as performance / live art artist?

MR: My passion is to intervene and open up public awareness in the widest contexts, – I am in the world and want to play a part in it (All the world’s a stage…) and want others who, like me, find release and freedom in transgender to have that opportunity too. I want to establish my live work as a place and moment when people learn to reconcile the multiple dimensions of me, to learn to love the complexity of it all without anxiety. I want my art to sing with acceptance, of acceptance, to as many people as possible.

GH: What was a “radical moments” that you experienced recently

MR: Being a Buddhist bodhisattva , a living transgender presence of divinity, on the streets of Southern China.

http://www.mandygirl.net/chinaworks_1.htm


Interview 2

Interview with Mandy Romero
The Hub King’s Cross, London
June 1, 2010

Mandy Romero: MR
Steven Bridges: SB

SB: Ok, there are only two questions.  The first question is what kinds of exchange do you anticipate creating or developing through your project?  What forms of exchange?

MR: Well, part of the concept of Tranny Hotel is that old Hollywood cliché of two worlds that collide, I suppose.  But then when two worlds collide they do not create an exchange necessarily, except in a kind of scientific way, like nuclear fission…

SB: Right! [laughter]

MR: That kind of highly physical generative encounter.  But there is a collision, but the collision in not based upon two objects, both of which you control.  In nuclear fission you bring two objects together, two things together yourself.  You collide them.  In this place we are in the business of inviting people, but they don’t have to collide.  So it’s a questions of what each party brings, because that’s what exchange is about, isn’t it?  The party that is not Tranny Hotel brings an interest in art… an interest in art being more than something that is just the transaction of a consumer.  Engagement takes place, and an interest in having a different kind of audience experience, an interest in visiting a part of their city or the city they have come to visit in a different kind of way so that they enter in a subjective way, and in which subjectivity is also offered (if you like) by other people.  I guess you could say that this is true of the theater, but it’s a different kind of theater.  And they bring their own identities, psyches, assumptions and mindsets to bear upon it.  The Tranny Hotel people bring the facts of their complex identity, the fact that their complex identity raises questions about gender.  They bring a high level of artistic skill—maybe not of a conventional kind.  And they bring all of the residues of being from elsewhere; they bring otherness to bear upon that.  Sometimes it’s a national otherness—they may have come from Brussels or Madrid.  They bring the otherness of people who don’t easily fit into categories, that don’t easily succumb to being named, and they bring an otherness that is based upon being traveled because the person who comes to Tranny Hotel might have simply just come down the road.  They never have left their city, no matter how unlikely that may be these days; they might have never left their city.  And the Tranny Hotel people come from afar in some conceptual and physical way.  What happens when those two things come together should not just be an offering from Tranny Hotel, which can just be picked up.

SB: Or easily consumed.

MR: Right, consumed.  But the visitors of Tranny Hotel should have some aspect of themselves revealed to themselves, as well as to the people that might be around them, so that they themselves might realize more about who they are.  And equally, the Tranny Hotel performers should learn something about themselves through the kind of shape or profile that happens as a result of them encountering this local shape of the city, the culture, the way that the people react.  So it’s a kind of mutual self-portraiture.

SB: Oh yes, I really like that.

MR: Of course that’s tautological and impossible, but the idea that each of them takes away a stronger sense of who they are and might be as a result of the engagement that they have.  And the art of Tranny Hotel is to engineer the right kind of moments in which these things can happen.  But there still is a kind of collision about it, because… I heard the story that it was offered to Lisbon, and Lisbon read about it and then decided it was too radical for them.  Yet, within Lisbon or a similar city—they are a Catholic city of course—somebody could very provocatively bring in somebody very provocative.  And of course you are on a collision course.  I’ve been in situations where somebody wants to shake up their locality, so they bring somebody who is provocative in, knowing that there will be sparks flying.  I suppose that even in Liverpool or Cologne, which are very art conscious cities and therefore ready for the pretext of art, ready for the construct of art, they still maybe too apprehensive about what could happen.  I don’t know, it’s broadly along those lines, but it’s interpersonal as an exchange.  And of course it might involve actual exchange itself.  I don’t know what the other artists might want to do, if they want to work with giving and taking personal objects.  Well that would only be a sum up of the soul…

SB: Yes, a kind of transference of identity or something.

