Purple is a sexual color, and sexuality is a true inspiration for us. We’ve always considered its multiple forms and representations as a vital element of art, fashion, and visual culture. That was the idea behind Purple Sexe, a satellite magazine launched in 1998 that broke with the clichés of pornography. It was eventually folded into the main magazine as an integral part of Purple’s identity.
We have fully embraced the recent queer and trans revolution, which is transforming the social landscape, fashion codes, and the idea of love.
As soon as travel restrictions were partly lifted and I felt strong enough, I left Paris for Corsica. I traveled by train and boat for two days, with almost no luggage, just my mask and the dreaded vaccination certificate. When I finally landed in L’Île-Rousse, it was noon. The stark sun shone on the boats in the port and ruined the poetry that reigns there in the first hours of morning, when the sky is fresh and clear like a tablecloth neatly draped upon the new day. Though I’d been going to the place for years, everything seemed different. What had changed was my body’s capacity to perceive beauty. A slight sadness, softened by the murmur of the sea, crept into my chest, despite the excitement that traveling always evokes in me. I had the feeling of being ill, of having suddenly grown old, of having lost the vigor of youth, which, until that moment, had seemed an inviolable condition. The virus and its political management had hacked my nervous system, activating a different relation to my external senses and motor responses. I had war within me. I realized that my perception of reality was identical to my perception of my relationship with Alison. I was incapable of grasping the present. All I could see was the trace left by the past. What would the present look like if I could see it? To see it would be to modify it immediately, to enter into a transformative relationship with it.
I had rented, thanks to friends, a little shepherd’s house in an olive grove less than 300 yards from Ghjunchitu Beach. The cottage — “house” was really too big a word — didn’t have any modern amenities, but it placed its occupant at the center of a veritable opera of the senses. It was an open space, about 12 square meters [129 square feet], built on a crag supplied with electricity, beneath which a gas stove and running water had been installed. The cottage’s only room contained a mattress, a small bedside table, and a chair. A crooked old juniper tree served as a porch and shaded the house from the sun. A makeshift shower had been installed beside the tree. On all sides, the landscape of low scrub thick with strawberries, mastic, thyme, rosemary, lavender, clematis, heather, myrtle, and fennel would become the fragrance school I needed to gradually recover my olfactory memory. Evenings, as I sat under the vast dome of a night that was never completely dark, still tinted by the last rays of the departed sun, I felt as though I was disappearing beneath the majesty of the universe, with its theater of stars, lights, and allegories. The noise of insects, birds, and the small animals that lived in the nearby bushes became dense and overwhelming. Everything was alive.
At daybreak, I gave myself up to the sea for hours, to drive away the traumatic, repetitive power of remembered pain. I walked barefoot through the thorny scrub to the water. I was looking to encounter the sea, to submit myself to the shock of the sea-foam against my skin, the pull of the tides tugging at the sand, knocking my legs off balance, and casting me into the present. Later, as I showered outside the cottage next to the juniper tree, I looked at the sea glinting as if sprinkled with sequins, the golden light pixelating the waves into tiny flashing stars. The visual impression was discontinuous. My eyes couldn’t look at it without shutting. The perpetually shifting images decomposed into colors and forms that flashed in my mind, causing a happy, bubbly sensation.
When it rained, the landscape was even more beautiful. It was as if the colors’ print mode had changed from glossy to matte. The sound of the rain was meditative. It was comical to watch the half-naked bathers running with their towels over their heads along the wooden walkway leading from the beach to the parking lot, like ants transporting severed leaves along the trail to their nest.
Those were the days when I began to understand differently what I was reading and, at the same time, began to read exactly what I needed in order to keep understanding. Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, Helene Deutsch, Melanie Klein, Nancy Chodorow, Luce Irigaray… And especially Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus was luminous, even if its authors remained two heterosexual gentlemen, more-or-less married to wives whom they considered more-or-less strange beings who never appear in their books — all the more so in the case of Deleuze, trying to become something else but clinging to his naturalized masculine condition. Suddenly, something about all of this seemed archaeological: the perfect description of a bygone world. Heteropatriarchal technologies are obsolete: could a new love technology be the collective answer to integrative global capitalism?
The only Internet connection was the one my phone managed to pick up, not always successfully. And so the Ghjunchitu cottage was protected from the constant intrusion of video calls. Here, with no need for further excuses, I could escape the obligation of being constantly available for video interviews, video conferences. I needed to stop being seen, to stop looking. I had to learn how to listen again, feel again. Little by little, as I stayed alone for weeks in this small cottage surrounded by the sound of the sea and scrubland, I began to feel at home.
