“So boring - but not you, Nature!” (Oliver and Veronica) (2013)
With Barbara McBane and Susan Working
Oliver Winthrop Crichton (August 24, 1918 - January 26, 2013)
Veronica Marie Friedman, née Ronald Bruce Friedman (October 15, 1945 - 1986 or 1987 [exact date unknown])
Two very different people. Oliver’s archive elliptically documents the contents of a 2-bedroom apartment, dense with the objects, text, photographs and furniture of several lives and lifetimes. Veronica’s archive is a small box of papers housed at the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society; it covers the years 1980 -1982. Oliver was a high school teacher with a passion for Darwin, botany and the natural world. Veronica was a divorced husband with a deep sense of mission about changing her gender from male to female. Oliver was the product of a New England small town Episcopal rectory. Veronica, from a suburban Northern California Jewish family, refused to be Bar Mitzvahed at puberty. Veronica and Oliver were both fathers. They shared an interest - one personal and performative, one scholarly and pedagogical - in sexuality, science, and biology. While Oliver taught the biology of gender and sexuality, Veronica turned toward medicine and biology to understand her own gender dysphoria and to change it.
In this installation, we imagine the lessons from Oliver's botany studies placed alongside what Veronica knew about the complexity of gender and sexuality. We imagine Oliver's "jewels" offered as post mortem gifts to Veronica, who died with less than $200 to her name. Oliver generated drawings and word-lists of the varieties of plant sexuality. Veronica jotted down lists of phrases related to gender transitioning; she drew timelines of the process that would move her from one biological category to another. And she wrote poetry mapping her experience of this journey.
Veronica’s gender transition was, in one sense, an embodied and very personal experiment - but one that, as a scientist, Oliver might well have understood and appreciated. Or would he? Veronica’s biological life-performances messed with - or queered - the taxonomies from which many of Oliver’s life-choices sprang.
This installation evokes an unlikely relationship between two people who never met. It is partly an elegy - for E.G.’s father, Oliver Crichton; for Barbara’s mother, Margaret McBane; and for Veronica, the ghost hovering between them. It is shaped as an imagined conversation between all the collaborators, living and dead, and has grown out of whisperings with lives that have passed.