Museums have always been spaces of memory and reflection. They have also been spaces of sanctification and dogma. Collected artworks emerge and flow, all within a canon that either absorbs or rejects them.
As transvestite muses, we encourage interpretation and challenge authority.
Thus, transvestism is posited as a subversion of the spurious condition imposed on it by both the traditional museum and social norms. In that respect, different historical contexts, from prehispanic Peru to the framework proposed by Magnus Hirschfeld during the Weimar Republic, accept a whole range of possibilities between the extremes of the masculine and the feminine.
Transvestite as the recovery of the center; not hesitation or pretentiousness, but balance; a battle that only we can fight— the “vedette” as “soldat.”
EL MUSEO TRAVESTI DEL PERÚ (Peru's Transvestite Museum) arose from the need for a history of our own—an unwritten history of Peru—, rehearsing an archaeology of makeup and a philosophy of bodies, in order to propose a set of metaphors more productive than any discriminatory naming/cataloguing.
A “false” museum—like the term “false woman” with which this manichaean language describes us. A disguised museum, whose masks —crafts, photocopies, gigantography, banners, all those systems of mass production— do not conceal but rather reveal. They do not camouflage. They enact travestism.
EL MUSEO TRAVESTI DEL PERÚ itself becomes transvestite in three explicit moments, and a fourth, tacit one that pervades each of these three instances.
I. The exhibit explores the trace of transvestism and its symbols in the Peruvian context. Its intention is to revise the roles that have conventionally been assigned to transvestites, as well as those that have been denied them: roles that underlie the opposition between colonialism —both in terms of imposition and legacy— and encounter, an opposition that is complementary in its overlaps and restorations. A historical and hermeneutic analysis of the iconography and texts is therefore proposed; and, avoiding the sterility of isolated studies, the exhibit enables a multidisciplinary analysis that transcends linear history— which only remains in the nature of its graphic form.
Different disciplines are "miscegenated" inside the exhibit in a journey through time, space, and even more dissimilar sources —from pre-Inca to post-industrial cultures, from art collections to popular tabloids. The transvestite is a bridge between image and text, between time and space, where, heir to a lineage of mediators —shamans, gods, virgins, and saints—, the transvestite will find herself once more. A ritual practiced in her own body.
Nine transvesite traits define an exhibit riddled with temporal fluctuations that expose the impossible dissection of the transvestite-all, as a totality of reciprocal parts.
To primp and preen ourselves —eager “Misses” in a pageant— is to prepare ourselves to fight for the desired sash of citizenship.
The author creates the exhibit by cross-dressing in his texts, paying tribute through his work, and also through his body, which he then offers up so that others may produce their own work.
This transvestite-exhibit is baroquely displayed —makeup-masks, dresses-disguises, non-accessory accessories— like a Peru encompassing all possible worlds.
II. Language covers the texts —from bundles of paper to poetry— but also the textiles and choreographies, both ancient and contemporary. Acculturated discourse and polysemic icon, like two sides of the same coin, those which Arguedas has called “mistura,” like an interruption of all traditional belonging.
In this multiplicity of levels, the discourse of transvestism runs the risk of getting lost in its own terminology. Faced with this, the MUSEO TRAVESTI DEL PERÚ presents itself as a glossary to systematically organize those voices that designate and name the transvestite.
The glossary is also at the center of the circularity proposed by Saussure and further elaborated by Lacan, in order to enunciate that under the mutating appearances of the represented —the signifier— nothing exists. However, far from exhausting itself, lo travesti (that which pertains to the transvestite) is enriched through this process: the aim is not to conceptualize it, but to expose its ungraspable otherness.
Our bodies; indigenous bodies as an unkown non-place; bodies colonized by the discourse that rejects them; contemporary bodies when a legacy irrupts.
III. Similarly, the press —using and generating icons and echoes— has written an unparallelled biography saturated with arbitrary designations. A collection of clippings —a kiosk divided in four sections— constitutes the archive. A museum which, cross-dressed as newsprint, enables a new face-off between text and image that renders the identikit of the everyday transvestite.
Subsequently, this material is processed and presented as a statistic of harassment and lack. The retelling of a persecution as indolent as the journalistic gloss that denounces it, as the tech rider that outlines the performance in question.
By reclaiming the transvestite patrimony, the museum becomes a tool of empowerment, not as a request but as a demand for social transformation and inclusion. From the symbolic-collective space to individual liberties.
IV. El MUSEO TRAVESTI DEL PERÚ is, ultimately, an exploration of the author's own experience. To be a Peruvian transvestite is a constant transfiguration in a Peru that —in its search for identity, construction, and counter-conquest— is also itself a transvestite, a constant that is already its essence. It is the return of the Inkarri that has never ceased to travel underground, and arrives to reconcile those aspects that run parallel inside us.