There are many mythological references in the "tranSfera" series.
Especially in the first episode - Intersex 01.
The myth that inspired this performance the most, is the story of Salmakis and Hermaphroditos.

Salmakis was the Naiad Nymph of a spring in Halikarnassos.
She fell in love with Hermaphroditos and prayed to the gods to be united in love with him forever.
Her prayer was taken literally and their two forms were merged into one.
Her fountain was also believed to make men who bathed in its waters effeminate.

nam mixta duorum
corpora iunguntur, faciesque inducitur illis
una. velut, si quis conducat cortice ramos,               
crescendo iungi pariterque adolescere cernit,
sic ubi conplexu coierunt membra tenaci,
nec duo sunt et forma duplex, nec femina dici
nec puer ut possit, neutrumque et utrumque videntur.

Ovidius, Metamorphoses IV, 373-9

Now the entwined bodies of the two were joined together, and one form covered both. Just as when someone grafts a twig into the bark, they see both grow joined together, and develop as one, so when they were mated together in a close embrace, they were not two, but a two-fold form, so that they could not be called male or female, and seemed neither or either.

Translated by A. S. Kline

There is also a poetic translation of this fragment, which we find more inspiring:

’Till, piercing each the other’s flesh, they run
Together, and incorporate in one:
Last in one face are both their faces join’d,
As when the stock and grafted twig combin’d
Shoot up the same, and wear a common rind:
Both bodies in a single body mix,
A single body with a double sex.

Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden et al.


"All she would do was... look into the water"

Ovidius, Metamorphoses IV

The Nymph Salmacis, François-Joseph Bosio, 1826

nec iaculum sumit nec pictas illa pharetras,
nec sua cum duris venatibus otia miscet,
sed modo fonte suo formosos perluit artus,
saepe Cytoriaco deducit pectine crines
et, quid se deceat, spectatas consulit undas;
nunc perlucenti circumdata corpus amictu
mollibus aut foliis aut mollibus incubat herbis,
saepe legit flores.

Ovidius, Metamorphoses IV, 308-315

She takes up neither the hunting spear nor the painted quiver, and will not vary her idleness with the hardship of hunting. She only bathes her shapely limbs in the pool, often combs out her hair, with a comb that is made of boxwood from Cytorus, and looks in the water to see what suits it best. Then draped in a translucent robe, she lies down on the soft leaves, or in the soft grass.

Translated by A. S. Kline

In Ovidius’ description Salmakis is very similar to Narcissus. She’s looking at her reflection in the water. But the reason is different. She’s not in love with herself. She’s waiting for Hermaphroditos. She refuses to take any action, but her passivity has nothing to do with submission or masochism. She’s just waiting for the him to enter her space (the stream), so the conjunction could take place.

The most common misunderstanding we have to deal with is the division the viewers like to make / see: male (dominance, sadism, violence) vs. female (submission, masochism, suffering). We don’t agree with this interpretation. Look at Salmakis – her passivity is just a “stand by” period. When the time comes, her actions lead to a big revolution. Like in most SUKA OFF performances, also here the female character agrees to be passive only because at the end she will become the active / dominant character.

tranSfera 3.1 (intersex 02), Gdynia 2007


Sleeping Hermaphrodite
sculpted in marble in the 2nd century AD,
thought to be a copy of a now lost Greek bronze by Polykles from the 2nd century BC.

 tranSfera 1.1 (intersex 01), Walbrzych 2010

tranSfera 1.0 (intersex 01), Poznan 2007

tranSfera 3.1 (intersex 02), Gdynia 2007


Hermaphroditos et Salmacis, Ovidius, Metamorphoseon libri XV,  XV century

The Transformation of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis, Jan Gossaert, 1st third of 16th century

Salmacis Falling in Love with Hermaphroditus, Francesco Albani, 1660

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, Jean-François de Troy, 1708

Nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, François-Joseph Navez, 1829

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, Edward Burnes Jones, ?

Illustrations from old editions of Ovidius' "Metamorphoses":

Virgil Solis, Edition 1581

L. Dolce, 1553

Johann Wilhelm Baur, Edition 1659


Narcissus, having come to a pool to quench his thirst, saw his reflection in its smooth surface, and fell in love with it. And since he could not obtain the object of his love, he died of sorrow by the same pool.

quod petis, est nusquam; quod amas, avertere, perdes!
ista repercussae, quam cernis, imaginis umbra est:
nil habet ista sui; tecum venitque manetque;
tecum discedet, si tu discedere possis!

Ovidius, Metamorphoses III.433-436

What you seek is nowhere; but turn yourself away, and the object of your love will be no more. That which you behold is but the shadow of a reflected form and has no substance of its own. With you it comes, with you it gostays, and it will go with you ...

