Touring with the Band
In 2006 Anthony and the Johnsons along with Charles Atlas took “Turning”, their collaborative performance piece on tour to major European cities. The film shows us several musical selections from the concerts and we see that Anthony Hegarty handpicked individual women including some transsexuals to appear on stage during the songs. We meet these women through interviews and from backstage footage. The performance piece was praised wherever it was performed. What we see is a moving yet oblique look at issues of gender-identity.
As a performance piece “Turning” is a conventional band concern which showcases Anthony’s unconventional voice and a revolving platform filled with women and transsexuals wearing costumes from extravagance to macabre. We have just enough song performance to make it seem like a concert but there are also camera cuts from the stage to the interviews that Anthony conducted with the models.
“One model talks of a childhood in which she believed she was the only girl in the world who was attracted to girls; others, who started life as boys, recall times before and after they realized there might be a place for them in the world. Those with performance-art backgrounds allude to transgressive art shows; a fashion designer from Okinawa breaks down while describing the circle of artsy Japanese immigrants she knew in New York in 1980 — a clique destroyed over the coming decade by AIDS”
There is no narration or on screen titles so we never know the names of the models. However, we are aware that what Anthony is doing is championing womanhood in all of its forms. The songs do the explaining for us.
We go to London, Rome, Madrid and Paris and get glimpses of airports, hotels, buses and rehearsals. Onstage the Johnsons perform Mr. Hegarty’s agreeably lush, intimate and often melancholy piano-based songs, accompanied by a string section. Behind the musicians is a screen where beautiful Charles Atlas montages are seen with the focus on 13 women, transsexuals, who rotate on an apparatus that is at stage right. Anthony Hegarty speaks of the “Transsexual Manifesto”, an article that appeared in Paris’ Le Monde about the show.