‘‘… the more I have read the book, the more recent readings of the book have me realized that it’s not about gender at all. It’s not about gender. It’s about limitlessness and it’s about — it’s — it’s about revolution.”
Twenty-seven years after starring in Orlando, a film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel, Tilda Swinton became a guest-editor in the Aperture 235 – Summer 2019 issue, and curator of an accompanying exhibition around the theme of the gender fluid, extraordinary character that is Orlando.
One of the unmissable NYPL live conversations at a time when the only concern was booking before the event was sold out.
Six-fold screen, gold and pigment on paper (detail)
Attributed to the Kan-ei Era (1624-1644)
“In this pansexual wonderworld, many beautiful women and wakashu are in the service of only a few men. The boat rowing in from the right carries one such man, who drinks sake while both a wakashu and a woman serenade him on shamisen. A group of wakashu frolic in the water, observed from above by other youths and some female prostitutes. On the gilded expanse to the left, a prostitute and her girl-servant (kamuro) chat up two wakashu while the multistoried pavilion above buzzes with music, drink and conversation between female prostitutes, wakashu and some men. To the right, a Buddhist monk topples over as a group of wakashu playfully hold down his hands and feet and ply him with wine; during the Edo period, monks were supposed to abstain from sex, even though nanshoku – sex between men and wakashu – was considered less karmically precarious than sex with women.”
From ”A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints” the first exhibition in North America devoted to the portrayal of wakashu, or beautiful youths—a “third gender” occupying a distinct position in the social and sexual hierarchy of Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).
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