11 minutes 37 seconds, 2007
"During her remarkable video Playing Peter (2007), Erika Swinson documents the process of how quickly and easily the female body can be modified to appear masculine. All a girl needs is some duct tape...Sprinkle, Hammidi, and Swinson raise some important questions for this exhibition: Who gets to be recognized and acknowledged as a man?..." - Tanya Augsburg, pg 27, Introduction: Some Starting Points, Theories, and Themes, Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze catalogue.
The video piece, Playing Peter, is comprised of three sections that each explores my female impressions of what it means to be a man. Section one deals with the physical transformation via the flattening of my breasts through a painful binding with duct tape and the donning of my mustache. Section two is about exploring the curiosity I have about what it must be like to have a penis and the personification of it. Section three is the realization of Peter through mundane actions such as walking and the smoking of a cigar. In total, all three sections are about performing gender-specific activities as personally understood in relation to the first hand experiences of men in my own life or those encountered through the media of popular culture.
The use of ordinary materials such as a cigar, duct tape, tube socks and a button-up shirt corresponds with the drive in my work to render the familiar unfamiliar, even turning it into something hilarious, revolting or something to be endured. Such visual disorientation is meant to make the viewer ask questions. What power lies behind the signs depicted in everyday objects, gestures and moments?
As the focal point of this work, Peter assumes the unusual position of a male art subject or spectacle, giving audiences permission to self-consciously become aware of themselves while watching a moment that is private, vulnerable, and universally human. In this way, they are potentially transformed into active participants in critical viewing rather than remaining passive voyeurs.
Related photographs and sculpture to come.