This Video Uses Makeup To Challenge Gender Perceptions


By now, we're all familiar with the YouTube stars who use makeup to transform themselves into the spitting images of your favorite celebrities. And while they are fascinating to watch, there isn't much meaning in their videos outside of entertainment. But a new art installation is using the power of such transformations to make a statement.

In collaboration with Move!, an interactive art and fashion exhibition taking place from October 2 to 4 at Brookfield Place in downtown Manhattan, makeup artist James Kaliardos and DJ Chelsea Leyland have created a powerful video to help people look at both gender and themselves in a different light.

Dreamed up together with Move! co-curator Cecilia Dean, the video is a preview of what Kaliardos and a crew of makeup pros will be doing to attendees at the actual event. Says Kaliardos, "We wanted to offer participants the opportunity to see themselves differently than who they are every day. We figured the most powerful change would be to cross over to the opposite sex."

An installation called Crossover will allow attendees to "have their gender flawlessly transformed." Makeup artists will be wearing mini-cameras on their heads to document the changes as they happen, displaying them on a screen for all guests to see. Self-portraits of the final looks will be uploaded to the Brookfield Place website.

In the video, Leyland appears barefaced and Kaliardos applies makeup to transform her into a man, using time-lapse filming so you can see the impact each step has on the overall look. Kaliardos provides commentary, talking about gender constructs, makeup application, and the gradual metamorphosis of Leyland's look.

One of our favorite parts is when Kaliardos applies a thin glaze of glue to her cheeks and chin, and then rolls a balloon covered in tiny fibers across the glue to create stubble. "The balloon offers static cling, which allows the hairs to disperse evenly over a surface — in this case, Chelsea's face," explains Kaliardos. "When trying to figure out how to get realistic stubble onto smooth skin, my assistant William and I came up with this idea of using a balloon. And it worked!"

With the recent focus in the mainstream media on the conversation around trans issues and gender fluidity, we asked Kaliardos if this could all be construed as insensitive. "Yes, I am very sensitive to the trans community, who I support. But this project is more about all of us and the ability for anyone to look at themselves in a different way," he says. "By dealing with just the face, and not the body, Crossover is about how wearing makeup can alter our appearance and radically change how we express ourselves."
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