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Ianna Book

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/Ianna Book

Life and Education[edit]

Ianna Book is a multidisciplinary artist, designer, and illustrator living in Montreal, Québec, Canada. Book studied Fine Arts at Cegep du Vieux-Montréal from 1997 to 2000 and Visual and Media Arts at Université du Québec à Montréal from 2001 to 2005. Ever since her transition as a trans woman, Book’s work has focused on the realities of trans folks and explored societal norms through different visual mediums. Although her practice is centred around photography, she also creates art through video, performance, drawing, and music. Book is a socially engaged artist who demonstrates feminist and trans activism in her practice and her life, as per her recurrent participation in Montreal Pride. She has been featured in several exhibitions and articles on trans activism and trans art. Her work is owned in the permanent collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York and numerous private collections. Along with her artistic practice, Book worked as a curator, participated in artist talks, and created an artist collective in the context of the exhibition Trans Time. Her work illustrates transfeminism and self-portraiture as recurring themes, as shown by her photographic series.

Early Work[edit]

Book’s early photographic work began during her studies in visual art, with the photographs Failure Period #1 and Failure Period #2 from 2005 which use objects like a stove, eggs, and a mannequin. In 2006, the series Experimentation – Paper Lost in the City follows a 20-dollar bill photographed on the street pavement. With streets and passersby appearing in the background, Book began to use the urban landscape as a site for her work, a recurring element in her later photography. In Trans, Training & Self-Defense (2011), she poses with a masked wrestler, mimicking a self-defense training session and raising questions about the vulnerability and danger of being trans. Her series Corrélation Fantasmagorique en Millieu Urbain (2011) is the first iteration of self-portraiture in an urban setting. Book stands in the foreground topless or wearing underwear while a dark figure stands behind her, emerging from smoke or moving towards her. The images present different variations and compositions with the two characters and bring out themes of vulnerability as Book is unaware of the figure behind her.

Major Photographic Series[edit]

Trans Avenue (2011–2013)[edit]

The photographic essay Trans Avenue took place from 2011 to 2013 as a series of photographs compiled into a book. Book documents her transition period through photography using the urban backdrop of Montreal and New York. Dressed in different outfits, she poses by herself or occasionally accompanied by someone else. The colour palette, outfits, and material create a cohesive aesthetic repeated throughout the series. Playfulness, vulnerability, trust, and strength are shown in her self-portraits. The city becomes a site of emancipation and liberation for Book and for non-conforming identities.[1] The artist explores her feminine body as she transitions and changes. Throughout the photographic essay, the female self takes on a form different from the normative codes of femininity. Finally, Book makes herself visible as the subject of each photograph, which contrasts with the invisibility experienced by trans and LGBTQ communities daily. This aspect of her work relates to a larger practice of self-portraiture by trans artists who raise awareness and increase visibility for non-conforming identities.[2]

Trans & The Notion of Risk (2014–2016)[edit]

Book’s following series Trans & The Notion of Risk explores the dangerous realities of trans folks. Book poses in different environments, amongst the urban landscape and private interior spaces. The artist interacts with architectural elements and discarded objects in clever ways, creating visual statements that evoke the notion of risk associated with the urban space and with the experiences of trans folks. The viewer feels the imminent danger in the images, whether it be a physical injury or the threat of sexual assault. For example, in one image, Book climbs a pile of rubble while wearing stiletto heels. In another picture, she stands naked in the street, totally vulnerable and exposed but also confronting us with her stare. Finally, in other images, she looks over the edge of a building or her head is trapped in an air duct.

Trans & Restricted Space (2014)[edit]

In this series, Book portrays diverse trans people in different spaces. Their bodies are contorted and confined into small spaces, as Book uses architecture to convey a visual metaphor. In this series, Book uses interior structures like windows, hallways or bookcases instead of exterior urban architecture as in her previous series. The images evoke the restrictive norms and expectations that non-conforming folks are forced to fit into. As stated by Book in her artwork description, the restricted spaces are also a metaphor for the difficulties and uncomfortable situations trans people face daily.[3] Through this series, Book successfully raises awareness through visual metaphors and also represents a diverse group of trans individual. Her reflection is turned outwards as she represents other people.

Performance Works[edit]

Golden Shoe (2014)[edit]

This artwork is composed of an installation and a performance work. In the gallery space, a golden shoe is presented next to a red flag with a skull against a white background. The work takes on a different meaning during the performance, which required audience participation. Although the performance was not recorded, Book photographed herself while an anonymous person wearing the golden shoe steps on the side of her face. The artwork questions the acquisition of power through privilege, represented by the golden shoe. The flag refers to colonizing spaces, while the act of stepping onto someone’s head evokes the extreme violence of such acts.[4]

OkLucid (2015)[edit]

