Virginia Woolf ‘s prescient 1928 novel Orlando tells the story of a young nobleman who, during the era of Elizabeth I, mysteriously shifts gender, and lives on for three centuries without aging. Today, Orlando remains startlingly fresh for its playful imagining of gender fluidity. In 1992, filmmaker Sally Potter released an adaptation of the book with Tilda Swinton carrying the film as Orlando. Woolf ‘s tale has continued to hold sway over Swinton, who describes the book’s ability “to change like a magic mirror. Where I once assumed it was a book about eternal youth, I now see it as a book about growing up, about learning to live.”
This special issue of Aperture magazine, guest edited by Swinton, will draw upon the themes of the novel-gender, indeterminate space, and the passage of time-and offer readers a collection of images and writings that celebrate openness and curiosity, in contrast to a contemporary political moment of insurgent parochialism and divisiveness.
“Woolf wrote Orlando,” Swinton notes, “in an attitude of celebration of the oscillating nature of existence. She believed the creative mind to be androgynous. I have come to see Orlando far less as being about gender than about the flexibility of the fully awake and sensate spirit: as Orlando him/herself so memorably remarks at the critical moment of transformation: ‘Same person, different sex: no difference at all.’ The issue of Aperture, then, will be a salute to indetermination. Peopled by voices and visions of artists and writers who are kaleidoscopically wired.”