Conversion uses Hollywood melodrama, porn and “reality” or “documentary” aesthetics and stereotypes to draw on the inherently erotic, persuasive, and seductive nature of cinema and its capacity for conversion. This work traces the prefix “con” to its Latin origins, meaning to trick or deceive, and tethers it to the Freudian theory of conversion as the process by which an unspeakable desire transforms into a speakable one. Conversion resonates with Freudian ideas around sexuality and the fetish, a particular kind of substitution where one thing stands in for something else that is lacking.
Conversion uses modes of performance and the camera as tools of trickery. Like those slips of the tongue that give insight into the unconscious, these deceptions give access to the unspeakable (and unseeable) and bring the erotic into consciousness.
On a broader level, the work speaks to promises of change and transformation but also what it means to be stuck in transition. Conversion exposes the production of gender, and the impossibility of attaining a coherent, singular or fixed identity.
Conversion’s dialogue is lifted from a multitude of conversion texts from a variety of genres, including Tony Scott’s action film Days of Thunder (1990), Eve Sedgwick’s meditation on being an analysand, A Dialogue on Love (1999), scripted therapy sessions between Tony Soprano and Dr. Melfi in ‘The Sopranos’, and gay ‘physical exam’ net-porn.
This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.