Wednesday, 8 October 2014


Ambiguous and intriguing, Mona Lisa's identity is still puzzling the scholars and art lovers worldwide, is she just a noble lady, da Vinci himself, or a combination of both?...

   This story is as old as the question of Time itself and it goes like this: Goddess Aphrodite, global mother of the glue named Eros mates with the playful trickster or else the all powerful phallus, Hermes and the child born is named Hermaphroditus...

Androgynous model Andrej Pejic turned into Andreja Pejic aiming to completion, a soul meeting its ideal body, photo for I-D magazine by Thomas Lohr.
Barbette, the legendary aerialist, one of the first drag queens, Barbette used to reveal his male side only at the end of his act, one of his/her most famous friends was Jean Cocteau, Barbette photographed by Man Ray, 1926.

A creature divine and most graceful
, this boy is truly a sight for sore eyes resembling equally his father and his mother but his tale doesn't end here, the imago needs further expansion and enrichment...Aphrodite, mother all permeating, trusts and grants the upbringing of the young boy to the nymphs and he's raised inside a cave, the cave always symbolic of the womb inside the realm called myth and the representations of the collective unconscious.  So, Hermaphroditus, divine child, becomes fifteen years of age, he leaves the mountain and his demigod nurses to wander alone towards his destiny, he crosses Minor Asia admiring the rivers and the springs, not a child no more but yet not a man either...It is in Caria, close to the Maeander river that Hermaphroditus finds the wonderful spring of the nymph Salmacis. Salmacis is present to the scenery, she's combing her long hair while admiring her own reflection on the water surface, Narcissus wasn't a pioneer as it seems...When Salmacis saw Hermaphroditus she fell for him, he could have been Eros himself, so lovely he was...

The mythical beginning, Hermaphroditus' story and form has inspired many artists throughout the centuries, Hermaphroditus and Salmacis by Louis Finson, 1600.

The boy tried to resist her lust so he jumped inside the spring.
Salmacis is so madly in love and intoxicated from his presence that jumps also in the water while she has a desire and a will that only gods can fulfill...while she embraces Hermaphroditus she merges and becomes one with him, one substance and body, an existence both male and female signaling the era of the androgyny, a favorite paradigm of the alchemists and their constant transmutations, a psychic condition linked to the male and female aspects inside of us, but also a physical actuality in some cases.
   One can wonder if the myth and the motifeme of one creature beyond comparisons of strict identity like Hermaphroditus, is echoing the primordial state of our being. Was there ever this time of unconditional unity as a fact? Is there a chance that the female concept of Eros can meet without frictions the male principle of Logos? We've been repeating the same patterns for centuries over centuries, the distinction of axioms, the categorizations of earthy and celestial powers and their attribution to the one sex or the other...The male is the sun, the female the moon, the sun is logical and forceful, the moon intuitive and passive, both THEY MAKE LIFE, no matter how political and religious powers have taken advantage of the dogmatic polarities the truth is that libido, the life force and motivation of being doesn't recognize the difference of the sexes.

Fashion industry's fancy with androgynous style has been a long time affair, Kristen McMenamy represented this androgynous movement back in the '90s.

 Libido as psychic force is mainly concerned with finding creative and healthy outlets and when oppressed things get against us anyway, becoming symptomatical, rigid, giving birth and a voice without a voice to neurosis...In this regard libido is not unlike Hermaphroditus, we're mentioning of a will struggling no longer to be this or that but to become both this and that without remorse but being oriented towards liberation, psychoanalytically speaking the power returns to its rightful owner while consciousness defeats the unconscious therefore symbolic and disguised truth. Hermaphroditus is the state of being when everything is open both underneath the sun and the moon, he's the offspring of the hieros gamos, a unison beyond guilts and the deceipt of punishment from earthy or divine blackmailers, a new kind of consciousness closer to the service of humanity in the here and now.

Amanda Lear, the Dali muse and her alleged transsexuality.
Saskia de Brauw, the danish model represents the androgynous inspiration of the contemporary fashion world.

