Orlando presents recent and newly commissioned photographs inspired by the themes of Virginia Woolf’s prescient 1928 novel, which tells the story of a young nobleman during the era of Queen Elizabeth I who lives for three centuries without aging and mysteriously shifts gender along the way. In 1992, filmmaker Sally Potter released a now-classic adaptation of the book with Tilda Swinton in the starring role. Since then, Woolf’s tale has continued to hold sway over the actor, who describes the book’s ability “to change like a magic mirror. Where I once assumed it was a book about eternal youth, I now see it as a book about growing up, about learning to live.”
The exhibition extends Swinton’s longtime exploration of the central themes of the novel; gender fluidity, limitlessness, and the deep perspective that is earned from a long life. Supported by a new selection of artworks from the McEvoy Family Collection, Orlando offers a panoply of colors and tastes that seek to liberate traditions of portraiture in photography from the constructs of prescriptive gender or social norms at a moment when debates around identity, representation, and society have reinvigorated the story’s legacy.
Orlando is guest curated by Tilda Swinton and organized by Aperture, New York. It is accompanied by Issue #235, Summer 2019 of Aperture magazine, also guest edited by Swinton, featuring writings from Michael Cunningham, Isaac Julien, Lynne Tillman, and B. Ruby Rich. Copies are available at MFA throughout the exhibition.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Tilda Swinton’s many films include Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986), Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992), The Garden (Derek Jarman, 1990), Wittgenstein (Derek Jarman, 1993), Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007), I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009), We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011), Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014), and Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino, 2018).
Lynn Hershman Leeson
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other—in print, in person, and online. Created in 1952 by photographers and writers as “common ground for the advancement of photography,” Aperture today is a multi-platform publisher and center for the photo community. From its base in New York, Aperture produces, publishes, and presents a program of photography projects and programs—locally, across the United States, and around the world.
Orlando is made possible, in part, with the support of Slobodan Randjelović and Jon Stryker. Aperture also thanks ROOT STUDIOS for supporting the production of Mickalene Thomas’ work in this issue.