Curators in Conversation: Sébastien Lifshitz and Gaëlle Morel

Unidentified photographer, [Guilda, cross-dresser, New York, United States], ca. 1950, gelatin silver print © 2016 Éditions Textuel – Collection Sébastien Lifshitz

Curators in Conversation
Sébastien Lifshitz and Gaëlle Morel

Ryerson Image Centre (RIC)
Online via Zoom
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
12pm EST

French guest curator, filmmaker and collector Sébastien Lifshitz, has amassed a treasure trove of enigmatic images over the past 30 years, a selection of which are now on view in his exhibition Mauvais Genre/Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers at the RIC. Join Lifshitz and RIC Exhibitions Curator, Gaëlle Morel, as they discuss his collection and the ongoing exhibition, on view through August 6.

Lifshitz began his photography collection as a teenager, rummaging through Parisian flea markets on the weekends for lost pictures forsaken by others, particularly those of anonymous subjects participating in the act of cross-dressing. Feeling a sense of intrigue and personal connection to the secretive, marginalized lives of those portrayed, Lifshitz began an active pursuit to expand upon this collection. Sourcing images from flea markets, garage sales, junk shops and eBay, from across the United States and Europe, the filmmaker was able to uncover the hidden practice of cross-dressing, dating back from the 1880s–1980s.

Mauvais Genre/Under Cover offers a a fascinating historical precedent to today’s diverse queer and trans spectrum, and looks toward a future where self-representation and freedom of choice are not just celebrated, but actively encouraged.

About the Curator

After studying art history, Sébastien Lifshitz began working in the world of contemporary art in 1990, assisting curator Bernard Blistène at the Centre Georges-Pompidou, and French photographer Suzanne Lafont. In 1994, he turned to filmmaking and is known for titles such as Wild Side, Little Girl and Adolescents. Since then, his critically acclaimed films have been featured in numerous international festivals, including Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand (France), winning awards like the Prix Jean Vigo, the Kodak Award for Best Short Film, the Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award and the Queer Palm. Mauvais Genre is the first exhibition curated by Lifshitz and is accompanied by a book of the same name, published by French publisher Textuel (2016).

Unidentified photographer, [Five male cross-dressers on a riser, with written inscription on verso “Haris Fifi, Zerneck Kesty, Zerkovitz Gäby, Stassik Ficzin, Méhelyi Mimi”, Hungary], ca. 1900, albumen print © 2016 Éditions Textuel – Collection Sébastien Lifshitz


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From Here to Eternity. Sunil Gupta, A Retrospective
April 6–August 6, 2022

This exhibition offers a complex and layered view of artist Sunil Gupta’s unique transcontinental photographic vision. From Here to Eternity brings together a comprehensive selection of works from the innovative career of this pioneering community artist. From his participation in New York’s radical Gay Liberation Movement in the 1970s to his more recent campaigning in India, Gupta has inspired generations of photographers, artist/activists, and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.

Mauvais Genre/Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers
April 6–August 6, 2022

Comprising over 160 amateur photographs, this exhibition explores a range of practices relating to cross-dressing from the 1880s to the 1980s. It is drawn from the extensive personal archives of French filmmaker and photography collector Sébastien Lifshitz. The selection includes images of spectacular cross-dressers and glamorous drag queens, but also individuals whose transgressive actions are much more discreet and domestic. Taken by mostly unknown photographers, the prints are of unnamed and unknown figures posing for the camera, using the apparel and gestures traditionally assigned to the “opposite sex.” They have been collected from flea markets, garage sales, junk shops and eBay and were taken in Europe and the United States.

The exhibition offers a candid look into the hidden worlds of individuals and groups that have chosen to defy gender conventions and explore a range of identities and presentations that diverge from what society has restrictively prescribed.

Dominique Blain: Dérive/Drift
April 6–August 6, 2022

Sensitive, powerful, and supremely delicate, Dominique Blain’s Drift is comprised of hundreds of press and amateur images of the sea. Found on the internet and compiled in careful layers, these images gently lift like sails in the breeze to reveal scenes of fragile, makeshift boats floating on perilous waters. This multi-channel video commemorates the countless migrants who flee situations of war, poverty, and violence, sailing in search of freedom.

Chris Donovan: The Cloud Factory
May 18–June 18

Against a backdrop of billowing clouds of smoke, the environmental class system of Saint John, New Brunswick comes into hazy focus in Chris Donovan’s The Cloud Factory. A long-term photographic project, The Cloud Factory stems from Donovan’s frustrations over the lack of critical reporting around the fossil fuel industry in a city that is home to Canada’s largest oil refinery. With his poignant images, the artist calls attention to the issues generated by the industrialization of his hometown, revealing the families affected by industrial contamination and the socio-economic structures of a monopolized economy.


Curators In Conversation: Sébastien Lifshitz and Gaëlle Morel
Wednesday, June 8, 12 pm

Artist and Curator in Conversation: Sunil Gupta and Mark Sealy
Wednesday, June 22, 12 pm

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Ryerson Image Centre
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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