One day, almost at dawn, I walked for more than three hours from the cottage to the nearest village, in the hope of finding a real café and seeing the fresh fish arrive at the market. Once I got there, I saw on my telephone screen images of New York City flooded, of Afghan women protesting amid gunshots, of fires raging in Greece. I read the headline “Kamala Calls Them Home” next to a caricature of the American vice president as the Pied Piper, followed by thousands of soldiers coming like rats out of the sewers of Afghanistan. The Empire’s armies were deserting the Eastern borders. The world was changing, but it wasn’t yet clear where this change might lead.
And it was in this café that I first saw Sygma. She had rolled up the sleeves of her t-shirt, and as she lifted a box of vegetables and set it on her shoulders, her tattooed arms seemed at once delicate and finely muscled. One hand brushed away from her face the long brown hair that rippled over the vegetable crate, giving her silhouette a feline look. I glanced up from my book to watch her, and, as if replying to a question I hadn’t asked, she said, with her mask still covering her face, “Parla italiano?” I only had to say the word “no” for her to say, like an accent detective, “Sei spagnolo! Possiamo parlare, tu in spagnolo e io in italiano, e capiremo tutto.” And she added, “Come te chiami?”
“Paul,” I said.
“Sygma,” she said.
“Like the letter in the Greek alphabet?”
“Yes,” she said, closing her eyes and pushing her lips forward as if to pronounce a silent u.
It was only when she took off her mask that I understood, in seeing the hint of shadow along her chin, that she was a trans woman. The masks, she later told me, were a blessing for trans girls: she could go out without make-up and without fear of being insulted. I told her the same thing happened to us, the ugly trans guys. “Se tu sei brutto, io sono un uomo,” she said. We seemed to have the same sense of humor. Two days later, we made love for the first time.
The thought crossed my mind, as Sygma was painting my toenails after we had spent the morning fucking, that it was the most honest and most experimental sex I had ever had in my life. Our bodies — made of the shattering, decomposition, and collage of parts from the normative bodies of the old sexual regime, as well as of synthetic organs — looked nothing like what sexology defines as male and female bodies in a binary anatomy. We had applied the cut-up method to sex. We had sampled ourselves, looped ourselves, and reassembled ourselves. We had gone beyond Burroughs, on toward Genesis P-Orridge. Neither of us had tried to reproduce a heterosexual, lesbian, or gay choreography of sexuality with the other or through the other. We didn’t care about those classifications because we already knew that not a single one of them was open to us. We had moved away from that aesthetic that had become as strange and kitsch as an Astrakhan coat. Sample-sex is a process whose potential results are not known in advance: we had moved away from customary pleasures and practices and had produced new, random affects, freed from patriarchal constraints.
We both agreed that, once we had begun the process of transitioning, we had not only changed gender but also radically modified our sexual positions. While psychological and psychiatric discourse recommends that gender transitions lead to the production of a stable heterosexual identity, we knew, from our own experience, that this so-called heterosexuality is simply a normative illusion.
By becoming trans, we had ceased to be
homosexuals — without,
however, becoming heterosexuals. A gender
transition isn’t a move from femininity to
masculinity (or vice versa) along a stable
axis, but rather a displacement of that
In a way, Sygma said, it’s like what quantum physicists speculate must happen in passing through a black hole: emergence into another space-time. Physicists call the edge of a black hole the “event horizon.” A transition is a little like that — it touches the political and sensorial edge of the “sex-gender-system horizon.” To be trans didn’t constitute an identity for her. She wasn’t interested in what the media has started to objectify as “trans identity.” She wasn’t interested in the early detection of trans identity or in the optimization of treatment for more effective normalization. I was struck by how easily Sygma used queer and trans grammars, as if she had grown up reading Judith Butler and Gayle Rubin. And that was exactly it. Sygma was born 32 years ago in the outskirts of Rome and studied journalism, literature, and computer science before beginning a gender transition three years ago.
Displacing the male-female/heterosexual-homosexual axis implies inventing another kind of desire, another way of fucking. The sexual, gender, anti-racist revolution we were immersed in didn’t simply rely on a critique of petro-sexual-racial discourse. We were inventing a new corporality, along with a new grammar to name another way of loving. The activist and writer Bini Adamczak, for instance, describing a configuration opposed to penetration, speaks of “circlusion”: to suck, surround an organ (penis, finger, tongue, nipple, dildo, foot, etc.) with an anal, vaginal, or oral membrane. It’s no longer a question of knowing who penetrates and who ejaculates, but rather of circluding and being circluded. I circlude, you circlude, he circludes, she circludes, it circludes, they circlude. We circlude.