The artwork OkLucid was presented as an interactive performance and social experiment which looked at online dating as a trans woman. In this work, Book creates an online dating account on the popular platform OkCupid and exchanges messages with multiple men. On her profile, Book reproduces and performs the socially acceptable norms of femininity through her pictures and her interests. For example, she poses in her bikini, states her interest in cooking and describes herself as an “ordinary woman” and “enthusiastic blonde”. She records men’s reactions when she reveals that she is a trans woman, ranging from insults and aggression to curiosity and sexualization. When Book’s gender presentation clashes with her trans identity, OkLucid offers a moment of lucidity regarding the perception of gender and transsexuality. This performance interrogates the social fabrication of femininity and what happens when the normative codes are disrupted. Book compiles the responses and establishes that 50% of men stop responding, 20% are curious, 10% are confused, 10% are sexually interested, and 10% respond negatively.[5] Finally, OkLucid questions the perceived neutrality and safety of the web, as highlighted in Marzano’s review of the artwork. The review explains how OkLucid contradicts the idea from the 1990s that the newly created web would be a space free of discrimination. Book reveals that when our identities are moved to cyberspace, the biases and prejudices present in the physical world are transmitted too.[6]

Curatorial Work[edit]

Trans Time (2013)[edit]

The exhibition Trans Time took place in 2014 as the product of the curatorial collective formed by Ianna Book, Marie-Claude G. Olivier ad Virginie Jourdain. Trans Time was initially presented at L’Espace Créatif, in Montreal but travelled internationally subsequently. Trans Time was the first collective trans exhibition to take place in Montreal, including up to 20 artists identifying as trans or non-conforming. In an interview with Huffington Post, Book highlights the importance of self-representation and inclusivity but also how crucial it is to share trans culture and realities with the wider public.[7] Through diverse mediums and artistic practices, the artists explored their bodies and identities. Along with her curatorial work, Book presented her series Trans & The Notion of Risk in this exhibition.[8]


Book’s work relates to a long history of artists exploring their identities and their place within society through self-representation. Self-portraiture by trans artists takes on a deeper meaning as it becomes a subversive gesture to combat erasure in society. As stated by Eliza Steinbock in “Collecting Creative Transcestors: Trans* Portraiture Hirstory, from Snapshots to Sculpture”, trans artists and feminist artists “seek to challenge the naturalness of how gendered subjects appear through re-enactment and appropriation.”[9] By using self-portraiture, Book reappropriates the genre of self-portrait and uses it for identity exploration during her transition period. Self-portraiture is also a means for activism, as each work raises awareness to different aspects of the trans experience. In the same activist mindset, Book’s performance works like OkLucid point out discrimination in a manner similar to the transgender rights movement activists.

Selected Exhibitions[edit]

Works by Book were exhibited in the following exhibitions or events:

  • Art, Culture, Resistance et Luttes Sociales, 1999, Gesù, Montréal, QC
  • Derision publicitaire, 2001, La Bande Vidéo (Complexe Méduse), Québec, QC
  • Nec Plus Ultra Valétudinaire, 2005, Gesù Gallery, Montréal, QC
  • Radical Queer Semaine, 2012, Fresh Paint, Montréal, QC
  • Pride MTL, 2014, Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montréal, QC
  • Trans Time, 2014, Espace Créatif, Montréal, Qc; 2016, Confluences, Paris, France
  • Trans & The Notion of Risk, 2016, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, New York, NY
  • OkLucid, 2016, La Centrale gallery, Montréal, QC
  • Momenta, Portfolio Discoveries, 2017, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal, QC
  • Expanded Visions: 50 Years of Collecting, 2017, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, New York, NY
  • LGBTQ Heritage, 2020, ACCA Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Nuit Infrarouge, 2021, Centre PHI, Montréal, QC

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  1. Dubois, Anne-Marie (2017). "Ianna Book Trans Avenue". Esse. 91: 78.
  2. Steinbock, Eliza (2019). Collecting Creative Transcestors: Trans* Portraiture Hirstory, from Snapshots to Sculpture in A Companion to Feminist Art. Wiley. p. 225. Search this book on
  3. Ianna, Book. "Trans & Restricted Space". iannabook.
  4. Book, Ianna. "Golden Shoe". iannabook.
  5. Marzano, Juliette. "Ok Lucid: Une Exploration De La Transsexualité et Des Réseaux Sociaux". Revue Ex Situ.
  6. Proulx, Mikhel (October 20, 2016). "Protocol and Performativity: Queer Selfies and the Coding of Online Identity". Performance Research. 21 (5): 114–118. doi:10.1080/13528165.2016.1224341. Unknown parameter |s2cid= ignored (help)
  7. Larochelle, Samuel (September 25, 2014). "Trans Time' : La Toute Première Exposition Collective Trans à Montréal". Huffington Post Quebev.
  8. Olivier, Marie-Claude G.; Laurin, Audrey (October 20, 2016). "Trans Time: Time for Trans Visibility in Contemporary Art". Performance Research. 21 (5): 111–113. doi:10.1080/13528165.2016.1224340. Unknown parameter |s2cid= ignored (help)
  9. Steinbock, Eliza (2019). Collecting Creative Transcestors: Trans* Portraiture Hirstory, from Snapshots to Sculpture in A Companion to Feminist. Wiley. p. 226. Search this book on