In 1992, Tilda Swinton played the titular character in Sally Potter’s film Orlando, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel of the same name. In Woolf’s seminal book, Orlando, born a man in Elizabethan times, was a poet who wakes one day in his thirties to find he has become a woman, and lives without ageing for a further 300 years (the novel ends in 1928, while Potter’s film shows Orlando’s life until the 1990s). 27 years on, and Swinton is revisiting the story of Orlando, this time in the role of curator and guest-editor of a magazine issueand exhibition from Aperture. For the photography foundation and publisher’s 235th magazine issue, the actor and former AnOther coverstar chose Orlando as its thematic, and invited photographers, writers, authors and filmmakers to reflect on and create work inspired by the story.
“Woolf wrote Orlando in an attitude of celebration of the oscillating nature of existence. She believed the creative mind to be androgynous,” Swinton says. “I have come to see Orlando far less as being about gender than about the flexibility of the fully awake and sensate spirit. This issue of Aperture will be a salute to limitlessness, and a heartfelt celebration of the fully inclusive and expansive vision of life exemplified by the extraordinary artists collected here.”
In this spirit of limitlessness and transition, several photographers have created work especially for the issue and accompanying exhibition, including Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mickalene Thomas (“Look at Mickalene’s work. She got to the bottom line: Everyone is Orlando, that’s the thing,” Swinton recently told the New York Times) and Carmen Winant. Dutch photographer and AnOther contributor Viviane Sassen presents her newest series, Venus & Memory, and Walter Pfeifferand Collier Schorr present works from their respective archives that have a focus on youth. Words by the likes of Maggie Nelson, Lynn Hershman Leeson, B. Ruby Rich, Marina Warner and Lynne Tillman also feature.
To celebrate the exhibition and magazine, screenings of Orlando and Derek Jarman’s The Garden – which Swinton also starred in – will be held in New York in the coming weeks, and Swinton will also be in conversation with the critic behind the term coined in 1992 ‘New Queer Cinema’, B. Ruby Rich at the New York public library. Swinton has noted that the story of Orlando extends beyond gender and addresses issues of class, race, youth, change and “identity being positively negligible”, and the wealth of creatives involved in the Aperture magazine and exhibition proves the ongoing relevance and power of Woolf’s novel.
Tilda Swinton will be in conversation with B. Ruby Rich in New York on May 29, 2019.