Polysemous, polymorphous, polygamous, polyester…. a lament to poly. Poly, poly, poly.




The erotised girl-childs in the writings of John Ruskin are often described as hard, impenetrable, breathtakingly beautiful jewels, crystals and stones. Young flesh is taut and pristine, untarnished by the weight of womanhood.

The crystalline jewels of my sweet, sticky toffee speak of my own desire to hold onto girlishness, as time slowly dissolves their sharp edges and angled curves. As the heavy weight of femininity presses down upon them they ooze into formlessness, lost within the great expanse of their maturing flesh.

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I grew up wanting to be like my father, a ladies man, and yet I was born female, and my relations are generally with men – you’d think perhaps I’d sway the other way in order to fulfil this fantasy, but it seems desire is never this logical. So where does that leave me? In a constant state of in between. And so the old turn plays its little waltz again, and I act out that familiar dance between my mother and father. Your eyes become his, mine and they penetrate, through the parted undergarments of exotically scented women. I struggle amidst my womanhood, where I battle against mothers’ arms, her legs as they slowly suffocate and her hair as I untangle. I become her when I am with you and I always flee.

Your masculinity, it taunts me, exposing my apparent lack. How does one become something other than my mother? When my father is who I long to be. And so the only way to hide from mothers’ encapture is to remain a girl-child, now I search for the daddy – in your eyes – before I swelled and erupted into adolescence. There exists a precarious tilt towards womanhood, like a seesaw that constantly threatens to throw you off, the girl-child adjacent to the woman – her limbs thick and heavy, her breasts swinging like pendulums as we move see and saw. She sits there across from me, her open mouth gaping like an abyss, threatening to swallow me up whole.




The film ‘My Fantasy Sister. My Sister’s Fantasy’, was the result of a month long residence period in my house/studio in the small mountainous village of Chelva, Spain. I invited a friend to share the month of December and the huge medieval house with me. We didn’t really know each that well, we’d met through a mutual friend (my fellow collaborator Richard Taylor) whilst I was living in Amsterdam, so the first few weeks of that month consisted of getting to know one another, and as time progressed we relaxed into a sibling-like role. Dressing up and messing around, I settled into my familiar role of wide eyed girl-child, and Kim became my sister. Our difference in gender became irrelevant, as we grew closer. We went around the village telling people we were ‘hermanas’ with a wry grin, ‘hermanos you mean?’ they would say. We invited some local town folk to the exhibition opening we had at the house at the end of December. My town crush, the village vet even turned up. Although I’m pretty sure we shocked him into hiding after seeing our film, with our full frontal exposure. I laughed that Kim got to go home the next day, and didn’t have to deal with the aftermath! A single 31 year old woman living on her own in a small Spanish pueblo, people talk anyway, this was just extra fodder for the fire.

So it initially began as an exploration of our surroundings; a curious place, full of wonder and enchantment, it then became an investigation of ourselves as the looking-glass turned inwards. Donning the twin guises of sisters Alicia y Alicia in a mime of girlhood, we acted up and acted out an unconscious desire for sameness in order to eclipse (our) sexual difference. To explore a sexuality that was tense with longing, perpetually suspended in a net of recaptured fantasies; where girlhood is reclaimed and renegotiated, and sibling relations entice and ignite. Under the wing of childhood we return to a place where gender loses all relevance. Becoming her, becoming her.

An afterword:

Thinking back to our time together, we were both playing out our own fantasy, segregate yet together. Simultaneously sliding through our own flesh, but not necessarily embodying the same desire. Side by side, as we appear to mirror, until at last we expose our difference. Yet it is more than gender, the roles extisted because of our own separate fantasies, unrelated and yet bought together through a shared language of coveted desire, loss and longing.

My Fantasy Sister. My Sister’s Fantasy, 2012. Kimbal Bumstead & Prefix-poly


‘But when does one become a woman?’ he asked. ‘And why do you not feel that you are there yet? You are in you thirties, and have all the traits of womanhood, even though your breasts carry the essence of the indolent pre-teen.’ I pause, wondering what it is that will make me into a woman. For years I have managed to suspend my body in a false state of pubescence, without that monthly reminder to my own vulnerability. Now that I have relinquished this control, my body is left open to its own attack, where the egg will nestle waiting to be made fertile by the slender form of your touch. A thin membrane between pleasure and motherhood as we slip it off like a gossamer sleeve. Daughter, father, mother – my internal trajectory. In combat with the final stage for it spells of my death. A Nabakovian ‘coffin of feminine flesh’, My womb is a tomb. I realise my reticence, as I give birth to this idea.

Forever held in the sway of the first dance with my father, his photograph imprinted into my mind, as I smooth my fringe into a vestige of him. Lost in a fantasy of masculinity I left my mother behind. And now I am without place, displaced between daughter and father. Lingering near the edge of girldom, as I avert the open jaw of womanhood. Can I enter forth into masculinity? Or should I dwell longer at this precipice, and wait for the father I seek, in order to maintain this childish repose. And now, more than ever I wish to be encompassed within brutish paws, tickled and benignly caressed. I nearly broke down on the cusp of my dejection today, as I was swept away in this longing. Can I settle onto your knee as you whisper softly into my ear, can you feed this ache?


Image credit: Lewis Carroll & Alice Liddell, image from on the internet