MR: Right, a transference.  I mean you could argue that it’s based upon a non-consuming transaction, where it’s an energy exchange, not only a transference, because it should be both ways.  But every artist now wants that, they don’t want the: I give it all, and you take it back.  But in that sense it’s a little bit holistic.  Like when I go to my osteopath, she talks about how when she treats me she derives energy from me as well as giving me energy.  Although she lays her hands on me, she taps into my energies, and her complaint is that not everybody has enough energy to give back.  So I am a kind of favorite of hers because I offer up energy that she can receive.  But in a good transaction, a holistic transaction, the mass is the same but the quality of the masses is changed through the process of exchange.  But in that sense it’s radical because you could argue that the predominance of the exchanges in the world is overwhelmingly low-fi, low-energy, low-concepts.  Like when you listen on the news to some people who remember certain exchanges between the English and German governments.  Well that exchange is probably very formal and very uninteresting.  I mean, that’s not a radical exchange, at least we don’t know if it is.  So it’s something more than just the exchange that happens, of different views.

SB: Well, that’s the other question in fact.  What is this term “radical,” and what are these radical moments?  What could they be, or what does that mean to you?  How do you perceive the concept of radicality in the context of this festival and with regard to your project specifically?

MR: Well I just said a few things there that I think are true of the festival, it being a non-narrative festival, and also it being placed at a point in history where something very unusual and opportunistic could happen, or play a part in that.  So in a sense it is placed for potential radicalism, if that is followed through.  But for me radical is always that which evades preconceived categories, because the categorization of life, which actually has to do with the naming of things and the application of terms to things in order to narrow them down and define them—the custodianship of language—is to evade that custodianship.  And therefore radical moments are those which emerge as different from those that are either previously experienced or anticipated, or in some cases planned.  So it should be of its nature for a exchange radical moments festival to yield a number of moments that were not planned, partly through this thing we call synergy, but partly through this other thing… There is this French philosopher who I have only read little bits of, called Michel Ceres, and his particular contribution to the critical debate was the idea of noise.  He said that when something happens, and it could something as simple as me touching this table, or speaking to you, it seems as though what I am doing is that I am connecting to you through words.  But if you take the totality of this moment you’ll notice all of that interference that feeds into the message.  So the moment that you have accepted that things are separate, and there is a gap between them, into that gap will grow noise and dirt and interference.  So if the exchanges are not over-controlled, and they couldn’t be controlled, really—it’s too complex of an event or set of events—then into that will flow what is possibly the radical truth of the situation.  In fact, it could be argued that it is an artist’s job now to create moments into which that interference, that dimension of what some might call chaos, happenstance, dirt and noise can flow, so for one moment it becomes manifest.  And you know in a strange way that if you paint a wall white and you come back two months later and you see the marks on it, and from those marks you can intuit something very true about what people have done either around or against that wall.  So in a way you simply create a receptor for the complexities of matter, and people, pleasure, life… and maybe it is part of the destiny of the festival to be radical in that way.  I always say, when people are talking about evaluating projects, I say: Let us before we start look at the criteria and the aims of the criteria; let us simply look at what happened.  So it’s not: did we achieve A?  And did we reach B?  And did C happen?  It is: what happened?  And if it turns out to be Z, and Z isn’t on our list, well Z is important because it was an outcome that we would do well to notice.  Otherwise what we are doing is only analyzing things by the terms by which we set them up.  So a festival like this can be, should be a generator—if it’s the nuclear fission thing—well then 1+1 would equal 3.  It would generate more.  And it might be the more than turns out to be the most interesting bit, and it’s the more that might come from each of the exchanges, which happen in each of the projects.  I mean, Scott Burnham’s projects generate a lot of people’s perceptions, which come into his archive, and then he’s created a more.  But it would be really interesting if during the process his concept of what he has sent to him changed as a result of what people did send to him.  It does happen in projects a lot.  You say: Well what do you think of X?  And instead they tell you what they think of life, because that’s what they want to say.  If you ask any question of people, they will give you the answer that they have been waiting to tell anybody about anything.  You know?  I was in Liverpool when John Lennon died, and everyone went around crying.  But the people that went around crying had never listened to the Beatles, had not been fans, had been born before, and they cried and they cried and they cried because they were looking for a moment in which to cry, because their lives were full of grief.

SB: They needed the outlet.

MR: Yeah.  So it became a pretext.  I think we can have an affect on things where the little that we do will be subverted and turned towards the needs of—in this case—towards a continent.  And that would be radical!

SB: That is a radical idea for sure!

MR: As long as we capture it, you see?  Recently I was involved in something and it was very, very heavily documented.  And I wanted to say: I understand that while there aren’t that many people here, the real event is being able to disseminate that through the mediums that we control and participate in.  So although I appear to be performing for a few people, there is an argument that says it is really important to 3 million who might see it on the web.  And so it isn’t just about doing radical things, it’s also about making sure those radical things radically reach potentially radical people, to radicalize them.  Otherwise they are just things to put on the shelf of life.

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