Breaking Binaries brings together photographic representations that probe gender and sexual identities. This exhibition also offers a space for students to think collaboratively about photography as a set of practices and about gender as a photographic space to occupy. Photographic media have long provided opportunities to expand the boundaries of public legibility with regard to identity. In the space of a studio or the workings of a camera, picture-takers and subjects can render themselves in any state, with any body, and as anyone they are or imagine in their private lives. Because photography has historically been an instrument of the most severe strictures on identity — enlisted to “demonstrate” physical indices of class, race, criminality, and gender in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — the photographs on display offer correctives and resistances through their images of gender fluidity.

The exhibition—which includes an interactive space for visitor feedback—invites viewers to consider: Do photographs operate as spaces of safety in ways that the public arena does not? Do photographs offer an analytic apparatus through which the artists’, subjects’, and spectators’ gazes interact to forge resistance and build resilience? How do the spaces of photographs, lived experience, interpretation, and the museum complicate normative definitions of gender and sexuality?

Co-curated by Theodora L. and Stanley H. Feldberg Professor of Art Patricia Berman and Assistant Professor of Art Nikki Greene, and students enrolled in ARTH 316/AFR 316: The Body: The Race and Gender in Modern and Contemporary Art and ARTH 226/CAMS 207: History of Photography: From Invention to Advertising Age, in collaboration with Heather Hughes, Kemper Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs and Exhibitions.