Top (2022) - Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Top 2022 contains work made since 2016 and is conceived as a single installation. It reveals Bowler’s own history, a trans history, that while autobiographical has much in common with the experiences of trans people globally. The installation comprises work created during the process of obtaining top surgery (an operation to remove chest or breast tissue) within the UK healthcare system. The procedure took six years, from Bowler’s first visit to a GP to his recovery after surgery revisions earlier this year.
Documenting this process, the objects and materials on display reflect an experience of dysphoria – a state of unease or dissatisfaction with life, often relating to the body. Through his sculpture, Bowler reveals his own experience of dysphoria, the emotions trans people can feel and some of his own coping mechanisms; before and during surgery, Bowler made casts of the body he wanted to have and see. He uses his work to show how many of the issues experienced by trans and cis people are the same, but are dealt with in different ways.
Bowler presents his work on shelving racks and inside archival cabinets that are typically found in museum stores, hidden from public view. The lack of visibility for trans people and their histories, including in institutions, underpins much of Bowler’s enquiry. It is a call for change: without intervention these are histories that can easily be destroyed, lost or forgotten.