In Bodhi Life: A Transgender New Media Artist’s Digital Memoir, Ethan Bach, who splits his time between Santa Fe and Denver, explores his own identity in the form of a digital chronicle some 30 years in the making. Bach debuts the immersive performance at the Mile High’s RedLine Gallery and online at bodhi-life.ethanbach.com this week.
You started documenting your life at age 8. When did the idea for this spark?
In 1998. As you know, computers and the web in 1998 were not that robust. I had some friends that were working in technology, and I was hanging out with one of them in Austin, Texas, and we just came up with the idea. I've intentionally sort of taken extra risks or done things that I wouldn't normally do so I can document things. Like, one time John Waters was in town, and I wore a tank top—that's one of the pieces that'll be shown—and I wrote 'freaky transsexual' across it and got a picture taken with him, and I also had him sign my ass with a Sharpie.
The initiative has a couple of hashtags attached to it, #HelloMyNameWas and #NoShame. What can you advance on this aspect of the project?
I'm hoping to encourage other transgender people to share and claim their entire lives. One of the things about being transgender that comes from both sides of the fence, cisgender and transgender people, is that we sort of give up our past lives—some of it is for safety reasons, not being teased and stuff like that—but we give up ownership over our old names and identities, and this whole project is about just claiming the entire life. I've lived as a transgender man for 20 years; I've lived as, you know, before I identified as that for 20 years, and I would like to have acknowledgment of all of that time, and I'm hoping other transgender people will step up and do the same thing.
Any plans to stage the performance in Santa Fe?
If there were an offer from a space, I would definitely take them up on that.