Shimmering Images: Trans Cinema, Embodiment, and the Aesthetics of Change


“In Shimmering Images Eliza Steinbock traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change. Drawing on Barthes’s idea of the “shimmer” and Foucault’s notion of sex as a mirage, the author shows how sex and gender can appear mirage-like on film, an effect they label shimmering. Steinbock applies the concept of shimmering—which delineates change in its emergent form as well as the qualities of transforming bodies, images, and affects—to analyses of films that span time and genre. These include examinations of the fantastic and phantasmagorical shimmerings of sex change in George Méliès’s nineteenth-century trick films and Lili Elbe’s 1931 autobiographical writings and photomontage in Man Into Woman. Steinbock also explores more recent documentaries, science fiction, and pornographic and experimental films. Presenting a cinematic philosophy of transgender embodiment that demonstrates how shimmering images mediate transitioning, Steinbock not only offers a corrective to the gender binary orientation of feminist film theory; they open up new means to understand trans ontologies and epistemologies as emergent, affective, and processual.”

Link to publication (March 2019)

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Art & Activism Conference in Leiden & upcoming travels to exciting events

Hi folks, this last year has been a time of high productivity in the trans culture world. As my VENI research project on trans portraiture is starting to come to a close, I’m loving all the related and spin-off activities that are happening.

Over Oct 19-20th I chaired the “International Trans Media Expert Meeting” with seven international and eighteen Dutch participants from major media organizations, including stage and screen actors, media professionals, writers and cultural influencers. It was an incredible experience to share strategies, anger, hope and ways to make change.  More to come from the Global Trans Media Network and new initiatives in The Netherlands!

My finale VENI project is the Art & Activism: Resilience Techniques in Times of Crisis Conference, taking place Dec. 13-15. We are partnering with the NWO, KNAW, Stedelijk, LUCAS, NICA, Utrecht University, KABK, and the National Museum of World Cultures. The program of some sixty speakers is up now at our fancy site. Please browse around, register, and come join us with your brilliance. My VENI research participants will have special sessions to discuss visual activism and the terms for collaboration they have developed as resilience techniques for continuing to persist as trans*, non-binary and/or queer artists. These include Muholi Muholi, Elisha Lim, Gabrielle Le Roux, Yishay Garbasz, and Jackie Baier. Many more collaborators and inspirators will also be present on the roundtables and by giving papers.

Other upcoming presentations include participating in an by-invitation “Gendered Innovations” Symposium at the Royal Palace Amsterdam,  Read more ›

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CfP! “Cinematic Bodies” issue of Somatechnics

Call for Papers:

Somatechnics special journal issue (Edinburgh University Press)

“Cinematic Bodies”

Co-edited by Cáel M. Keegan, Eliza Steinbock, Laura Horak

Submissions due: March 1st, 2017

Length: 6000 words + 200 word abstract + 150 word author biography

Submission email:

Journal submission details (incl. style):

CFP webpage:

still from Dandy Dust, 1998.

still from Dandy Dust, 1998.

This special issue of Somatechnics invites contributions on the topic of cinematic bodies. Cinema, broadly construed, is ripe for a somatechnical approach. Derived from the Greek soma (body) and techné (craftsmanship), the term somatechnics holds in view the lively enfleshment of techné and the practices of embodying via hard and soft technologies. From the first actualities and trick films, human and non-human bodies have assembled in and around filmic events, producing powerful cine-social apparatuses with paratextual and intertextual appendages (e.g. fan cultures, remakes, “the oppositional gaze” [hooks 1999]). We thus invite scholars to approach “the cinematic” broadly, as a sensorial and temporal flow of interrelations around images and sound that governs and opens possibilities for various embodiments. What might it mean, now, to occupy a “cinematic body”?

Read more ›

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March Blast of Trans Portraiture Practice, new HuffPo blog post and van Abbe Museum talk

What great day for (the official) transgender day of visibility! This month I’ve been working on getting more research out there in the public eye. I wrote a new ‘research portrait’ of J. Jackie Baier-Celina_in_Doorway-c-2003Baier focusing on her collaborative, extended portraits, which came out this morning on the Huffington Post, and tonight I’m giving a talk at the van Abbe Museum Eindhoven on “Navigating Portraiture while Gender Non-Conforming” (31 March). I’m the finale speaker of the “queering the collections” project, and the first to bring in images from trans visual artists, including Hans Scheirl, Pyuupiru, and Juliana Huxtable.

The blog post is titled, “Follow the Protagonist: Read more ›

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Giving a Genderqueer workshop at the Université de Lorraine, France (Jan. 21, 2016)

I’ve been invited by trans scholar Luc Schicharin to give a “genderqueer workshop” on my current research about writing research portraits of trans* visual activists for the event of “JOURNÉES DʼÉTUDES, UNE CHAMBRE À SOI: GENRES ET CORPS EN ART” (Study Days, A Room of One’s Own: Genders and Bodies in Art), organized by Crem and Team Praxitèle at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France

Bianca now

On January 21, 2016 my talk, “I’ll Be Your Crack’d Mirror: Socially Embedded Art Analysis of J. Jackie Baier (Berlin),” will take place in between performances by Read more ›

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Keynote in Moscow, Russia: “The Human Condition in an other-than-human-world” Symposium at the National Center for Contemporary Arts (Nov. 26-28)

An exciting series of art exhibitions on (post)humanism are slated for the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Moscow, Russia. The opening show “Elective Affinities” will be accompanied by the symposium “The Human Condition in an other-than-human-world” supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Contemporary curator Viktor Misiano and decolonial scholar Madina Tlostavona have invited myself and some seven other speakers.Screenshot 2015-11-02 20.07.02

My talk will be on behalf of the tranimacies collective about our special journal issue with Angelaki: the journal for the theoretical humanities (fortcoming in 2017) called, “Tranimacies: Intimate Links between Animal and Trans* Studies.”

Through analysis of a number of different artworks, I respond to the question: Read more ›

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Trans* visual activism research in the Dutch press

Though media in the United States has experienced a surge in coverage of trans issues and celebrities, the Dutch press has been relatively quiet after Maxim Februari’s 2013 tour with his book, De Maakbare Man. Recently though, I contributed to two newspaper articles found here. Screenshot 2015-10-20 16.42.58

I first was asked to interview for a trans and non-binary gender debate piece in the Vonk weekend section of the Volkskrant, a national Dutch newspaper (3 October). From my quote there, I was invited to be interviewed for a profile of my current research, the Vital Art project on trans* visual activism. The profile came out in the regional paper, Leidsch Dagblad, in their Wednesday Science spread dedicated to Leiden area science news (14 October).

Since the project itself Read more ›

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