Zeph Fishlyn (they/them) is a multidisciplinary visual artist and activist dedicated to personal and collective storytelling as nonlinear tools for reinventing our world. Zeph’s public projects, drawings, objects and installations nurture alternative narratives by questioning, dreaming, distorting, celebrating and demanding. Their most recent work explores sources of collective and personal resilience as foundations for action in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
Zeph is a serial collaborator with social and environmental justice groups inventing creative responses to economic crisis and climate change — including Greenpeace, the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, the PDX Trans Housing Coalition, and the Center for Artistic Activism. Zeph also worked as a researcher, illustrator and storyteller with the Beehive Design Collective’s True Cost of Coal graphics campaign, an intricate portable mural and workshop developed in collaboration with Appalachian grassroots organizations that has traveled to hundreds of cities in the US and internationally.
Zeph is an MFA Candidate in Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice program, where they are projected to graduate in September of 2020. For Gender Euphoria, Zeph will create a participatory iteration of their ongoing project Sum of its Parts.
Sum of its Parts
Sum of its Parts crowd-sources an unpredictable document of a specific time and place. In its first iteration, two disposable cameras were released into the crowd at San Francisco’s Dyke March in June 2019. Each camera was attached to a self-addressed stamped mailer with a pencil, instructions, and a series of prompts or “photo captions.” Each person picked a prompt, snapped a picture related to that prompt, wrote the shot number next to the prompt, and passed the camera on to someone else. Due to inconsistencies in the camera itself and in people’s interpretations of the directions, the final correlation of “photo captions” to images is a speculative endeavor, but the resulting image is an exuberant collection of queer portraiture made for an unknown audience.
For Gender Euphoria, we invited online contributions of words describing future genders, which were transformed into prompts for collectively and anonymously authored photographs. We created five porch-pickup locations around Portland, each with a disposable camera and set of prompts. Participants traveled to a station, picked up the supplies, then chose 1-3 prompts as inspiration to snap photographic fragments or glimpses of future genders.
By putting both visual responses and photo captions into the hands of strangers, Sum of its Parts exercises the collective imagination and a trust in irrational convergences to open up possibilities in trying times.
“Anthropomopolyology is a wearable, custom screen-printed hanky and accompanying mini user manual. The project draws on the queer cruising “hanky code,” a custom of wearing different colored bandanas to make specific sexual offers and requests. The original art for the hanky depicts a celebratory international gathering of thirteen anthropomorphized species whose scientifically-observed romantic and sexual lives are queer as fuck (chosen from 450 species detailed in Bruce Begamihl’s 1999 book, Biological Exuberance.) The hanky is being distributed nationally and is anchoring a short video project to be completed when we can touch each other again. The project highlights the wide variety of ways both humans and animals can express relationships, throwing up a fabulously queer rebuttal to heteronormative ideas of what is ‘natural.’ ”
— Zeph Fishlyn