Stretched out, with my head between her breasts, I could see all the forms my body had assumed over the course of my life — feminine, masculine, and other — parading past me in my memory… I told myself that all of it had been neither good nor bad, but simply not enough. Our intertwined naked bodies, failed and glorious, formed a museum of survivors of the modern heteropatriarchal regime. That day, together, we named this expanded and de-identified way of fucking a “360”: a fuck without men and women, without organs placed in dominant penetrative, orgasmic, or reproductive positions, a cooperation of bodies in circlusion where the potentia gaudendi flows without productive or reproductive objective. We were no longer active, passive, genital, oral, penetrative, or penetrated. Nor the contrary. Nor the complementary.
[Table of contents]
elein fleiss (part 0)Read the article
martin margiela (part 1)Read the article
martin margiela collages for purple 30yrsRead the article
wolfgang tillmans (part 2)Read the article
rick at home rick owens 2022Read the article
purple community (part 3)Read the article
comme des garçons (part 4)Read the article
black rose comme des garçons f/w 2022
by chikashi suzuki
purple tokyo (part 5)Read the article
tateishi east tokyo givenchy f/w 2022Read the article
purple new york (part 6)Read the article
guinevere in prada f/w 2022Read the article
chloë sevigny (part 7)Read the article
chloë’s scene, 2022 interview by olivier zahmRead the article
maurizio cattelan (part 8)Read the article
maurizio cattelan purple interviewRead the article
bernadette corporation (part 9)Read the article
speaking out bernadette van-huyRead the article
dominique gonzalez-foerster (part 10)Read the article
species of spaces dominique gonzalez-foerster interview by olivier zahmRead the article
rita ackermann (part 11)Read the article
inez van lamsweerde & vinoodh matadin (part 12)Read the article
final fantasy inez & vinoodhRead the article
purple night (part 13)Read the article
doppelgänger fendi f/w 2022Read the article
glenn o’brien (part 14)Read the article
dash snow (part 15)Read the article
long live dash by glenn o’brienRead the article
juergen teller (part 16)Read the article
balenciaga winter 2022Read the article
emporio armani f/w 2022Read the article
purple politics (part 18)Read the article
on war and its dehumanization bernard-henri lévyRead the article
purple paris (part 19)Read the article
3537 a new fashion lab in the heart of paris adrian joffeRead the article
daniel roseberry the american designer reinventing schiaparelli surrealismRead the article
purple icon (part 20)Read the article
catherine deneuve in saint laurent f/w 2022Read the article
purple cinema (part 21)Read the article
philippe parrenoRead the article
david lynchRead the article
larry clarkRead the article
wes andersonRead the article
harmony korineRead the article
gaspar noéRead the article
Gus Van SantRead the article
abel ferraraRead the article
mamoru oshiiRead the article
kenneth angerRead the article
los angeles (part 22)Read the article
wilderness doug aitkenRead the article
gucci cosmogonie collectionRead the article
how to inhabit the world (part 23)Read the article
louis vuitton F/W 2022 with akon changkouRead the article
purple diversity (part 24)Read the article
purple mexico city (part 25)Read the article
deconstruction meets destruction azzmmaRead the article
arca in loewe F/W 2022Read the article
art as a script mario garcía torresRead the article
inge grognard (part 26)Read the article
beauty revolutionary inge grognardRead the article
avant-garde (part 27)Read the article
louise giovanelliRead the article
george rouyRead the article
stefan brüggemannRead the article
antony cairnsRead the article
antonia showeringRead the article
arthur jafa in conversation with michéle lamyRead the article
purple philosophy (part 28)Read the article
women and painting (part 29)Read the article
women and painting: part 1Read the article
women and painting: part 2Read the article
women and painting: part 3Read the article
women and painting: part 4Read the article
women and painting: part 5Read the article
women and painting: part 6Read the article
women and painting: part 7Read the article
women and painting: part 8Read the article
women and painting: part 9Read the article
women and painting: part 10Read the article
women and painting: part 11Read the article
women and painting: part 12Read the article
women and painting: part 13Read the article
richard prince (part 30)Read the article