What can we learn from androgyny? The artist challenging gender fluid stereotypes and promoting a different kind of well-being: Nastasia Niedinger
Nastasia Niedinger is a unique product of the millennial age. A contemporary creative on the outside looking in, she is a hungry observer and spokesperson for those equally curious about the modern human condition into which they were born. Fascinated by post-modern and generational trends, she utilises art direction to produce remarkable pieces with profound social messaging. Her primary mediums include writing, photography and experimentation with digital spheres, which she uses to highlight incumbent cultural mechanisms at play. Always aiming to help viewers understand better the world around them, Niedinger’s attitude seems ever forward-looking.
Universal androgyny. The concept may seem peculiar, but one photographic study suggests just that. Gender in Utero is an intimate study of androgyny with a strong ideological underbelly. Tired of just the “what?” and determined to ask “why?”, this collection and its critical rhetoric is bucking trends in the media’s recent coverage of gender fluidity - and in more ways than one.
Gender in Utero is unique in its duality, making clever use of art to support social commentary. The collection uses photography as a medium to document the phenomenon in its physical form: the artist iterates our physical inheritances - the appearances of both mother and father - and although this is often taken for granted, she has found it to be a profound and inspiring truth.
But the message at its core is the prevalence of androgyny in our behaviour and observed benefits for the psyche. The artist asks viewers to consider, “How do I feel? How do I think?”, encouraging them to evaluate the fluidity of their own behaviours and thoughts.
“I believe androgyny is not only natural but inherent. It occurs moment by moment, case by case, in each of us. Faced with a multitude of situations, we unconsciously flex between feminine or masculine behaviour.
Androgyny is tantamount to people’s ability to evaluate, objectivise, empathise, subjectivise, and so on.”
The project’s title, “Gender in Utero”, pays homage to the unique development of the human mind and advancement over time. “A component of human nature is our inherent adaptability, in the short and long-term.” And though Nastasia observes that action is constantly changing, more fundamental still is the understanding that consciousness itself is after all, genderless.
Its poignant insights are supported by classical writer Virginia Woolf and pioneering psychologist in creativity and “flow states”, M. Csikszentmihalyi, whose research claims, “A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses.”
Execution of the collection has abided by strict principles, sourcing participants from outside of the modelling industry and rejecting androgyny as a means for fashion, which Nastasia claims to be constraining. “Often, designers encourage diversity for the sake of diversity, freedom for the sake of freedom, without explaining its value.” Examples include Selfridges’ recent Agender floor, which although publicised gender as a construct, for all its PR failed to explore the implications of the statement. The artist holds a critical outlook on the subject, stating that:
“Androgyny has been commodified by fashion, and hijacked by sex. Neither industry is exploring why aesthetic or sexual liberation does good for the well being - areas like self esteem, flexibility, and of course empathy”.
Gender in Utero was born out of a firmly collaborative effort between Nastasia, photographer Al Overdrive and makeup artist Sophie Yeff. The trio have utilised an acute sensitivity to human physiology to produce a gripping standard of portraiture. Its founders mark an expanding community, coordinating a larger production team to cater for its growing number of subjects.
These captivating pieces and rhetoric are a refreshing departure from ineffectual “gender fluid” posturing in the media, (many gaining views using provocative but unanswered questions). Instead, the project demonstrates the potential inclusiveness of androgyny, inviting individuals to celebrate the benefits of fluid thinking in everyday life. Gender in Utero boldly addresses the big “whys” which industries like fashion and sex overlook, and gives those who identify with the “genderless mind” a powerful visual means to reclaim androgyny.
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