A mini-retrospective of the work of Mirha-Soleil Ross, curated by Crocus Collective (Dallas Fellini and Karina Iskandarsjah)
STARTING THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2021 @7pm EDT:
On Thursday, September 9, 2021, @7pm EDT, Crocus Collective (Dallas Fellini and Karina Iskandarsjah) presented a short introduction, followed by all 3 titles in their program, ending in a live conversation with sex work activist Monica Forrester, Program and Outreach co-ordinator for Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project. Since 1999, Monica has worked in various agencies to educate and make services accessible for trans folks, advocating for trans women to be allowed into women’s shelters and in creating policies to prevent shelters from discriminating against trans women.
(The Crocus Collective introduction appears immediately below; the full gendertrash from hell: to heaven program of Mirha-Soleil Ross’s work is available further down the column—keep scrolling!)
The Crocus Collective write about their program: “gendertrash from hell was a zine created and distributed by Mirha-Soleil Ross and her partner Xanthra Phillippa MacKay from 1993 to 1995. Devoted to giving “a voice to gender queers, who’ve been discouraged from speaking out & communicating with each other” (gendertrash 2), gendertrash featured poetry, artwork, and short stories alongside practical resources, calls to action, and articles about trans activism, sex work decriminalization, trans health advocacy, racism, and transphobia. The title of this program is a direct reference to this zine, which symbolizes Ross’s legacy as an activist who was instrumental in reframing and instigating the contemporary realities and culture of transsexual and transgender people in Canada.
“Ross’s legacy is manifold, having founded initiatives like the 519 Community Centre’s Meal Trans program, which continues to provide weekly drop-in meals and legal support to trans people, and Counting Past 2 (CP2), a transsexual and transgender film and art festival, which ran from 1997 to 2002. As a Métis, transsexual woman “with a history of prostitution” (Forrester et al. 103), who grew up in a French-Canadian, working-class family, Mirha-Soleil Ross has always fiercely advocated for the most marginalized within her communities—notably for the rights of sex workers and transsexuals.
“The videos in this screening characterize three distinct artistic strategies invested in a safer and more inclusive future: self-representation, community-building, and transcendent depictions of desire, which, together, project fragments of a potential utopia into our contemporary lives. In their zine gendertrash from hell, Ross and MacKay appropriate and taunt conceptions of trans people as deviant, damned, and threatening to (or rejected by) society to playfully insinuate a welcoming idea of hell. This conception of hell paradoxically resonates with Ross’s actualization of a potential heaven for trans people and sex workers through her videos, performance art, and activism in the 1990s and 2000s.”
gendertrash from hell: to heaven
Curated by Crocus Collective (Dallas Fellini and Karina Iskandarsjah)
In Tremblement de Chair, the camera follows a hand as it traces across Ross’s body, superimposed by footage of the natural world which allows for autonomous self-censorship and prompts questions about how trans bodies are represented. In this inwardly-focused work, Ross mediates on her own representation, situating sexuality and beauty within her experience as a transsexual woman.
Madame Lauraine, a flamboyant brothel madam and entrepreneur, introduces us to some of her staff: four transsexual sex workers who find fulfillment in both their professional and personal lives. Steamy sex scenes are interspersed with witty remarks that weave pedagogy and activism into this work, actively educating on safer-sex practices and respectful etiquette for patrons of sex workers.
In this video Ross flaunts a prosthetic pregnant belly as she strolls along the shoreline by the Golden Gate Bridge. The black and white footage is in slow motion and superimposed with images of moving water. Throughout, an audio recording plays of the artist’s mother recounting her experiences of having a baby and raising a child.
Image credit: ALLO PERFORMANCE! Mirha-Soleil Ross and Mark Karbusicky, 2002