Photo taken by Sristi Palimar
LA-based performance and visual artist Page Person speaking to the audience before her fourth act, “The Feats of Tiresias.”
In just shy of 2 hours, LA-based performance and visual artist Page Person (she/her) made the Hammer Museum’s Bay-Nimoy Studio her latest stage in an elaborate ten part performance that comprised live art demonstrations, clever comedy, and true stories from the many chapters in Page’s journey to personhood. The performance, titled “How I Became A Person, by Page Person” took place on Nov. 16, 2023 at the Hammer, in part of the museum’s celebration of Trans Awareness Week. In her performance, Page speaks to themes of trans liberation and identity, drawing inspiration from LA’s vibrant drag community and her lived resistance to transphobia.
Page’s raw and reverential showcase relied on various multi-sensory performance elements. In her first act, titled “Taking out the Trash”, blaring sound bites of Page’s agonized voice were recorded and looped on stage, giving the audience some semblance of the psychological turmoil that years of relentless transphobia and hate speech instigated in Page’s youth. Other performance aspects in later acts spoke to the more uplifting sentiments Page gleaned from her long withstanding resistance to anti-trans violence, speech and legislation. Page’s second act, “Tattoo Person”, was aptly named for the “person” tattoo Page received live on stage, immortalizing her persevering identity as a trans artist on her own skin. In the next act that followed, “Paint Person”, Page recruits the help of Cupid Triplex Crush, one of the many drag performers in attendance, to paint her body in Page’s name. With an oversized paintbrush in hand, Page marks the white dress Cupid Triplex Crush adorns with the words “Page Person,” remaking her as visual representation of Page’s personhood.
Personhood prevails as the most prominent theme in Page’s performance. According to Page, personhood refers to our individual right to self-identification and existence, as human beings deserving of respect, empathy, and welfare. In one act, “The Feats of Tiresias,” Page retells the story of the Greek soothsayer Tiresias, who was mythologized for their nine transformations between man and woman over the course of their lifetime. With the help of an imaginary line to demarcate the vague boundary between masculine and feminine, and the musical accouterments of her bedazzled tambourine, Page jumps between two identities, just as Tiresias would have in ancient Greece. Comedic at face value, this act speaks to the fluidity of gender and validity of personhood, as Page reclaims her will to redefine gender whenever, and wherever.
“How I Became a Person, By Page Person” comes at an important moment amid the ongoing struggle for trans liberation across the United States. Page acknowledges this reality in the several references she makes to anti-drag and anti-trans legislation, and the hypocrisy that underlies political hatefulness. Against the social attitudes that falsely legitimize gay panic defense, and the wrongful criminalization of trans liberation, Page Person stands powerful in her identity in front of the audience crowded to see her performance. She uses this opportunity to condemn the violence trans people face on account of misinformation and the fallacious narratives that portray trans existence as threatening to society.
Moreover, Page uses her stage to pay tribute to the LA drag community that has inspired her art and protected her existence as a trans creative. In her act “10 Numbers”, Page honors 10 drag artists from Los Angeles, with whom she has developed a close friendship and community with. After being called to the stage one by one, the artists disperse into the crowd in a silent performance of drag choreography, bringing the spirit of drag artistry to life in front of an audience filled with exuberant support and celebration. Their performance is joyous and playful, symbolic of the humor and creativity that drag spurs in both performers and audience members, even in the absence of flashy costumes and loud music.
Despite its vibrance, the LA drag scene, like so many queer communities across the world, carries a legacy of countless lives lost to transphobia and violence. Page honors these martyrs as divas, which she defines as “a female version of a shamanic healer” in “spiritual contact with the divine feminine energy.” In “Diva’ing for BB,” Page pays special tribute to fellow diva and friend, BB, who she remembers for often playing the drums to “channel supernatural energy from the distant realm.” In a series of forceful strikes, Page pounds her microphone into the drum, occasionally looping a recording of the beat, and other times letting the drums’ eerie echo reverberate over the audience. In this moment, the atmosphere is somber and the crowd is silent, as we remember BB and her connection to the spiritual dimension wherein she now resides.
Through its energetic highs and solemn lows, Page’s performance brings the audience together in a celebration of trans resistance and persevering existence. As an audience member myself, I couldn’t help but notice how often Page would shout out people in the crowd, several of them drag artists and close friends. In the moments after the show, attendees were up and out of their seats– many were old friends catching up, while others were new acquaintances being introduced to each other. Perhaps there was something about Page’s artistry that drew so many warm personalities to the audience, or maybe it was the inextricable spirit of love and compassion that exists in LA’s queer community. In any case, the auditorium was subsumed in an atmosphere that felt safe and accepting of all people and all bodies. In an instagram post Page published later that evening, she wrote “the entire audience was queer, trans, gender nonconforming drag performers and allies. We are here and our love is stronger than their hate.” While Page’s performance at the Hammer was one night only, her artwork remains on display at the museum in part of their “Made In LA 2023: Acts of Living” exhibition, which will stay open through Dec. 31, 2023. Additionally, a video recording of “How I Became a Person, By Page Person” is available on the Hammer Museum’s youtube channel. More information about Page Person can be found on her Instagram, @page__person.