Robert KolhouseNorfolk, Virginia

Red Lodge Clay – Center Short-Term Resident 2015

Growing up half-Asian gave me a different perspective of the world. This dual nature, or racially-other, I’m familiar with is something I struggle with to this day. As a result I’ve spent my life wishing I lived in the shoes of others. This desire doesn’t stop with real people. I’ve aspired to be more superhuman just like the characters I watched during Saturday morning cartoons. This fascination with an enhanced body that is not my own might be that of fantasy, but the idealized body is currently a fixation that many of us can identify with.

The cyberpunk classic “Ghost in the Shell” has been a huge influence in my work. This animated film brings into question what is identity through use of a constructed body. My resultant art work address the perception of the socially-constructed gender binary through the use of a cybernetic body and the idea of a fluid and contingent self. The gender theories of Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, proposes the cyborg as a constructed being that lacks any genetic signifiers of sex or gender. She argues that the cyborg is a metaphor for a third recombinant gender. This idealized organism is neither male, nor female since it is built to represent the inner identity of the being and fully realized. As a constructed being, the biological gender is removed and is replaced with the identity of a person. Although veneered in an armored shell that exhibits some gendered characteristics, these cyborgs exhibit elements of androgyny that blur distinctions between male and female.

Because being human is more than being the corporeal body, an identity is defined by inner and outer influences of life. Individual identity can be constrained by social constructions, in particular the concept of gender. The concept of “self” removes biological ties; it indicates what it means to simply be. If one is asked the question: “Given complete control to construct one’s physical body, how would they reflect who they feel they are through it?” My work proposes a constructed being, originally born into the world, but given control to choose their avatar. These figurines represent the psychological self in a shell that is devoid of gender stereotypes.