Script from Painted Dreams Season 1, Episode 3:
As much as I try to show a new identity via style, the best way to measure change is a body over time. This is me dancing a month ago. Here is me dancing as a child. Artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge says, “When you consider transsexuality, crossdressing, cosmetic surgery, piercing, and tattooing, they are all calculated impulses—a symptomatic groping towards the next phase.” P-Orridge says that “. . . in school, peer groups, you’re a boy so you have to hang out with the boys and do boy things and so on. The key point about this structure is that it’s fictional.”* Soaps are notorious for allowing different people to embody the same identity. Ridge Forrester of The Bold and the Beautiful, once played by Ronn Moss, is now Thorsten Kaye. General Hospital’s Carly Benson has been Sarah Joy Brown, Tamara Braun, and Laura Wright. The Wikipedia list of soap character recasts seems infinite. Duration facilitates change.
Change. Change. Change . . .
Many know two actors played Simba in The Lion King: Jonathan Taylor Thomas as adolescent Simba, Matthew Broderick as adult. But that doesn’t include Simba’s singing voices: Joseph Williams and Jason Weaver. And should we include Mark Henn and Ruben Aquino, Simba’s animators, who literally drew his body into existence? When the plot moved to Broadway, Simba became Scott Irby-Ranniar and Jason Raize. In the 2004 direct-to-video sequel, Lion King 1 1/2, Simba is Matt Weinberg.
. . . groping towards the next phase . . .
And what about the millions of people who’ve been told “you are Simba” by online personality quizzes? All equally Simba, passing through one body, a single vessel. If Simba can write his own narrative and be this many people, I can be whoever the fuck I want.
Just as an artist might say their medium is sculpture or painting, I’d say the medium of my YouTube series Painted Dreams isn’t “video art” or “essay film,” but soap opera. And if The Bold and the Beautiful is streamable for free on CBS. com, then Painted Dreams, as its mirror, must be equally accessible.
Painted Dreams, a comic and empathetic queering of soap opera history, imagines what would happen if, instead of traveling the world, the narrator of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil stayed home and watched All My Children with their grandmother. To me, the work has three target audiences: the art community, of course; but also the soap-watching community; and the trans, gender nonconforming, questioning community. Like many others, I first delved into gender variation via YouTube holes, which felt lonely but safe, often finding myself deep in a FRONTLINE trans/GNC documentary from the ’90s or an obscure local radio interview with Laura Jane Grace.
Ideally, Painted Dreams participates in that same democratic YouTube conversation, while simultaneously undermining preconceptions about what forms the online serial can take. While many video artists post their work to Vimeo or show only in galleries, I want Painted Dreams to live in a space where it can be stumbled upon.
*Genesis Breyer P-Orridge as quoted in The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art. Dominic Johnson, interviewer. Macmillan International, 2015.