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Artist Yonnas Getahun Questions Gender & Sexuality Assumptions in Latest Work

Artist Yonnas Getahun Questions Gender & Sexuality Assumptions in Latest Work


The Seattle-based artist asked 38 people to define their identity, and their responses became the multimedia project #SelfID

"I don't think I ever had to announce I was straight," says a man in a video. "Until I got older and moved to Seattle and had to tell people that I'm not gay."

It's just one of the participants in Seattle media artist Yonnas Getahun "SelfID" project. With support from Seattle's Northwest Polite Society, Northwest Film Forum, and Deehubs, Getahun asked 38 people the same four questions about identity and gender, then turned their answers into multimedia projects that aim to challenge our preconceived notions about gender, sexuality, and our own identities.

"The purpose or the unfolding of this project for me is to illustrate that oppression begins within, as does freedom," Getahun told The Advocate, also mentioning cocreators Chuck Zimmerman and Colin Bishop. "We kept thinking about the person who would attack another for their sexuality and gender, [and its difference from] their own chosen identity, and, although obvious and basic, we aimed to tangentially address that person."

SLIDESHOW | SelfID Portraits

"If you are aghast by another person's sexuality or gender, then it is you who should unpack what in you is dictating how another can feel, express and be," Getahun continues. "Seeing the rise in violence in [Seattle's] historical gay neighborhood, we wanted to creative way to interrupt and make people think."

Composed of a four-part video series, participants reflect on when they came out, when they first knew their own gender identity and sexual orientation, how they announced those identities, and how they define themselves compared to others both alike and different from themselves. The final two videos debuted on The Advocate (and can be seen below). The second part of the project includes wheat-pasted posters of each respondent's answers, posted on walls throughout Seattle, with particularly poignant responses turned into large-scale projections that appear on the side of city buildings and coffee shops (pictured above).

While SelfID initially focused on Seattle residents, Getahun is eager to expand the project to other cities, states, and even other countries. Interested parties can share their own SelfID on social media, using the hashtag #SelfID, and find more information about participating here.

Watch the third and fourth video in the series below:

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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