   The riddle of Hermaphroditus and his possible co-existence is similar to the gnostic riddle of the soul coming from a pansexual and infinite cosmic source and yet going through the burden to reside inside a single, rather limited and more or less definite body.
Hermaphroditus doubts the shape of things as they are, the shape internal and external, his cult is that of a differentiated and ever wondering behavior beyond preordained and biased schemes. That suggestion is very much different than a chaotic being though, an openess of experience cannot predetermine behaviors or phenotypes, this openess just asks for an expansion of tolerance, respect and appreciation of everything that surpasses the norm. The fashion industry has always been fascinated by this motivational role playing and identity investigation, the outcome is sometimes humorous, other times strong, vague or ambiguous the sure thing is that we can do more to push the limits of our image or self acceptance...Andrej Pejic, the famous androgynous model is now Andreja Pejic, this issue isn't just about the looks and their transformations but mostly about the individual that has to feel comfortable inside his/her skin, a struggle mental, emotional and also physical, societies still have to go a long way before understanding and respecting certain choices, and those are not easy choices but life changing decisions.

The daring best seller by Jeffrey Eugenides negotiates the hermaphroditus nature of its main character, a boy trapped inside a feminine body.

French comedian Guillaume Gallienne reveals another aspect of this wrestling with the self concept and its feminine/masculine sides in his recent film "Me, Myself and Mum". The main character of the film, Guillaume (the film is autobiographical) is attached to his rather rigid and indifferent mother while he faces the rejection of his father and two stereotypical athletic brothers for being too self-indulgent and soft. Guillaume explores his sexuality believing he's homosexual since everyone in his family share this belief about him, some scenes are awkward, others funny or sentimental. The question that arises is this: How can you change everyone's preconceptions about yourself and find your own voice? The identity crisis resolves naturally in the case of Guillaume, most unexpectedly for both his environement and himself, one day he falls in love with a girl, just because he was not the typical bloodthirsty male didn't mean that he couldn't claim his identity and sexuality on his own terms.
    Once on the path of actual and profound freedom, a path still to come for most of humanity, anyone can claim the individual decisions in a more unique way, perhaps the hermaphroditus archetype can help us towards this liberation and life lesson, things aren't as they seem and that can sometimes be confusing but let's try to transfigure this common knowledge into something less frightening and more promising. Shall we††† ?

Role playing and sense of humor, James franco by the provocative Terry Richardson.
To mingle inside water, the water standing for the environment of the womb, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus II by Roberto Ferri.

LIFT UP thy lips, turn round, look back for love,
Blind love that comes by night and casts out rest;
Of all things tired thy lips look weariest,
Save the long smile that they are wearied of.
Ah sweet, albeit no love be sweet enough,
Choose of two loves and cleave unto the best;
Two loves at either blossom of thy breast
Strive until one be under and one above.
Their breath is fire upon the amorous air,
Fire in thine eyes and where thy lips suspire:
And whosoever hath seen thee, being so fair,
Two things turn all his life and blood to fire;
A strong desire begot on great despair,
A great despair cast out by strong desire.

Where between sleep and life some brief space is,
With love like gold bound round about the head,
Sex to sweet sex with lips and limbs is wed,
Turning the fruitful feud of hers and his
To the waste wedlock of a sterile kiss;
Yet from them something like as fire is shed
That shall not be assuaged till death be dead,
Though neither life nor sleep can find out this.
Love made himself of flesh that perisheth
A pleasure-house for all the loves his kin;
But on the one side sat a man like death,
And on the other a woman sat like sin.
So with veiled eyes and sobs between his breath
Love turned himself and would not enter in.

Love, is it love or sleep or shadow or light
That lies between thine eyelids and thine eyes?
Like a flower laid upon a flower it lies,
Or like the night’s dew laid upon the night.
Love stands upon thy left hand and thy right,
Yet by no sunset and by no moonrise
Shall make thee man and ease a woman’s sighs,
Or make thee woman for a man’s delight.
To what strange end hath some strange god made fair
The double blossom of two fruitless flowers?
Hid love in all the folds of all thy hair,
Fed thee on summers, watered thee with showers,
Given all the gold that all the seasons wear
To thee that art a thing of barren hours?

Yea, love, I see; it is not love but fear.
Nay, sweet, it is not fear but love, I know;
Or wherefore should thy body’s blossom blow
So sweetly, or thine eyelids leave so clear
Thy gracious eyes that never made a tear—
Though for their love our tears like blood should flow,
Though love and life and death should come and go,
So dreadful, so desirable, so dear?
Yea, sweet, I know; I saw in what swift wise
Beneath the woman’s and the water’s kiss
Thy moist limbs melted into Salmacis,
And the large light turned tender in thine eyes,
And all thy boy’s breath softened into sighs;
But Love being blind, how should he know of this?~

Hermaphroditus by Algernon Charles Swinburne

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