In “tranSfera” we very often use the projection of one’s face onto another, as well as the projection of two faces mixed on one screen. It’s the projection of impossible conjunction (impossible love?), something that can only exist as long as you don’t turn your head. You can’t touch it, you can’t preserve it. Video projection - like the reflection in the water - creates the untouchable being we are in pursuit of.

Echo and Narcissus, John William Waterhouse, 1903

tranSfera 4.3/4.4 (interface 01), Gradisca d'Isonzo 2009


All Echo could do was repeat the voice of another. Echo fell in love with Narcissus. She followed him through the woods, longing to address him but unable to speak first. When Narcissus finally heard footsteps and shouted "Who's there?”, Echo answered "Who's there?" And so it went, until finally Echo showed herself and rushed to embrace the lovely youth. He pulled away from the nymph and vainly told her to get lost.

Echo, Alexandre Cabanel, 1887

In "tranSfera" we often use a small speaker attached to one performer's mouth. It is joined with a microphone in the other performer's mouth. This way one performer can only speak with the voice of the other.

tranSfera 1.0 (intersex 01), Poznan 2007


’Till, piercing each the other’s flesh, they run
Together, and incorporate in one...

Ovidius, Metamorphoses
tranSfera 1.0 (intersex 01), Poznan 2007


In “tranSfera” the male and female have different roles and meanings. There is not one correct interpretation, but there are many completely missing the point.
I’ve decided to write more about our idea of the sex/gender in “tranSfera”. Each post will regard different aspect of this issue.
I want to start with some quotes from an article I’ve read few years ago, while doing a research on sexuality in Ancient Greece.

Physiologically and psychologically, women are wet. Hippokrates (Vict. 27) differentiates male from female as follows:
"The female flourishes more in an environment of water, from things cold, wet and soft, whether food or drink activities. The male flourishes more in an environment of fire, from dry, hot foods and mode of life."
Aristotle tells us that the wet is that which is not bounded by any boundary of its own but can readily be bounded, while the dry is that which is already bounded by a boundary of its own but can with difficulty be bounded (De gen. et corr. 329b31-33). If we consider the ancient conception of gender in the light of this distinction, we see that woman is to be differentiated from man in the ancient view, not only as wet from dry but as content from form, as the unbounded from the bounded, as polluted from pure, and these qualities are necessarily related to one another.
The image of woman as a formless content is one that is expressed explicitly in the philosophers. Plato compares the matter of creation to a mother, in his Timaios, for it is a upodoch (“receptacle”, “reservoir”, “admission”, 49a, 50d) which is “shapeless”, “viewless” , “all-receiving” and which “takes its form and activation from whatever shapes enter it” (50b). Aristotle accords to the male in the act of procreation the role of active agent, contributing “motion” and “formation” while the female provides the “raw material” (GA 716a6-7; 727b31-34; 729b15-21). Man determines the form, woman contributes the matter.
In myth, woman’s boundaries are pliant, porous, mutable. She swells, she shrinks, she leaks, she is penetrated, she suffers metamorphoses.

Anne Carson, Putting Her in Her Place: Woman, Dirt, and Desire, in: “Before Sexuality: the Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World”, ed. David M. Halperin, John J. Winkler, Froma I. Zeitlin, 1990, pages: 137, 154-155

You can find the whole text online here.

We are not interested in the sociological, cultural or political context of this theory. We are transferring it into the field of visual arts and replacing the traditional "material" and "tool" (paint and brush, marble and chisel) with the "female" and "male".
I don’t think this concept is objectifying the female.
If you look at a piece of art, you are contemplating/admiring the marble, the paint (shapes, colours) etc... The tools remain just tools in the hands of a crafted artist.
Anne Carson says: “in myth, woman’s boundaries are pliant, porous, mutable”. But so are the boundaries of gods. I’m not saying that women are divine, or superior to men. I just want to show how ridiculous the accusations of "objectifying the woman" are. The Greek philosophy and mythology, as much as it was patriarchic, it created great images and ideas of both males and females. Why is it so hard to find new interpretations of them in the contemporary art/literature/science? What happened after Freud and Jung? Are we too lazy to go beyond their interpretations? Or ignore them completely...


Collecting the relics...

tranSfera 1.1 (intersex 01), Walbrzych 2010

Relics from "tranSfera 1.1":

On the left:
jar filled with water, latex, blood, saliva, skin, needles.

On the right:
jar filled with phthalic solvent, latex, blood, saliva, skin, needles.

photo: Agnieszka Akuła