Claye Bowler: Top reveals Bowler’s own history, a trans history that, while individual, has much in common with trans people globally. This exhibition follows the realisation of Bowler’s Measured Transition 2016-21, co-commissioned by the Henry Moore Institute and Yorkshire Sculpture International.
Sculptor Claye Bowler explores queer and trans narratives and how they have been hidden, erased or destroyed. He uses sculptural practices, in object making and within film and performance, to subvert these tendencies.
This exhibition includes work made during the processes of obtaining top surgery (an operation to remove chest or breast tissue) within the UK healthcare system. The procedure took six years from Bowler’s first visit to a GP in 2016 to his recovery after surgery revisions earlier this year.
Latex and plaster casts, video, works on paper, photographs and collections of ephemera will be displayed on metal shelving racks and within archival cabinets, mimicking the storage spaces in museums and archives that are typically hidden from public view. The lack of visibility for trans people, including in museums and archives, underpins much of Bowler’s enquiry. Collectively, the objects on display unravel an emotional narrative that highlights experiences of dysphoria — a state of unease, or dissatisfaction with life, often relating to the body. Bowler has reflected that many consider dysphoria to be a distant, complicated issue, or something predominantly only experienced by trans people.
The performance and video were the culmination of a five-year durational performance around the subject of top surgery within the UK public health system. The opening of Claye Bowler: Top coincides with the date Bowler was estimated to receive top surgery had he remained on the NHS waiting list, six years after joining. Ultimately, Bowler fundraised the necessary £8,000 to have the procedure completed privately. The waiting list was still nine months and required intrusive interviewing to validate. Work within this exhibition will be accessioned into the Museum of Transology, housed at the Bishopsgate Institute, London.
Henry Moore Institute
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